Jaycees prepare for 60th Hometown Fest

Palatine Jaycees members will meet at Tap House Bar and Grill May 23 at 7 p.m. to prepare for the 60th Annual Hometown Fest Fourth of July celebration. The festival will include a professional fireworks show with patriotic music, live entertainment, a carnival, food vendors, a parade, a craft fair and business expo, a baggo tournament, and other family-friendly activities.

Since the chapter’s founding in 1957, the Jaycees have helped Palatine residents celebrate Independence Day. The scope of the festival has grown from a small fireworks show to a five-day festival, but admission remains free.

“We want families to celebrate and have fun without worrying about paying admission or parking fees. The time our members spend volunteering and fundraising throughout the year allows us to do that,” said Brianne Lind, the chapter’s community development vice president, adding, “But donations are always appreciated!”

Chapter president Sarah Harwerth De Marco said, “Hometown Fest is one of the best parts of being a Jaycee. It’s our biggest project and involves thousands of hours of planning and work. It brings our members together like nothing else; I’ve made close friendships because of it. And it’s exciting to give back to a community that gives so much to me.”

Festival co-chairs Audrey Doty and Steve Poduska each headed various festival committees in past years before leading this year’s 60th anniversary celebration.

“Hometown Fest was a highlight of my childhood,” said Doty. “I grew up in Palatine and never missed the parade or fireworks, even when I left home for college. I’m honored to co-chair the 60th Hometown Fest for such an incredible community. I hope to uphold our traditions and help this celebration continue for years to come.”

For a successful event, they’ll need the help of most of the chapter’s 125 members, as well as many of its associate, or retired, members.

“Steve and I started working on the project plan in October, and the committee has been meeting monthly since December,” said Doty. “We’ll also need members to volunteer on-site during the event.”

A few committee spots are still open. Interested chapter members are encouraged to contact the chairs or attend a committee meeting to learn more.

Two more committee meetings are planned for Thursday, June 1, at Tap House and Tuesday, June 20, at Community Park, both at 7 p.m. Tractor training and staging will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 24, at Community Park.

“Our chapter is fortunate to have the guidance and hard work of our associate members, who have run the festival so successfully in the past,” added Poduska. “But the Jaycees is ultimately a learning organization for people under 40, so the current members have to step up and keep the tradition going.”

This year’s festival will begin with Kathleen A. Blanck Memorial Carnival for People with Special Needs on Friday, June 30 and run through Family Day on Tuesday, July 4. The fireworks show will be at dusk on Monday, July 3. The full schedule, including the entertainment lineup is at www.HometownFest.org.