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updated: 9/13/2017 6:15 AM

Spanning the river: East and West Dundee come together for Heritage Fest

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  • Kaela Leimberer, 2, of Wheaton plays a giant game of checkers during Heritage Fest in West Dundee.

      Kaela Leimberer, 2, of Wheaton plays a giant game of checkers during Heritage Fest in West Dundee.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Debbie Sommers of West Dundee looks over some of the goods available during Heritage Fest in West Dundee.

      Debbie Sommers of West Dundee looks over some of the goods available during Heritage Fest in West Dundee.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 

When revelers cross the bridge over the Fox River this weekend to enjoy Heritage Fest in East and West Dundee, they should not think competition, but cooperation.

During the three-day festival that starts Friday, Sept. 15, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 17, both villages will offer music, food, and various events for the entire family. Don't grumble if you can't decide how to take in all of the attractions -- smile and enjoy the variety.

Heritage Fest didn't always span the river. There were years when all the events were held in West Dundee. Its elected officials planned and paid for the fireworks, parade and music, as well at the events in Grafelman Park, along Route 72.

East Dundee's participation consisted of maybe a donation that paid some of the costs for "that" village's festival, as former trustees called it.

When Lael Miller was elected East Dundee village president in 2009, and he was followed by new trustees on the village board, it changed.

"I always thought East Dundee should be a bigger part of Heritage Fest and Dickens in Dundee (in December)," he said. "I wanted to see it expanded to our village."

And it eventually was. Five years ago, both village boards began planning musical groups and various crafts fairs to put on the agenda. Both village boards agreed to share the cost of Friday's $15,000 fireworks display that will be lighted over the footbridge, connecting the two towns.

"We've had a learning curve," Miller said. "I remember the first year (we participated in Heritage Fest) we forgot to put up lights in our ticket booths. I ran out and bought a bunch of flashlights and hooks to hang them."

By that time, West Dundee had been staging Heritage Fest long enough to remember the lights and everything else that goes along with entertaining and welcoming thousands of people.

Chris Nelson wasn't West Dundee village president during the years of the one-sided festival. He was elected in 2013 after the cooperation had started.

"The events (in both villages) have complemented each other, and it's nice to see that," Nelson said. "If you want to stay in East Dundee at night, you can go to some of its music or to some of its local bars. If you want to stay in West Dundee, you will listen to the musical groups on our main stage."

Still, some of the events will be unique to either village. The carnival rides will be in East Dundee. Sunday's community breakfast that Dundee Lions Club members cook will be in West Dundee. Saturday's Depot Market will be in East Dundee. Street-long blocks of craft vendors will be in West Dundee. Both villages will host their own car show.

Along with the fireworks, the Dundee-Crown High School Homecoming Parade will be marched through East and West Dundee at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

People who don't want to take the long walk from their cars will have a chance to park in the new lot along First Street in West Dundee. The Ace Hardware store once sat on the lot, but it closed and the village bought the property.

Both village presidents also share the same idea on the purpose of Heritage Fest.

Besides providing late-summer entertainment, "it's a chance to show off our community and business district," Nelson said.

"Heritage Fest attracts from 10,000 to 12,000 people. Any chance we have to show off the improvement we've made to the community, I'm all for it," Miller said.

For a list of events, visit wdundeeheritagefest.org.

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