For the last decade, Griffith's Rock 'N' Rail festival has entertained thousands and helped rejuvenate the town's downtown business district.
The four-day music and street festival returns this Labor Day weekend to Broad Street. Rock 'N' Rail, which is free, promises something for everyone.
There will be nonstop music with more than 25 bands performing until midnight each night from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.
“Each year, the philosophy has been to make each year better and different,” said Griffith Activities Director Michelle Velez. “Our attendance and sales are almost triple than what they were five years ago.”
Velez said the Rock 'N' Rail festival attracts 40,000 to 50,000 people each year. Changes to make the fest more engaging include adding stages for a variety musical groups.
When acts on the main stage take breaks, local bands perform cover and original songs on the bar stage, open to those 21 and older, and the Lake Street stage.
Velez, herself, is partial to the tribute acts that come from around the country to perform at the Rock 'N' Rail festival.
Besides the music, the event will include more than 30 food vendors. A beer garden will have four different stations, serving a large variety of beers and wines. The Three Griffith craft breweries — New Oberpfalz Brewing, Wildrose Brewing and Pokro Brewing — will be on hand.
Rock 'N' Rail spans multiple blocks of Broad Street.
A kid's entertainment area underlines the family friendly nature of the fest. It will have face painting, bounce houses, train barrel rides and themed activities each day for children.
The festival celebrates the town's historic ties to the railroad.
Rock 'N' Rail activities takes place near an area of town where railroad traffic has traveled for more than 160 years. (Now used solely by lines operated by Canadian National Railroad, the Broad Street crossing was once plied by he Grand Trunk Western, Elgin, Joliet & Eastern (EJ&E), New York Central Joliet Branch, Erie Lackawanna, Chesapeake & Ohio and others.)
The success of the Rock 'N' Rail event helps other Griffith programs.
“All proceeds are reinvested into the events to continue to grow them to make them bigger and better,” Velez said.
Rock 'N' Rail “got started as a way to try to promote the revitalization of Griffith’s downtown,” Velez said, “At the time, we had at least 50 to 60 percent of our storefronts vacant.”
Now, the downtown is full with popular businesses, including Twincade and Grindhouse Cafe, thanks to the fest and a facade and streetscape programs.
“The tremendous growth and success of the festival really parallels the growth and success of Griffith’s downtown and our entire community,” Town Council President Rick Ryfa said. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented resurgence that has resulted in five-plus consecutive years of increased assessed value of our properties that are well above the state averages.”