The Benefits of Tourism

Attending the Visit Lake County annual meeting on September 6th: Village Clerk Amy Gayton (L), State Representative Nick Sauer (Center), and Historical Society President Angie Underwood (R).

Attending the Visit Lake County annual meeting on September 6th: Village Clerk Amy Gayton (L), State Representative Nick Sauer (Center), and Historical Society President Angie Underwood (R).

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

Those of us who are lucky enough to get away from time to time on vacation realize how much it does to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It helps our productivity when back on the job if we can carve out even a few days of relaxation from the daily grind of work responsibilities. It’s amazing what a simple change of scenery can do!

An additional benefit of taking some time off is the financial boost that tourism can provide for our local economies. In 2016, the economic impact of tourism here in Lake County was a staggering $1.29 billion in visitor spending, which ranks third in the state of Illinois behind Cook and DuPage counties. Our county does have the good fortune of being the home of Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, which is a huge draw. Additionally, Lake County offers a variety of other smaller attractions such as charming downtown Long Grove to tempt visitors to come experience our shops, restaurants and beautiful open spaces. County-wide, over 10,750 jobs are due to tourism and $29.6 million in local tax receipts are generated annually. Clearly, tourism plays an important role locally in job creation, business growth and economic development.

This week three board members of the Historical Society represented Long Grove at the Visit Lake County annual meeting held at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Going with a county fair “blue ribbon” year for tourism theme, we gathered with other chamber of commerce representatives, business leaders, restaurant owners, hotel and entertainment industry leaders, community partners and elected officials to celebrate our local success. Visit Lake County is our official marketing organization and champion of tourism in Lake County. Using promotions, advertising, video and social media, they keep the public informed of all the great reasons to come for a visit. Some of the events sponsored include Lake County Restaurant Week in March featuring 50 participating establishments, and the Lake County Libation Trail highlighting locally-made spirits, wines and brews. Our keynote speaker for the annual meeting was Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. One of the topics that Cory touched on is the Project: Time Off initiative. Studies have shown that in the fast paced world we now live in, workers are not taking all of their allowed vacation days, resulting in days of rest and leisure and local economic impact being “left on the table.” We should all make use of the time we are given, to improve our lives, our health, and our communities.

Twenty five years ago tourism was a big business in Long Grove, with tour buses arriving weekly full of visitors ready to enjoy a day of small town ambiance and boutique shopping. We still welcome shoppers from all over the country and overseas at our downtown Visitors’ Center, but the tour buses have certainly slowed as the number of “Mom & Pop” stores have dwindled over the years. Long Grove continues to offer plenty of charm with our vintage buildings and iconic covered bridge, but today it is the history that also creates the draw. Our Long Grove Historical Society has a great working relationship with Visit Lake County staff, and we have been pleased to partner with them as a destination in group tours they are featuring of the area. As a historical society our mission is to preserve, celebrate, and share our local history, and if we can help the community with tourism benefits in doing so, all the better.

More Chocolate to Love

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop  in Long Grove.

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop in Long Grove.

My relationship with chocolate is simple–resistance is futile. As a child, I always tried to give it up for Lent and almost never made it the 40 days. As an adult, I try to cut back from time to time when I need to lose a few pounds. But in my opinion, it’s not really a perfect day if it doesn’t include a little chocolate somewhere. Imagine my delight to discover that we have one more shop in town to satisfy my sweet tooth, Morkes Chocolates!

This week Long Grove welcomed our newest candy store with a celebratory ribbon cutting. Open since August 1st, Morkes is located in the red schoolhouse building on Fountain Square that formerly housed the Long Grove Confectionery. The Morkes family originated in France and started in the candy-making business back in 1920. Further generations continued the family tradition and opened the original Morkes Chocolates in Palatine, Illinois in 1967. Today, the Palatine location also serves as headquarters and production for the company, with additional stores in Huntley and now Long Grove. Current owner Rhonda Dehn is the 3rd generation of the Morkes family to craft delicious chocolate treats here in the northwest suburbs. I have personally sampled many of the mouth-watering choices available (I know, it was a tough job, but doing this blog requires painstaking research!) and my favorites so far are the lemon creams and signature white chocolate pecan “puppets”.  Later this fall Morkes plans to offer classes and private parties in the upper floor of their building. I am intrigued by the prospect of learning how to temper chocolate, dip & decorate, and I really need to know what ingredients are involved with “extreme” fondue!

Morkes joins our two other village candy shops, Ma & Pa’s Candy and the Long Grove Confectionery. The Confectionery has moved to another location in our historic downtown and after a summer of renovations is slated to reopen in October. Is this potentially too much of a good thing? I view having additional chocolate stores the same way as being blessed with another child– more to love!

Pennies and Prizes

A penny carnival attendee has fun launching a frog into outer space.

A penny carnival attendee prepares to launch a frog into outer space.

The second annual Penny Carnival sponsored by the Long Grove Historical Society was held this past weekend as part of Vintage Days. Little kids had a blast playing old-fashioned games on the farmhouse lawn, and big kids had fun running the games, awarding tickets, and helping with the all-important prize redemption. Many parents told us how much they appreciated the simplicity and “un-plugged” experience that the whole family enjoyed.

No electronics needed to ring this bell!

No electronics needed to ring this bell!

Two young ladies, Bella and Gabby Minichiello made a special visit to the Penny Carnival all the way from New Jersey. Last year while visiting Vintage Days with their Grandparents, they happened upon the games, had a great time and won 220 tickets! This year they purposely planned their annual visit to Grandma and Grandpa to include the Penny Carnival where they were determined to beat last year’s ticket tally. At the end of the afternoon, they had amassed 393 tickets!! Faced with the daunting task of trying to redeem all of those prizes, they graciously donated 300 tickets-worth of them back to the Historical Society. This story just melts my heart!

It was sweet to see the big kids having so much fun helping the little kids.

It was sweet to see the big kids having so much fun helping the little kids.

Win a Watercolor, Save a Bridge

Long Grove Living magazine editor Harvey Stein shows off the watercolor painting that you can win in the raffle to benefit the Covered Bridge Fund.

Long Grove Living magazine editor Harvey Stein shows off the watercolor painting that you can win in the raffle to benefit the Covered Bridge Fund.

We are fortunate to have many artists living in Long Grove. Resident Tony Stencel is a former combat artist and veteran, having served with the Wisconsin Army National Guard for 9 years as a U.S. Army Illustrator. His art has been included in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the U.S. Air Force Art Collection at the Pentagon, and in private and corporate collections. Lucky for us, Tony is also a supporter of our historic covered bridge and the efforts to get it restored and listed on the National Register. Earlier this summer, Tony created the original watercolor painting of the covered bridge shown above, and generously donated it to the Long Grove Historical Society so that we could hold a raffle with the proceeds going to our bridge fund.

Stop by our Historical Society booth this weekend, Saturday and Sunday August 19 & 20 from 10-6 at Vintage Days in downtown Long Grove to see this gorgeous painting for yourself! With a little luck and a small investment in some raffle tickets it could be yours to keep. Raffle tickets are $10 each or three for $25. The winner will be drawn on the evening of Friday, October 27th, during the Historical Society’s Ghostwalk event. Visit SaveTheBridge.net for more information on the raffle and other ways in which you can help to support this cause.

Polly Pureheart Prevails

The back porch of our Historical Society farmhouse will serve as a stage for the upcoming production of "Polly Pureheart Prevails."

The back porch of our Historical Society farmhouse will serve as a stage for the upcoming production of “Polly Pureheart Prevails.”

Last summer a new festival debuted in Long Grove, known as Vintage Days. The entire event was a huge success, pairing old-fashioned fun with community group volunteerism to produce a hometown festival put on by locals, for locals. Right now, organizations such as the Long Grove Community Church, Long Grove Performing Arts Academy, Long Grove Historical Society, Long Grove Arts & Music Council, and the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association have partnered together to plan a weekend full of family friendly entertainment and shopping, August 19th and 20th. Over 40 antique, vintage, upcycled, and/or reclaimed dealers will have unique items for sale on the Robert Parker Coffin Road street market in front of the covered bridge. The bridge crossing will be open to pedestrians, bikes, and vintage tractor traffic only, so it will be the perfect opportunity to come linger under our iconic bridge, which is poised to be listed on the National Register. Admission and parking are free, as well as the live music, historic tractor rides, ice cream social on Saturday at the church, and penny carnival on Sunday at the farmhouse.

A couple of new activities this year include the Pop-Up Car Show and two entertaining dramatic presentations at our farmhouse “back porch” stage. The car show will feature registered VIP parking for classic cars in the Stemple parking lot. On Saturday at 4:00, our farmhouse stage will host “A Salute to Old Glory,” as narrator Mike Dvorak takes audience volunteers back to 1814 to tell the story of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by “Old Glory in Barnwood,” a presentation by artist Marie Roth featuring stories and selections from her celebrated collection of historic flag recreations.  On Sunday, trade in your pennies (if you don’t have any, we will give you some!) for a chance at old-timey games and nifty prizes at the Penny Carnival from noon till 2:00, then stay for a wacky 1-act melodrama, “Polly Pureheart Prevails,” presented by the summer session theater students of the Long Grove Performing Arts Academy. Showtime for the half-hour performance is 2:00. Cap off the day by attending the 4:00 Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green featuring the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. And don’t forget–all of this is free of charge! Visit longgrove.org for a full listing of all the weekend activities.

Plan to bring the kids and grandkids to downtown Long Grove Saturday and Sunday, August 19th and 20th, for one last blast of summertime memories before school kicks into gear once more. Vintage Days will be rocking and rolling fun for the entire family–be there or be square!

Outdoor Concerts Return

Arts & Music Council concert series founder Tobin Fraley (Left) and loyal concert supporter John Marshall (R) at the July 9, 2017 kickoff concert.

Arts & Music Council concert series founder Tobin Fraley (Left) and loyal concert supporter John Marshall (R) join me at the July 9, 2017 kickoff concert.

One of my favorite summer activities is now in full swing–the free outdoor concert series on Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on Towner Green. Blues harmonica artist Corky Siegel and his band performed for the sixth consecutive year at the kickoff concert earlier this month on July 9th. I was lucky enough to be one of the estimated 350 people to relax, meet up with friends and neighbors, and enjoy some beautiful music in our historic downtown. Long Grove residents are truly fortunate to have free entertainment of such high caliber right in our hometown.

But is anything in life really free? In Long Grove, many of the elements that make our community so special are the result of volunteer efforts. This summer, we can continue to enjoy this wonderful concert series because of the passionate and committed work of the members of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council. Thank you!!

In my opinion, a true gem in the revitalization of our village is the enrichment that comes through music and the arts. For the last twelve summers, the Arts & Music Council has given us the gift of this high quality concert series to enjoy. Besides the diligent efforts of the council volunteers, monetary support for the concerts comes by way of donations from individuals, civic groups, businesses, and a grant from the Village of Long Grove. I hope that this can continue for many more years to come.

This summer you can still enjoy five upcoming concerts:

July 30th – Black Oak Ensemble

August 6th – Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands

August 13th – Harpeth Rising

August 20th – Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

August 27th – Reggie Harris & Scott Ainslie

Enjoying the July 9th concert (L to R): Mary Dorner, Mike Dvorak, and George Dorner.

Enjoying the July 9th concert (L to R): Mary Dorner, Mike Dvorak, and George Dorner.

Welcome, Buffalo Creek Brewing!

Members of the Long Grove Historical Society  celebrating at the Grand Opening on July 15, 2015.

Members of the Long Grove Historical Society celebrating at the Grand Opening on July 15, 2017.

It was so great to see the Stempel parking lot filled today, and not because of a festival but because so many locals showed up to welcome a new business in town. It has been nearly ten years since the former Studio of Long Grove closed their doors, and this property next to the Historical Society farmhouse has sat vacant much of that time. We are all thrilled to see Buffalo Creek Brewing up and running, and the crowds checking out this new local hot spot were in a celebratory mood at the Grand Opening today. The event featured a ribbon cutting, samples of featured craft beers brewed on site, and bands on the outdoor lawn throughout the afternoon and evening. The weather could not have been more perfect for the festivities and it was wonderful to run into so many friends and neighbors toasting to the success of this welcome addition to our historic downtown. Here’s to owner Mike Marr and his family and staff as they continue to work hard to build a new business in Long Grove and help with the revitalization of our Village–Cheers and Best Wishes!!

L to R: Dale Perrin, Director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing, and Angie Underwood, President of the Long Grove Historical Society.

L to R: Dale Perrin, Director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing, and Angie Underwood, President of the Long Grove Historical Society. Mike was presented with a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift of a historical print of his choice from our archives.

One Yuuuge Check

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Last weekend’s Strawberry Fest featured lovely weather and a healthy attendance. The Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association generously pledged to donate a portion of the admission fees to help offset the costs of needed restoration for our Historic Covered Bridge. The happy result is pictured above, as Ryan Messner, President of the HDLGBA presents a giant check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society, during the June 27th Village Board meeting. It is exciting to see donations such as these–earmarked for covered bridge restoration–start to accumulate, and this is only the beginning. Stay tuned as efforts continue over the summer and into the fall as the residents, merchants, Historical Society, and other community groups work together in raising funds to “Save the Bridge.”

Strawberry Fest Returns

LILG-StrawberryFest-7462

The energy in Long Grove today is electric–so much enthusiasm for the weekend ahead! Not only is Strawberry Fest returning, but the weather forecast is summertime terrific. If you are looking for a fun, family event this weekend, look no further than Long Grove. Bands “7th Heaven,” “Hi Infidelity” and “The Gingers” are scheduled to perform, among others. The Kids Zone on Towner Green will be in full swing featuring the “Bubble Man” and knights from Medieval Times. The Archer parking lot will be rocking and rolling with carnival rides for the young and young at heart, and don’t forget the chocolate covered strawberries from the Long Grove Confectionery–an annual treat!

Something new this year is that the merchants have generously decided to donate 20% of the profits from the admission fees ($5 per person per day, 12 and under free) to the fund to restore and renovate our historic covered bridge. There are so many good reasons to come have fun in Long Grove this weekend!

What’s Brewing in Long Grove?

Owner Mike Marr of Buffalo Creek Brewing in front of his newly installed fermentation tanks.

Owner Mike Marr of Buffalo Creek Brewing in front of his newly installed fermentation tanks.

After taking the last month off for some travel, relaxation, and recharging, I am glad to be back home in Long Grove and starting the next chapter of my “Life In Long Grove” blog!

Just to help get back up to speed, I will use this first post to re-cap a few of the things that have happened in our Village while I was away on vacation:

Retiring Village Board members on April 25th: (L to R) George Yeager, Lori Lyman, Angie Underwood and John Marshall.

Retiring Village Board members on April 25th: (L to R) George Yeager, Lori Lyman, Angie Underwood and John Marshall.

Changes on the Village Board

Along with my retirement as Village President on April 25th, Trustees George Yeager, Lori Lyman, and John Marshall were honored for their service to Long Grove. Between the four of us, we represented a collective 33 years of volunteer experience given to the Village. On May 9th, Bill Jacob was installed as the new Village President, along with new Trustees Rita O’Connor, Bobbie O’Reilly, Anne Kritzmire, and Chuck Nora. Trustee Stanley Borys resigned his position on May 23rd. An additional new Trustee will soon be appointed to fill the remaining two years of this term.

Chocolate Fest

The cold and rain kept the crowds at bay on Friday and Saturday last weekend, but Sunday the weather cooperated and the attendance was robust! Chocolate in many delicious forms was enjoyed by all and the event featured the introduction of another candy company opening up in town later this year, Morkes Chocolates. Along with the expansion of the Long Grove Confectionery going on near Towner Green, residents and visitors will soon have many more chocolate options to choose from in Long Grove. Lucky us–the more chocolate, the better!

Craft Beer and Dancing Coming Soon

Great progress has been made on renovations to the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio (in the former Red Oaks building) and Buffalo Creek Brewing (in the former Studio of Long Grove property). Brewery owner Mike Marr was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the renovations, which feature a beautiful bar and tasting room area, large outside deck & gazebo, special event space, and production areas for fermenting, bottling, and cold storage. Opening day is scheduled for July 15th and I know that I am only one of many, many residents who are eagerly awaiting both of these new additions to our downtown business district.

New and exciting changes abound in our Village this summer. Strawberry Fest is just around the corner June 23rd-25th, followed by Vintage Days on August 19th and 20th. There is so much to look forward to in the months ahead–hope to see you in Long Grove this season!

Brewing equipment and beer storage tanks ready for installation this week at Buffalo Creek Brewery.

Brewing equipment and beer storage tanks ready for installation this week at Buffalo Creek Brewery.