By Bob Balgemann


A day filled with music and family-oriented activities, the Machesney Park Family Festival will return July 23 for its third year. It will be held at various locations in front of the Machesney Towne Center, formerly the Machesney Park Mall, at North Second Street and Roosevelt  Road.

Sponsored by the civic group, Friends of Machesney Park, the celebration of the quality of life in this community will take center from 1 to 10 p.m.

Admission is free.

A variety of music will be provided by five groups, kicking off right at 1 p.m. and continuing until shortly before 9 p.m. Most of the groups that performed in 2015 will be back this summer. The tentative lineup includes Gateway Performing Arts, Gina Meeks, Epiphany, Southern Outkasts and Sheltered Picks.

Their styles of music are Christian, country, contemporary and 1980s and ’90s rock.

Early in the afternoon, starting at 2:20 p.m., entertainment will shift to a talent show. This proved to be a popular event last year with 11 entries singing and dancing their way into the hearts of a nice-sized crowd.

Cash prizes will include $200 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third place. Last summer the winner was 11-year-old Tanner Speck, second youngest among the contestants, with a high-energy dancing tribute to the late Michael Jackson.

Singer T.J. Ono was second with the only comedian in the group, 38-year-old Marcus Lara, taking third.

“Thanks,” he said, after his name was announced. “Now I can afford to eat.”

Other competitors ranged between 9 and 17 years of age and included a dancer, dance-piano duo and singers. Machesney Park Mayor Jerry Bolin served as emcee for the event.

“I would hate to be one of the judges for this,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent here; it’s awesome.”

He is expected to return in that role this year, as well as to welcome visitors to the festival.

Carnival rides and food are due back, with the rides also being on the center parking lot from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday (July 21-22).  On July 23, rides will open at 10 a.m. and continue until 11 p.m.

Also scheduled to return are kids activities provided by Harlem Community Center, along with a flea market  booths occupied mostly by crafters. A display of equipment once again will be put on by the North Park Fire Department.

The only newcomer this year will be a canine demonstration by the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. The county animal control and humane society won’t be showing animals, as in the past.

While fireworks typically signal the conclusion of such events, a lack of funding will keep that from happening this year.

The festival is part of the vision of Mayor Bolin, who wanted the village to have at least one annual, family-oriented activity each year. It evolved from a series of meetings held by a newly-appointed events committee, which has since disbanded.

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