The Burgoo Festival is an annual village street party featuring flea marketers, craftsmen, musicians, and other entertainment. More than 250 vendors will present their wares at this craft show and flea market. Sponsored by the non-profit LaSalle County Historical Society, it is the organization’s major fundraiser.
Established 43 years ago, the Burgoo Festival is one of the longest-running and largest fall festivals in northern Illinois. The festival evolved many years ago when several members of the LaSalle County Historical Society explored options for fundraising, recognizing the need for revenue beyond membership dues and donations.
What is burgoo?
Burgoo is a traditional pioneer dish, a kind of stew that gives the festival its name. The theme of this festival is traditional food, and many varieties of homemade pies and other dishes are always festival favorites.
Early versions of burgoo were made with wild game such as venison or squirrel, and whatever the pioneers grew. Current state health laws prevent selling soup made from game.
For this local Burgoo festival the ingredients are beef, carrots, potatoes, hominy, celery, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers, and other vegetables carefully blended with special spices and herbs. It is cooked outdoors for between 12 and 18 hours over a wood-burning fire that gives it a special taste. Squads of volunteer vegetable choppers and kettle stirrers spend the night preparing this pioneer dish.
According to veteran “burgoomeisters,” there are many different recipes for burgoo. Most are well protected secrets, guarded by “burgoomeisters” who are in charge of the day-long preparation and cooking.
What does “burgoo” mean?
The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that burgoo was originally a thin gruel or porridge made by sailors in the 17th century. The name may have come from "bulghur," a form of cracked wheat, or "ragout," a French word for a well-seasoned stew.
More than 250 vendors display their wares on Utica’s downtown streets. Sunday musical entertainment will include marching bands, and other vocalists.