Hancock County is home to many fun festivals and events, with one of the most anticipated being the annual Riley Festival each fall. This event is the state’s largest four-day festival and will take place over the weekend of Oct. 7-10, 2021 in downtown Greenfield. Join us at this well-known craft festival to visit hundreds of vendors, enjoy local live entertainment and honor the Midwest legacy put in place by one of our most famous residents. 

What is the Riley Festival?

The Riley Festival is hosted annually in Greenfield, Hancock County to celebrate the birth date of James Whitcomb Riley. After the cancellation of the festival in 2020 due to COVID-19, it is now back and better than ever. This event is one of the biggest craft vendor festivals in the state of Indiana, also including delicious food, parades, live entertainment and more! Taking place in downtown Greenfield, Mr. Riley’s statue presides over the festivities from his position in front of our 100-year-old courthouse. 

Who is James Whitcomb Riley?

James Whitcomb Riley (born on October 7, 1849) was a poet and best-selling author born and raised in Greenfield, Indiana, often spending time at the Brandywine Creek. He was often known as the “Hoosier Poet,” wrote approximately 1,000 poems in his lifetime and penned a number of poems especially for children. He has a major legacy for his contributions to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature, and you can learn more about his life by visiting the Riley Boyhood Home and Museum.

Mr. Riley was known nationwide for his writing and has been commemorated by his fellow Hoosiers in many ways, including this festival. One of the highlights of the weekend is the Parade of Flowers, wherein Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation’s elementary students walk to Mr. Riley’s statue to place bouquets in his honor, a tradition that has been taking place for more than 50 years. 

What features will be included for 2021?

Each year, a poem by Mr. Riley is chosen as the theme of the festival. The theme of the 2021 Riley Festival is “The Bumblebee.” In addition to the Parade of Flowers on Friday, a Bumblebee-themed parade with classic cars, floats and more will take place on Saturday starting at Greenfield-Central High School. This year will include more than 460 exhibition booths with commercial goods, craft items, flea market items and more. The festival will also include shows for Fine Arts, Home Arts & Quilts, Photography, Decorated Pumpkins and a Baking Contest. 

The festival’s Kid Zone will include pony rides and a petting zoo for families, and the live entertainment will include local music, dancers and, of course, poetry. The annual Riley Festival Queen Pageant will also take place over the weekend, with titles of Queen, Princess, court members, Miss Congeniality for female teen participants aged 16-19, plus the Little Miss and Little Mister categories for ages 3-6. 

If you’d like to learn more about the 2021 Riley Festival or make plans to visit, you can view the 2021 schedule of events on their website. Whether you’re a multigeneration Greenfield resident or a first-time visitor to Hancock County, we can’t wait to see you at this year’s festival!

Photo: Riley Festival Facebook page