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‘It’s a beautiful town’: RiverFest kicks off in St. Charles

ST. CHARLES – Heather McClure’s first visit on Friday to downtown St. Charles was an eventful one.

McClure, who was visiting Jeremy and Jill Wilder of St. Charles, led a group of children on carnival rides, looked at Kane County SWAT team vehicles and walked along the Main Street bridge.

“It’s a beautiful town,” McClure said.

McClure and the Wilders were among the first groups at the annual RiverFest on Friday afternoon. The festival fills downtown St. Charles with merchants, food, rides, live music and more, all organized by the Pride of the Fox organization.

One of Friday’s events was the county’s SWAT team demo, which took place along First Street south of Main Street. McClure learned that the county’s black Casspir armored infantry vehicle on display was redone mostly through donations. There also was a tan reconnaissance and rescue vehicle described as a one-of-a-kind prototype that people crowded around.

Other popular attractions included the sand sculptures in two downtown St. Charles parking lots. This is the fest’s 20th year of sand sculptures, and every year has featured the work of professional sculptor Ted Siebert.

Siebert on Friday was working on “Medusa,” a sculpture of a large head adorned with snakes referencing the figure from Greek mythology. There are no ideal conditions to create sand sculptures, just “good sand and time,” said Siebert, a Woodstock resident. He said the Medusa sculpture would take him the entire weekend to complete.

“I think everyone relates to sand sculptures because they built them at one point in their lives,” Siebert said.

Among those admiring Siebert’s work was Ronak Thakkar, 15. Thakkar said he likely would be back at RiverFest today or Sunday for the Dragon Boat races.

The boats arrived from Iowa on June 1, and participants practiced during the week, said Julie Farris, executive director of Pride on the Fox, in an earlier interview. Farris expected race participation to reach its maximum of 27 teams over the weekend.

Thakkar on Friday was at RiverFest with Evan Okpisz and Blanca Valtierrez, both 16, celebrating the last day of their sophomore year at St. Charles East High School. Okpisz remembers heading straight to the fest in 2012 with a friend after their last day at Thompson Middle School.

“It’s the start of the summer for me, that’s probably the most fun thing,” Okpisz said of RiverFest.

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