Central Illinois weekend arts & entertainment calendar

Central Illinois weekend arts & entertainment calendar

Grab your sunscreen and make sure to stay hydrated, but definitely do go out and enjoy some of these events!


We’re intrigued by the new festival in Springfield:

Abe Fest

Downtown Springfield’s self-described “coolest, newest, two-day live music festival” offers a mix of local/indie performers and 80s/90s favorites.

Abe Fest


  • Avery Kearn (local country artist)
  • The Bad Examples (long-running Chicago indie rockers)
  • BoDeans (roots rockers who were bigger than that Party of Five theme song)


  • The Spoonbenders (local alt-rockers, reuniting for the first time since 2000)
  • Matt Nakoa (Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter)
  • Katie Pruitt (rising Americana singer-songwriter)
  • Walden (rising alt-rockers from Athens, Georgia)
  • The Smithereens w/ Marshall Creenshaw (if you’re old enough to remember when “College Rock” was a thing, you know them)

Also on tap:

OUTSIDE @ the Research Park w/ Alma Afrobeat Ensemble & Zécca Bom (Champaign)

The Krannert Center’s 50th-anniversary celebration continues with the 2019 edition of OUTSIDE, a free summer concert series that’s been going strong since 2007 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Research Park. Urbana’s world music fave Zécca Boom opens at 6:30 pm, followed by Chicago-founded, Barcelona-based Alma Afrobeat Ensemble with its own mix of funk, hip hop and Afropop.

Friday Night Live (Champaign)

Now in its seventh year, Friday Night Live presents free live performances at four Downtown Champaign intersections every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Here’s a list of this week’s performances:

Neil & Church (One Main Plaza)

6 pm: Afro Caribbean Jazz Collective (jazz ensemble)
7 pm: Church Street Ramblers (early jazz)

Neil & Park

6 pm: Live Through Wednesday (reggae)
7 pm: King T’z (blues/rock/country)

Market & University

6 pm: After Curfew (rock)
7 pm: Moondogs (classic roots rock)

Walnut & Chester

6 pm: Nightcaps (lady legends trio)
7 pm: No Secret (classic rock)

Jazz Nights in the Heights – Mark Tonelli Group (Peoria Heights)

The Central Illinois Jazz Society House Band, under the leadership of Larry Harms, features outstanding jazz musicians from the area. They present a great variety of jazz styles every third Sunday of the month.

July’s guest artist is The Mark Tonelli Group. The group performs Mark’s original music, which has won awards from the Billboard Magazine World Song Contest, USA Songwriting Competition, and The Great American Song Contest. But they also find interesting ways to reinterpret rock hits that are unlikely candidates for jazz, including music by Queen, David Bowie and Tom Petty.

Community Events

In addition to these celebrations in Mattoon and Decatur, there are a couple of county fairs going on this weekend.

Mattoon Bagelfest

Mattoon Bagelfest

Introduced in the 1980s when Lender’s Bagels opened a factory in town, Bagelfest is a celebration of the  Mattoon community — and all things bagel (yes, the factory is still a thing). Here are the main events:


  • Carnival open 1 pm – 11 pm, with armband from 1 pm -5 pm
  • Music by Oak Ridge Boys on the Main Stage at 8 pm, gates open at 6 pm. $20 for reserved seating, $15 for lawn seating, $25 for Fri/Sat reserved seating.


  • Run for the Bagel: Registration from 5:30 am – 6:00 am with 6:30 am start time
  • Free Bagel Breakfast: 8 am – 10 am at the Demars Center in Peterson Park
  • Bagelfest Parade: 10:30 am, starting at 21st and Western Ave to 1st Street.
  • Carnival open noon to 11 pm with armband from noon – 4 pm.
  • Bagel Bow Wow in the Rotary Band Shell: Registration at 1:30 pm, contest starts at 2:00 pm
  • Music by 1964 The Tribute on the Main Stage at 8 pm, gates open at 6 pm. $10 for reserved seating, $5 for lawn seating, $25 for Fri/Sat reserved seating.

Chicago Bears Return to Decatur

Chicago Bears Return to Decatur

Before they were Da Bears, they were the Decatur Staleys … and they’re coming back to celebrate the team’s origins as part of the centennial season!

Outdoor Activities
11 am – 2:30 pm

Appearances by Staley Da Bear and Chicago Bears Drumline, mobile Pro Shop, concessions, photo opportunities, face painting, balloon artists and interactive activities. Limited autographs and book signing opportunities.

Indoor Activities
3 pm -5:30 pm. Tickets required; proceeds to benefit the Chicago Staley museum

Hall of Fame writer Don Pierson, Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey and alumnus Lance Briggs will join on a panel to discuss the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook, which will be moderated by Jeff Joniak, Voice of the Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM, and Tom Thayer, former Chicago Bear and current Color Analyst of the Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM.


In addition to the listings below, don’t forget that the 2019 Illinois Shakespeare Festival is in full swing!

Singin’ in the Rain jr. (Champaign)

Singin' in the Rain jr.

Broadway legends Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted their original screenplay for the legendary MGM musical Singin’ in the Rain into this kid-friendly version. Hilarious situations, snappy dialogue and an incomparable score make Singin’ in the Rain JR. a guaranteed good time for long-time fans of the original as well as younger fans who are about to discover it.

Presented by Champaign Park District Youth Theatre (5th-10th Grades) at the Virginia Theatre on July 18-20.

The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek (Urbana)

The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek

Urbana’s Station Theatre tackles a challenging work by contemporary American playwright Naomi Wallace on Jul 18-20. Teenage sexual desire, a rural legend (the Pope Lick Monster supposedly lived beneath a railroad trestle in Lousiville) and a family in crisis during the Great Depression are the main elements of this one-of-a-king coming of age story.

The Addams Family Musical (Bloomington)

The Addams Family Musical

In this 2009 musical comedy with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, Wednesday Addams is 18 and ready to have her own life — and she’s in love with Lucas Beineke, a perfectly normal boy from an Ohio family that’s coming to the Addams family’s mansion for dinner. Hilarity ensues, along with revelations that force everyone’s favorite spooky(ish) family to confront change.

Presented at Bloomington’s Community Players Theatre through July 28. Rated PG-13 — parental guidance suggested (adult innuendo, profanity, and scenes containing torture).

Mr. Lincoln (Bloomington)

Mr. Lincoln

John O’Connor, actor and political writer for the Associated Press in Springfield, portrays Abraham Lincoln in a one-man play that hits the high points of the struggles and triumphs of our 16th President. Written by Herbert Mitgang and originally produced for New Salems Theatre in the Park in 2014, Mr. Lincoln has also been presented at various locations across the state.

This performance will be held in the McLean County Museum of History’s second floor courtroom as part of Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66.


No openings this weekend, but here are some exhibitions we already enjoyed or hope to enjoy soon:

“Katie Bell: Standing Arrangement” (Normal)

Katie Bell: Standing Arrangement

A site-specific installation by Brooklyn-based artist Katie Bell that explores our natural and fabricated visual landscape and deconstructs the tradition and language of painting.

On view through Aug. 4 along with “15, 16, 17, 18: BHS Selects from the International Collection of Child Art” and “Lens-Based: Recent Acquisitions to the Permanent Collection.” See our coverage of the three exhibitions.

Gallery Hours

  • Friday: 9:30am-8pm
  • Saturday/Sunday: 12-4pm

“Wabi-Sabi” (Decatur)


In Japanese, Wabi-Sabi means nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect — a concept artist Jen Watkins explores in this unique photography exhibition. Come to the opening for a chance to meet the artist, in addition to enjoying refreshments and the second installment of The ArtFarm’s “Out Back” Summer Music Series featuring Charleston singer-songwriter Matt Berry.

Gallery Hours

Friday: 9 am–5 pm
Saturday: 10 am–2 pm

“Donald Mason: Double Consciousness”

Donald Mason: Double Consciousness

Growing up in the church, being influenced as teenager by the murder of Emmett Till and troubled by the economic and social disparity between the races prepared Contemporary Art Center of Peoria resident artist Donald Mason to teach art and provide insight to students in Peoria’s District #150 for 42 years. His mixed media paintings and sculpture are the psychological and spiritual catharsis of his 78 years of life.

At Gallery 2R. Reception to be held on July 13 from 6:30 pm-8:30 pm, featuring music by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Barry Cloyd. Free admission; donation requested.

Regular Gallery Hours

Friday-Saturday, 11 am-5 pm.

… and more

Missed the Midwest Beer Fest in Champaign last weekend? Well, here’s Normal’s response:

Medici Craft Beer and Jazz Festival

Medici Craft Beer and Jazz Festival

The 6th edition of normal foodie favorite Medici’s beer and jazz festival will feature over 50 craft beers, highlighting Central Illinois Breweries and several limited releases.

Everything will be served in a four-ounce pour, allowing attendees to sample a variety of selections. Tickets will be for sale for $0.50 each, with most samples requiring two to eight tickets.

Cost of admission covers a commemorative glass (while supplies last), a program listing all brews (with proceeds benefiting two Normal institutions, Children’s Discovery Museum and Uptown Partners), plus live entertainment!

4 pm-5:45 pm: Kevin Hart Jazz and The Vibe Tribe
6:05 pm-7:50 pm: Denise La Grassa Music
8:10 pm-10:00 pm: Nathan Taylor Music

Central Illinois Buzz

Written by Central Illinois Buzz

Covering the good life in central Illinois.

Here’s how Central Illinois will mark #MoonLanding50

8 great reasons to get excited about the Krannert Center's Golden season

8 great reasons to get excited about the Krannert Center’s Golden season