Weekend update: 'Best small-town fest'

Today's annual Old Glory Festival in Bement, says festival chairwoman Tabitha Elder, is "an opportunity for us to show our patriotism and to share it with the community and with guests." This is its seventh year. "Actually the first year, it fell on Flag Day — the festival's always the second Saturday of June. It's fortunate that it falls on Flag Day again this year," Elder said. Here's more:

1 The fest kicks off at 7:30 a.m. with a flag raising at the Bryant Cottage State Historic Site at Veterans Park — where most events take place — and a 5K run/walk, too. "We have a '50s and '60s show that ends the day," Elder said. The festival events end at 4 p.m., followed by the 60th Lions Club Chicken Fry at the Second Story Banquet Hall. The fry is a carryover from Bement Days, which ended in the '90s and came around every second Saturday in June.

2 So what else is cooking? More than 40 things to see or do. A petting zoo, stagecoach rides, a Cricket Spittin' Contest, a Lego Rama Contest and camel rides. The Cutest Baby Contest has a $5 entry fee; register from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and bring your kid's picture for public voting. Besides babies to admire, you can gawk at antique tractors, big trucks and a crane holding high a giant American flag. And everyone who attends the Salute to Old Glory program at noon gets a free hand-held flag.

3 Wait, there's more: An emergency helicopter on display at Coles Pasture just east of Bement High School. A "Salute" to thank emergency service folks who are part of the Salute to Old Glory program. Karate performances, and Zumba, samba and gymnastics demos. Market vendors. Bounce houses, face-painting and other games for kids. Royalty — Little Miss and Junior Miss Piatt County — will serve free ice cream. And there's free lavender lemonade at Petals and Porch Posts.

4 The Bement Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors Old Glory Festival. Elder, its president and a banker, grew up in and now lives just outside the village, population 1,600 and 30 miles southwest of Champaign. She's proud of Old Glory, calling it a fun, small-town event. "It's neat when you have people come in from all over the state and to hear an older couple from Northern Illinois say last year it's the best small-town festival they've been to."

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