Bringing the Island To Illinois

Julian Hagen.

Julian Hagen is well known for his unending support of the music, arts and traditions of his homeland, Washington Island. On Feb. 7, he will cement his status as tireless island promoter as he reaches beyond the land of Wisconsin and plays host to the first Washington Island Fishboil Festival in Berwyn, Illinois.

The event will bring the best that Washington Island has to offer in the form of music, fun and of course, fish boils to the city just west of Chicago.

“We’re trying to bring people together and do something that will hopefully make people return to the island or come for the first time,” Hagen said. “It was really just to find a way to have some fun.”

While it sounds like a festival that has been in the making for some time, in typical Julian Hagen fashion, it hasn’t been. It wasn’t until he was in the Chicago area the week of Thanksgiving that he began brainstorming and came up with the idea.

“It’s part of my modus operandi,” Hagen laughed.

But it didn’t take long to get the main pieces of the puzzle into place – namely inviting local commercial fisherman Kenny Koyen “off the island” for a fish boil, and inviting Celtic and Americana duo (and frequent island visitors) Switchback to perform.

The party will take place at FitzGeralds, an Irish Pub just south of Oak Park, Illinois. Koyen, who owns K.K. Fiske Restaurant and The Granary, will come ashore to conduct one of his famous boils featuring freshly caught whitefish.

“He’s one of the last two commercial fishermen on the island, too,” Hagen said.

Fish boil.

A fish boil is a Great Lakes tradition, inspired by Scandinavians, in which chunks of fresh whitefish, red potatoes and onions are boiled over an open flame and served with butter and coleslaw.

Hagen will bring his own musical talents to the event by leading a Fiddlers Green-style jam session sprinkled with his original island ballads, including favorites “How Things Change,” “The Fisherman’s Song,” and “Northern Lights.” People are welcome to bring their instruments to jam along, if they so wish.

There will also be evening dance music by Celtic and Americana duo Switchback, who have been frequent visitors to Washington Island. Like any good festival, it will also feature dancing, raffle prizes donated by Washington Island businesses, door prizes, and a slideshow portrait of Washington Island.

Washington Island Fishboil Festival will take place at FitzGeralds, 6615 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn, Illinois. Doors open at 4 pm with dinner at 5:30 pm. Admission is $15 and the fishboil dinner is an additional $17. Advance reservations are required and can be made online at