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Photos: We Visited The Only Festival For Redheads In The U.S.

By Jessica Mlinaric in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 5, 2016 3:46PM

Even a deluge of rain on Saturday couldn't stop the fire atRedhead Days in Highwood, Illinois. The second-annual free festival drew attendees from as far as Berlin seeking to unite the global redhead community.

The only festival in the United States dedicated to celebrating red hair launched last year in the northern Chicago suburb. The success of the 2015 festival, which drew 2,500 attendees, prompted organizers to expand the event into Everts Park (130 Highwood Ave.).

The festivities kicked off with a set by School of Rock’s Evanston House Band followed by Charlie Cruce of the Redhead Piano Bar. Heavy rainfall diminished attendance, but the spirit of those present was far from dampened. Festival goers enjoyed food trucks, a petting zoo, and hair demonstrations by Paul Mitchell the School Chicago. North Shore bakeries competed in the Carrot Cake Throwdown. Others took shelter under drink tents serving red-hued cocktails, Bloody Marys, and Van Gogh Vodka (a famous redhead).

Stephanie and Adrienne Vendetti, authors of How to Be a Redhead, voiced a common concern for the copper-coiffed during their book signing: “Rain isn’t the best for this type of hair.”

One return attendee from Appleton, WI, was interested in seeing how much the festival had expanded since 2015. Another couple drove in from Detroit to participate, admitting, “We came for the red hair.”

“The weather doesn’t matter, we’re here for the experience,” said a group of three San Diego flight attendants who arranged their work schedule to meet at Redhead Days. One among the group had attended a redhead festival in Amsterdam and jumped at the chance to participate in an American affiliate.

It was a similar Dutch festival that inspired Redhead Days’ founder, Jim Stoecker, to bring the festival to Highwood. “It feels great to have red heads show up and feel a sense of comradery,” Stoecker told Chicagoist.

Highwood will continue to paint the town red Sunday, with activities from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Redheads are asked to register in order to track attendance of the most Redheads gathered in one city. At 2 p.m. an aerial drone will photograph the group from above, with organizers hoping the turnout will surpass last year’s count.

The festival’s stated goals are bonding, pride, and recognition for redheads. Attendee David, age 5, of Highwood, said it’s a success whatever the weather.

“I like having red hair,” he told us.

Redhead Days Chicago will be a free festival held in City Hall Park (17 Highwood Ave.) and Everts Park (130 Highwood Ave.) on June 4 and June 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Redheads are asked to register.