The 2017 Pekin Marigold Festival concluded late Sunday afternoon. There were activities, entertainment, a celebrity to meet and greet, food to enjoy and shopping. Lots of shopping.

The mornings were cool and the afternoons were pleasant this Pekin Marigold Festival weekend. Marigold Festival Committee Chairman Brigitte Krieg said, “We couldn’t ask for better weather. We had more people out than ever before.”

This year’s parade had more entries than any other year. People who live in the area and as far away as California lined the parade route to watch as 140 entries participated. Featured celebrity guest Erik Estrada rode in the parade with a security escort behind him, which is not typical but fit in to this year’s festival theme, “Marigolds on Patrol.” Estrada portrayed California highway patrol officer Frank Poncherello in the 1970s television show “ChiPs.”  

When the parade concluded, many of the participants and spectators headed to Mineral Springs Park. Most of the weekend’s activities were within the park, including the Chalk Art Contest, Kids’ Experience Tent, Lagoon Golf, Art in the Park, Festive Food Court and the carnival. The Cruise-In on Sunday took place in the Pekin Community High School parking lot.

The school’s Noteables Show Choir, Suzuki Strings, Wildlife Prairie Park, and several singers and bands performed on the Showcase Stage over the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, Estrada met with current and retired members of law enforcement inside the Pavilion. Not only did Estrada portray an officer on television, he actually became a reserve police officer in Indiana and a deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Virginia.

Local officers and their families lined up to meet and take pictures with Estrada. Each officer received an 8-by-10-inch signed picture of Estrada and refreshments were served.

R.J. Davis works for the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and was one of the members of Estrada’s security escort during the parade. Estrada signed Davis’s helmet. Davis described Estrada as “super nice and down to earth.”

Off-duty Pekin Police Officer Don Jolly brought his family to the meet-and-greet. He wanted to stop in and meet Estrada because he watched “ChiPs” as a child.

“I grew up watching that show,” said Jolly. “I think every kid that age was a fan of ‘ChiPs,’ so I wanted my kids to meet him even though right now they don’t know the show.”

Val Springborn, the festival’s celebrity chairman, said, “This is so impressive. It’s great for them (local law enforcement) to come out and for us to support them, too.”

Estrada spent several hours chatting with all law enforcement members and taking pictures.

“It was cool the police were behind me in the parade,” said Estrada. “I feel flattered they showed up. This (Marigold Festival) is a killer event. Very cool. I love the fact that it’s so family oriented, which is very nice. There are so many kids here.”

While he was in town, Estrada had lunch at Andy’s Diner. 

“The onion strings were killer,” he said. “They’ve got great food. The owners are very nice.” 

In the meantime, near the Kiddie Korral, the Kids’ Experience Tent had a petting zoo, painting, a rock climbing wall, a bounce house and crafts. The YWCA of Pekin had supplies for children to create a multi-colored bird feeder using pipe cleaners and Fruit Loops. 

Soulshine Art Studio provided 25 easels with foam boards for children to use their imaginations and paint pictures.

“We had people standing next to our tables as we set up,” said Erica Ziegenbein, owner of Soulshine Art Studio. “We had to go on supply runs twice, because we ran out of materials. We went through about 300 boards, and that isn’t including the people we turned away while we were out of supplies. It was free to the public. There were kids who painted landscapes, a few ‘I love you, Grandma’ signs and some that layered the paint. We had a lot of teenagers and parents who painted, too.”

In another section of the park, Chris Grimm of 6-4-3 Designz by Chris Grimm had a booth as an art vendor at Art in the Park. He said he sold in one day this year what he sold all weekend at the Marigold Festival last year. Like many vendors, this is the start of Grimm’s fall vendor season, and next weekend he will be at the Morton Pumpkin Festival.

“We’ve had a good show,” Grimm said. “I love the stories people tell. It’s the connections I like most. You can’t beat it.”

Shopper and Pekin resident Becky Jones came out to Art in the Park early Sunday morning and stopped in a craft booth. She said she always finds something.

“I love things like unique signs, seasonal decorations and woodwork,” said Jones. “I also found a scarf that I bought for our annual family scarf exchange.”

Most of the food sold during the Marigold Festival is sold in the Festive Food Court located near the Royal Avenue Shelter. However, the Pekin Rotary Club tent is in the heart of Art in the Park near the lagoon. Rotarians served up pork chops and steak sandwiches to quite a few people over the weekend. Brian Ford, who has been a member of the Rotary Club since 2002, helped grill.

“People love it,” he said. “We are here because when the festival first started we took a chance when (the Festival Committee) asked us to be here. We love doing it. All the money we make goes right back into the community for scholarships, the Pekin Mobile Diner, the counseling program at Pekin Preschool Family Education Center and grants for non-profits. We don’t keep any of it for our club.”  

The Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce puts on the Pekin Marigold Festival each year. Sometimes there are questions as to how the festival is funded.

Festival Chairman Krieg said, “People need to realize the festival isn’t put on by the city. It’s the Chamber. We are self-funded and do not use tax dollars to put this on. We never over-extend ourselves, and we never lose money. We even pay the police every year to be here.”

The committee is already looking ahead to next year’s festival. Krieg offered advice for its designated chairman, Eric Hill.

“He needs to take a step back and enjoy himself,” said Krieg. “I hope he goes around and experiences everything over the weekend.”