Happy faces for 2nd day of ‘Fiesta’

Fest organizers hope for good weather at night

McHENRY – Eyes big, 2-year-old Henry Gilbert looked at the clanking, whirring machinery all around. 

“Daddy, look at that!” he said, pointing at a big spoke on which small airplanes awaited young pilots. 

“Look at that,” said his dad, Colin Gilbert. The Arlington Heights resident happened across the McHenry Fiesta Days carnival Saturday as he was in the area visiting with his father-in-law, Gordon Goranson of Wonder Lake. 

About 1:40 p.m. Saturday, the trio stood under pregnant-looking skies and had their pick of no-wait rides. 

“How cool is that?” Colin Gilbert said to Henry, who walked off with his grandfather and boarded a plane that said U.S. Navy Blue Angels on it, the towhead’s smile broadening as the plane began to circle. 

RELATED: Fiesta Days photo gallery

Fiesta Days started Friday and continues through July 20. Sunday’s visitors to Petersen Park will hear Heartache Tonight, an Eagles tribute band, and American English, a Beatles tribute band. Food, beer and wine are available. 

Petersen Park is off the south side of McCullom Lake Road, west of Richmond Road. Activities go from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The Chapel is sponsoring games, inflatables, face painting and more as part of family fun day. Children 10 and younger are admitted free; adults pay $5.

On Saturday, volunteers like Todd Lowenheim readied the park for the 3:30 p.m. opening. The night’s lineup included Cinderella’s Tom Keifer and Night Ranger. Hopeful vendors prepared their food booths. All eyed the skies.

“This year has been … challenging,” said Jeff Kleinschmidt, who has handled Fiesta Days entertainment for 13 years. 

Kleinschmidt looked toward a large piece of plywood beneath the bands’ previously mud-mired RV tires. But overall, the park was in good shape to receive visitors Saturday, and all who hoped that rain would skip the area saw sun poking through the clouds by evening.

“Night Ranger has 42 guests coming in from Chicago,” Kleinschmidt said. “They’re not going to cancel unless they absolutely have to.”

Fiesta Days Chairman Dick Paegelow said the festival got off to a solid start Friday as a crowd of about 2,500 enjoyed Modern Day Romeos. 

Chamber of Commerce President Kay Rial Bates said she hoped the cloudy skies would not keep people from coming Saturday. 

“The park is beautiful,” she said as Keifer’s band sound-checked and the musician’s children played with a soccer ball before crowds arrived. “It’s kind of neat seeing [the musicians’] families come out.”

“This is always a really nice event,” added Mary Jo Gould of MJ’s Coffee Bar as she prepared to serve buffalo, elk and wild boar sausages and more. “The music’s always great, the food is good, and the beer tent’s close.”

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