The first idea of uniting youth choirs dates back to the year 1935, on the initiative of the Youth Choirs Choirmasters' Association from Slovenske Konjice. In 1946, it was followed by the first open-air singing concert of young singers called Praznik mladinske pomladi (The holiday of youth spring) which was organised and also conducted by Jurče Vreže with 3,000 young singers from all over Slovenia participating in the event. Thus, the first Youth Choir Festival was created. In 1963, the event became competitive and organised every two years, attracting young singers from the former Yugoslav republics and abroad. In 1992, it officially became the International Youth Choir Festival. The 33rd edition in 2020 was postponed until 2021 because of the novel coronavirus epidemic.
Choirs from all over Europe come to Celje to participate in the festival, including ones from Italy, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Portugal, Russia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ireland, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Sweden, Great Britain and Israel.
Participating choirs must have at least 20 and no more than 50 singers and a maximum of 5 accompanists including the director. The number of performers and their ages are verified immediately by a special commission. Choirs originally perform a-cappella, one of their songs can be instrumentally accompanied. The musical part of each choir's programme is limited to 15 minutes.
The international five-member jury awards gold, silver and bronze medals and special prizes for the best performance of a certain composition. The festival's music committee selects a maximum of 18 choirs for entry into the competition. Since 1997, the choirs and conductors have been accompanied by distinguished jury members: Damijan Močnik, Edvard Goršič, Tomaž Faganel, Jernej Habjanič, Damijan Močnik, Dragica Žvar, Johannes Rahe, Malcolm Goldring, Johan van Bouwelen, and others.