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Arts and Culture

The Rialto Square Theatre

The Rialto Square Theatre is steeped in history, opening on May 24, 1926. The six Rubens brothers were responsible for making the vision into a reality along with the help of architects, a construction company and gifted artists. The outside of this amazing place is a sight to see, but the exquisite decor inside is up to royal standards, featuring Greek, Roman and Byzantine influences.

What was once a silent movie theater and a venue for live Vaudeville performances, the Rialto has made a few changes since it opened its doors more than 80 years ago. In late 1981, the Rialto made the transition into a performing arts center to coincide with times. The change was a result of “the development of shopping malls and multiplex movie theaters,” said Randall Green, general manager.

To help facilitate the evolution into a performing arts venue, a renovation project began. Dorothy Mavrich, president of the Rialto Square Arts Association, now the Cultural Arts Council of the Joliet Area, wanted to see the glory of the Rialto restored. As in the initial construction, many community members worked together to ensure that the Rialto would retain its original grandeur.

The Rialto Square Theatre has seen many great performers grace the stage, “from the Vaudeville days, the Marx Brothers, Burns & Allen, later on Red Skelton, Liberace, Victor Borge, Barbara Mandrell and Bob Hope. Most recently, Tony Bennett, Bill Cosby, BB King, The Moody Blues, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Doobie Brothers, Taylor Swift, Vince Gill and many, many more,” said Green.

Walking into the Rialto Square Theatre is like walking back in time. This staple in the Joliet community has played an important role in its history and will continue to wow visitors for years to come. “People can always expect top headliner attractions, artists who are relevant today because they are still writing and performing new songs or program content. Our Broadway at the Rialto will bring in top-quality musical theater attractions annually. But we always like to add some surprises throughout the year to add to the excitement,” noted Green.

Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park

Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park is a gem in Joliet. Who thought a park could be filled with so many avenues of art? Musical concerts and dramatic productions are just the beginning of what this part of nature offers.

This venture began in the 1970s in an effort to celebrate the United States’ 200th birthday. The Bicentennial Committee was created to fashion a plan to commemorate this milestone, and Mrs. William C. Limacher was named chairman. A piece of land measuring five and one-third acres was to be the location for the park. This piece of land served as one of the community’s first streets.

The committee consulted many local organizations, businesses and schools to plan the creation of the outdoor bandshell and indoor theater. Before construction began, Concerts in the Rough were held from 1973 until the completion of the bandshell in 1976 when the name of these Thursday evening concerts was changed to Concerts on the Hill.

The park was growing and growing, and in the 1980s, two more pieces of land were purchased to continue with the development. In 1987, historic sites were commemorated with the creation of a historical walk noting events, homes and businesses.

A few years later, in 1993, a scenic riverwalk was created, and only a couple of years after that a veterans memorial and mosaic were installed. The year 1996 brought the addition of historical murals.

In 2000, the park was renamed Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park in honor of Limacher’s endless dedication. Not only has Limacher played a huge role in the creation of this park, but countless others continue to bring their talents every day. “The park was built for the people by the people,” said Limacher.

Members of Joliet and surrounding communities make many events at the park possible. The Joliet Drama Guild plays a major role in the theatrical performances. Local school children and community organizations provide further entertainment in the way of concerts, variety shows and other productions. The American Legion band and the Joliet Montessori School sparkle with their musical talents.

Local Entertainment & Events

The Joliet Downtown is a host to many community events throughout the year

The Downtown Joliet Farmers Market brings together vendors, local businesses, and live entertainment to offer market-goers a wide variety of items for purchase while enjoying a stroll in historic Downtown Joliet.

Nitro Nite is an exhilarating event that will give you the chance to meet NHRA drivers, enjoy vendors, hot food, live music, and ice-cold beverages! Come to Downtown Joliet to kick-off the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway!

There’s so much to see and do – all free, and all for kids. Come check it out! Kidzfest is held on the first Saturday of August from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. each year. The event includes many types of interactive, educational and fun activities sponsored by a variety of vendors, i.e. Lewis University Kids Campus, Joliet Park District, Rialto Square Theatre, the Library, the  Forest Preserve District and numerous other vendors planning special activities for kids. Food and entertainment.

Don’t miss one of the biggest single-day NASCAR fan fests in the Midwest! The Race Fan Rally is an annual single-day NASCAR fan fest held on the Thursday before the Sprint Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway in September. Race Fan Rally includes live music entertainment, vendors, beer tents, NASCAR driver appearances, a 50/50 raffle, race, show and classic cars on display and is concluded with a firework display.

Light Up the Holidays Parade and Festival is held on the Friday following Thanksgiving each year. Activities begin downtown as early as 9:30 a.m., and include the Fantastic Fun Fair in the Joliet Area Historical Museum’s auditorium, as well as activities in the Joliet Public Library, Gji’s Sweet Shoppe, Jitters Coffeehouse, Chicken-n-Spice, Juliet’s, Tin Roof and more.  The Rialto Square Theatre’s annual holiday festivities also adds to the holiday spirit, Downtown Joliet.

Tree Lighting begins at 5:15 p.m. in Van Buren Plaza followed by the Light Up The Holidays Parade at 5:30 p.m.

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