Coming together as a community is what organizers hope will happen this weekend when the inaugural City Fest will take place at the O’Fallon Community Park.
“The idea is to get everyone together as one. You don’t have to go to this school or that church, doesn’t matter if you live in the north, south, east or west part of town,” Mayor Herb Roach said.
When asked to help, people enthusiastically responded. Local organizations, churches, businesses and families stepped up to volunteer or help sponsor this event, which runs from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday.
“The volunteers have been tremendous. Hundreds of people are helping. We’re looking forward to this. A lot of people have been asking for this,” Roach said.
He said residents who want to be active in their community set O’Fallon apart.
“We have so many people who want to give back, all centered around helping the community help each other out,” he said.
No taxpayer dollars have been spent. The residents’ generosity has been remarkable.
“People have been very generous with donations and in sponsoring many different activities. We have over 70 organizations and companies helping. We are recognizing them in all of our advertising, posters and on banners in the parade,” Roach said.
“You know, you can’t do it by yourself. You need good cooperation. Hundreds of people are coming together to make this happen,” he said. “We’ll be helping local organizations raise funds too.”
Activities include a car show, rides, children’s games, a climbing wall and more. ReMax will offer tethered hot-air balloon rides, weather permitting,
A parade will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday, starting on North Lincoln at the old City Hall and ending at 7th and South Lincoln. About 60 groups are participating in the parade, which will include at least four marching bands and about 10 floats, Roach said.
“Marcie Lapolice has organized the parade, Roger Van Etten has helped get the floats together and Lt. David Matevey of the O’Fallon Police Department has made sure the routes Saturday have the least amount of disruption for traffic,” he said.
Live music will be featured Friday and Saturday, with country band Boulderdash from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and cover band Social Remedy from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, both on the main stage.
The Shriners Drum and Bugle Corps will perform near the Pavilion after the parade. The band Third Floor will play Saturday from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
Food stands will feature jumbo tacos from the Shiloh PTO, fish from United Church of Christ, hamburgers and hot dogs from OUSART, bratwurst from the Moose Lodge and funnel cakes from OTHS Band Boosters. St. Clair Senior Citizens and Looking Glass Prairie Chapter will provide a Cake Walk Friday night while St. Clare Parish will handle it Saturday.
Sugar Fire will offer barbecue, The Place pizza, TC Treats will have Philly style water ices, and D & T Kettle Corn will be there.
For beverages, the Hibernians will sell soda, O’Fallon Boosters domestic beer and Global Brew specialty beers.
The Car Show opens at 8 a.m. Saturday and continues until 4 p.m. Chairman is Sonny Sterthman, a veteran car show organizer and classic car enthusiast.
The O’ Town Hustle Super-Sprint Biathlon, which is a 1-mile grass and road run course with a 10-mile bike ride through town and rolling hills north of O’Fallon, is at 8 a.m. too. Late registration is available but T-shirts not guaranteed. Anyone from 10 to 100 can participate. Sponsored by Bike Surgeon, Toolen’s Running Start and the city, registration is available online. Prizes awarded in each category.
In June 2017, interested residents started meeting about bringing back a city-wide picnic or festival.
“We were really blessed that all of these people showed up at the meetings, which went from monthly to every two weeks, and now on a weekly basis. It’s fantastic that we got such good help,” Roach said.
What had been the city’s Homecoming event was dropped 10 years ago after some troublemaker incidents. The desire to keep this a family event and foster a safe environment has been foremost on organizers’ minds.
Originally started as a welcome home party for soldiers returning from World War I, the event became a fundraiser for the city ‘s park system. The O’Fallon Community Park is located at 401 E. Fifth St.
A former alderman, Roach had included the return of city festivals into his campaign platform when he ran for mayor in 2017.
“O’Fallon was once known for its city-wide festivals, picnics, and homecomings. During my campaign, as I walked through O’Fallon and visited over 6,000 homes, I was often asked why O’Fallon no longer hosts a city-sponsored festival. Many residents expressed to me that our neighboring communities all have one or two such events, annually.
City Clerk Jerry Mouser has been an advocate for the event’s return for several years, describing it as “good for the soul of the city.”
Mouser recalled how popular the event used to be.
“It was a family environment. You develop a sense of community. People see their neighbors. It’s a bonding situation. I think that’s important. Then, they look out for each other,” he said.
Another alderman, Ross Rosenberg, who supported organizing a new event, had said O’Fallon’s sense of community is what defines the town.
“This sense of community is synonymous with O’Fallon. It’s ingrained in who we really are, and the Homecoming was important for the people,” he said.
Arranging fun is hard work, the committee has found out, but they are also discovering the rewards.
“You do what you can to help family,” Roach said. “This is my home, this is my family. You do it because you love to see things like this.”
Co-chairmen are Alderman Dan Witt and Alderman Robert Kueker, who volunteered to take on the responsibility. Megan Roussel has helped get the volunteers together and been a big part of organizing the event.
As the city representatives, “Bob Kueker has mapped out all the accounts and spearheaded the budget. He has dotted all the I’s and crossed the T’s to make sure this goes smoothly,” Roach said.
Witt had prior experience working on O’Fallon Boosters picnics. “His expertise and knowledge on this side of things has been invaluable,” Roach said.
Joni Bugger Fultz has helped recruit people, got things together for advertising and marketing, he said.
“She has done a yeoman’s job getting the rides together,” Roach said.
“The Parks Department has been very good help. We’ve borrowed tents and stands from St. Nicholas Parish. The Girl Scouts are carrying banners in the parade. The Chamber members have stepped up. People are helping with ticket booths, parking and cleanup. The police department has been very helpful,” Roach said.
He said lighting has been added to parking areas. “We really want people to feel safe and be comfortable,” he said.
“Jon Greenstreet of Bike Surgeon helped put the run and bicycle race together and Sonny Sterthman, a veteran of more than 30 car shows, is taking over that.
The third weekend in August was selected to avoid competing with as many other local events as possible.
“We didn’t want to interfere with St. Nicholas’ NickFest and St. Clare’s Fall Fest end of September and tried to avoid neighboring community events scheduled. You’re never going to find a weekend without anything, but we think we came up with a good one,” Roach said.
“I’m really enjoying everyone working together. We just want everyone to have a good time celebrating the city of O’Fallon,” the mayor said.
Afterwards, the committee will get together to assess the event.
“Since it’s the first time, we’ll find where we can make improvements and build upon that.”