Due to the pandemic in 2020, many of our beloved events in Downstate Illinois had to either cancel or change drastically for safety reasons. While many of those events may look different in 2021, there are thousands of folks who mark dates on their calendars to visit various events in southern Illinois.
Food is the star of the show for events like Albion Chowder and Midwest Wingfest in Fairview Heights. If you leave hungry… that’s on you!
Live music is also very popular in Downstate Illinois. Events like Wabash Roots ‘N’ Que in Mount Carmel and the McLeansboro Fall Festival attract thousands of folks to each community to listen to popular acts perform everything from rock-and-roll to country music.
The Downhill Derby is also a sight to behold when you’re in McLeansboro for the Fall Festival.
For a true, small town Americana sort of vibe, we highly recommend attending celebrations that folks have looked forward to for decades on end. Events like Corn Days in Carmi, Grayville Days, the Mascoutah Homecoming, and the Wheat Festival in Okawville have each been time-honored traditions in their respective communities — with everything from parades to carnival rides.
Fruehlingsfest (also known as Spring Fest) in the quaint, historic town of Maeystown has become one of the best and most highly-anticipated antique shows in the Midwest. It takes place rain or shine on the first Sunday of May every year.
Of course, there are spectator-related events in Downstate Illinois that really know how to please a crowd. The Pioneer City Rodeo has been a staple in Palestine for over four decades. The event often sells out to a crowd of nearly 7,000 people each year!
One of the most visually appealing events in Downstate Illinois can be found in Centralia. Balloon Fest awes crowds of thousands that flock to town each August to take in balloon glows at sunset and balloon flights over Centralia.
There are also events that pride themselves in honoring the past. The Grand Levee in Vandalia is a celebration of the grand receptions held during the 1800s to honor government dignitaries and important visitors. Visitors can experience local performances, food vendors, period demonstrations, and more!
In Pinckneyville each August, the American Thresherman Association hosts an event that showcases over 100 years of farming history in four days. There are tractors everywhere, including impressive steam engines that go into the fields and demonstrate how they operated in the good old days!
Fans of Popeye The Sailor Man should mark September on their calendars to make a trip to Chester for their annual Popeye Picnic. One of the traditions of this event is to unveil a new Popeye character statue that folks can go on a scavenger hunt for while in town. Of course, Popeye, Olive Oyl, and many more of their friends are always in attendance to snap pictures with the crowd.
Holiday-themed events are also very popular in Downstate Illinois, and a couple of notable celebrations are the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair and Lebanon’s Victorian Holiday. The Holiday Lights Fair is hosted at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds each year and features over three miles-worth of lighted displays for visitors to enjoy. Victorian Holiday in Lebanon is the perfect event to get you in the Christmas spirit. There is Ole Lamplighter, who goes up and down brick street and shops small businesses, as well as carolers and madrigals!
For more information on events throughout the year, visit our calendar of events here!