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Summer fun has begun: Festival season takes hold in DeKalb County

MALTA – After trudging through a long, cold winter, Olivia and Cody Moses could not wait to bring their two-year old daughter, Autumn, to Malta Days.

“I saw 'carnival' and I was like, 'We're going,' ” Sycamore resident Olivia Moses said. “It makes me excited about all the summer festivities.”

The whir of carnival rides and smell of freshly fried funnel cakes at Malta Days means the start of summer festival season in DeKalb County. The festival opened Friday, ushering in what promises to be months of tilt-a-whirls, cotton candy and live entertainment.

The ninth annual Malta Days, which runs through Sunday, features a carnival, beer garden and a handful of bands. Attendees also will find a petting zoo, food, crafters, a 5K run and a community church service.

Malta comptroller and festival volunteer Debbie Lang touted the event as an occasion that brings the community together.

“Saturday is like a homecoming,” Lang said. “It's kind of like a family reunion.”

About 15 volunteers organize the event, which draws about 1,000 people every year, Lang said. The Lions Club and the village board assist in planning, while about $5,000 to pay for musical acts is found elsewhere.

“Basically, we count on our local businesses to pay for the bands,” Lang said.

The 79th annual Genoa Days is next on the summer festival schedule, beginning Wednesday and running through June 14. The event kicks off Wednesday night with the crowning of the king and queen, recent high school graduates who each receive $1,000 scholarships.

“It's a huge deal,” said Genoa Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cortney Strohacker said. “It's an honor for these kids to be recognized.”

The Genoa-Kingston Fire Department puts on Genoa Days, which features music, a parade and carnival rides that Strohacker said draws more then 5,000 people to Genoa. Firefighter Erica Nelson said planning for the event starts in January and ramps up about a month before.

“Mid-May is when you really start scrambling,” Nelson said. “You start feeling that crunch.”

Many local communities feature their own summer festivals such as the Kingston Fest and Kardboard Boat Regatta; Waterman Summerfest and Tractor Show; and the Sycamore Steam Show and Threshing Bee will fill the summer season.

Corn Fest will liven up downtown DeKalb from Aug. 29 to 31 this year, drawing around 40,000 people to Lincoln Highway over the weekend. The festival moved back to downtown DeKalb last year after spending five years at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport.

Corn Fest relies on the support of more than 200 volunteers, said chairwoman Lisa Angel, who also is the marketing development manager at the Daily Chronicle. She said the 10-member board started planning for this year's event two weeks after last year's festival ended.

This year, as with last, the carnival will be entirely north of Locust Street and the Chuck Siebrasse Corn Boil will take place 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 30.

The event also boasts a dozen musical acts such as Hi-Infidelity and the Chicago Six, a band featuring Otis Wilson, Dan Hampton, and Steve McMichael from the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Angel said the challenge of securing musical acts on a shoestring budget is something people often overlook when it comes to festivals. She believes the board has done a phenomenal job finding bands that festival attendees will love, and that will keep the event free.

“We could go with the larger name acts if we wanted to charge $25 to $30, but we want to keep it free,” Angel said. “We really try to keep it free and geared toward the community.”

Back at Malta days, people such as Laura Flink, who came to the festival with her family, are finally starting to look past the dreary winter to see summer and all the festivals it will offer.

“After this, summer is finally here,” Flink said. “And it's been a long time coming.”

DeKalb County festivals:

Today and Sunday: Malta Days

June 11 through 14: Genoa Days

July 3 through 6: Kirkland Fourth of July celebration

July 19: Kingston Fest & Kardboard Boat Regatta

July 19: Waterman Summerfest & Tractor Show

July 19 through 27: Kishwaukee Fest

July 25 and 26: Somonauk Summer Fest

July 26: Sycamore Turning Back Time Weekend

Aug. 8 and 9: Cortland Summer Fest

Aug. 14 through 17: Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee

Aug. 24: Genoa Pioneer Day

Aug. 29 through 31: DeKalb Corn Fest

Aug. 30 through Sept. 1: Maple Park Fun Fest

Sept. 3 through 7: Sandwich Fair

Sept. 7: Kite Fest

Oct. 12: Cortland Fall Parade and Festival

Oct. 22 through 26: Sycamore Pumpkin Festival

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