‘Herculean effort’ behind plans for scaled-back Palatine Hometown Fest

The organizers of Hometown Fest in Palatine said they made the difficult decision to scale back the event in July with no live music headliner, parade or fireworks, and the postponement of Family Day to later this year.

Still, they say there will be plenty of fun: a five-day carnival; a two-day arts, crafts and business expo; a showcase of community entertainment such as cheerleading and dance groups; a bags tournament; a scavenger hunt; and food and beverages, including alcohol. And admission will remain free despite increased costs due to COVID-19.

It all begins June 12 with a new kickball tournament, with registration open at palatinejaycees.org/hometown-fest/kickball-tournament. The rain date is July 2.

The festival from July 1 to July 5 is organized by the Palatine Jaycees, an all-volunteer group that did its best to ensure a safe and exciting event this year, said Jenny Levin and Megan McGaughey. They co-chair a committee of about 20 people that have been working on a plan since last fall.

“It was a balancing act between, ‘How do we benefit the community?’ and at the same time provide the entertainment that people have come to expect and at the same time keep people safe,” Levin said.

“It would be much easier and less of a risk on the Palatine Jaycees to completely cancel this festival,” McGaughey said. “However, we really want to put this on for the community. That’s why we have taken on this herculean effort.”

Hometown Fest will take place at Community Park, on the field closest to Northwest Highway, which allows for more spreading out, organizers said.

The arts, crafts and business expo, which usually features 60 to 100 vendors, will take place July 3 and July 4.

“We are really promoting this as being the headlining event this year,” McGaughey said.

The carnival will be open five days in the parking lot off Wood Street, south of the Palatine Park District Community Center. The Jaycees will be using longtime vendor Windy City Amusements, whose COVID-19 mitigation measures include spacing out lines and sanitizing equipment between rides.

The company presented data showing no uptick in cases after its events in other locations, organizers said.

“That was a big factor to keep the carnival open,” Levin said.

Canceled last year, the festival typically attracts an estimated 50,000 people, including up to 15,000 for the fireworks, when thousands also gather on nearby streets. This year, area businesses and a church raised concerns about large crowds, the organizers added.