South Elgin festival to honor first responders Saturday

The people who keep residents safe every day will be honored Saturday during America's First Responders Fest in South Elgin.

The event, formerly known as the Back the Blue Festival, will run from noon to 9 p.m. at Panton Mill Park, 9 N. Water St.

Co-organizer Mark Bialek said it was time to widen the scope of the event from just honoring law enforcement to all of those who "keep us safe, keep us free, and keep us healthy, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

"It's probably something we should have done from the start," Bialek said. "At the time when we came up with the idea for the event (in 2021), police morale was kind of low and law enforcement was taking a lot of hits nationwide."

The event now features stage presentations throughout the day honoring firefighters, emergency management personnel, dispatchers and doctors and nurses, in addition to police.

"COVID has had a huge effect the last few years and so we thought we ought to recognize everybody that's a first responder, not just law enforcement," Bialek said.

The free event will include a classic car show, live music, food trucks, beverage stands, kids activities, market vendors and first responder vehicles and displays. There also will be a 5K run/walk starting at 3 p.m.

Live music will start at 12:15 p.m. and continue throughout the day, with headliner Jim Peterik from Ides of March and Survivor taking the stage at 7 p.m.

About 1,500 people attended last year's festival, which raises money for local groups that support first responders and veterans.

Bialek said he hopes to give away about $6,000 this year to organizations including Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), True Patriots Care, Operation Sweet Life Inc. and Illinois Firefighter Peer Support.

For more information, visit

  Schaumburg Police Chief Bill Wolf speaks during the 2021 Back the Blue Festival in South Elgin. Brian Hill/
Kids can enjoy inflatable fun courtesy of the Elgin Police Department Saturday during America's First Responders Fest at Panton Mill Park in South Elgin. COURTESY OF MARK BIALEK
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