LEXINGTON — After a partial return in 2016, a Lexington tradition is back at full force this weekend.
The Lexington Homecoming Carnival, a summer institution dating back to 1915, will return in full swing Thursday through Saturday for the first time since 2007, offering rides, music, games and other activities on Main Street.
“I brought my kids out of Bloomington-Normal to Lexington to have this small-town feel, and I wanted to get this back,” said Katie Adams, a longtime carnival attendee who's co-organizing the new version. "We want to bring back that romance of the small town.”
While the Lexington Jaycees held the carnival from 1965 to 2007, it's now a city event coordinated by Adams and Starlette Torkelson. The Jaycees canceled the event in part because they couldn't find a vendor willing to come to town, but the city found one in Conner Family Amusements of Beardstown.
“It took nine months of calling carnival companies before I found one that was legit and would take a chance on a small town," said Adams of Conner, which also works with State Farm. "They've been really wonderful to work with."
Adams said a successful test run in 2016 allowed the vendor to put more resources into this year's carnival. It will have 15 rides, which will operate starting at 5 p.m. each evening as well as 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Everybody was really kind about it, but they said, 'I wish there was more.' It wasn’t how it used to be," Adams said of the 2016 event. "We're more than doubling it."
Adams said the event wouldn't be possible without volunteers as well. Local Cub Scouts and city officials are among those expected to lend a hand.
This 2017 carnival will also have live music every night and a daily cake walk, which Adams said is surprisingly popular, drawing a waiting list.
Admission is free, but tickets and wristbands for attractions are available at Platform 322, Adams' flower shop on Main Street, and Lexington City Hall, where Torkelson works as city collector.
Adams said she hopes others will make lasting carnival memories like hers. She still remembers coming to the carnival to show off her ring the day she got engaged.
“I know that I'm a little crazy, but this is my favorite event, and I'm thrilled it's back," she said. “To have a small town get together and bring back an old tradition like this is amazing.”