The elves at the Long Grove Historical Society decorated this downtown holiday tree outside the farmhouse.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know a number of things that I love about Long Grove. Add to that list, the positive odds of experiencing a white Christmas. When I peered out the window this morning, my heart skipped a beat. To those of us enjoying the holiday in Long Grove this year, we are in luck!
With a snowfall, our open spaces and wooded preserves such as Reed-Turner suddenly transform into a winter wonderland. The beautiful holiday lights and decorations at the historical crossroads look so much more magical with a dusting of snow, as do the 80 outdoor fresh Christmas trees decorated in festive splendor by our merchants and business owners. I missed the tractor rides yesterday due to a family gathering, but I’ve spent the past week finishing up the gift list by shopping in some of my favorite stores. One Long Grove shop owner mentioned that sales are up 10 percent for the year and 25 percent for the holiday season. Two more indicated that things are going so well this year, they are close to running out of Christmas themed merchandise. Not to worry…orders have already been placed for additional new and exciting inventory in the year ahead! Being warmly greeted by smiling faces in our downtown shops and restaurants has truly helped make my holiday season extra merry and bright. There is just something so special about a small-town at Christmastime.
And even though the fluffy white flakes that lift my spirits can dampen the joy for those who have to travel, for all of us celebrating the holiday in Long Grove…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Two of the friendly faces that will greet you at the new Long Grove Coffee Company are (L to R) Ethel Berger and Ellee Leva.
Ever since my favorite Long Grove coffee shop, the former Beans & Leaves closed this summer, our weekly women’s huddle has been forced to meet elsewhere for caffeine fortification while we solve all of the world’s problems. Well, life in Long Grove just got a whole lot better for those of us who have been missing our favorite gathering spot with the recent opening of the Long Grove Coffee Company. Located at 126 Old McHenry Road, the new business is part of the renovations being undertaken by the Long Grove Confectionery with their expanded properties near Towner Green. The Confectionery has officially reopened as of last Friday, and is chock full of treats for those Christmas stockings as well as sweet gifts for the holidays.
Right now, the buildings look a bit naked as the old siding was removed this week in anticipation of a new upgraded exterior coming very soon. As I was getting my latte today, I asked barista Ellee Leva what happened to their “skin,” and she told me her Dad (Confectionery owner Craig Leva) wanted the outside to look just as beautiful as the newly renovated interiors of the buildings. The coffee shop features large tables for groups (one of which is a cool vintage treasure from local shop Scout and Forge), smaller tables for meet-ups, and a comfy couch and chairs for casual conversation. I happened to be there when the new couch was delivered so I can vouch for the coziness! Long Grove resident Ethel Berger, who ran Beans & Leaves, has returned to head up the operations at Long Grove Coffee Company and her regulars have already started to settle in to the new location. Plans are underway to add some additional food offerings in the months ahead and to continue the tradition of live music that the community enjoyed at the former location.
As you finish your holiday shopping in our historic downtown, stop by for a warm beverage and piece of chocolate and get acquainted with one of the many new businesses that have opened this year in Long Grove. The new couch awaits you!!
Testing out the brand new couch on December 8th (L to R): Angie Underwood, Marie Roth, and Ethel Berger.
Historical Society Yuletide Sing Songmaster Mike Dvorak was seen recently attempting to recruit Santa to the event.
One of my favorite holiday memories as a kid was going Christmas caroling door to door in my hometown. The Long Grove Historical Society is looking to revive this tradition with our Yuletide Sing event, being held this Saturday, December 9th. Instead of walking throughout town (which is challenging with most of us living on 2-3 acre lots!) we will congregate on the back porch patio of our historical 1860’s farmhouse and join together in songs of the season from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. We will be accompanied by a special Yuletide Band featuring guitar, keyboard and hand percussion performed by Zack and Josh Langhoff and Mike Dvorak. The sing-a-long set list will include such holiday favorites as: Deck the Hall, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. Don’t worry about remembering all the lyrics because song sheets will be available.
Everyone in the community is invited to this festive, free, family gathering, no RSVP necessary! Girl Scout Troop #40436 will be on hand to help lead the carols and provide some holiday warmth in the form of hot chocolate. There will also be a bonfire to help keep the chill off toes and fingers. Be sure to dress for the winter weather as this event is outdoors.
Come gather this weekend and enjoy an old-fashioned hometown sing with your friends and neighbors, and celebrate the simple pleasures of the season. The beautiful holiday lights in our historic downtown are guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
The wild turkey shown in the photo above was caught on the cell phone camera of one of my neighbors, trotting through a Long Grove backyard in June of 2015. Today we had Turkey Trotters of a different sort in town, as thousands of fitness enthusiasts (and those just wanting to burn off a few calories in advance) got their steps in under our covered bridge in the annual 8K/5K event. Our historic downtown benefited from the many post-race revelers toasting the holiday with a beverage of choice, be it craft beer or coffee from one of our new local gathering spots. I myself was trotting this morning down the aisles of Sunset Foods, gathering supplies for the family feast we are hosting tomorrow. I was pleasantly surprised at how many racers I encountered in the store, fueling up or picking up those last minute items for the turkey dinner ahead. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Pictured (L to R) are my husband Aaron, father-in-law Joe, and son Alex at the 2013 Turkey Trot.
Pictured above is the owner of the newly relocated gift store Within Reach, Marian Ward, with her daughter Julia.
Join me in congratulating Marian Ward, owner of the retail shop Within Reach, on her successful move to a beautiful new location in downtown Long Grove! Now located in the yellow building at 128 Old McHenry Road, Marian’s new space is part of the exciting renovations being done to the entire complex of buildings owned by Craig Leva of the Long Grove Confectionery. Coming soon will be the expanded Confectionery, Long Grove Coffee Company and Cafe, but for now we can enjoy a new spot to shop for gifts and treasures. In business since 1982, this is the third Long Grove location for Within Reach, which started in the basement of the old Stempel general store (now the downtown Visitor’s Center). For the past 35 years Marian’s kindness and love for the community has cultivated a loyal customer base, plus her knack for picking out great finds for home decor. The second floor of her new building is now exclusively devoted to baby clothes and gifts–it’s a pink and blue paradise where cuteness abounds! I stopped in on opening day two weeks ago to check out the new digs but I will be back shortly, Christmas gift list in-hand.
Within Reach and many of the other stores will be open until 7:00 pm every Thursday and Friday night thru Christmas starting tomorrow, November 16th. Shop into the evening and afterwards enjoy dinner at one of our four downtown restaurants or a glass of wine or craft beer at one of our three tasting rooms. Save your receipts and for every batch totaling $150, you will receive a gift at the Visitor’s Center. This Friday, November 17th, the downtown merchants are hosting a “Progress with Us” evening of treats and holiday specials throughout the historic business district. The fun kicks-off at 5:00 pm till 9:00. Carriage Rides, Carolers, and Santa will again be visiting on Saturdays & Sundays for a very “Vintage Holiday” season this year in Long Grove.
Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.
Retiring from the Village Board six months ago has allowed me to reset my priorities on how I spend my volunteer hours. One group that I have chosen to focus on is the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Lake County (soon to be called “Women United”), where I serve on the Steering Committee. This wonderful group of 90+ female leaders is committed to improving early childhood literacy in Lake County through philanthropy and volunteerism. Our network of women has been able to grant $100,000 this year alone to programs that serve children in areas of most need, helping them to be prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed in school. Some of the communities most impacted by our work include Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and Round Lake.
But it was Long Grove that played a central role in the story of WLC yesterday, as our major fundraiser for the year, Power of the Purse, was held at Royal Melbourne Country Club. I was honored to sponsor a table of local “women of influence” (many of whom are pictured above) including a former Village Clerk, two former Village Presidents, and a current Mayor. In between enjoying mimosas and brunch we were able to bid on purses and silent auction baskets, have fun playing games and winning prizes, and donate books and educational toys to children served in the “Little Kids, Big Futures” funded programs. It was an altogether lovely day but what made me smile the most was the sea of hands that went up when asked to sponsor one child for a week of Kindergarten Countdown Camp. When passionate, powerful, and committed women come together in the spirit of philanthropy, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Nov. 15, 2017 Update: A total of $49,500 in net donations was raised at the Power of the Purse event this year. Nice job, ladies!!
Wonder Woman is the inspirational “mascot” of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the 2017 Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.
The Headless Horseman (Greg Abshire) joins Aaron and Angie Underwood at the Ghost Walk after-party on October 27th.
One of the three people pictured above is actually a sheriff, but it isn’t the one wearing the badge. Yes, strange things happen in Long Grove on Halloween, as witnessed during the Fifth Annual Ghost Walk last Friday night, sponsored by the Long Grove Historical Society. The event was a great success and one featured highlight was a menacing visit to the farmhouse by the Headless Horseman, aka Lake County Sheriff’s officer Greg Abshire.
Many other community volunteers pitched in on this cold night to bring thrills and chills to over 330 residents and visitors to our historic downtown. One survivor of my 6:00 pm tour group just happened to be a journalism student who was so taken with the experience that she wrote a fantastic story of her journey through haunted Long Grove. Click here to read Natalie Bober’s article published today on the Chicago Tribune website: Ghost Walk/Chicago Tribune Website Natalie says it better than I ever could!
A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!
The fundraising campaign to save the covered bridge now exceeds $50,000 in donations and pledges.
The Village of Long Grove was featured recently in two Chicago Tribune stories (see links below) and both articles spoke of the current efforts by the community to get our covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, several fundraising efforts are underway to generate private donations to help offset the public funds that must be allocated to pay for preservation of our iconic bridge. More and more concerned community members are becoming involved with efforts to keep our one-lane bridge by signing the online petition, purchasing raffle tickets, making donations to the covered bridge fund, and speaking up in support of preservation at community events and gatherings. The gauge at the downtown crossroads will be updated soon to show that private efforts have now surpassed the halfway mark of the goal of raising $100K in donations and pledges to save our historic bridge. More information on ways to help can be found by visiting SaveTheBridge.net.
After the bridge was ultimately recommended by the historians on the State of Illinois review committee, the Historical Society was expecting to hear earlier this month from the National Park Service regarding the application to be placed on the National Register. A request came for more documentation pertaining to the scarcity of this type of bridge in our area of Illinois and it’s local significance. The listing process is iterative, with each draft of the application being reviewed by a new historian who brings individual interests and experiences into what is significant and worthy of elaboration. The federal application itself plays a role in documenting our national history, so all involved in the process want to take their time and get it right. With this being the last level of review, the end is now in sight even if it takes a bit longer than desired to get there. More information on this topic can be found at LongGroveHistory.org.
This past weekend my husband and I took a drive up to Michigan to enjoy the fall colors, and we purposefully visited the town of Allegan, Michigan to see their one-lane iron truss bridge over the Kalamazoo River. Built in 1886, this bridge was almost lost in 1979 when rehabilitation was deemed more costly than replacement with a two-lane federally funded structure. The local community rallied and got the Second Street Bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Because the bridge was not a critical transportation corridor, Allegan city officials were able to persuade the federal government in 1981 to fund rehabilitation, even though the project would not meet the federal standards. The bridge is beautiful, with a pedestrian walkway decorated with iron latticework and end post finials. It is a centerpiece and source of pride for the small town and is featured in the logo for the city of Allegan.
This story and it’s positive outcome and correlations to Long Grove make me hopeful. But we all know that for every historic bridge that has been saved, many, many more have perished. I truly hope that the story history writes years from now about our Long Grove covered bridge will be a happy one.
Links to newspaper articles:
On October 3, 2017 I was honored to help Girl Scout Troop #40436 with their bridging ceremony. Just look at these joyful smiles!
Earlier this month I was asked to host a Brownie Troop from Country Meadows School at our Historical Society farmhouse. They wanted my help in learning about Long Grove history as part of a merit badge, and also were interested to hear about my experience in serving as Village President. As a former Girl Scout myself, I am always thrilled to help another generation of girls prepare to take the lead themselves one day. It was a joy for me to be invited to participate in their bridging ceremony as they advanced from Brownie Scouts to Junior Girl Scouts, by crossing over our historic covered bridge. Congratulations Troop #40436!
These girls are our future politicians, scientists, teachers, military officers, doctors, entrepreneurs, moms, community volunteers, and so much more. Right now though, they are hopeful and eager to learn, full of energy and high spirits for the adventures life holds for them. Over the last century, Girl Scouting has provided premier opportunities for our girls to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities. Valuable leadership skills are gained from female role models. In the U.S., 90 percent of female astronauts, 80 percent of female tech leaders, and 75 percent of current female senators are Girl Scout alumnae.
In the news this week was the announcement that the Boy Scouts of America will begin to admit girls as members of their organization. I think it is great that more and more opportunities are opening up to encourage girls to grow up to be leaders. The need for broader female leadership is clear. Girl Scouts excell in empowering girls with the tools to make this happen, and I am proud to continue to support the best girl leadership experts in the world.
Getting ready to tour our Long Grove Historical Society farmhouse.
Having a blast in downtown Long Grove at the Lion’s Putt Putt Golf fundraiser on September 30th.
October is my favorite month, primarily because I love the beautiful colors our natural areas in Long Grove showcase this time of year. If you haven’t traveled on Old McHenry Road between the historic crossroads and Rt. 22 recently, make a point of doing so this week to enjoy the fall foliage.
The past two Saturdays have featured some extra fun reasons to spend time in downtown Long Grove, besides the shopping and seasonal decor. The Long Grove Lion’s Club held a Putt Putt Golf event on September 30th, featuring twelve unique mini-golf challenges scattered amid the various businesses and shops at the crossroads. It was charming and creative entertainment for the entire family on a particularly pleasant fall afternoon. I even got a hole-in-one at the Chatterbox! Proceeds from the event will support the Save the Bridge Fund.
Yesterday (October 7th) was the second annual Craft Beer Day, held this year at the Stempel parking lot in front of the newly opened Buffalo Creek Brewery. Earlier in the day, the Prairie State Half-Marathon was held in our Village, with many of the runners sticking around to help kick off the fest with a post-race beer. The event featured tastings from 15 unique vendors, many produced right here in Lake County. The rain may have caused the crowd to scurry at times, but did little to dampen the enthusiasm for the live music and craft beer samples!
Downtown supporters (L to R) Ryan Messner, Mike Marr, and Aaron Underwood compare notes at the Craft Beer Day on October 7th.
If you are looking for something to do this coming Saturday that will really get you in the fall seasonal spirit, plan to participate in the Do-it-Yourself Scarecrow Day being held on October 14th from 11:00 am till 4:00 pm on Towner Green. All you need to bring is a $5 donation for supplies, some old clothes and accessories and a decorated milk jug for your scarecrow’s face. The whole family can enjoy building the scarecrow, and then take pride in seeing it decorate our downtown for the remainder of October. There will even be a contest to select a few peoples-choice favorites! More details can be found at enjoylonggrove.
The Gayton family had fun creating one of the scarecrows for the 2015 event.