Like every year that passes, 2018 was filled with little ups and downs as well as moments of great joy and sadness. One particularly happy memory for me this past year is captured above in the photo taken just hours after receiving the news that our covered bridge in Long Grove had been officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The joy that I felt in that moment is something I will never forget. As we move into the new year I am looking forward to seeing progress on the restoration of our iconic bridge, so that it will last for generations to come.
In May of this year, the Historical Society organized and sponsored a children’s art contest for entries featuring our covered bridge. Many of the local public and private schools participated, with students from the Montessori School of Long Grove shown below taking in some up-close inspiration.
Judges from the Long Grove Arts & Music Council awarded prizes in various age categories, with winners receiving gifts donated by our generous historic downtown merchants. The winning entries were showcased at the Covered Bridge Creamery in late May and June.
Pictured below is a lovely winter view of the bridge created by one of the students, a scene that now lives in memory but will hopefully be realized again in holiday seasons yet to come. Best wishes to Long Grove in 2019, and may the joyous memories continue!
A table full of powerful and philanthropic women from Long Grove, Kildeer and Buffalo Grove helped raise funds recently for early childhood literacy in Lake County.
On November 4th, Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove was the location once again for Power of the Purse, the major fundraiser of Women United. As a member of this women’s affinity group of United Way of Lake County, I was pleased to participate by donating a gift basket of items showcasing downtown Long Grove, and sponsoring a table of twelve local ladies of influence. Two of these ladies even happened to be the mayors of neighboring Kildeer and Buffalo Grove–talk about harnessing some female strength! Long Grove played another major role in this fundraiser, as the Primrose School of Long Grove partnered with Women United to be the Platinum sponsor of the event. Owner Jennifer Wierzchon is a member of Women United, and together with families from the school helped teach the students the value of philanthropy and helping others by raising over $3,000. towards early childhood literacy at a spring school fundraiser. Long Grove businesses, families and ladies all came together today to rally around a worthy cause: to ensure that children living in Lake County’s most vulnerable communities are prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed.
Besides the important work of philanthropy and support, we did manage to enjoy some fun and friendship along the way. New purses were acquired, games played, prizes awarded, bling bestowed, and raffle winners announced. New books and educational toys were donated and a silent auction rounded out the day. The sold out crowd of 216 women raised a net total of $59,800 which will go directly to support early childhood literacy programs in North Chicago, Round Lake Beach, Waukegan and Zion. It was gratifying to play a small part in making this event successful again this year, and I was proud to see our community of Long Grove becoming even more involved this time around. Kudos, ladies, to a job well-done!
Julie Burger-Branham (on the left) and I, having fun and showing off our winning new purses and “bling rings” that glowed, but unfortunately did not win us any real bling!
Jane and Ken Wittig are shown here on October 22, 2018 at Reed Turner Nature Center with the award they were given for 20-plus years of volunteer service to the Long Grove community.
Recently, a couple of beloved and long-time residents were honored for giving over 20 years of service to the Long Grove Community. Jane and Ken Wittig are permanently retiring to their winter home in North Carolina, and a celebration was hosted by the Long Grove Park District to recognize their contributions and to give community members a chance to thank them and wish them well in their new location. Jane and Ken have been true public servants over the years and have made many lasting improvements to our Long Grove open spaces. I have been fortunate to work with them and learn from them on many occasions, and to call them friends. Below is part of an article written on the Wittigs by Gail Petersdorff, volunteer and commissioner with the Long Grove Park District, listing some of their many contributions:
“Long Grove has a long history of volunteer involvement as part of its success. Jane and Ken are important parts of that commitment of support for the community. By maintaining, improving, and publicizing the Reed-Turner Woodland Preserve, they have added to the reasons why people from other area towns come to Long Grove.
Jane’s involvement began as a volunteer helping to restore a sedge meadow ecosystem at Reed-Turner. After joining the Board of Commissioners, she eventually served as President of the Long Grove Park District, where she initiated and expanded many programs. She established sport activities, educational programs, family fun activities, as well as overseeing numerous Eagle Scout and Girl Scout Gold Award service projects along with her husband Ken. Projects ranged from creation of a butterfly garden to construction of bridges and trails. Jane served on the Village of Long Grove Pathways Committee and was a long time board member and President of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club. Most recently, she spearheaded teasel removal in the Village by encouraging municipal and community support to assist with this massive effort.
After retirement, Ken brought his professional skills in support of both the Park District and the Garden Club. He installed and supported computer systems, created numerous program announcements, press releases, and wrote the “Our Outdoors” monthly column for Long Grove Living magazine. Ken has always responded to “fix it” requests from the Park District and often managed contractors if the problem escalated. Ken assumed management of the summer intern program, and with chainsaw in hand he made a significant contribution to the removal of more than 300 dead ash trees. He developed an educational program on invasive teasel and how to control it, and used this to train interns and to stimulate interest in the community through workshops and presentations to local civic groups.”
Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.
Anyone who has dared to venture into the Long Grove historic downtown in the past several weeks can tell you that it’s been a challenge navigating around all the various construction obstacles. Storm sewers are being installed, pavement dug out, building foundations reinforced, utilities relocated, roads temporarily closed–you name it–everything is converging into one giant mess of inconvenience. While there has been a fair amount of road work going on since April of this year, crews have recently ramped up the pace in an effort to complete as much as possible before winter sets in and puts an end to the road paving season. The Old McHenry Road reconstruction and intersection improvements project is being undertaken by Lake County DOT. Starting this coming Tuesday, October 9th, at 6 a.m. a portion of Old McHenry Road will be closed to all through traffic with reopening anticipated in November. Click here for more details and to view a map of the detour.
All stores in downtown Long Grove have remained open during the construction, but as you can imagine, with torn up streets and sidewalks it has made getting from place to place an adventure. Shopkeepers that I spoke to this week are drawing on reserves of patience and optimism, and looking forward to brighter days ahead with freshly paved roads and sidewalks, new lighting and streetscaping, and a refreshed look to our historic crossroads. One big change on the horizon is the traffic signal soon to be installed on the corner of Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Road.
The construction this summer has been a hardship on not just the Long Grove businesses, but for all those who need to commute through the area en route to jobs and schools. In addition, the local non-profit community groups have had to alter or cancel activities and fundraisers due to the disruption. The Arts & Music Council held an abbreviated concert series this summer due to work scheduled near Towner Green. The Rotary Club was unable to hold their annual Heritage Run this September and have replaced it with an Octoberfest fundraiser at Buffalo Creek Brewing this coming Saturday, October 6th. The Historical Society has unfortunately had to cancel their popular Ghost Walk this year due to safety concerns with walking groups of families in the construction zone amidst the Halloween darkness, detours, and pedestrian restricted areas. A much smaller (but still spooky) family event is being planned at the farmhouse on the evening of October 26th.
So what can we all do to help our village during the next couple of difficult months? Make it a point to patronize the downtown restaurants, shop for gifts in the local stores, pick up your morning latte at one of our downtown coffee shops instead of cruising the drive thru just because it is more convenient. Continue to contribute to our local non-profits, even if their signature fundraisers have been temporarily sidelined. By supporting each other our community can sustain through the construction disruption. In the meantime, pardon our dust, because one day soon this construction will all be in the past and the improvements will be well worth the wait!
Pictured above are many of the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.
I grew up in small town America. The Central Illinois farming community where I was born has a population of only 2,000 and a Main Street lined with historic buildings and a vintage train depot. Even though Long Grove is a suburb of Chicago, and with it’s 8,000 residents is quadruple the size of my hometown, there are times when it truly feels like a close-knit village. Case in point–our recent Vintage Days weekend. The Historical Society sponsored two family events run by kids, for kids, and it was heartwarming to be part of the festivities.
What’s a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?
The Penny Carnival
Older kids readily volunteered to organize old-fashioned games for younger children on the lawn of our 1860’s farmhouse. Costing only 1 cent per game, kids could have fun playing pirate ring toss, duck pond, ring the bell, and the ever-popular frog launch. It was incredibly sweet to see the teens and tweens patiently helping the little ones pitch pennies and redeem tickets for prizes, and generating happy smiles all around. Everything needed to man and run this event was donated, highlighting genuine community spirit. Here is a quote overheard at the event:
“This Penny Carnival epitomizes small town ambiance at its best–children laughing, adults chatting, frogs flying. Kudos to the organizers!”
Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town’s history entitled, “Good Times with the Gridleys.” The cast is shown here crossing “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.”
The Back Porch Players
Twelve talented local middle and elementary school students, with assistance by Narrator and Musician Mike Dvorak and professional Puppeteer Krist Neumann, performed an original show on the farmhouse back porch. “Good Times with the Gridleys,” told the story of the founding of Long Grove in the mid-1800’s and featured historical songs and real-life historical characters. My personal favorite was an original song involving the entire cast called, “The Long Grove Bridge.”
Click this link below to watch a five minute video of highlights from the show:
Long Grove merchant and event organizer Meghan Potempa (on the left) and Angie Underwood are photo-bombed in a very cool way at Vintage Days!
Three years ago the merchants in historic downtown Long Grove hatched an idea for a new special event, christened “Vintage Days.” Each summer this weekend celebration of all things antique, vintage, upcycled and reclaimed has grown bigger and better, but it was a perfect fit for Long Grove right from the very start. Held on August 18 & 19 this year, Vintage Days is without a doubt my personal favorite festival. Apparently I’m not unique. Vintage Days has become special to many of us in the village and according to Matt Potempa, owner of Scout and Forge and one of the organizers, that’s because, “It absolutely captures the spirit of Long Grove.” I couldn’t agree more. Steve “the Greek” Besbeas, owner of the Chatterbox told me he loves Vintage Days because, “This festival is familiar and cozy in Long Grove. Like the difference you feel between wearing a sweater from JCPenney and one made by your yia-yia.”
One of the most pleasant things about Vintage Days is the crowd that it attracts. Many more locals make their way to this smaller fest as opposed to the big Chocolate, Strawberry and Apple festivals. And those who visit are generally interested in history and eager to learn about our Long Grove crossroads and the buildings that have been preserved. My husband Aaron and I spent Saturday afternoon narrating the vintage tractor and wagon rides throughout the downtown, telling stories and answering questions about our town’s history. It was really enjoyable getting to interact with the adults and kids who were visiting for the day to soak in the old-fashioned charm of the past that our village offers. I met quite a few new residents to Long Grove as well! Sunday featured a Penny Carnival for kids at the Historical Society Farmhouse, followed by an original show on the back porch stage highlighting some very talented local youths. (More on this in a future blog post!)
I will leave you with one more quote that perfectly sums up Vintage Days, this one from Historical Society board member Mike Dvorak, who said:
“Closing the weekend relaxing near Scout and Forge, eating ice creamand talking with neighbors, friends and family while music drifted through the air from the nearby stage made for a delightful close to a beautiful day and a magical weekend.”
Some of the many booths in the open air market at Vintage Days.
Christine Marr of Buffalo Creek Brewing celebrated their first anniversary with a little “Red Headed Step Child.”
On June 21st, Buffalo Creek Brewing in Long Grove marked their first anniversary by hosting a celebration in their 90 seat outdoor beer garden. Dubbed “Muttersholtz Fest,” it featured live entertainment with four bluegrass bands and whole-hog pork slow roasted on site. Pitmasters from Chicago Culinary Kitchen, BBQ’d Productions, and Steamboat BBQ added the perfect spices and sauces to complement the various beers offered, including one called “Muttersholtz.” Now a village in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France,Muttersholtz was the town that many of the early settlers in Long Grove originated from. Back in the 1840’s this region was part of Germany, and with Buffalo Creek specializing in many German style beers, what better way to tie the history and hops together.
Congratulations to Buffalo Creek on your first-year milestone, may you celebrate many, many more in our Village!
The Long Grove Lions Club was the beneficiary of funds raised at the Muttersholtz Fest event. Pictured are Lions members Jesse Visconik on the left, and John Kopecky on the right.
Working the volunteer lemonade/lemon cookie stand are (L to R): Angie Underwood, Long Grove Historical Society President, Laurie Wilhoit, Caring Women’s Connection President, and Karen Korenkiewicz.
During Sidewalk Sales weekend in July, the downtown Long Grove merchants provided the opportunity for local charities to raise funds by manning lemonade stands scattered throughout town, in front of participating shops. The Long Grove Confectionery chose the Long Grove Historical Society Covered Bridge Fund as their charity designee, and in a creative twist provided homemade lemon bars for us to sell in place of lemonade. We were stationed in a tent on their outdoor patio, right next to members of the Caring Women’s Connection, who were chosen by gift shop Within Reach as their charity of choice. Caring Women’s Connection raised nearly $80,000 last year to provide grant requests for projects that serve women and children in need in Lake County. It was great to partner with Laurie and Karen (pictured above) to learn more about their successful service organization, while raising funds to help restore the bridge and sampling delicious frozen lemonade. The afternoon turned stormy, but it provided lots of opportunities to interact with residents and visitors who all wanted to know what is up with the downtown road construction and “What happened to your bridge?!”
Merchant Rachel Perkal, owner of Epilogue, gets kudos for the most clever marketing idea by inviting Young at Heart Senior Pet Rescue to be her charity lemonade stand recipients. All afternoon we got to watch pet parents bringing their furry children for a visit to our dog-friendly historic downtown to support pet adoption. Epilogue was packed! So when life gives you lemons, remember the Long Grove prescription: shopping, cute dogs, and lots of lemonade.
Harpeth Rising created beautiful music on Towner Green during their Sunday, July 22nd outdoor concert.
The Long Grove Arts and Music Councilis once again sponsoring free outdoor concerts in Long Grove. I look forward to this opportunity all year, when we can enjoy the out-of-doors and great live music at the same time! The concert series is a bit shorter for 2018 with only four performances, but you can still catch the finale this coming Sunday, August 5th. The April Verch Band will kick off the entertainment at 4:00 on Towner Green in downtown Long Grove. Be sure to bring your lawn chairs or a blanket, snacks and drinks or money to purchase them and support the all-volunteer, non-profit Council at the concession tent. This will be your last chance of the season to purchase a loaf (or two) of “Jane’s Bread.” This locally famous homemade dessert treat is baked by Arts and Music Council member Jane Primack, and serves as a popular money maker for the group. Jane’s creativity has resulted in a bevy of delicious flavors, with double butterscotch and banana chocolate chip being two personal favorites I can recommend. Under the direction of new Artistic Director Ethel Berger this year, many thanks to the dedicated group of residents who are carrying on the tradition of providing free cultural enrichment for another summer season. If you are in Long Grove this Sunday, take advantage of this musical gift to the community!
Picture of the damage to the covered bridge on June 27th, 2018, taken soon after the accident. The wooden covering has continued to slowly collapse in the days since. The long term work needed to stabilize, open the road to traffic, and repair the damage is still being evaluated.
Shock, sadness and disbelief only begin to describe the emotions felt by those of us in the Long Grove community, Chicago area, and other parts of the country as the news of the severe damage to our covered bridge spreads, coming less than two weeks after the Historical Society was informed of the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. For those of you who have not yet heard the details of the accident, the following report from WBBM CBS Chicago, which aired on Thursday, June 28th gives a good synopsis:
The day before the accident, the Village Board had approved plans to temporarily close the bridge on July 12th so that the community at large could celebrate the new federal listing. Plans were already underway by several community groups to participate in the party, and excitement among residents was high. Just look at these smiles below…
Former Trustee John Marshall (left) and downtown businessman Ryan Messner are shown installing the National Register marker on the bridge exactly one week before it was severely damaged.
The recent news of the National Register status had seen major media attention in the Chicago area, and it was picked up by the Associated Press last weekend. Many individuals had reached out to the Long Grove Historical Society following the National Register news with congratulations and elation over this story. The feeling in the community had been one of pride and happiness.
Which makes the turn of events this week so incredibly dramatic. At the scene of the accident just an hour after it occurred, I talked with a woman from California who was a history buff and had heard the news of the National Register listing. She flew across the country specifically to see our iconic bridge, only to arrive minutes after it was severely damaged. I met a resident from a neighboring community who works nearby and purposely goes out of his way to and from work to drive over the bridge because he loves it. He was devastated. Again, our inbox has been full of emails from bridge aficionados near and far, expressing sadness and anger at what has happened. I heard today from a gentleman who is the Vice President of the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania, with, “support for your efforts to see that the bridge is repaired.” He also stated that, “this is a bridge that I now have on my list to visit.”
As disheartening as the past few days have been, I know without a doubt that this community is resilient, and that we will rally and come together once again to save our bridge and restore it. Many, many passionate people have worked very hard to get the bridge on the National Register, and we will work just as hard to have that long-awaited celebration when the repairs are completed. I am looking forward to it! In parting, be heartened by the lovely image below, recently taken and sent to me by someone who grew up loving this bridge and loves it still today. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.
A beautiful picture of local boys searching for crayfish in Buffalo Creek under the bridge, taken and sent to me a few days before the tragic accident.