Community Corner: The story of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival

By on March 8, 2013

by Maria Dripps-Paulson,
Executive director, Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival

Once upon a time, a little girl grew up on a farm in rural Illinois. She loved the arts, but was never given the opportunity to go to an art museum or meet a “real” artist in person.

When the little girl grew up, she became an art teacher in the Kaneland School District. Realizing that Kaneland was similar to the rural setting in which she grew up, the teacher began envisioning an event where students, family, and community, far removed from the art culture scene of Chicago, could experience the arts.

She dreamed of the Kaneland Community experiencing the arts in an interactive setting, absolutely free, and the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival was born.

Bonnie Whildin, the little girl turned art teacher, began teaching at Kaneland full time in 1985 with the idea of a Fine Arts Festival fresh in her mind. However, it was not until May 1998, with the collaborative help of another art teacher, that the first Festival actually became reality.

The first annual Kaneland Fine Arts Festival was a two-hour event at Kaneland South Elementary School (now Kaneland John Shields Elementary). Attendance was approximately 200 people, and the presenters were made up of local artists and musicians.

Since its inception 15 years ago, the KCFAF has grown beyond Mrs. Whildin’s vision. Now expanded to its seven-hour celebration of the arts, the Festival saw a need to utilize the Kaneland High School auditorium for performance events held throughout the year. Beginning officially in the fall of 2009, KCFAF began the Festival Performance Series, which brings professional, quality performances to the Kaneland auditorium at affordable prices.

In July 2010, the first annual Kaneland Community Summer Theatre production was performed on the Kaneland High School stage, and will continue this summer with the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

This year’s Festival will take place on Sunday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information can be found on or

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