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Festival of the Little Hills returns, Aug. 18-20

By: Katie Ward Beim-Esche


Vous êtes invités à la Fête des Petites Côtes – you’re invited to the Festival of the Little Hills, now in its 48th year of celebrating St. Charles.

This year’s festival is from Friday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 20. It is open from 4-10 p.m. on Friday, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday, and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m on Sunday.

The festival was founded in 1969 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the city of St. Charles, which originally was named Les Petites Côtes [“The Little Hills”] by Louis Blanchette, the French-Canadian explorer who established the settlement in 1769.

Over the years, this beloved event has grown from a humble get-together on S. Main Street to a fun-filled festival on Main, Frontier Park and Riverside Drive, attracting 250,000 to 300,000 people.

“Our job is to help promote the city of St. Charles and its merchants,” said Mark Stubblefield, the festival’s chairman. “Downtown St. Charles is just gorgeous. And when we have beautiful weather in Frontier Park, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Handicrafts and refreshments

Expect entertainment for all with the festival’s slew of live performances, artisans, delicious food and fun activities.

Among more than 300 artisan booths, attendees can peruse wares from artisans nationwide, some of whom have come to the Festival of the Little Hills for decades, according to Stubblefield.

“With almost 300 artisans, it’s all different,” he said, describing Cardinals gear, repurposed antique furniture, vintage silverware-turned-jewelry and handmade Western-style hats. “We try to keep everything homemade and good quality, and to keep a good mix of things that both adults and children will love.”

Got a “rumbly in your tumbly”? Sample one of the many options available at the festival, including hamburgers, bratwursts, taco salad, chicken kabobs and barbecue. Snack on kettle corn and funnel cakes while you wander the handicraft booths.

Wash it all down with a refreshing glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Adults can stop by the two beer gardens, one hosted by the Moolah Shriners and the other by the Frenchtown Heritage Museum and Research Center.

Live performances

Musical acts are scheduled all weekend for the Main Stage at Riverside Drive and First Capitol Drive.

Friday features Seth Brand and A.D.D. Saturday’s schedule includes the Municipal Concert Band, Gateway Jazz Quartet, King Benny, Gypsy Lion, Catfish Willie and Accolade. On Sunday, see another round of the Municipal Jazz Band, plus 4th Street Band and Borderline.

Kid’s Korner

On Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free children’s activities take place under the tent in Frontier Park. Smaller festival-goers will experience a variety of sights and sounds from past and present, thanks to the Trains Across America and small engine exhibits. The Kid’s Korner also features a bungee trampoline, swings, inflatables and Knockerball games.

Supporting nonprofits

The Festival of the Little Hills corporation is comprised of not-for-profit organizations, Stubblefield explained, and proceeds benefit dozens of St. Charles groups, including the Boy and Girl Scouts, Sierra Club, Shriners and area churches.

“Our mission is to help raise money for nonprofits,” he said. “To do that, we put a lot of really good vendors down there.”

The Festival of the Little Hills Scholarship Foundation also sponsors several $1,000 scholarships for local high school students. Seniors from area schools submit essays in response to a prompt and perform community service, and a panel of judges select the winners. Scholarship recipients for 2017 are Sara Dobrinic, Bryce Edmondson, Emily Henry, Jacob Larson, Breanne Martin and Meredith Stratmann.

“We try to give a scholarship to that all-around student who works hard,” said Stubblefield.

Stubblefield credited the year-round work of festival board members and countless volunteers in bringing the Festival of the Little Hills to life each year. “It is incredible, all of the work everybody puts in, and all of the volunteers,” he said. “Just think of all of the people this is helping.”

Shuttles, parking and pets

Free shuttle service is available from 5-11 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday.

Shuttles run from three locations – St. Charles West High, located at 3601 Droste Road; EPC [Executive Personal Computers], located at 3941 Harry S. Truman Blvd. [at Interstate 70 and Cave Springs]; and Duchesne High, located at 2550 Elm St. [Saturday and Sunday only]. A handicapped shuttle is available from EPC.

Check the festival website for new restrictions for commercial, RV and trailer parking.

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