Written by Emily Szymanski
Motor City Madman back at event for 3rd time in six years
With the 4th of July behind us and summer one-third over, Chicago Ridge’s summer festival may be the perfect event to raise the bar on fun and close out the month.
The village’s 24th annual RidgeFest will be held from Thursday, July 25 through Sunday, July 28 at Freedom Park, Birmingham Street and Oak Avenue. Chicago Ridge officials have lowered the admission price for all attendees is $5 Thursday and $10 Friday. Sunday tickets are $5 for non-residents and free for village residents with ID.
Presale tickets for Saturday, which will feature the return of Ted Nugent, are $15 for non-residents and can be purchased at ticketalternative.com. Residents who purchase tickets at Village Hall for Saturday will get a $10 discount. Mega Passes, which provide access to the fest’s carnival rides all four days, are $40 presale and $50 at the gate. A four-hour ride special will be offered Thursday, opening night, from 6 to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. Cost is $25.
Last year’s RidgeFest was considered a disappointment attendance-wise after musical headliner Bret Michaels failed to draw the crowd village officials had hoped he would. Fest organizers are hopeful Nugent, who will be at the fest for the third time in six years, will be the huge draw he has his previous two trips to town. The village received a great deal to have the Motor City Madman back, and will get more than its money’s worth, according to Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar.
“We are expecting a huge crowd,” Tokar said. “He does a great, great show and he’s excited about coming back in this area. He has done really well for us.”
RidgeFest has come a long way since it was founded in 1989. The city that year had organized several events prior to that year that had run into a series of issues. The first two events, the OctoberFest in 1979 and SeptemberFest in 1980, were held in what sued to be a small park near 107th Street and Ridgeland Avenue. While warm coffee was the favorite beverage at those fests, the cold autumn weather kept many people from attending, Tokar said. While AugustFest seemed like a great idea in 1981, the fair’s close proximity to nearby residences created an unanticipated issue, he added.
When former Chicago Ridge Mayor Eugene Siegel approached then-village Clerk Tokar to come up a way to celebrate the city’s 75th anniversary in 1989, Tokar had an idea in mind. With the new location for the fest located at Freedom Park, the agenda was completely reorganized and offered a variety of new activities.
RidgeFest has since that first year been a great way to raise money for local nonprofit organizations including the Glen Maker American Legion Post 1160, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and the Our Lady of the Ridge Men’s Club, as well as taxing bodies such as the Chicago Ridge Public Library.
“Over $1 million has been raised for the city by RidgeFest since 1989,” Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “We use part of this money every year to pay for things like the candy used in Operation Santa Claus each December.”
While the Our Lady of the Ridge Men’s Club will be hosting a beer and lemonade garden, other attractions for this year’s fest include the Modern Midways Carnival, a large row of food booths provided by local restaurants, and community craft vendors.
“We didn’t have the crafters last year, so we’re really looking forward to bringing all those art vendors back in,” Tokar said.
On top of the rides, food, and shops, live music will be provided each night of the fest. The Lounge Puppets are headlining for Thursday, while the pop music group Your Villain My Hero will open for cover band Infinity’s Journey Recaptured on Friday night. Rendition and Bad Penny will open on Saturday night for Ted Nugent.
Local bands will be playing Sunday night to close out the event. Country band Jin & Tonic and Irish rebel rock music Rico Quinn will open for closing night headliner 25 or 6 to 4, a Chicago tribute band.
To keep the fest activities strong throughout the weekend, a series of activities are planned for Super Sunday Family Fun Day. Magician Matt Scherer and Magical Balloon Dude Dale will provide educational entertainment for children, along with Lester’s Learn ‘N Play and a science exhibit. There are plenty of attractions for animal lovers as well, such as a petting zoo, pony rides, and a tent where children can learn all about animals. For those that like a thrill, there will be a zip line, a climbing wall, a boxing bounce house, an obstacle course, and a bungee jump.
To wrap up this year’s RidgeFest on Sunday night, there will be a firework show arranged to go off with a set list of music.