Many cities’ downtowns are mostly shuttered after 5 p.m. when businesses close for the day, but the city of Pekin has put forth effort this year to make sure its downtown is staying vibrant with a series of events.
The last in a five-series event — Fall Fun Fest — will be from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, in downtown Pekin. At about 2 p.m., Court Street will be closed off between Third and Fourth streets and Capitol Street will be closed between Elizabeth and Margaret streets. Parking is available at a lot near Fast Dragon at Third and Margaret.
Nicole Stewart, deputy city clerk for the city of Pekin, is the coordinator for these events. Stewart began working for the city in December.
“I started helping out at the beginning of August, we had the Bathtub Races…that was fun,” she said.
The city’s community events began in June with a Summer Kick Off. In July, the city sponsored the Bike Night portion of the Super Cruise weekend, Stewart said. A Court Street Block Party and Bathtub Races both took place in August. The Family Fun Fest in September got rained out, so Stewart said they are “kind of” replacing that with the Fall Fun Fest. The Pekin Farmers Markets at 326 Court St., began May 30 and will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays until Oct. 17.
“I’ve been trying to get new vendors and coordinate everything for that,” Stewart said of the farmers market.
From what Stewart has learned, Pekin Main Street used to host some of these events in the past, “but I think it’s been a few years,” she said.
“That was when they had a lip sync contest,” she said. “I think they kind of did the same thing. I don’t think beer was involved. I think that’s new.”
At the Fall Fun Fest, there will be a craft beer tasting at a Maquet’s Rail House booth. The band Stone Cold Cowboys, which was scheduled to play at the canceled Family Fun Fest, will take the stage at the Fall Fun Fest instead. There will also be a bonfire, food trucks, caramel apples and kettle corn for sale, face painting, a balloon artist, a bounce house and some rides for children. The kids’ event will go until 8 p.m. Stewart said entry to the event is free, as well as the rides, bounce house, face painting and balloons.
The bonfire will take place in the vacant lot next to the Pekin Daily Times’ building at 306 Court. The bonfire will be inside a large tub, Stewart said.
“We’re going to have the Pekin Fire Department there. We’ll just light the fire and monitor it,” she said, adding the fire is to add ambience.
“If it’s chilly, it’s a place you can warm up and listen to the music,” she added.
Yesterday’s Bar & Grill recommended Stone Cold Cowboys, which according to the band’s Facebook page, plays Top 40 country, 90s country, outlaw country, classic country, southern rock and more.
“I believe the lead singer Erich Thompson is from Pekin, so he’s well known,” Stewart said.
Other members are Steve Towery, Tug Thompson, Steve Harris, Tim Harr, Dave Martin and Guy Morse.
The band is described on their website as, “the only central Illinois country group to feature both a fiddle and pedal steel guitar performing together.”
To add fall flair, Stewart said, Maurie’s will be selling the caramel apples and kettle corn and DeMarchi’s Espresso will serve pumpkin lattes, among other options.
“Our purpose is to get the community together,” Stewart said. “We’re trying to make downtown Pekin thrive. We want to have anybody who is interested in helping out to promote business, to promote sales, encourage businesses to stay open during these events. We want everyone to spend locally and be together.”
Funding for the event is being sponsored by Pekin Community Bank and PDC.
Stewart is uncertain whether these events will continue into the future, but she is hopeful they will, as feedback from the community has been positive.
“It’s really all up in the air,” she said.