Tonica Fest is scheduled for Aug. 24-26
TONICA — In anticipation of what has become one of the best car shows in the Illinois Valley, one of the founders of the Tonica Cruise-in was recently interviewed.
Together with her husband, Bob, Marybeth Beenenga was inspired to help organize the first Cruise-in 17 years ago after attending other car shows. Its addition to the village’s annual Tonica Fest celebrations would help transform it into an event attracting people from throughout the region.
“We wanted to do something for our community and decided we’d donate the proceeds from the Cruise-in to the Tonica Fire Department,” Beenenga said.
“We have an awesome fire department for a little town. They take good care of us,” she said.
The first Cruise-in only required parking for 40 cars, not bad for a village of less than 1,000 people. However, it’s now 17 years later, and last year’s cruise attracted 245 cars.
During the event, the chrome, polished metal and metallic paint now regularly fill not only LaSalle Street, but the Old Tonica Park and part of Pontiac Street, as well.
“We love watching the line of cars come in. It’s a thing of beauty. There are so many beautiful cars out there, and to see them all in one place is very cool,” Beenenga said.
The event is organized to be family friendly, and aside from the appeal of the vintage cars, there are also other attractions to appreciate.
This year’s Tonica Fest is also a celebration of the village’s 165th anniversary, and many special events are planned from Aug. 24-26, including a Movie in the Park Night, a 5K, a medallion hunt, an Old West reenactment, a parade, games, food, plenty of live music, dancing, and more.
As someone who’s been involved with the event for many years, Beenenga was asked which she enjoyed the most.
“Looking around and seeing so many people supporting our event,” she said, also speaking highly of the camaraderie of the volunteers who help each year.
“From parking the cars to selling 50-50 tickets, to working the pork chop dinner, or the entry table, we’ve become a well-oiled machine, thanks to them,” she said.
Following the parade on Saturday, Aug. 25, the Cruise-in will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. and will feature live music by the Radium City Rebels for the second year. The night will also include a couple’s dance contest with cash prizes at 6:30 p.m..
“Last year everyone raved about them, and the talented dancers who follow them. All of the gals who work the registration table wanted to take dance lessons after watching last year. We absolutely love to watch them, they’re fantastic,” Beenenga said.
Following the Cruise-in, the live music and good times will continue with a performance from the band Against the Grain from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
“We’ve had a lot of people tell us the Cruise-in brings our community together like old times past, to see old friends, catch up, and just have a good time,” Beenenga said, encouraging everyone to come join in the celebration.