Arlington Heights fest moves onto a new virtual frontier for 2020

  • Crowds gather on the carnival midway in 2019 during Frontier Days at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights. Fest organizers called off this year's event because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they're already making plans for 2021.

    Crowds gather on the carnival midway in 2019 during Frontier Days at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights. Fest organizers called off this year's event because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they're already making plans for 2021. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, 2019

 
 
Updated 7/2/2020 2:19 PM

Thousands of people would normally pack Recreation Park in Arlington Heights this weekend for Frontier Days, the five-day festival of bands, food, arts and crafts, carnival rides, family entertainment and games.

It's where festival Co-Chairman Jim Glueckert has spent the last 44 Fourth of July weekends helping run an event that started small but has grown to become one of the largest summer fests in the suburbs.

 

"I gotta say, even though it's a lot of work and time and energy, sitting home doesn't feel right over this weekend, when I'm so used to Fourth of July being at Recreation Park," said Glueckert, who co-chairs the fest with Kim Kase.

But after they and the festival's board of directors decided in April to cancel this year's event over concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, they're trying to celebrate in other ways.

Organizers are launching a social media campaign to keep Frontier Days in the forefront, while soliciting volunteers for next year's festival. They got a major assist from Mayor Tom Hayes, who normally makes his pitch for more volunteers from the fest's main stage. This year he did it as part of a video message to the community on the village's social media channels.

Hayes' message -- part of a lengthy description of the fest's history and impact on the community -- is followed by a "virtual parade" of sorts, featuring pictures from past Fourth of July parades overlaid with music from the Elk Grove High School Wind Ensemble. The nonprofit organization that runs Frontier Days also organizes the annual parade, which likewise was canceled this year.

Glueckert said the cancellations are only a temporary setback, and organizers probably will be ahead of the game in planning for next year. They hope to have many of the same bands and activities that were scheduled this year. Opening night on the main stage will feature 7th Heaven and closing night will be American English, with three still-to-be-announced national acts on the nights in-between, Glueckert said.

"We have a sign up at the park right now that just tells people that we miss them as much as they miss Frontier Days," Glueckert said. "We'll be back in 2021."

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