Family Picks: One last blast of summer

Family Picks: One last blast of summer

You wouldn’t know it’s the end of summer (at least by the school calendar) from the lineup of fairs and festivals this weekend. Start your Saturday in downtown Champaign at the Festival of the Arts, then stroll over to West Side Park for the National Night Out/Family Fun Day.

Or, if you're trying to escape back-to-school congestion at the UI, check out the kids games and free entertainment at the Mansfield Homecoming, the bluegrass music at Rockome Gardens, or the final weekend of the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.

Happy last days of summer!

Mansfield Homecoming: 6:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Main Street, Mansfield.

Enjoy the carnival with armbands all three days, a parade (10 a.m. Saturday), car show, greased-pig contest, free entertainment, talent show, tractor and lawn mower pulls, kids’ games, rib cook-off, monster truck rides and the Blue Grass Jam.

For information: Call 489-9214, 489-3381 or visit the event's Facebook page or schedule of events

Dump and Run: 10th annual sale, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, UI Stock Pavilion, 1402 W. Pennsylvania Ave., U. Admission charge (free giveaway on Sunday).

From lava lamps to loungers, you can find bargains galore at this annual sale of castoffs from UI students and everyone else.(Caution: probably not a kid-friendly event, at least during the initial rush.)

Admission is $2 (free for international students) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a $3 bag sale and half-price furniture from 2 to 4 p.m. On Sunday, everything is free.

For information: Visit the Dump and Run website

Downtown Festival of the Arts: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Neil/Mail and Neil/Walnut streets, Champaign.

The eighth annual festival, hosted by the Champaign Park District, features artwork by local and visiting artists, unique cuisine, music and artistic performances throughout the day, and activities for the whole family.

For information:  Visit the park district's website

Bluegrass in the Gardens:  Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Rockome Gardens, near Arcola.

The festival features stage shows with bluegrass bands from Illinois, Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri. Saturday’s lineup includes New Outlook, Tommy Brown & County Line Grass, The Bankesters, The Rigney Family and Dyer Switch. On Sunday, enjoy Dyer Switch, Rigney Family, Link Family and The Punches Family.

Tickets are $12, or $20 for a two-day pass. Children ages 5 to 12 get in for half-price, and younger children are free.

For information: Call 268-4106 or visit this website

Dino Detective Days: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, 346 N. Neil St., C. Free with museum admission.

Enjoy time travel and bring the past to life as you explore another time period in this ongoing scientific investigation. Museum admission $2 to $3; children under 2 and members are free. (The final session is Sept. 17.)

For information: Call 352-5895 or visit

National Night Out: Family Fun Day, 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, West Side Park, 400 W. University Ave., C. Free.

Enjoy music, food, family-friendly games and information on safety awareness, plus promotional giveaways and free hot dogs, popcorn and live entertainment. The event, sponsored by the cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy and the University of Illinois, are intended to help prevent crime and drug use and strengthen neighborhood connections and police-community partnerships.

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. enjoy performances in memory of Mable Thomas, longtime neighborhood services coordinator for the city of Champaign, who coordinated the National Night Out event for many years. The concert will feature comedian Jesse Taylor, Bunny DeBarge from the R&B/pop group DeBarge, Charity Davis from MTV’s “Making His Band”, LaShawn Jackson, Teddie Cain Jr. and DJ Dwayne Bishop.

For information: Call John Ruffin at 403-7070 or visit this city website

C-U Pride Fest: 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Lincoln Square Village, Urbana. Free.

The second annual gay pride festival will feature artists, vendors, community organizations and two performance stages with Amasong, Carnivale Debauche, Desafinado, Dawna Nelson, Raw Art, Vannatica and Zoo Improv. Family friendly entertainment includes bounce houses, games and face-painting. The festival is presented by the Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County.

For information: Visit this website

State Fair finale: Illinois State Fairgrounds, 801 Sangamon Ave. Springfield (2 miles from Interstate I-55’s Sangamon Ave exit (exit 100 B).

The final weekend of the fair features “Futures for Kids Day” on Friday, with activities centered on young visitors: a Smile Contest, a Diaper Derby and a Ponytail/Pigtail contest. For adults, the Grandstand will feature throwback concerts with “Loverboy” and “Head East.”

Saturday is Park District Conservation Day (not Family Day, as Family Picks reported by mistake last weekend). Members of more than 45 park districts from throughout Illinois entertain fairgoers and host activities in Conservation World. Events include the Bossy Fashion Frolic, Society Horse Show, Celebrity Moo Moo Classic and, in the Grandstand, MC Hammer with Boyz II Men.

Sunday is Family Day with the general admission price is lowered to $2 per person.

Besides the carnival rides, livestock shows, 4-H exhibits, harness racing and Grandstand events, the fair offers a diverse array of activities in its Conservation World, Happy Hollow jungle exhibits, Ethnic Store and other areas. Highlights include a rock-climbing wall, canoe rides, “extreme trampoline,” a  fishing pond, exhibits on sustainability and the “Amazing rainforest,” a high-dive show, aerial show, meat loaf contest, and of course, the world-famous Butter Cow.

A daily Kids Corner entertains your children with clowns, folk music, storytelling, face-painting and puppet shows.

General admission: $5 for adults, $2 for children ages 5 to 12 and senior citizens, and free for ages 5 and under.  Vehicle parking is $7 a day, and you can also buy a coupon book with 10 admissions for $35 ($15 for children). Carnival rides are extra, though you can buy a $25 bracelet  for unlimited rides.

Directions: Take Interstate 72 west until it merges with I-55 north at Springfield. Take exit 100B off I-55, the Sangamon Avenue exit. Follow that 2-3 miles to Fairgrounds.

For information: Visit

Music in the park: Hessel Park Concert, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Hessel Park, Champaign. Free.

This weekend’s Champaign Park District concert features Gillian Grassie, who specializes in jazz-inflected indie folk/pop music.

For information: Call 398-2550 or visit


Check the Are We There Yet? blog every Friday for upcoming family friendly events, pulled from our News-Gazette online calendar, e3 magazine and other sources. To submit an item, e-mail me at, or use the calendar on the News-Gazette home page,


Top: Ryan Hammer of Mansfield, zooms down the Super Slide at the 2007 Mansfield Homecoming. The weekend event includes a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday and continues through Sunday. Heather Coit/The News-Gazette

Middle: Brian Knox helps sculptor Roger Blakley install his work R-RP-23 at Chester and Neil Streets in Champaign for the 2010 arts festival in downtown Champaign.  Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

Bottom: Champaign officer Jeremy Canales helps Tyisha Redd make a set of her fingerprints for safety identification during the 2003 National Night Out. Robert K. O'Daniell /The News-Gazette



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