Gurnee Days is cemented on the village's social calendar, as evidenced by what will be its 41st consecutive year starting Thursday.
Amusement rides, games, a testimonial dinner, ice-cream eating contest, fireworks, a parade and more will be part of the free festival that mostly takes place at Viking Park on Old Grand Avenue.
Viking Park's concession stands will open at 6 p.m. Thursday. One highlight at the park will be a sounds of summer concert at 7 p.m., while across town on Gurnee's west side a pool party for teenagers is set from 8 to 9:45 p.m. at Hunt Club Park Aquatic Center.
This year's Gurnee Days honoree, Lisa Sheppard, will be feted at a testimonial dinner at Midlane Golf Resort in neighboring Waukegan. Sheppard joins a long list of Gurnee Days honorees, such as former Mayor Richard Welton, educators James and Johanna Blockinger, retired Lake County Coroner Barbara Richardson and Lake County Circuit Judge Valerie Boettle Ceckowski.
Friday's early highlight will be a storytime extravaganza at 10 a.m. at Viking Park. At night, the Gurnee Idol contest will be at 6 p.m. at the Viking Park band shell, and live bands and the beer garden are scheduled from 7 to 10:45 p.m.
On Saturday, exhibits, food booths and games will crank up at 11 a.m. For those into pork, the Rib Fest will run from noon to 11 p.m.
An invitational rib-eating contest will be at 3 p.m. at the Viking Park band shell. Elsewhere in the park, the ice-cream eating contest will commence at 4:30 p.m.
Live entertainment will roll from 5 to 11 p.m. at the band shell. The fireworks are slated for blast off at 9:30 p.m.
Highlighting the final day will be the Gurnee Days parade at noon Sunday on Old Grand Avenue, with a theme of "Ahoy Matey." Sheppard, in her role as Gurnee Days honoree, will lead the parade as grand marshal.
Sheppard became well known as the Gurnee Park District's superintendent of recreation. She spent more than 15 years shaping recreational opportunities for park district users and, as a village resident, volunteered for a variety of organizations including Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth.
"I have to tell you, there are so many wonderful and gifted volunteers in Gurnee who give of their time," said Sheppard, 47, who didn't expect the Gurnee Days honor.
Along with the parade, the festival on Sunday will offer carnival rides from 1 to 5 p.m. and a talent show from 2 to 4 p.m. at Viking Park's band shell.
New this year will be a shuttle bus running from 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Pickup and drop-off points will be at the shuttered Gurnee Grade School, Viking Middle School, Warren Township High School's O'Plaine Road campus, the Gurnee village hall and Gurnee police headquarters.
For information, call (847) 623-7788 or visit gurneedays.com.