Each summer month provides something a little different that you can Discover in Downstate Illinois. One weekend you could be in Sparta watching thousands of competitive trap shooters from all around the world, and another weekend you may find yourself in Centralia watching dozens of hot air balloons take to the sky! Here is a month-by-month breakdown of some annual events that are crowd favorites in our neck of the woods.
Not many people know that there is a sailing club right here in Downstate Illinois, but there certainly is. The Carlyle Sailing Association invites folks out for a free event each year called Try Sailing Day. This year’s event is May 14th from 10am-2pm, and gives children and adults alike the opportunity to get on a sailboat and try their hand at the sport.
If music and barbecue are more your speed, head to Mt. Carmel for Wabash Roots N Que on May 20th. This event is now 25 years in the making, and will give you all the small-town Americana vibes you’ll ever need.
The summer months are great for outdoor concerts, and the Village of Shiloh certainly takes advantage. They host Music in the Park at Klucker Hall starting on May 10th with acts scheduled every other week through July.
World Wide Technology Raceway is a racing mecca this time of year, and it all starts with the NASCAR Cup Series Race the weekend of June 2-4. The Confluence Music Festival returns with the racing action as well, featuring headliner Dierks Bentley. WWTR also plays host to the Summer Fire & Speed Spectacular, Formula Drift, and the NTT INDYCAR Series throughout the summer.
The population of Prairie du Rocher more than triples each year during the Fort de Chartres Rendezvous. Thousands of visitors flock to our area for the event which features everything from shooting competitions to music and dancing. It’s the largest gathering of its kind in the Midwest and is slated for June 3-4.
The City of Highland celebrates their Swiss heritage during Schweizerfest, which is on the calendar for June 9-11. If you’re a fan of carnival rides, games, food, entertainment and parades – this is the celebration for you.
It’s a milestone year for Heritage Days in Okawville, as they celebrate the 40th year of the gathering. This event is true to its name, as heritage is key. Folks get to try their hand at churning butter, kneading bread, and hand-cranking ice cream. It’s always held the weekend before Father’s Day in June!
The third Tuesday in June is the Porta Westfalica celebration in Waterloo. It’s all about German heritage on this day, as Waterloo celebrates it’s Sister City status with Porta Westfalica, Germany. We’re talking German music, food, and even a parade – all taking place downtown around the Monroe County Courthouse.
Another unique event in our region is the Summer Hootenanny in Oblong. An official date was not set as of print time, but it’s usually held in the last week of June. Visitors can experience everything from a fishing rodeo to a disc golf tournament and even a rubber duck race!
The 4th of July is celebrated by several different communities in Downstate Illinois including Mascoutah, Columbia, Salem, Nashville, Mt. Carmel, Robinson, and Olney. Many folks flock to Carlyle Lake for the 4th of July Dam Jam & Fireworks, which is set for July 1st this year. Another popular venue on the 4th is Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis. This is the perfect venue to watch fireworks light up the sky right over the Gateway Arch!
Another local community that celebrates their German heritage each summer is Hoyleton. Hobraufest is in it’s 55th year and will include several activities, in particular a 5K run/walk that awards cash prizes and beer (for those of age) at the finish line. Mark your calendars for July 7-9, 2023.
Jasper County is home to an event that serves up food and beverage for a great cause. The Cork & Pork Festival in Sainte Marie has raised over $188,000 in the last 8 years for local groups and organizations. Arguably the most popular aspect of Cork & Pork is their Jeep Run, which visits a handful of establishments. Check it out on July 8th!
Car cruise, check. Train rides, check. Tractor pulls, check. There is a ton to experience during Farm Heritage Days at the American Farm Heritage Museum in Greenville. If you want the younger generations to see how life used to be, we highly recommend making a trip this July 28-30.
Hundreds of folks visit Red Hills State Park in Lawrence County during the last Saturday in July for the always entertaining Uncorked Festival. For just $15 admission folks get a commemorative wine glass, and five tasting tickets to enjoy vino from local wineries.
One of the longest running events in our region is the Mascoutah Homecoming und Augustfest, which is entering its 97th year. It’s always held the first weekend of August, and the parades for this event are always massive, with one on taking place on Saturday night, and another on Sunday evening. Mix those with live entertainment, a fashion revue, and tractor pulls to really have the true Mascoutah Homecoming experience.
Our friends at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta are set to host thousands of folks for the Grand American World Trapshooting Championships August 2-12. It is the largest shooting events of its kind, and is fun to experience even as a spectator.
When you think of iconic events in Downstate Illinois, the Du Quoin State Fair probably comes to mind immediately. This event is entering its 101st year and has everything you’re looking for in a State Fair – a midway with food and games, a petting zoo, and live entertainment in the Grandstands.
The American Thresherman Association’s Annual Show is another event that is an absolute staple in Perry County. Experiencing the sights and sounds of old steam engines, watching blacksmiths and rope makers, it’s all a wonderful trip back in time. Check it out August 16-20 at the Perry County Fairgrounds!
An absolute fan favorite that draws 30,000 people to our region year after year is Centralia’s Balloon Fest. What’s better than watching these hot air balloons take to the skies in the morning, and then light up the night with a balloon glow in the evenings? The best part is, a simple five-dollar bill pays for your admission wristband for all weekend! It’s slated for August 18-20 this year.
Trenton Fest is a fun event in Clinton County that is actually a fundraiser for the Trenton Park Boosters. This two-day event has recently been the third weekend in August, and features live music, a carnival, and a regional favorite…cornhole tournaments!
**This article comes from the 2023 Spring/Summer Tourism Times. To learn more about how to read the publication, click here.