Located just two minutes from the entrance of Starved Rock State Park, and a short drive from I-80 and I-39, you’ll find a true hidden gem, the village of North Utica. This canal town, steeped in rich history and beautiful nature, features some of the best pub-style dining and boutique shopping that north central Illinois has to offer. Now with the return of their signature Burgoo Festival on the horizon, there’s never been a better time to start planning a trip to picturesque Utica.
Over the past half a century, Utica’s Burgoo has grown from a community block party into one of Illinois’ most celebrated Fall festivals. After taking a year off in light of the events of 2020, Burgoo is back for it’s 51st year in 2021. This multigenerational, all-ages, event pairs together Midwestern hospitality, artists, artisans, antiques vendors, live entertainment and, of course, larger than life cast-iron pots of scratch-made Burgoo stew!
What started as a small community celebration of a famed pioneer dish, Utica’s Burgoo is now regularly attracting 40,000+ visitors to their two-day open-air festival. Scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9 and 10, held rain or shine, you’ll find there is no shortage of fun activities slated for every age-level and interest.
Inspired by harvest celebrations of the past, the star of the Burgoo Festival is...Burgoo. This thick stew, the origin of which likely pre-dates the Civil War, is a delicious hodgepodge of freshly harvested vegetables, local meats and flavorful herbs and spices. Similar to other regional delicacies like Irish and Mulligan stews, this slow cooked dish became a staple of fundraisers and benefit events in Midwestern and Southern states.
Burgoo is simmered in massive cast-iron pots over an open fire, stirred all day and night by diligent cooks. Armed with nothing but wooden paddles the side of canoe oars, seeing these hard working volunteers stir the legendarily thick stew is a true sight to behold, and a delectable smell you won’t soon forget. Burgoo will only be served on Sunday Oct. 10, starting at 9am and is served until it sells out, so plan your trip accordingly.
The fun doesn’t stop there, this two-day festival also features a sprawling vendor show that rivals many of the state’s iconic outdoor artisan markets, in both quality and scope. On Saturday, The LaSalle County Historical Society’s Canal Market will run from 11am-6pm, featuring 100+ curated vendors selling handmade, homemade, homegrown and vintage items. Sunday’s shopping event blooms to over 375 unique craft, gift and antique sellers, a can’t miss vendor show that fills several open areas throughout the downtown, all conveniently within walking distance.
Burgoo 2021 will also have free live music, games, blacksmithing demonstrations and a classic car show. These family friendly festivities, and all other events taking place at Burgoo, are sponsored by and benefitting the non-profit LaSalle County Historical Society and other society projects. This fantastic museum campus, located on the banks of the historic I & M Canal, consists of six locations: the canal warehouse, heritage center, a one room school house, a working blacksmith shop, and an original barn dating back to 1875. While you’re in town for festival, be sure to visit these spectacular historic and interpretive sites to see how Burgoo continues to benefit the preservation of local history.
Unveiled at last weekend’s FOTA - Starved Rock Country Festival of the Arts, the winning 2021 Starved Rock Country Vintage Travel Poster is a ode to this perennially popular Fall festival. Created by local artist Angie Cornelius, the artist behind Lonesome Road Studio (@lonesomeroadstudio on Instagram), this winning piece is titled “Burgoo Festival in Starved Rock Country”. Deluxe poster prints, measuring 24″ x 36″, will soon be available for purchase online, with 100% of the proceeds benefitting The Arts of Starved Rock Country Community Foundation. To be notified when these prints are available, sign-up for our newsletter at starvedrockcountry.com/newsletter
51st Annual Burgoo
October 9-10, 2021