Illinois Vintage Fest promises ‘a little bit of everything’

Illinois Vintage Fest organizers Shayne Kelly, left, and Ben Justice, right, at the February 2024 Illinois Vintage Fest, being hosted again this weekend in Grayslake.
Courtesy of Illinois Vintage Fest

Booths full of vintage clothes, vendors from across the region and crowds of people searching for the perfect new-old item will gather this weekend at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake.

The 20th Illinois Vintage Fest features around 180 vendors of clothing, home goods, collectibles and artisan work. The free event will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2.

“There’s gonna be a little bit of everything,” said Shayne Kelly, who owns and operates vintage stores in Joliet and Evanston and runs the Illinois Vintage Fest. “It’s not to be missed, especially because it’s the first one of the summer.”

The first Illinois Vintage Fest was held in October 2020 at a barn in New Lenox, with 40 vendors selling mostly T-shirts. Since then, the event has taken place several times a year, growing in the range of items sold and attendees.

Shoppers peruse racks of vintage clothing at a 2023 Illinois Vintage Fest in Hoffman Estates. There will be around 180 vendors of vintage clothing and other items at this weekend’s event in Grayslake.
Courtesy of Illinois Vintage Fest

“We’ve had people come (from) out of state, we’ve had international buyers fly in,” Kelly said. “Nothing is really off the table.”

According to Kelly, the majority of vendors come from the Midwest, but sellers from Florida, Texas and Colorado also have set up shop at past events.

David Hill, owner of the recently opened Elgin Vintage in downtown Elgin, has been selling at the Illinois Vintage Fest since 2021, before he had a permanent storefront. The event in Grayslake will be Hill’s first time running a “mega-booth” with twice as many vintage items as usual.

“They’ve helped so many businesses get started, especially mine,” Hill said. “It’s just a great opportunity to make connections in the area, to obviously make money selling clothes, and to just find an audience that you might not have already.”

This weekend’s event will be the third hosted at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake. The Lake County Fair Association and the DuPage County Fair Association — which runs the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, another popular location for the Illinois Vintage Fest — are nonprofit organizations.

The Illinois Vintage Fest, held several times a year, draws crowds by the thousands to locations like county fairgrounds in Wheaton and Grayslake.
Courtesy of Illinois Vintage Fest

Kelly called the associations “amazing people to work with” and said that money paid to rent the fairgrounds goes back into the community.

Illinois Vintage Fest also has held smaller events and vintage pop-ups, often working with breweries and with record stores that Kelly said align with the goal of reselling old things and not buying new.

“It’s really important to work with people that we have a common goal with,” Kelly said. “It’s fun to work with people that we love and respect, and they show it back to us.”

Beyond this weekend’s event, there are three more big dates locked in for the year — two in Wheaton and another one in Grayslake. A smaller event in Hoffman Estates also is on the docket for the end of June, as well as one in central Illinois in September.

Kelly said he also is hoping to hold future events in southern Illinois.

“It’s really cool to just put everybody in a room, put aside the differences for a day,” Kelly said. “You may not like the person next to you, but hey, we’re all here, having a grand old time, selling junk.”

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