Festival Season: A Guide
The greater Champaign County area is a hotbed for fun, local events you can’t find anywhere else in the region. Check out some of the top events and festivals happening throughout summer and fall, then start planning your weekend getaway!
Kick-off summer with a drink on the patio and local, live music. Friday Night Live in downtown Champaign will start your weekend off from June 1–August 24 with street-side performances from local performing artists. You’ll find an eclectic mix of bluegrass, jazz, folk, rock and blues, with a side of a cappella, belly dancing, live painting and kids activities thrown in on the side. All this can be enjoyed while you dine al fresco at one of downtown Champaign’s many local eateries and bars.
The streets of downtown will shut down twice this summer for Champaign Park District’s Streetfest, happening June 9 and July 14. Stages will be set up to feature some of the areas favorite local bands such as Timablu, Mojo: A Tribute to Tom Petty and the Heartbreaks, and The Josephines.
Then celebrate Independence Day weekend just outside Champaign County for the Freedom Fest Celebration. Located in Arthur, the event includes live music, tons of kids activities and delicious food and drink vendors. The event is so popular that 30,000 to 40,000 guests travel to the small town to watch the fireworks show after sunset. Expect to find additional festivities like a parade, military airplane show and skydiving from planes.
Get ready for one of the most unique music festivals in the country. Audiofeed, held July 4–7, brings Christian music into the spotlight, from really mellow acoustic to hardcore and everything in between. Held at the Champaign County Fairgrounds, music lovers are encouraged to camp out to enjoy a weekend of community and music.
Let’s not forget about those 4th of July celebrations happening around the greater Champaign County area. Some of the region’s best firework shows can be seen right here, alongside entertainment, 5Ks and much more. Check out the Champaign County Freedom Celebration happening at the University of Illinois, Freedom Fest at Lake of the Woods, and the Monticello Freedom Fest at Lodge Park!
Also in July, retrace the steps of the early pioneers at Historic Farm Days in Penfield, July 12–15. Up to 100,000 people gather to celebrate the harvest with square dancing, parades, fireworks and live music. Farmers show off vintage tractors, and volunteers donning period attire demonstrate blacksmithing and other skills used in the early days. This family-friendly event allows everyone to learn a bit more about the history of agriculture in the Champaign County area.
Taste of Champaign-Urbana is a cool and casual outdoor event that takes place on a warm summer weekend each year (August 17–18), featuring selections from some of the area’s restaurants and food trucks. The festival brings a fun, family-friendly atmosphere with live music and plenty of local arts and crafts vendors. Don’t miss the Pie Run that takes you on a 3.14 mile course to earn a free pie from local bakeries.
Other fun foodie events in Champaign County celebrate specific foods. Plan a weekend trip to coincide with the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival in late summer, where up to 30,000 ears of sweetcorn are consumed. The corn is brought in from nearby farms and cooked the old-fashioned away using an antique steam engine. Live music, dancing, and corn served in a variety of ways are all part of the event.
Head to Champaign County for a weekend in August to attend the Mahomet Music Festival, which takes place in downtown Mahomet, August 24–25. The streets become jam-packed with entertainment, live music, food vendors, art vendors and the Mahomet Lion’s Club Beer Tent. Kids love this event every year for the carnival rides, and moms and dads like to compete in the cornhole tournament. The weekend-long, family-friendly event also includes a parade down the main street featuring local marching bands.
The Arthur Amish Country Cheese Festival, September 1–3, is the best place to sample cheese from dozens of vendors and watch cheese enthusiasts compete against each other in the National Cheese Eating Championships. The three-day festival attracts 30,000 people, and includes a tractor pull, live music and, lots of local jams and goods for sale at the Amish farm shop.
Thousands of people come to downtown Champaign every year during CU Pride Fest, a family-friendly event, happening September 14–16. Including a pride parade and drag brunch, this colorful festival is the perfect way to spend a fall weekend.
Step back in the 1920s and 1930s at Monticellobration, September 15, at the historic courthouse square in the downtown district in September. Guests are encouraged to wear their best flapper dresses and period outfits to look the part of the Golden Era. Over 50 vendors offer delicious meals for guests to snack on before and after dancing to swing music on Charter Street. Love vintage cars? You’re in for a real treat at the event’s classic car show. There’s something in it for the kids too. Kids’ corner includes fun games, dunk tanks, face painting and train rides.
One of the largest music events of the year, Pygmalion, September 26–29, returns to Champaign-Urbana. This festival features a mixture of curated components over the decade plus of its existence: music, literature, tech, crafts, and food. The festival continues to change over the course of time, incorporating more cultural aspects of the Champaign-Urbana community and alongside some of the best and brightest performers and artists from around the world. Previous performers include CHVRCHES, Run the Jewels, Major Lazer, Future Islands, Explosions in the Sky, and hundreds more. Don't forget to pick up some things at the Made Fest — the vintage craft fair component of the festival, where dozens of vendors sell their handmade wears and goods.
Returning for its second year, the Prairie Sky Music Festival presented by Lodgic brings music, food, outdoor activities, camping and more to Allerton Park & Retreat Center. Held September 7–8, the festival headliner this year is Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, along with more folk music from the likes of The Barefoot Movement, Fox Crossing String Band, and more. The unrivaled setting of Allerton Park enhances this new fall delight.
This loaded festival season brings music, food, history and more to the spotlight! Plan your weekend getaway now!
Calendar of Events
Check out our events calendar for complete details on all these major events and festivals, and many more events throughout the year!