New indoor Kid Zone added to the schedule
By Barb Pert Templeton
“The American Dream.”
It’s how Barbara Stasik refers to the Yale Bologna Festival and she can’t wait to see it return this weekend, after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The 32nd Annual event will welcome thousands to the small town in northern St. Clair County.
“It’s just beautiful, because it’s a small town and it’s full of beautiful people who really care about each other and anybody can come and enjoy, in fact most of it’s free, so whether you have money or have nothing, we say come out and enjoy,” Stasik said.
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A lifelong resident of the city, Stasik is the third-generation owner of the local newspaper, The Yale Expositor, a member of the Yale Chamber of Commerce and the coordinator of the annual Yale Bologna Festival. The latter title is one she has worn for some 32 years, as she is an original member of the group that organized the first festival, one that now brings more than 20,000 people to town each July.
“We are a town of 2,000 people so it’s pretty amazing to see,” Stasik said.
The festival is hosted by the Yale Chamber of Commerce and made possible by dozens of chamber members who own local businesses and sponsor the event. It’s also a given that without the 150 volunteers, basically everyone involved with seeing the four-day schedule come to life, the festival wouldn’t be possible, Stasik said.
Bringing the festival back this year has been extremely important to organizers.
“This is a big one, we have worked so very hard to get back on track and people are really excited,” Stasik said.
New this year is the ‘Kids Zone’ that will be set up inside the VFW Hall on Friday and Saturday welcoming youngsters to create art, play games and enjoy shows with magicians, clowns and even a ventriloquist.
“We really wanted to change things up and do something good for all the kids so this is inside with air conditioning in a safe space,” Stasik said.
The festival doesn’t have a traditional carnival company midway but there will be some blow ups, pony rides and games behind the Bologna Tent.
“This festival is neat because it’s very family oriented, there’s no beer tent, it’s family friendly and almost everything is free,” Stasik said.
Food vendors will be set up all weekend to invite visitors to enjoy bologna in many forms including sandwiches, hot dogs and rings of the city’s favorite meat. For those with an aversion to the bologna menu, there will be plenty of other choices including tacos and barbeque meals.
A packed schedule
The festival will begin on Thursday, July 28 with a ‘Last Chance Dance/Auction’ at the VFW Hall at 8 p.m. that invites all attendees to dress up in roaring 20’s costumes. Stasik said it’s been ‘many, many, years’ since the festival has hosted a dance and it should prove to be a lot of fun.
On Friday, July 29 festival fun begins at 10 a.m. with chalk drawing for kids along Main Street and the day continues with a long list of activities for all ages from pony rides, a book sale at the library, hourly contests from watermelon eating to bologna tossing, shows including magicians and BMX trick bikes, the crowning of the King and Queen of the festival and the day will conclude with a huge firework show at Yale High School.
Stasik laughs when she reveals that she wore the Bologna Queen’s crown in 2004. The 2022 contest includes four candidates who have spent months collecting votes in the form of pennies. Once the top penny getters are crowned King and Queen at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, the two remaining contenders are crowned the Prince and Princess of the festival.
“It’s a lot of work raising those pennies for months but they all deserve a crown and a robe,” Stasik said.
On Saturday the festival opens at 10 a.m. and live entertainment will be plentiful throughout town including a Pet Parade, an Antique Tractor Show, an African Drum and Dance Core, the Big Band Sounds of Gypsy and the Rockets, the Big Bologna Parade and Outhouse Races along Main Street. For history buffs, the ‘Living History Display’ off Mill Street at Yale City Park will be of interest and will include reenactments by Civil War Soldiers camping at the park.
In addition, Stasik said back by popular demand, the ‘Knotty Bits’ which is a human sideshow that includes fire eaters and high rope walkers, who always wow the crowd and will appear at 8 p.m.
On Sunday things will begin at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast under the Bologna Festival Tent, sponsored by the Yale Marching Band. Scout Troop #132 will sponsor a car show from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The schedule also includes a 10 a.m. community church service at Yale City Park and Cardboard Boat Races at noon, also at the city park. The Scouts’ car show and a Ring of Steel Star Wars Show and LightSaber demonstration at 1 p.m. will close out the festival at 3 p.m.
“There’s a lot on the schedule, people requested things that they’ve missed that make them feel good and we’ve all missed each other too,” Stasik said.
For more information about the event visit the Yale Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or go online to their website at yalechamber.com.