Central Illinois towns prepare for summer festivals

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Some central Illinois festivals are returning to a normal format after changes in 2020.

The state is currently in phase four of its COVID-19 mitigation restrictions. It allows for outdoor festivals and events, meaning many festivals that were changed or canceled last year are back.

One festival returning to its traditional format is Morton’s 55th Pumpkin Festival.

“First thing people ask me [is], ‘are you having a pumpkin festival this year?'” said Morton Mayor Jeffrey Kaufman. “So far, we got the green light for everything, so we’re trying to move forward with a positive attitude.”

The theme is ‘Pumpkins, Tailgates, and Traditions’. Leaders said the festival is a tradition missed by many last year.

“It has so many experiences and opportunities that families enjoy so much throughout those festival days, and really it’s just about gathering and giving back,” said Morton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leigh Ann Brown.

Kaufman said the late summer event draws crowds from across the area.

“We get people from everywhere. Sometimes there’s 75,000 people here for the parade,” said Kaufman.

Brown said they’re planning for a typical celebration with food, tents, and carnival rides. She’s hopeful it’ll happen as planned, as more people get vaccinated.

“Come September, I think we’ll be well prepared to host a safe festival,” said Brown.

Morton isn’t the only town preparing for a summer celebration. In Metamora, Old Settlers Committee President Stan Deatherage said they’re planning for a festival in June.

“It’s well over a 100 year tradition, so the people that grew up around here, it’s important to them. They were very disappointed last year,” said Deatherage.

He said they’re keeping an eye on restrictions.

“It’s all going to hinge on the state and whether the state allows us to do it or not,” said Deatherage.

He said any possible changes in COVID-19 mitigation could affect the festival.

Brown also said the Pumpkin Festival is in need of volunteers. People interested in volunteering can register online.

Morton Pumpkin Festival is planned for September 15 through 18. Old Settlers Day is planned for June 23 through 26.

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