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Fun things to do in the Midwest

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock

A curated list of the best upcoming events in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri.


Mount Vernon Brewers Festival

June 3 This adults-only event draws home and craft brewers from across the Midwest. Choose from a wide variety of beer samples and chat about home-brewing techniques with those who do it. Plus, enjoy live music and local food vendors at this event that typically sells out. Tickets are $20. Downtown, Mount Vernon.

Hummingbird Festival

FREE! July 8 Spend a morning learning about the flying jewels of the bird world, who are also some of Mother Nature’s most prodigious pollinators. Experts with the Lincoln Land Association of Bird Banders will explain how to encourage hummingbirds to visit your property, and they’ll demonstrate banding the birds for future research. You’ll even have the chance to hold a hummer in your hand. Donations are welcome. Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, Hartford.

Cobden Peach Festival

FREE! August 11–12 Homemade peach cobbler and other peachy treats are on the menu at this festival that also features carnival rides, games, a 5K run, a pageant, and a parade. Celebrate the peach harvest and the small-town atmosphere of this fun fest. Cobden.

Murphysboro Apple Festival

FREE! September 13–16 Celebrating the apple harvest of Union and Jackson counties, this festival includes parades, a carnival, and plenty of music. Contests for the best apple pie and apple butter are highlights. Enjoy arts and crafts, a cornhole tournament, a fiddle and banjo contest, and a car show in an alcohol-free environment. Murphysboro.


After Dark Series: Sips at Sunset at Wesselman Woods

June 3 At this adults-only evening event, you’ll enjoy a nature-themed program paired with food and a tasting of beer or wine from 6–7:30 p.m. Activities might include a fun science presentation, a stage performance, or forest trivia. Attendance is capped at 30, and tickets are $20 for members of the Wesselman Nature Society and $25 for nonmembers. Wesselman Woods, Evansville.

Harrison County Popcorn Festival

FREE! June 30–July 1 Harrison County celebrates its most abundant crop with crafts, children’s activities, bands, and a parade featuring a popcorn cannon. Feast on flavored popcorn and other fare from area food trucks. A spectacular fireworks show closes the festival. Downtown Corydon.

Jasper Indiana Strassenfest

FREE! August 3–6 Learn to polka or compete in a beer stein holding contest when the community of Jasper celebrates its German heritage with this 4-day festival. Enjoy live music, games, family-friendly activities, and plenty of German food along with typical festival fare. Downtown Jasper.

Victory International Film Festival

September 7–9 This 3-day festival includes comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror, and other film genres celebrated with red-carpet events, panels, and workshops. Watch movies made around the world, screened in the historic Victory Theatre and other venues. Tickets start at $15. Evansville.


Great Lenexa BBQ Battle

June 23–24 Nearly 200 teams will light up their smokers and fill the air with the aroma of championship barbecue. Cooks from across the country converge to compete in several categories at this event that also features live music, crafts, and other entertainment. Admission is $5 on Friday and free on Saturday. Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park, Lenexa.

Amelia Earhart Birthday Festival

FREE! July 21–22 Celebrate the 126th birthday of the world-famous aviator in the town of her birth. Highlights include music on the riverfront, an afternoon tea with authors, a car show, a speakers’ symposium, and an air show at the airport named for Earhart. Don’t miss the new Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum with the world’s last Lockheed Electra L-10. While most activities are free, some venues charge admission. Various locations, Atchison.

LV Arts at the Park

August 26 At this immersive arts festival, take part in art-making opportunities for all ages and abilities. Artisans will display their works, and live music will entertain you as you peruse the festival grounds. Stubby Park, Leavenworth.

American Royal World Series of Barbecue

September 27–October 1 This premier competition for barbecue enthusiasts is an experience to savor. Aromas from nearly 1,000 smokers fill the air as competitors from around the world vie for top prizes. Sample food, enjoy music, ask questions, and shop in the BBQ marketplace. Adult tickets start at $20; ticket packages are available. Kansas Speedway, Kansas City.


Foundry Art Centre Annual Block Party

FREE! June 24 More than just a street party celebrating art, the Foundry Art Centre’s event focuses on an over-the-top method of printmaking that involves large woodblocks that are inked and covered with a canvas. A steamroller then runs over the whole thing, transferring the ink to the canvas. Held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the event also includes live music, beer booths, a print market, food trucks, and an exhibit of heavy machinery and vehicles. Foundry Art Centre, St. Charles.

Hot Summer Nights Cruise-In

FREE! July 14 Enjoy watching hot rods and vintage cars cruise along the Bagnell Dam Strip during this summertime tradition. It’s a family affair, with lots of music, helicopter rides, games, and giveaways. Some activities charge a fee. Lake Ozark

Jour de Fête Celebration

FREE! August 12–13 One of the Midwest’s leading arts and crafts fairs, this celebration features more than 200 arts and crafts booths set up around town. An array of food vendors and hands-on exhibits rounds out the festivities. Various locations, Ste. Genevieve.

Treeline Music Fest

September 29–October 1 Formerly known as the Roots ’n’ Blues Festival, this popular musical event showcases more than 2 dozen of the country’s top performers over 3 days. Bring a lawn chair, enjoy great food and beverages, and listen to world-class entertainment by the lake. A 3-day general admission pass starts at $93. Stephens Lake Park, Columbia.

FREE! indicates free admission to the event, but additional fees may be required. Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

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