It's back: Arlington Heights' Frontier Days returning with smaller format
Two months after calling off Frontier Days in Arlington Heights for a second straight year, organizers are reversing course and planning a scaled-down version of the annual summer festival.
Members of the festival's operating board have decided they will hold a carnival July 1-5, the originally scheduled days of the fest, at its traditional home at Recreation Park.
The big-name main stage entertainment that has long been a hallmark of the event and helped make it one of the largest summer festivals in the suburbs will not be included, however.
"We're trying," said Lars Ohrstrom, Frontier Days board president. "We saw this as a chance to have something for the people of the village over the Fourth and yet minimize the need for Red Shirts (volunteers)."
Frontier Days board members have been monitoring state restrictions throughout the pandemic, and they surveyed their vast network of volunteers about whether they believed they could safely return before making their decision to cancel in March.
"The health and safety of our Red Shirts was our first priority," Ohrstrom said. "They're the lifeblood of our organization."
But with pandemic conditions improving since March and the state progressing toward a full reopening, Frontier Days organizers plan to contract North American Midway Entertainment to provide carnival games, rides and fair food. Its employees man the rides and booths, meaning few volunteers from Frontier Days would be needed.
Ohrstrom added that without the side tents that previously housed food vendors, stage entertainment and more, he hopes the carnival would bring an expanded midway.
"They will have more space to spread out," he said. "And carnival officials would be responsible to abide by all of the state mandates in place."
Frontier Days officials have been working with the village of Arlington Heights seeking ways to hold at least a portion of the festival safely, said Jim Glueckert, entertainment chairman.
"As Illinois went into the Bridge Phase and looked to go to Phase 5 by June 11, it appeared possible to get permission from the village and the (Arlington Heights) Park District," Glueckert said. "Both agreed that as long as we followed the guidelines of the Illinois Department of Public Health, we would be able to have the carnival."
If Illinois moves into Phase 5, with more than 50% of residents 16 and over having at least one dose of vaccine, the state would be able to fully reopen with no restrictions, the offices of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the IDPH announced May 13.
"We're trying to bring a sense of normalcy to the village and slowly get us back on track," Ohrstrom said. "We fully intend to bring back Frontier Days as strong as it ever was in 2022."