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Column

Stadalsky: Summerfest 2017; the old and new

Original hard rock and metal band Wombo Combo draws a large crowd of teens during a set at the 2015 Minooka Summerfest. The festival returns Thursday.
Original hard rock and metal band Wombo Combo draws a large crowd of teens during a set at the 2015 Minooka Summerfest. The festival returns Thursday.

This year’s Minooka Summerfest will kick off Thursday evening with a new bean bag tournament for high school kids. The adult bean bag event is always popular, so the festival committee and Lions Club has decided to give it a try for the younger set.

The event is from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

The other new event this year, to be held Saturday, is the Pinewood Derby races hosted by Cub Scout Pack 464. It will run 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. So come downtown to get a chance to watch the homemade cars race to the finish.

There’s always something fun and new at Minooka Summerfest. It’s a great small-town, community event that brings everyone outdoors to enjoy old fashioned fun.

Minooka Lions Club, which organizes Summerfest, began holding events to raise money for charity in the early 1960’s, according to Summerfest chairman John Jun.

Their first event was an auction, then they decided to make it a good-old fashioned country and western street dance and a pork chop dinner grilled up by Lions Club members. They called it Desperado Days.

Two Minooka churches, Saint Mary’s and Minooka United Methodist, held what was originally called Summerfest later in the summer. That was in the mid-’80s.

After a year, the two decided to join forces and Summerfest as we know it today began to emerge. The Lions Club now completely runs the show, but not without all kinds of assistance from the community, said Jun.

The Minooka Women’s Club still runs the kids games, Laurie Offerman, Three Rivers Library Director, runs the day stage entertainment, Village Christian Church pastor Nate
Ferguson handles the kiddie parade, community members organize
things like the 5K race, food booths, craft fair and vendors and night time stage entertainment.

The village of Minooka supports the community event not only with manpower but services and the space, said June.

“We couldn’t do it without the cooperation of the village,” he said.

Lions Club members have hung up their grilling aprons and they have been using 5 B’s Catering service the past several years to grill up those juicy pork chops.

The money that the Lions Club earns at Summerfest goes back into the community. In fact, more than $300,000 has been donated during the past several years, Jun said.

With that money the club offers eye glasses and hearing aids, delivers holiday food baskets to residents in need for Thanksgiving and Easter, sponsors Minooka Boy Scouts and provides scholarships to high school students for continuing education.

Trying to keep the historical details straight isn’t always an easy task, but Lions member and Summerfest fundraising Chairman Jerry Davidson believes this should be the 20th year that the event was taken over completely by the Lions; something of a milestone.

He’s probably right, Jun said.

While Minooka Summerfest started out as two separate events, it has progressed and developed over the years, said Jun. And it’s become one that the community looks forward to each summer.

For information and a schedule of events, visit Minookalionsclub.com.

• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and issues in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at writestuff56@comcast.net.

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