If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Please enter your email and we will send your username and password to you.
By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The Collinsville Chamber of Commerce pulled off another successful International Horseradish Festival this past weekend.
The International Horseradish Festival, a Collinsville staple, celebrates 35 years of promoting the region’s No. 1 cash crop. Thousands of attendees enjoyed live music, fun and food while trying to avoid the intense heat throughout the two-day event.
The Festival kicked off Friday, June 2, as parts of the crowd sang along and danced to pop tunes played by Dj MC Cross. The two-day festival accommodated an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 guests who came out to party, celebrate and promote horseradish.
The region’s largest distributor and city officials spoke of the Festival’s impact on the City. Mayor Jeff Stehman said that after several years of COVID this year’s Festival was ramped up.
“It’s a little bigger this year,” Stehman said. “It’s starting to get amped up back to where it used to be.”
Derek Jackson, city manager, mentioned they received feedback from the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce on what could be improved on this go-around. The main issue discussed was that there were not enough food vendors at last year’s Festival, so this year food was a top priority.
“We got a lot more food vendors this year for the people trying various types of cuisines,” Jackson said. “I don’t know how many more, but I do know they ran out of food last year and it was a big deal to make sure that there is enough available.”
Stehman and other city officials along with members of the Chamber gathered at 6 p.m. on the main stage to open the Root Ceremony. Afterwards musical band Just In Time rocked the stage with a live performance from about 6:15-10 p.m.
Jackson said the festival is an opportunity for families to come out and enjoy a good time in the community, which is good for the economic development of the City. The more visitors the City attracts with events like these, the more it contributes to the sales tax and lessens the burden on the residents of the City.
“People are visiting Uptown, they’re soliciting the stores and the restaurants, which is absolutely a positive for bringing people to Collinsville,” Jackson continued. “Obviously, NASCAR is here this weekend as well, which is a huge deal for us because that means more heads in the beds, at the hotels that translates into hotel tax revenue that we get,” Jackson said. “
Jackson added that as more people pour into town to enjoy the festivities they also visit local restaurants to eat. That influx of people causes an increase to the food and beverage tax, which is an additional stream of revenue for the City.
“The International Horseradish Festival is a significant catalyst for local business and entrepreneurs, generating an influx of visitors in the Uptown area and City overall,” Jackson said. “As festival-goers gather to enjoy the festivities, they often patronize nearby establishments such as restaurants, cafes, and shops, giving a boost to the local economy.”
Jackson said the festival also attracts visitors from outside the community, encouraging tourism and increasing the visibility of the region.
According to the Illinois Horseradish Growers Association, approximately 60-percent of the world’s horseradish is grown in the Collinsville area. The Illinois Horseradish Growers Association includes close to a dozen farms in Madison and St. Clair counties, ranging from five to 500 acres of production.
Illinois produces the largest supply with Collinsville-based J.R. Kelly Co. being the nation’s top supplier, marketing an annual 10 million to 12 million pounds of roots- earning the nickname “The Horseradish House.”
Matt McMillin, a representative for The Horseradish House said that they came out to promote horseradish root and celebrate the growers. McMillin said that not only do they supply horseradish roots domestically, but internationally as well, shipping tons of horseradish roots to all corners of the globe.
“We work with growers in the area and they typically grow around 2,000 acres of horseradish a year,” McMillin said. “We also work with growers in the area to market horseradish roots from coast to coast and internationally.”
McMillin explained that horseradish growing is a long-standing tradition in the Collinsville/ Southern Illinois area.
“It’s one of those things that gets passed down from generation to generation,” he said.