SYCAMORE – With the Kishwaukee Fest, Michael Embrey has found a successful formula to unite and market many festivities throughout the county.
The festival, which wrapped up Sunday after featuring dozens of events for more than a week, was created four years ago by Embrey to help cities in DeKalb County attract larger audiences to their events.
Attendance has grown higher, with hundreds of people, even those from neighboring states, visiting the parades and concerts, said Embrey, executive director of the festival.
The festival, named after the Kishwaukee River, has been so helpful in increasing audience attendance that other cities are looking to have their events included in future festivals, he said.
“We’ve been approached by Genoa for an event in 2014,” Embrey said.
Embrey said the Kishwaukee Festival can be a way for people to find a good vacation in their own area. He also found it a good way to increase tourism and spotlight local businesses in the county.
“There’s so much to see and do here in the community,” he said.
While the hot weather last summer brought low attendance, Embrey said the cooler weather this year has helped to bring in more people to the shows and events.
One of them was the Turning Back Time car show Sunday, which featured more than 500 cars, with many that haven’t been in production for decades. A few were military vehicles from the 1940s bearing machine guns.
The downtown area was blocked off and people crowded the streets to admire the cars from different eras, and in some cases, sit in them. Cars such as Chevrolet Corvettes from the 1980s shared the same pavement with Chevrolet trucks from the 1950s. Ford roadsters and sedans from the 1930s could be found with bright, fiery paint jobs.
The rebuilding of one dark green 1966 Ford Mustang featured at the car show was a Becker family effort.
West Chicago resident Dwight Becker found the car at an open garage about 15 years ago.
The car wasn’t for sale but he convinced the owner, whose daughter went to high school with Dwight, otherwise. After buying it, the family went to work rebuilding the car from its barest frames.
“Everybody put their two cents in and that’s how the car got built,” said Fran Becker, Dwight’s wife.
Dwight and Fran Becker had no automotive experience, but their two sons, Aaron and Brandon, were developing an interest in cars at the time. After they rebuilt the car, it was something the sons used to drive to their high school proms. Even after moving out of the house, they still drop by to take the Mustang for a cruise.
“With the work the boys put into it, it’s become a part of them, too,” Fran Becker said.
On Saturday, attendees visited the BaconPalooza, which featured a Corvette show and musical performance by the Stage Coach Players. Embrey said bacon has become one of the most highly sought after food at festivals, with people having an “absolutely high-end bacon fix.”
Participants ate chocolate-covered bacon, bacon doughnuts and BLT sandwiches.
Sycamore resident Brett Duffield woke up Saturday, ate bacon for breakfast and then biked 10 miles to the Van Buer Plaza in downtown DeKalb for BaconPalooza.
A self-professed bacon lover, Duffield planned to eat enough of the salty pork strips to burn it all off during his bike ride home.
“It’s good for every meal,” he said.
BaconPalooza ran for about six hours, so organizers expected people to walk through and come and go as they pleased, said Susan Johnson, Kishwaukee Fest parade chairman.
“Every year, it has grown and changed,” Johnson said. “It’s a great variety for DeKalb.”
Embrey already is looking forward to improving BaconPalooza for next year.
“The concept is to promote community events and activities that citizens and out-of-towners can enjoy,” he said. “If you were out of town [shopping here] and you saw bacon and cars, you’d say, ‘Well, this is fun.’ You stepped out, and a party happened.”