For me, the Homestead Festival kicks off with the annual Lawn Event held in June at the Lovejoy Homestead. I've lived in Princeton for 25 years and have only missed the event five times.
The Homestead Festival is a weekend full of great events held at a wonderful time of the year, but for me it's all about the parade. I love the parade. For a number of years my daughter and her husband lived on Main Street so they held a "Parade Party" and we had a perfect vantage point to watch the parade. Much like the Main Street concerts, the parade is also a good time to see a lot of people that you normally don't see regularly.
I don't know where I'll be this year when parade time rolls around, but I'll make sure that I get a good location as my youngest is marching with the PHS cheerleaders. See you at the parade!
I moved to Princeton in 2010, just weeks before the Homestead Festival was getting ready to kick off. My very first newspaper assignment was to write a history piece about the celebration. And I cringe just thinking about looking back and reading that article, because back then I did not have a grip on just how special this weekend is to the thousands of people who take part in the festivities.
Through my in-laws and the close friends I've met here, I've learned Homestead is much more than just a beer garden, huge parade or street concert. People wait all year round for the spirit and excitement of seeing old friends and family and reminiscing about life and the good ol' days in Princeton. I think that's always been my favorite part about Homestead — seeing the crowds of people flock back to the place they grew up and still call home.
They carry with them a sense of strong Princeton pride that seems to fill the air throughout the weekend. To me, the town always seems happy and complete. And before it's over, it feels like plans are already underway for the next year's celebration.
I didn't grow up or go to school here, so I don't have any attachment to anything related to the Homestead Festival. I've went to the parade twice, once during my first year here and then during the year the Budweiser Clydesdales made their appearance. I suppose like most parades, if you've watched them once, you've pretty much seen all there is to see.
Last year I enjoyed attending the talent show at the Prairie Arts Center, but as far as I know, that's no longer being done. I do walk over to the car show every year and enjoy it, and I also like seeing the various window displays along Main Street.
The move toward more street concerts has been a positive development, and I think their success shows people want to stay in their community and have fun rather than having to drive out of town for their entertainment.
Adding or changing events within the regular rotation is something which I think should continue, and it would help to keep the appeal of the week fresh and inviting. While there will always be a parade, the beer garden and the other events, I'd love to see some different performers featured. That's not to say the regular line up isn't good, but after you see something year after year after year, a slight change may be welcomed by the community.