By SAMANTHA PIDDE
Organizer Brandon Ballard is excited about ongoing plans for the return of Mount Carroll’s long-running Memorial Day Weekend Mayfest celebration this spring.
Ballard, a Mount Carroll native, took over the popular event in 2019, after issues with the location in 2018 prevented the festival from being held.
Ballard said the 2019 event was successful and he is happy the community was able to have that Mayfest before the Covid pandemic prevented the 2020 and 2021 festivals from taking place.
After a two-year hiatus Ballard is hoping Mayfest 2022 will be bigger and better than ever.
"I want to throw a party that everyone remembers...and bring us together as a community," Ballard told the Carroll County Mirror-Democrat in a telephone interview Monday, Feb. 28.
In a recent Facebook post, Ballard noted "Mayfest will look a little different this year" due to construction plans in the quad area of Shimer Square.
Ballard said he has been working with Andrew Fisher and other members of the Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) — which owns the property and is developing Shimer Square — on planning Mayfest amidst GROWTH's upcoming projects.
"GROWTH has been really, really good," Ballard said.
He explained that due to the quad being off limits, GROWTH "immediately offered anywhere else on the campus."
Ballard selected the north lawn of the Shimer campus, which borders Seminary Street. Since then, Ballard has been working with Fisher and Tony Herrell of Herrell Electric on electrical set-up.
Ballard said discussions have been held about GROWTH adding permanent infrastructure to allow for use by Mayfest and other events.
"They're really talking about the future of Mayfest at the campus," said Ballard. "I'm really excited to see what Shimer Square's going to do with our little town."
The map accompanying this story and also posted on Facebook shows the new layout, with the north lawn as the Mayfest site for this year.
The Beer/Wine Tent and stage will be on the parking lot at the northeast corner of the camp us, across from the ambulance garage at the corner of Seminary and South Jackson streets. Ballard said he is looking into speaker set-ups to minimize noise any impact on any of the nearby residences.
Ballard said he is excited to announce this year's event will feature two stages. Larger bands will play on the parking lot stage while the newly constructed Mayfest stage on the quad will be used mostly for local acts, allowing people to listen to music away from the beer/wine tent.
"It should be a nice little spot over there," Ballard said.
The Food Tent will be smaller this year and will sit just south of the Beer Tent on the flat area flanked by trees where Mayfest car shows have been held in the past.
Vendors will line the sidewalks toward Dearborn and Metcalf halls, and Ballard confirmed Monday that he has more than 15 vendors signed up for the event already.
"I think the whole north lawn will be full of vendors," Ballard said.
Ballard said the Mount Carroll Lions Club will not be selling food this year due to a lack of manpower. He is working with other community organizations to fill this need.
Ballard said he is very excited about the "Kids Zone," which will feature a wide variety of activities, including an inflatable obstacle course. He said he is looking to really increase the number of activities for children attending Mayfest.
He also hopes to bring back the historic tours through Mount Carroll, which were conducted for many years during Mayfest. He is asking for volunteers who could provide and drive a tractor for the event.
Ballard asks that people continue to offer support and donations. While he said the event has some money, he noted that "everything is so expensive this year."
"Every 20 bucks helps," said Ballard.
He emphasized Mayfest needs continuing support, not just for this year but for long-term sustainability. He said he hopes to get it to a good, stable place before he turns over organizing the event to another person or entity in a year or so.
Anyone wanting more information or who wants to sign up as a vendor or donor can visit the event's Facebook page or the event page on eventbrite.com.