Marengo Settlers' Days to stay downtown after controversy

Carnival attendees ride Zero Gravity during Marengo Settlers' Days festivities Oct. 8 in Marengo. Other activities included a children’s pet parade, Cody’s Farm activities and live music.[]

MARENGO – The city’s iconic festival will occur this fall in the same location it always has after controversy stemming from a preliminary decision to relocate.

Settlers’ Days will take place in its usual place, including having its normal parade route and Saturday Night on Main Street, which occurs on Route 23 along the downtown strip. The carnival will remain in the municipal parking lot.

The four-day event was founded in 1971 and includes parades, a carnival, a craft show, food, live music and other events.

“Nothing is moving whatsoever,” said Marengo Chamber of Commerce President Colleen Helfers, who also is on the Settlers’ Days committee. “We have new vendors and new volunteers. In the years past, we would have one or two [volunteers]. This year, because of all of the controversy, we are up to 15.”

Settlers’ Days Inc, the nonprofit behind the event, originally had announced its intent to move the festival to the field behind Glo Bowl by Marengo High School. Hundreds of comments flooded a social media post regarding the changes, and people largely were against the move.

Residents and City Council members all cited concerns over breaking tradition, handicap accessibility, parking, traffic and pedestrian safety. At one point, council members opted to stall a vote to close roads for the festival because Settlers’ Days Inc. committee members didn’t show up to a council meeting to answer questions surrounding the move.

The committee returned with revised plans to a recent council meeting, where members approved the proposed plans, which involved moving the events back to normal grounds.

Settlers’ Days Inc is in the process of planning vendors, entertainment and activities.

“We have a whole bunch of new and unique things,” Helfers said. “The only thing we can hope for is that it doesn’t rain and isn’t 40 below.”