What began as a simple craft fair in 1971 is now the premiere event of St. Charles' busy festival season. The 40th anniversary Festival of the Little Hills begins Friday on Main Street and in Frontier Park in St. Charles.
"It used to be this little bitty craft fair, and it's gotten bigger in all areas every year," said Sue Garland, vice chairman for the festival.
In fact, this year, the festival was named Best Craft Fair in the Midwest by the readers of AAA Midwest Traveler Magazine. "That's quite an honor," Garland said.
Festival hours run from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The free event features hundreds of craft booths, food booths, live entertainment and a children's area.
"Something new this year will be a display of antique boats," Garland said. "There will be 10 to 15 restored boats on display on the south end of the park."
The antique truck display, which is usually located on the north end of the park, will be moved this year to the south end next to the boats.
"Something else that's new—we're selling postcards in honor of the 40th anniversary," Garland said. The cards will be available at the festival's office trailer in Frontier Park and through some merchants on Main Street.
Another change this year is the restriction of alcohol sales to In the past, people were able to buy beer and alcoholic beverages from vendors on Main Street as well as the park. This year, visitors can buy beverages from two booths in the park.
Visitors will be able to find plenty of food to eat both in the park and on Main Street. Forty nonprofit organizations will be operating food booths at the event. "They use the food sales as fundraisers," Garfield said. "We have some new groups this year."
This year's entertainment lineup includes musical groups , who play Top 40 country; , which plays classic rock, the and Jazz Band; Messiah Lutheran Hand Bell Choir; ; , which plays folk and Americana; Blues Racket; , which plays rock; and , which plays country and classic rock.
Also performing will be magic and variety group Carnival for the Mind and the Patt Holt groups—the Patt Holt Singers, the Connection and Just Kids.
"Blues Racket is new to the festival," Garland said. "The Arbogast Band was supposed to play last year, but the storm hit just as they were starting, so they're back for another try."
Also returning are rockers .
"Last year was our first time there and it was awesome," said Kelly Wild, vocalist for the band. "It was such a great crowd and so receptive. We're looking forward to it because of the audience and how they got into it."
"Trixie Delight had one of the biggest crowds we've had in quite some time," Garland said. "They're back by popular demand."
The will host the Kid's Corner from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday behind the Main Stage in Frontier Park. The area will feature arts and crafts and free soda for children 12 and younger.
While there is plenty of free parking, the spots fill up fast. Free shuttle service will be available at , 2250 Elm St.; , 2002 Arena Parkway; and , 3601 Droste Rd. Shuttles will run every 10-20 minutes. The Family Arena site will be handicap accessible.
The festival is expected to draw 250,000-300,000 people, depending on the weather. Garland had the following tips for those coming out:
"I highly recommend the shuttles, parking can be tight. There are huge crowds so leave pets at home. Use strollers and wagons for the little ones. Come hungry and bring your debit cards."
Kalen Ponche contributed to this article.