I’m a wannabe redhead. After nearly thirty years of never dying my hair, I went red one day. I loved the vibrant color, and the way it made any outfit pop. I never felt any different though, and when I looked in the mirror I was always surprised to see an auburn lady.
This June, I covered a festival devoted to promoting redhead solidarity. I felt like a bit of an imposter among the crowd, but attendees of all shades were warmly welcomed at Redhead Days in Highwood, IL. Some said it felt nice to have a sense of community after being teased as kids for their red hair. Others rocked their ginger roots with fiery pride.
You can see my full coverage of Redhead Days on Chicagoist.
Redhead Days 2016
Even a deluge of rain on Saturday couldn’t stop the fire at Redhead Days. The second-annual free festival drew over 3,000 attendees from as far as Berlin, Japan, and Hawaii 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.
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.
A similar festival in Breda, Holland 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,” he said.
Redheads were asked to register in order to track attendance of the most redheads gathered in one city. An aerial drone photographed the group from above in an attempt to break the world record for the most redheads gathered in one location. Although the record was not broken, the official group photo had over 1,000 Redheads pictured.
The festival’s stated goals are bonding, pride, and recognition for redheads. Judging by attendee David, age 5, of Highwood, it’s a success. “I like having red hair,” he told us.
Redhead Days Chicago
130 Highwood Ave
HIghwood, IL 60040