Festival Guide: Festival season heats up Rockford Area's summer entertainment scene

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11170400956177.jpg’, ‘file photo by James Thompson’, ‘Country music sensation Keith Urban for OTW's Stars & Guitars Series June 25.’);

If the Midwest had beaches, that’s what a Rockford summer would revolve around. But we don’t, so we have to make our own fun with annual festivals, fairs and celebrations. The 2005 summer festival schedule offers a wide spectrum of music, food and entertainment from all over northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin for anyone who’s already sick of the public pool.

Because of the early date of this publication, not all of the biggest festivals have yet announced their performance schedule or event details. What follows is a sampling of some of the area’s hottest festivals.

On the Waterfront

Marketed as Illinois’ largest music festival, Rockford’s On the Waterfront has yet to post its official listing of bands for OTW. The committee says it won’t be releasing any details about OTW’s performance schedule until at least mid-July. The dates will be Sept. 1-4, Labor Day weekend, as always. Ticket prices will also vary, so keep your eyes open during the midsummer months for your favorite local bands and national headlining acts. Watch www.onthewaterfront.com for the latest info.

Stars & Guitars Summer Concert Series

For the second year, OTW will also stage its Stars & Guitars Summer Concert Series June 24-25 and July 1-2. Featured at this year’s S & G Series at Davis Park are the following:

Billy Dean and Craig Morgan at 6 p.m., Friday, June 24 (tickets $44.50 first two rows, $22.50 advance, $28.50 day of, $10 general admission in advance, $15 admission day of);

Keith Urban at 6 p.m., Saturday, June 25 (tickets $95 for first two rows, $36.50 advance, $43.50 day of, $18 general admission in advance, $23 general admission day of);

REO Speedwagon with special guest Duke Tomatoe and the Power Trio 25th Anniversary of Hi-Fidelity at 6 p.m., Friday, July 1 (tickets $50 first two rows, $28.50 advance, $17 day of, $12 general admission in advance, $17 general admission day of); and

Deep Purple with special guest Mountain at 6 p.m., Saturday, July 2 (tickets $50 first two rows, $28.50 advance, $34.50 day of, $12 general admission in advance, $17 general admission day of).

For more information about the S & G Series, visit www.onthewaterfront.com.

Taste of Rockford

Taste of Rockford has their information out, although they’re still accumulating participating restaurants and eateries. One of my favorite of Rockford’s festivals (food is my kryptonite), this event features an array of different restaurants selling their wares in little booths in the Forest Hills Plaza center. If you visit the Web site, www.rockfordrestaurants.com/tasteofrockford, you can see a list of participating restaurants that is updated weekly, as well as find out about ticket prices, etc. There are also applications online for booth space rental. The event is June 17-18, and performers are Farren Rounds, The Stevee Nix, The Fabulous Janes, Bethesda Covenant Church Gospel singers, Southern Cross, Men of Our Times and Cowboy Mouth.

Beloit Riverfest

Beloit Riverfest has already announced its upcoming acts. Running from July 7-17, performers include The Oxymorons, Separate Ways, Light Up (Styxx Tribute), Honkeytonk Tailgate, Neal McCoy, Alter Bridge (formerly Creed), Collective Soul and The Rock Never Stops Tour (Cindarella, Ratt, Quiet Riot and Firehouse). Admission is $10 for adults, $8 in advance and reduced prices for children. For information, call 800-4-BELOIT.


One of the largest music festivals in the country, Lollapalooza brings more than 60 bands to five stages at Chicago’s Grant Park July 23-24. This is one of the hottest tickets of the year, with a seemingly endless list of performers including the following: The Killers, The Bravery, The Arcade Fire, Pixies, Widespread Panic, Weezer, Liz Phair, Dinosaur Jr., Cake, Dashboard Confessional, Billy Idol, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Kweller, Drive-by Truckers, The Black Keys, Kasabian, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and the Dandy Warhols. A two-day pass is $100 (price will increase to $115 when supplies become limited, according to the festival’s Web site). Music begins at 11:45 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. both days. Info: www.lollapalooza.com.

Milwaukee Summerfest

The drive to Milwaukee’s Summerfest really isn’t that far, and it’s one of the more impressive festivals in the area. It’s run very tightly, and nets huge crowds of people annually. They say it’s “the world’s largest music festival,” but as I understand it, Bonnaroo might be larger (speaking of Bonnaroo, see Phoenix Traders’ advertisement on page V8 for info on their Bonnaroo ticket giveaway). Anyway, headlining acts at the Marcus Amphitheater include John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, Kenny Chesney, Santana, Stevie Nicks, Allman Brothers Band, BoDeans, Tim McGraw and James Taylor. Some great bands on some of the lesser stages include Morris Day & The Time and Isaac Hayes at the Harley Davidson Roadhouse stage, Johnny Rivers and String Cheese Incident at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage, Rusted Root, The Violent Femmes and The Donnas at the Miller Lite Oasis. Summerfest runs June 30-July10. Ticket prices vary, so go to www.ticketmaster.com for info.

I can’t help it; the scent of cotton candy mixed with the summer breeze and gasoline that powers those rides gets me all nostalgic and excited for festival season. Even if I don’t like the bands performing, the ambience of a summer fair is good enough for me. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming TRRTs announcing dates for Block 5, Rockin’ Ribfest, Festa Italiana, Fiesta Hispana, Polish Fest, Wing Ding, county fairs and much more. For info on Chicago festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival and Taste of Chicago, visit www.cityofchicago.org.

Brandon Reid, assistant editor, contributed to this article.

From the May 25-31, 2005, issue

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