Witches Night Out

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Now that Fall is in full swing and Halloween is fast approaching, downtown Long Grove has several special events planned to help get you in the holiday “spirit.” My favorite fun and creative new idea this year is Witches Night Out, being held next Thursday evening, October 18th from 5 to 8 pm. Stores in the historic downtown will be staying open late and the restaurants in town will be offering special themed menu items to taste and sip. Wear your favorite pointy hat and you might even have an opportunity to bedazzle it! I have also heard tales that fortune tellers, tarot card readers, and even an enchanted D.J. may be conjured up to add to the evening’s excitement. The spell has been cast–don’t miss this girls and ghouls gathering!

Other Spooktacular Downtown Long Grove Events in the next few weeks include:

Scarecrow Day:  Saturday, October 13th from 11-4 outside Country House on Robert Parker Coffin Road. Bring your own clothes and props and for a $5 donation you will receive the supplies and help to create an original scarecrow masterpiece.

Trick or Treating:  Friday, October 26th from 2-5. Dress your little ones in costume and trick or treat at the downtown Long Grove stores and businesses. Parents can register for a prize drawing at the Information Center.

A Scary Night at the Farmhouse:  Friday, October 26th from 7-7:45 pm at the Historical Society Farmhouse. Enjoy a family friendly Halloween themed variety show and sing-a-long outdoors on the back porch patio. Fire pits will provide some warmth and be sure to bring your folding chairs. Spooky stories and songs to delight all ages.

Halloween Pet Parade:  Sunday, October 28th from 12-4:30. Dress your furry friend in their most adorable costume–prizes will be awarded!

Small Town Sweetness

Pictured above are the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

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?

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."

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:

 

The Inner Beauty

The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy of the Long Grove bridge.

The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy over the Long Grove bridge.

It was a bittersweet moment today watching the remains of the covered bridge being dismantled. Feeling sad as I gathered early this morning with members of the Historical Society, Arts & Music Council, and downtown merchants, it was a comfort to see the care being taken by the demolition crew to salvage as much of the original boards as possible. Village staff has arranged for storage of the old wood and the local non-profits are hopeful that they will be allowed to re-purpose it to benefit our Village and commemorate the bridge’s historical significance.

The demolition is expected to be completed this coming Monday, September 10th. Temporary clearance bars are planned to be installed on both sides of the bridge in addition to jersey barriers. This is to keep overweight and over-height vehicles and trucks from using the bridge and causing damage to the historic metal supports and foundations. Once these measures are in place IDOT engineers will inspect the bridge and if all goes well it could be opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic as early as next week. In the months ahead the Village Board will be considering bids for the reconstruction of the wooden covering, which is likely to occur in the spring of 2019.

To those of us that worked so hard towards getting the bridge on the National Register, it was certainly melancholy to witness our icon coming down. But when I stopped back late this afternoon to check on the progress, I began to notice something more:

With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.

With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.

With the covering gone on the majority of the bridge, the original 1906 Pratt Pony truss and walkway is now fully visible and no longer partially hidden by the wooden “hat” it was given in 1972. The historical elements that qualified our bridge for federal recognition are now on glorious display. As I snapped a few additional photos I chatted with shop owners, Montessori school moms, neighbors, friends, and the Village Engineer who all joined in with me to admire the beautiful ironwork from a century past. The real treasure of our covered bridge is still intact. The wooden covering will be rebuilt in a matter of months. The demolition this morning is really just the first step towards another century in the life of our iconic covered bridge, with a special inner beauty shining most vividly today.

King for a Day

Long Grove resident Gracie Mower shows her award-winning pooch, "Willie" who captured the title of King in the dog beauty contest at Irish Days this weekend.

Long Grove resident Gracie Mower shows her award-winning pooch, “Willie” who captured the title of King in the dog beauty contest at Irish Days this weekend.

I am always a little sad to see summer come to a close on Labor Day. Fortunately, in Long Grove we have a celebration to take my mind off the changing season with the annual Irish Days festivities.  Even though the weather was a bit touch and go as we dodged the occasional raindrops, fun was had with a slate of Irish music and dancing featured in Fountain Square over the holiday weekend. Wacky events like “Best Men’s Legs in a Kilt,” and the “Dog Beauty Contest” kept the crowds entertained. I know of at least two Long Grove friends who entered their furry family members in the competition, and one of them even won top-dog bragging rights as “King” for the day! And even though the summer festivals are winding down now, we still have plenty of fun fall events to anticipate in the months ahead. My personal favorite, the Historical Society Ghost Walk, will be back for a sixth straight year of spine-tingling and scary mischief on Friday, October 26th. Watch this blog and the website longgrovehistory.org for more details as the season unfolds.

All directions point to a good time during Irish Days!

All directions lead to a good time during Irish Days!

Vintage Days 2018

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!

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 cream and 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.

Some of the many booths in the open air market at Vintage Days.

Muttersholtz Fest

Christine Marr of Buffalo Creek Brewing celebrated their first anniversary with a little "Red Headed Step Child."

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 were the beneficiary of funds raised at the Muttersholtz Fest event. Pictured are Lions members Jesse Visconik on the left, and John Kopecky.

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.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

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 Karne Korenkiewicz.

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.

A Summer Sunday Serenade

Harpeth Rising  created beautiful music  on Towner Green during their Sunday, July 22nd outdoor concert.

Harpeth Rising created beautiful music on Towner Green during their Sunday, July 22nd outdoor concert.

The Long Grove Arts and Music Council is 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!

Celebrating the Illinois Bicentennial

Patty Eckert and Mike Dvorak brought "Songs of the Prairie State" to our farmhouse back porch for the July 6th performance.

Patti Ecker and Mike Dvorak brought “Songs of the Prairie” to our farmhouse back porch for the July 6th performance.

Illinois was first designated a state in 1818, and a wide variety of events have been planned to mark this special 200th anniversary year. Here in Long Grove, the Historical Society is hosting a series of “First Fridays at the Farmhouse” performances to honor our state bicentennial as well as celebrate our local history. In June we were treated to “Spoon River Anthology,” a classic portrait of life and death in a turn-of-the-century Illinois town. Last week, singer and multi-instrumentalist Patti Ecker was joined by Long Grove musicians Reed Olsen and Mike Dvorak to entertain us on the farmhouse back porch with folk songs, sing-a-longs, traditional and popular selections that reflected chapters in our Illinois history.

Did I mention that all this great, outdoor, family-friendly entertainment is free? Please plan to join in the fun at the remaining two performances on the First Fridays of August and September starting at 6:00 pm. Friday August 3rd will feature “Birth of a State.” Come and find out what was happening in culture, politics, music, theatre, and everyday life during Illinois’ first summer of statehood. On Friday, September 7th, we will hear the tales of local Civil War veteran Chris Sauer told through stories, music and song in a show entitled, “Company’s Comin’.” Mark your calendar now and enjoy an evening in our historic downtown among Long Grove neighbors and history enthusiasts. You might learn a thing or two, also!

Click on the video clip below for a sample of the July 6th show:

The Drama and the Trauma

 

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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…

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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.

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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.