Dates: Summer Solstice Weekend: June 15-16, 2013
Location: Chicago Avenue and Main Street, Evanston, Illinois
Hours: 10AM-9PM both days
Demographics: Primary: A25-54, upscale, educated white collar families
Beneficiary: Evanston Festival Theatre
Theme: Celebration of visual and performing arts
Evanston's largest, and one of its oldest outdoor events, is celebrating its 41st anniversary in 2012. This unique, eclectic art festival takes place on the weekend of the Summer Solstice, the longest days of the year- and has become one of the harbingers of summer to Evanstonians. It's ranked as one of the region's top art festivals, but as any visitor or local will tell you — it is so much more than the average art festival.
Known as the Custer Fair by locals, the event is art-centered, featuring more than 250 high quality arts and crafts booths offering a diverse mix of ceramics, paintings, pottery, photographs, jewelry, graphic arts, wearable art, home crafts, antiques, and collectibles. Each of the arts and crafts vendors are selected by a panel of experts. More than 130 commercial booths are added to this mix, and approximately 30 food booths offer a wide variety of international cuisine. (By comparison, the Taste of Chicago averages approximately 120 vendors.)
Unique is the operative word when describing the Custer Fair. Over its 40 years, the event has developed many colorful, unique traditions that set it way, way apart from other large events. For starters- 41 years ago, the fair started on Custer Avenue, which was named to commemorate the heroism of Gen. George Armstrong Custer during the Civil War. In keeping with that tradition, fair staffers wear Civil War Calvary costumes.
Visitors will experience a reenactment of an actual Civil War encampment-with fully costumed actors living the life of an encamped Civil War soldier. Meanwhile, nearby, an authentic Native American Pow Wow with native dancers and drummers is continuously enacted.
On opposite sides of the event site two entertainment stages are in full operation. The Festival Stage features continuous live music in a variety of formats- jazz, rock, classic rock, folk and fusion. The Show Stage offers a more intimate experience with a lineup that includes the thrilling music of an authentic Drum Circle, and performances by musical greats such as Corky Siegel, Zak Brach, Chris Greene and more.
The Marvelous Medicine Show is another unique element of the Custer Fair. More than 50 professional Busker Street Performers ('pass the hat') roam throughout the event site entertaining the crowds with their highly skilled juggling, stilt walking, fire eating, tight rope walking, magic and clown acts.
The Custer Fair green element is an area named the Whole Foods Eco Village where visitors will find makers of solar and wind energy devices alongside purveyors of organic and fair traded products.
If this all wasn't enough entertainment- the Piccolo Theatre, one of Chicagoland's theatrical gems, performs comedic plays continuously throughout the event in its home theatre — on the event grounds.
All of this unique festival fare makes Custer's Last Stand Festival of the Arts a destination not only for Chicagoans, but for families throughout Northern Illinois.