Frontier Days canceled for second year in a row in Arlington Heights
One of the largest summer festivals in the suburbs -- Frontier Days in Arlington Heights -- is canceled for the second year in a row, organizers announced Wednesday.
Cancellation of the five-day festival of bands, food, arts and crafts, carnival rides, family entertainment and games also comes with the postponement of the 4th of July Parade and Stampede run that takes place over the same long summer weekend. All events are organized by the Frontier Days, Inc. nonprofit group and its volunteer board of directors.
"Unfortunately, with the uncertainty going on right now and in the future and the planning needed to put on a festival of our size, it didn't seem like we could safely and comfortably do this at this time," Frontier Days board President Lars Ohrstrom said.
Board members surveyed many of the festival's hundreds of volunteers -- commonly known in town as the Red Shirts -- and many expressed concerns about holding the large-scale gathering, Ohrstrom said. There also was the feeling among board members that similar discomfort would be felt in the among community members, he added.
The board had operated under the assumption that the festival would be back in 2021, after canceling the fest in the early days of the pandemic last April. But the prospect of large crowds returning to Recreation Park -- which has drawn upward of 20,000 during some of the festival's most popular concerts -- rendered the board's decision as a safety issue, Ohrstrom said.
"It came down to: We feel things are going in the right direction, but I just don't think it would be at the point where people would feel safe coming to that," he said.
At the same time, future state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions are uncertain. And the festival board was practically past the point of having to make contractual obligations for entertainment and other vendors, Ohrstrom added.
Some wondered whether Frontier Days could hold a scaled-back fest -- perhaps two days instead of five. But Ohrstrom said the event's costs are fixed, from tents to equipment.
Proceeds from sales at the fest, such as beer, food and carnival games, finance the following year's event. Ohrstrom said the organization is on a firm financial footing, and committed to bringing back the fest in 2022.
"It'll be gone now for two years, and every year it's gone makes it more difficult. But we're committed and financially viable to be able to do it," he said.