As we’re transitioning from Summer to Fall in Illinois South, one of our FAVORITE things to do is…well…eat. Fortunately, opportunities to do so are plentiful this time of year.
August is filled with several towns breaking out the grills for one last hurrah. Pair the delicious barbecue with entertainment, like the car shows in Maeystown or New Baden, or live music and a bags tourney in Beckemeyer and you can make a day of it.
For a taste of something different, check out the Crawfish & Gumbo Festival at the Kaskaskia River House in New Athens at the end of the month.
Further down the line, several communities hold Chili Cook-offs – some as big events where the chili takes center stage and some as part of other big events. Other locales will feature Oktoberfest Celebrations to celebrate the rich German heritage in our region. There will be more bier and bratwursts in the area than you can shake a stick at!!!
Some events feature locally made wine, beer or ciders – tasty!
Find more information below or CLICK HERE for our online calendar!
August 14 – 15
Sips & Tastes
Enjoy delicious food and great music.
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
Maeystown Fire Dept. BBQ & Show Us Your Ride
Enjoy great barbecue while seeing cars, trucks, motorcycles and tractors.
Little Pig Cook-Off
BCDC Park, Beckemeyer
In addition to blind judging awards, attendees will determine by popular vote, the “Best Porksteak” and the “Best Site.” Music will be playing all day, and other activities include a bags tournament, raffles, kid’s area and more.
Annual Fun in the Sun BBQ & Cruise-In Car Show
New Baden Village Park
Held annually on the 4th Saturday of August, there will be all licensed makes and models, trophies and dash plaques, awards presentations, food, drinks, 50/50 raffle, music and attendance prizes.
August 28 – 30
25th Annual Bluegrass & BBQ
Bryan Memorial Park, Salem
Bluegrass music and barbeque festival featuring live bluegrass music.
National Crawfish & Gumbo Festival
The Kaskaskia Riverhouse, New Athens
The National Crawfish and Gumbo Festival will feature chefs from Louisiana, Florida and points all across the country! Entertainment includes legendary Zydeco Crawdaddies, “The Sauce Boss” Bill Wharton, The Funky Butt Brass Band and more.
Berryville Community Bldg., Berryville
Line up and fill a bowl with this local favorite!
Lincoln Place Heritage Festival
Lincoln Place Community Center, Granite City
Armenian, Mexican, Macedonian and Bulgarian ethnic foods and pastries for sale. Free, continuous ethnic entertainment, featuring dancers, vocalists and music from Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Armenia, Mexico, Spain, Croatia, Scotland, Celtic Harp, Appalachian mountain dulcimer and Italian opera. Lincoln Place historical displays, quilts, Eastern European costume displays and children activities.
Autumn Art Walk
Fine art, savory food and wine and delightful music are featured at this event sponsored by Our Common Ground. Artists from the St. Louis metro region are spotlighted at this outdoor event.
October 2 – 3
Belleville’s Chili Cook-off features the culinary creations of individuals, local organizations & area businesses, as well as a children’s area, 5K run and entertainment throughout the weekend!
October 9 – 10
The fun begins Friday evening with a parade and continues with food, beer, music, craft fair, washer tournament, kids’ activities and a variety show.
Freeburg Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off
Freeburg Village Park
Make a day of tasting delicious chili and more.
It’s chili tasting for all, and prizes for the best chili, people’s choice and best decorated booth. Kids activities, wine tasting, additional food items, beer, soda and other beverages are also available.
Browse more than 50 artisans, crafters, dealers, and numerous food stands. The village specialty shops, bed and breakfast, restaurants and museum are open.
Chili Cook Off & Arts and Crafts
Dupo Community Park, Dupo
In addition to the great chili booths there will be arts and crafts, prizes, food, music, games and walk of honor.
Fall Fest & Chili Cook-Off
This annual event has something for the entire family. There’s a Chili Cook-off, Car Show, craft & product vendors, children’s area, food and entertainment. In the Chili Cook-off you can sample over 20 kinds of chili.
Chili & Soup Cook-Off
New Baden Village Park
There’s a Tasters’ Choice competition for both chili and soup with prizes awarded in both categories. Families will find a craft fair, touch-a-truck equipment display, bounce houses, etc.
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
Enjoy German food, beer, wine and live music.
People who love to trade in antiques are a very special breed. They live for the “find,” like the couple who buy the rickety old wooden chair at a garage sale for 15 bucks—then, before driving off to the next poor soul’s house, can’t resist telling the clueless sellers that it’s antebellum.
Few are that snarky, of course. They’re a community not unlike the experts on Pickers or Pawn Stars. They see through the rust, grime and flaking paint to see what’s beneath. They recognize character. And, value.
Plenty of antiquers buy and sell in ILLINOISouth, the 20-county corridor that stretches from St. Louis east to the Indiana border like a belt that holds up a paunch facing west.
Some are big, some are small, some are malls. Some trade in true antiques… that is, items that have been around a century or more… some in “collectibles.” Most have a little of some, a little of the other. For many, antique just means that they don’t make ’em like they used to, or you had something similar at home growing up, or you collect fine French china. (And don’t mind the little “flea bite” on that glazed white pitcher from around 1920. Turn the chipped side to the wall and nobody will notice.)
Some collectors love to display well-used farm implements, inside and out. There’s plenty of that around here, from Fairview Heights to Olney.
One thing to remember: Wherever it is, no antique store is ever the same place twice! So come early, come often.
St. Clair Antique Mall, Fairview Heights: 618-628-1650
One of the region’s several antique malls is only 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis. Two hundred dealers offer a dizzying array of goodies, so make a day of it. If there was a specialty here, it would be primitives, crock ware, glassware and furniture. Just across I-64 is one of the region’s major retail malls and dozens of big-box stores, where you can take a break to shop for some new stuff.
Windows on Broadway, Highland: 618-651-4401
There are nearly 100 windows on this building, thus the name. Want some old magazines or 45 RPM singles? Check. A butter churn or bowling pins? You got it. But the 2,100-square-foot atrium graced by all those windows? Probably not. It’s more than an antique store; it’s a destination for intimate special events with a kitchen and bar.
The Antique Mall of Perry County, Nashville: 618-336-5300
Seventy-plus vendors have it all, from quality antiques to vintage collectibles…
all on one floor, in 12,000 square feet of space.
Vintage Collections Antique Mall, Mt. Carmel: 618-262-2513
Some collectors want things that are vintage or “retro,” regardless of whether they’re truly antique. You’ll find those here, too. Various genres are available, from primitives to costume jewelry. Dealers are always welcome.
Prairie Albion Antique Mall, Albion: 618-302-2146
Are you a “repurposer”? This place is chock full of stuff you’ll want to work with. There are stoneware crocks, primitives and pottery, and blue “canning” jars. Or, select one-of-a-kind decorations for a banquet or country wedding!
Fabulous Finds by Jerri Allen, Olney: 618-919-0532
This unique emporium offers French Country, shabby chic, primitives, upcycled and repurposed treasures. You crazy kids might even find items that you could fashion into “steampunk”… simply from picking through what other shoppers passed off as “just junk”… here or at any other of stores we featured.
This information originally appeared in the Fall Tourism Times Newsletter. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
Last week the Illinois Office of Tourism came to town to announce record breaking tourism numbers across the State. The event was held Monday at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts at McKendree University in Lebanon.
Cory Jobe, Director of the IOT, reported more than 109.4 Million Visitors came to Illinois last year – a 3.5% increase over the previous year. These visitors spent more than $36.3 Billion generating over $2.7 Billion in state and local taxes.
In Illinois South alone, over $1.14 Billion was generated – an increase of over 4.5% from the previous year. In our region, tourism is responsible for over 8,200 jobs according to the most recent data. All in all, our thriving industry saves the average Illinois household $1,300 in taxes through state, local and hotel/motel taxes generated. We’re incredibly proud of these numbers and extend our gratitude to everyone who makes this growth possible.
In addition to the 4th consecutive year of record-breaking numbers, the Office of Tourism unveiled two new initiatives. The first is a new travel magazine called “Enjoy” which will take the place of the state’s annual visitors guide. Enjoy will feature editorial content and information aimed at leisure travelers. The magazine’s production schedule, which will feature a Spring and Fall issue annually, will allow for more diverse coverage of attractions and events from all over the state.
Another new program, called “Illinois Made,” will feature videos, online and print content focusing on items produced in Illinois. The initiative was introduced with a high-quality film featuring a multi-generation family wood shop in Dow, IL. The craftsman in the video was working on what would wind up being a large, 3-D logo for the campaign that was revealed on stage following the video.
If you have any ideas of great Illinois-made products that have a great story behind them, click here to email them to us.
We, at Illinois South Tourism are excited about the phenomenal economic impact tourism created last year, and look forward to everything the State is working on to keep our industry growing. Thank you to every one who came out to the event last week, and to Hidden Lake Winery and Marcoot Dairy for donating products for our reception!
It’s time to celebrate Independence Day in ILLINOISouth. Beginning this weekend you can find everything from live music, to sandcastle contests, car shows to volleyball and washers tournaments. Runs, festivals and more will dot our region to celebrate the ultimate summer holiday…and, of course, don’t miss all the FIREWORKS!!!
Jun. 27, 2015
4th of July Dam Jam & Fireworks
Come enjoy a full day of live music, sandcastle building contest, volleyball tournament concluding with a wonderful fireworks display. The fireworks will be shot from point 1 and can be viewed by boat or shore in the Dam West and East Recreation Areas.
Celebrate independence with corn dogs, Kitten Ball and lots of contests (pizza eating, Little Miss and Mister, etc.) fireworks, music and food.
Jun. 27, 2015 – Jun. 28, 2015
West Salem 4th of July Celebration
Town Wide Yard Sale, 5K Run/Walk, Raffle, and fireworks. Church service 10:00 a.m. on the Square, Firehouse Dinner at Noon Car Show – Registration 11:30 a.m., Awards 4:30 p.m.
Jul. 1, 2015
Annual Carnival & 4th of July Celebration
Fairview Park, Centralia
The carnival will have entertainment, good games and fireworks. Patriotic event is held in the City’s park.
Jul. 1, 2015 – Jul. 5, 2015
Patriots in the Park
Wilson Park, Granite City
This event includes an auto show, carnival with food, live entertainment and rides. Don’t miss the incredible fireworks display on the 4th!
Fantastic 4th Weekend
Market St., Mt. Carmel
Mt. Carmel shows you how to celebrate the 4th with a weekend of family events. From the parade to the car show, you’ll find lots of reasons to be in Mt. Carmel on this Independence Day Weekend!
Jul. 2, 2015 – Jul. 4, 2015
4th of July
Rt. 50, Steeleville
Have fun with carnival rides, food, live music and beer stand. On July 4th, there will be craft stands before and after the parade, 3K Firecracker race at 9:00 a.m. and fireworks that evening.
Blast Off Parade and Fireworks
The parade will line up at American Legion and begin at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks at dusk.
Du Quoin State Fairgrounds
Fireworks will start around 9:15 p.m.
July 3 – 4
Gateway Grizzlies 4th of July Games
GCS Ballpark, Sauget
The games start at 6:35 p.m. with a great fireworks display at the end of the game.
4th of July
Food & fireworks
Carmi Lion’s Club 8th Annual Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show
White County Fairgrounds, Carmi
The 8th Annual Carmi Lion’s Club Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show will also have tractors, lots of trophies, dash plaques and awards. There will also be a swap meet, craft vendors, food and drinks and fireworks after dark!
4th of July Bike Parade and Celebration
Main Street & American Legion, Columbia
Decorated bikes and creative patriotic costumes ride down historic Main Street to celebrate our country! Later in the day head up to the American Legion to participate in the washer and kloepper tournaments or just enjoy the music and refreshments while you wait for the amazing fireworks display at dusk!
Picnic in the Park
Dupo Community Park
Bring the family and enjoy food, rides, games, live music, washers tournament and a large fireworks display.
4th of July Festival & Fireworks
Glik Par, Highland
Come early to enjoy food from various vendors and fun family activities.
Liberty Bell of the West Patriotic Celebration
201 First St., Kaskaskia
Come out to Kaskaskia and hear and see Patriotic music & tributes, ring bell for Liberty, French Marine Salute, traditional food available and tours.
Old Fashioned July 4th Celebration
Scheve Park, Mascoutah, IL
A hometown celebration to encourage and strengthen the relationship between surrounding communities and the city. The event will have food and craft booths, softball and kickball tournaments, rides, kids’ games, raffle, poker, artisans, music and fireworks.
Olney City Park
Fireworks begin at dusk.
4th of July Fireworks
Tri-Township Park, Troy
You don’t have to go to Charlotte, Talladega or Daytona for a great auto race. To get in gear, you need only venture across Southern Illinois, from the burgs of Madison to Highland to Flora.
Of course, ladies can start their engines, too. And they don’t have to be named Danica Patrick. Gateway Motorsports Park provides plenty of opportunities for bona fide racers to neophytes—say, a kindergarten teacher or a British squash team—to get behind the wheel of a race-prepped Camaro. Many corporate team-building getaways are held here. Not including karting, 230 events will be held this year at Gateway, within sight of I-55 and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Curtis Francois is a racer who’s parlayed his time behind the wheel to owner of the radically refurbished track and stands. Much more happens here than cars speeding around a 1¼-mile paved oval.
“The idea is to make it an entertainment,” says Francois, “and sometimes a race breaks out.”
And the karting is in a different league than what you’d find at an amusement park in Branson. These are built in France, not by Sears. You have no idea how fast these rascals go until you see and hear them up close and personal. Neither could you imagine what it’s like to be among as many as 75,000 roaring fans, even on an 80-inch screen. Want to try it yourself? Try “arrive and drive” at the new Kartplex, located within the oval itself.
April starts the season out at most tracks and speedways, whether you’re in the mood for off-road trucks in Baja-style contests, to every other type of racecar competition, officially sanctioned or not. There’s SCCA racing (Sports Car Club of America) and heart-stopping 1/8-mile NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) drag races. You can thrill to a Grand Am or marvel at pre-1972 muscle car “nostalgia” runs.
Gateway only reopened a few years ago and work is still going on to add features so would-be racers can get a feel for all racing surfaces, from the classic oval to an impossibly curvy 1½-mile road course… hold on to your stomach!
Compared to new and ever-improving Gateway, Highland Speedway is not far from collecting Social Security. It opened in 1962… and excitement is building for its 54th season. UMP (United Midwestern Promoters) DIRTcar racing here ranges from Street Stocks to KidModz (12-18).
Did we mention that nearly anyone can get involved with this sport?
The racetrack in Clay County, 2½ miles north of Flora, has been renamed Route 45 Raceway. As many as 3,500 can enjoy all classes of UMP DIRTcar racing on the 1/3-mile high-banked dirt track. And would it be auto racing without sponsors and ads on every square inch of car, uniform or grandstand? This season 480-feet of fence will be festooned with 8-foot billboards.
In Pontoon Beach, just south of I-270, Tri-City Speedway is a 3/8-mile dirt oval (as measured 20- feet from the outside wall). The track features 10 degrees banking in the corners and is 70-feet wide all the way around.
Rather watch drivers bust stuff up? Keep tabs on whether a demolition derby will be scheduled somewhere, probably at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville. At this writing, plans for the season there were still being formalized.
Yes, racing is exciting, whether you’re watching or participating. But, as Francois says, you don’t have to white-knuckle yourself around tight turns at a high rate of speed. Just focus on the orange cone at the apex of each curve.
As he points out, with a grin: “Racing is more of a geometry problem than guts and gonads.”
This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
The first annual Illinois Route 66 Blue Carpet Corridor weekend festival – “Miners, Mobsters, and the Mother Road” – will be held Saturday-Sunday, June 13-14. The Blue Carpet Corridor, from Chatham down to Collinsville, is a unique section of Route 66 characterized not only by its Mother Road charm, but also its rich mining history and colorful mobster lore.
Route 66 is known for its quirky attractions, roadside hospitality, and family fun. And on the second weekend in June, the blue carpet will be rolled out to welcome thousands of travelers all along the Blue Carpet Corridor. The event highlights 19 communities on historic Route 66 including Chatham, Auburn, Thayer, Virden, Girard, Nilwood, Carlinville, Gillespie, Benld, Staunton, Hamel, Edwardsville, Litchfield, Mt. Olive, Williamson, Livingston, Glen Carbon, Troy, and Collinsville.
A variety of events and activities awaits visitors in the nineteen participating communities along three historic alignments of the Mother Road. The cities and villages have planned a variety of activities, including festivals, car shows, live entertainment, children’s activities, and historic tours and exhibits. Food stands and eateries will be open for hungry travelers. Innovative museums, towering monuments, historic buildings, and winding stretches of original highway are waiting to be discovered. Visitors can scour antique shops, yard sales, flea markets, and unique mom and pop stores for hidden treasures.
So load the family car, start early, and join us for a whole weekend of fun on the Blue Carpet Corridor on Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14. Don’t forget to bring your camera because photo ops will be plentiful!
Each community’s activities and events, as well as local attractions, restaurants, and lodging, can be found on the Blue Carpet Corridor website community pages. For maps, updates, news, and complete event schedules, go to www.bluecarpetcorridor.org and check www.facebook.com/BlueCarpetCorridor for updates.
Get involved! Check out the “Selfies on 66” photo contest open to US residents ages 18+. For more information, contact the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway at 217-525-9308 or visit www.selfieson66.com today!!!
In a magical land called O’Fallon, hundreds of antique cars come to life at Gateway Classic Cars. Actually, from a slew of classic Chevys to a least one collectible Jaguar, they’re not going anywhere right now. This impressive exhibition of rolling stock is on display in an expansive new building that allows each vehicle plenty of room for admirers or prospective buyers to walk around, peer inside, but please don’t touch!
Well, for a few grand their new drivers could make them roar to life. Meanwhile, antique car aficionados may appreciate them in all their two-tone glory, red fuzzy dice optional, at a standstill. The $3 admission fee is more than worth it. But just one visit won’t do justice to this fine collection.
About 140 cars, trucks and other rides are on display any given day, but this inventory is anything but static. John Busch at the showroom-cum-museum says about 85 percent of the cars on the showroom floor go home with new owners. Gateway doesn’t actually own any of them; they are there on consignment from their owners. And cars are switched out and transferred between the company’s nine stores (as of this May), so no two visits are the same. There are about 1,000 cars from which to choose throughout the company, from Houston to Fort Lauderdale to Chicago.
And these cars aren’t just boss… they’re, well, cherry.
The information sheets on the inside of the windshields are all a labor of love by the sales staff—also curators or docents, if you will. There are no guided tours, at least not officially, but these folks really have a gas showing off these automotive wonders. They love their work, and they know their stuff, says Busch. The information on each vehicle is exhaustive, mostly because the owners know them so well.
“Not everybody here knows everything about all the cars, of course, but everybody knows at least something about each,” he says. Most are antiques, if you go by the yardstick of 25 years old or older. But there are some recent editions, too, mostly muscle cars from a few model years back.
OMG; you’ll want to have one all for yourself.
The brand-new building, opened about this time last year, is replete with a banquet area and conference center. About 29,000 square feet of convention or tradeshow space can be configured for gearheads and wannabes. Fundraisers and business meetings fit right in. There hasn’t been a wedding booked here yet, but just you wait. Meanwhile, a movie theater runs auto-themed movies whenever anyone is in the mood. It only seats eight… although in extremely comfortable recliners… but visitors can have a glimpse at, or kick back and take in, such high-powered fare as “Smokey and the Bandit”.
And the gift shop has been lovingly stocked with die-cast metal replicas, T-shirts, plus vintage signs and placards that evoke service stations from the middle of the previous century. You could spend half your time in here.
Visit today, or check out their website for a calendar of upcoming events!!!
This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here to read it online or sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
There are over 50 great events happening in ILLINOISouth this May. Taking a look at the Calendar, here is a handful that stand out.
Locust Street Fair
May 2 • Centralia
Crafters & artisans, great food, beer/wine garden, antique car show, historic walking tours, historic train presentation, Independent Silver Band concert, and “Tintype” photography
Willoughby Farms Spring Farm Day
May 9 • Collinsville
Local vendors including stained glass, woodworking, homemade soap, toy tractors, bird feeders, rug loom, rope making and more; baby animals, sheep shearing, wool spinning, hayrides, straw pyramid, corn table, scavenger hunts, nature walk and more
May 14 – 17 • Toledo
FREE Barbecue, Queen Pageant, entertainment, car show and the annual Fireman’s Chicken Dinner
Art on the Square
May 15 – 17 • Belleville
100 juried artists from all over the world, high school exhibit, entertainment, food & wine courts, demonstrations and children’s activities
(Visit us at our Monster Mural in the Children’s area!)
Carlyle Sailing Association Open House
May 23 • Carlyle
Tour the marina, ride along on several types of sailboats and kayaks
Jasper County Strawberry Fest
May 29 – 30 • Newton
Entertainment, music, games, food, crafts and all things strawberry
(Visit our online calendar for other Strawberry festivals in Ecekert’s in Belleville, Ruma and St. Jacob)
For more information on these and other great events this month, click here for our online calendar or click here to request your FREE copy of the Spring/Summer Tourism Times!
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
This April is all about the arts in ILLINOISouth.
See works from up-and-coming creators ranging from kindergarten to college at a student art exhibition. Take a raincheck on the latest blockbuster at the multiplex and catch live performances of classics like The Sting or Into The Woods. From gallery exhibitions and quilt shows to theatrical performances and concerts there is something for every palate.
We never cease to be amazed at the immense talent throughout our region – get out this month and see why!
High School Student Art Show & Life Experienced Senior Art Exhibition
Now – April 6
Schmidt Art Center at SWIC, Belleville
Fayette County Schools Art Show
April 2 – April 7
304 W. Main St., Vandalia
Clinton County Showcase Presents: The Sting
April 10 – April 19
Avon Theater, Breese
Perscription: Murder Presented by MASC
April 10 – 19
Capitol Theatre, Waterloo
Funky Butt Brass Band
St. Paul’s UCC, Belleville
The Blues Brothers Revue
Kaksaskia College Jane Knight Auditorium, Centralia
St. Louis Brass Band
The Hett at McKendree, Lebanon
Love, Laughs & Loss – One Act Plays
April 17 – 18
Lindenwood University, Belleville
Spring Indian Market Days
April 17 – April 19
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville
Quilt & Craft Show
7405 Exchange Rd, Texico
Voices of Spring
St. Paul UCC, Belleville
Into the Woods
April 22 – April 26
Dunham Hall Theater at SIUE, Edwardsville
SWIC Student Art Show
April 23 – May. 14
Schmidt Art Center at SWIC, Belleville
Hansel & Gretel
April 24 – April 25
O’Fallon Milburn High School Auditorium, O’Fallon
It’s a Grand Night for Singing
Union United Methodist Church, Belleville
Lindenwood University Auditorium, Belleville
It’s a bird, it’s a…no it’s actually a bird – a Bald Eagle to be specific. There’s lots of them flying around ILLINOISouth. Ever year in January and
February several of these majestic birds flock (get it?) to several places in the area to find food in lakes and rivers that aren’t frozen over.
Visitors from near and far come to several locations along the Mighty Mississippi to take a peek at our feathered friends. Look out spots like the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Granite City (Madison County) and the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam in Modoc (Randolph County) provide the perfect vantage point to catch a glimpse. Carlyle Lake (Clinton County), the largest man-made lake in Illinois, also attracts many Eagles along its
83 miles of shoreline. This year alone 100 were spotted during an annual two-day count. This continues a trend of increased eagle populations coming
to the area in the winter months.
In addition to eagle watching, several events are held each year in ILLINOISouth and surrounding areas, which give visitors a chance to learn about our National Bird. Along with educational opportunities and activities, many of these events typically give people a chance to get up close and personal with Eagles.