Endless Summerfest in La Grange’s Gordon Park will not be held this year, sponsors have announced. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Endless Summerfest in La Grange’s Gordon Park will not be held this year, sponsors have announced. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

La Grange cancels Endless Summerfest over higher costs

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Popular local band 16 Candles performed on Aug. 6 last year, the last night of Endless Summerfest in La Grange. Organizers have canceled this year’s festival citing rising costs and diminished profits.

By Steve Metsch

It turns out the summer is not endless, at least not in La Grange.

Endless Summerfest, a three-day event held the first weekend in August at Gordon Park for many years, will not be held this year.

The cancelation was announced Tuesday in a joint new release from the La Grange Business Association and the Park District of La Grange.

Those two had sponsored the festival every summer.

Rising costs, diminshed profit and fewer volunteers were cited by organizers as the main reasons. Security costs had also increased along with fees charged by bands, they said.

The cost to present the festival has risen from $60,000 ten years ago to $150,000 in 2023, said Jenny Bechtold, executive director of the park district.

In the end, the event was simply did not produce enough revenue, said Cathy Domanico, CEO/Executive Director of the business association.

Last year, the park district and business association split $4,000 in profits, she said Wednesday.

“It just got very taxing on us because our job is to support local businesses. We’re a not-for-profit organization. Our resources did not go up. … It got tough,” Domanico said.

“It was not an easy decision to make. We were very thoughtful about it. We know how much this event means to the people of La Grange,” she said.

Even with that, she noted that research indicated only 19 percent of the people who attended the 2023 Endless Summerfest actually lived La Grange.

The event, she noted, is not held in the business district and merchants did not reap many benefits. Years ago, the event was held downtown. Restaurants and stores were busier.

Bechtold said she understands some people will be upset by the cancelation.

“We didn’t want to cancel it, but we want to be fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ dollars,” she said.

Fans of Endless Summerfest can take some solace that the park district plans to present a scaled-down one-day event this summer, Bechtold said. A location, date and further details have not been finalized, but there will be live music, she said Tuesday.

Live entertainment with popular Chicago area bands like American English, ARRA, Infinity and 16 Candles helped draw good sized crowds to Endless Summerfest last year.

There was a carnival, restaurants had booths and beer tents were staffed by local organizations who received some of the sales.

Fireworks on the final night – replaced by a laser show last year – brought in people. Fireworks cost $15,000 to $20,000 compared to $12,000 for lasers, she said.

But it wasn’t enough to save the festival.

The press release said: “Over the years, however, it has become increasingly more difficult to provide the same quality event and the Park District and LGBA have had to reimagine the way the event is produced.

“Although our resources have not increased, the costs of executing Endless Summer have almost tripled over the years. Increased security costs together with an increase in band and fireworks fees have added to the staffing stress of putting on the 3-day event.

“After a thorough review of the dramatic
cost increases over the last several years, including the most recent Endless Summerfest, the Park District and LGBA have come to the difficult decision to end the event.”

Events like Endless Summerfest sometimes “run their course,” said Steve Palmer, who was in charge of the event for 17 years.

That was when he owned Palmer Place in downtown La Grange. He now owns The Stadium Club in McCook.

When he was in charge of Endless Summerfest, he had “a strong group of friends who volunteered and helped. It takes more than people possibly know.”

“I’d be there at 5:30, 6 in the morning to meet the garbage man to get the Dumpsters out. Stay until two o’clock in the morning to change over to a church service the next day. It takes a lot of effort,” Palmer said.

“It’s not an easy decision (to cancel), by any means,” he added. “Without people willing to volunteer, costs go up.”

Palmer said he had a large support group of volunteers he relied upon. And, he noted, “our budget was way larger than the budget is today.”

It had to be.

The festival brought in big names like .38 Special, The Spinners, The Charlie Daniels Band, Eddie Rabbitt, Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks and The Marshall Tucker Band.

“The bands we were having were bringing in a lot of people,” Palmer said.

By contrast, big nationwide acts were not featured in recent Endless Summerfests.

Asked if bringing in some bigger names could have saved Endless Summerfest, Domanico said, “I really don’t know.”

Regarding the park district’s planned one-day event, Palmer said “You can’t make money on a one-day event, but it’s fine if you want to do something for the community.”

Festivals, he said, have their ups and downs.

“Sometimes, you ride out the low points and bring it back up again,” he said, “and sometimes you say enough is enough.”

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