Despite the gloomy atmosphere Wednesday afternoon, Palatine residents were all smiles.
Hometown Fest, sponsored by the Palatine Jaycees, kick-started the area's Fourth festival season Wednesday afternoon at Community Park as a misty rain fell from the sky. It was the first of the six festivals this Independence Day weekend in Northwest Cook County to get underway.
Although the festival officially opened at 3 p.m., individuals and families with special needs were allowed to access the festival's food, rides and festivities two hours earlier. Poor weather aside, the Kathleen A. Blanck Memorial Special Needs Carnival had one of its better turnouts.
"This is our fourth year doing it," said Dana Roe, who is co-chair of the carnival with Kelly Clegg. "It's just a good event to bring everyone to."
Eric Bachmann of Palatine said his three kids enjoy coming every year for the rides and festivities.
"It's a really good chance to be here without the crowds," he said.
Amy Barker of Palatine said her children like the collection of carnival rides at Hometown Fest.
"It's a great idea, and it's very generous to leave it open for kids with special needs," she said.
As the rain continued to drip, some festival attendees made their way into the food tent, which hosted stands that sold items including burgers and fried Oreos.
"The corn and corn dogs are really good here," said Nick Anforth, a 14-year-old Palatine resident.
Jim Turk, a Palatine resident who attends Hometown Fest every year, said he is a fan of the Mexican food sold at the tent.
"It's really good, and I enjoy coming here for the food and seeing all the people," Turk said.
Hometown Fest features a broad range of thrill rides -- everything from swinging ships to machines that swirl passengers upside down. The festival continues through Sunday, with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
"The best part is coming here and hanging out with friends," said Claire Athanas of Palatine.