MOLINE — Sporting a Belgian Fest T-shirt, armed with his trusty bolle and standing on the rolle bolle court inside Stephens Park, Bill Cornelis was sporting an "at-home'' look on his face.
"Love rolle bolle,'' said Cornelis, the chairman of the seventh annual Belgian Fest, which is set for noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Stephens Park. "It's part of my heritage and that of many others, and I have always taken pride in that. Plus, rolle bolle is fun.''
Stephens Park, home to the annual free festival that celebrates all things Belgian, is at 7th Street and 15th Avenue, near Moline's Olde Towne neighborhood, where most of the area's Belgian population lived years ago.
"Over 2,000 gathered at last year's Belgian Fest,'' Cornelis said with a smile, singing the praises of the many who have made the festival such a big draw.
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"Some say it is a great day to share heritage; others say it's having (Rafferty Funeral Home owner) Kevin Rafferty and my cousin, Johnny Cornelis, man the Stella (Artois beer) station. On a serious note, last year was a great time and a great day for a great cause.''
The Belgian Fest is a fundraiser for the Center for Belgian Culture and its work to keep Belgian heritage alive within the community. The center, at 1608 7th St., is in the heart of Olde Towne.
"The Center for Belgian Culture offers scholarships to high school students and hosts events where folks can learn how to make Belgian lace or enjoy Belgian waffles,'' Cornelis said. "It's a tradition-filled place that needs to remain part of the community. The Belgian Fest is vital to making sure the center continues to do that.''
The ever-popular rolle bolle tournament will start the Belgian Fest off on a fun-filled foot. It will begin at 11 a.m. and is open to beginners as well as veteran players.
The festival part of the day wil roll into action at noon and feature Belgian horse-pulled carriage rides along Moline's 15th Avenue, a favorite with festival-goers.
"Kids as well as adults admire the horses,'' Cornelis said. "Everyone looks forward to that part of the day.''
Belgian Fest also will feature sales of shirts, mugs and hats, as well as Belgian brats, beer and waffles. Belgian lace makers also will play a big role in the day.
"The brats are Belgian for the day,'' Cornelis joked. "The Belgian waffles are huge, and everyone loves the Belgian lace making.''
Music also plays big at Belgian Fest.
The Happy Belgians will get the day off to a great start, followed by gifted songstress Lily DeTaeye (http://www.lilydetaeye.com/). The legendary Gray Wolf band (https://www.graywolfband.com) will rock the festival to a high-energy close.
"It should be a great day,'' Cornelis said. "Music, fun and a great dose of Belgian culture.''