Yuletide Sing

Historical Society Yuletide Sing Songmaster Mike Dvorak was seen recently recruiting Santa to the event.

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!

Turkey Trot

turkey

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 (L to R) are my husband Aaron, father-in-law Joe, and son Alex at the 2013 Turkey Trot.

The Headless Horseman of Long Grove

The Headless Horseman (Greg Abshire) joins Aaron and Angie Underwood at the Ghost Walk after-party on October 27th.

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.

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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!

Happy Halloween!!

A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!

A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!

Autumnal Amusements

Having a blast in downtown Long Grove at the Lion's Putt Putt Golf fundraiser on September 30th.

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 conpare notes at the Craft Beer Day on October 7th.

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.

The Gayton family had fun creating one of the scarecrows for the 2015 event.

 

The Ghosts Are Gathering

Historical Society volunteers Doug & Jane Primack help me prepare to scare some young residents during the 2016 Ghost Walk.

Historical Society volunteers Doug & Jane Primack help me prepare to scare some young residents during the 2016 Ghost Walk.

Rumor has it, strange sounds have been heard coming from the woods behind the new Brewery. Claims have been made of something lurking behind the farmhouse. And is the new Dance Studio really haunted? Come find out on Friday, October 27th, at the Long Grove Historical Society’s 5th Annual Ghost Walk.

Each year the event has been getting bigger and better, and this year will not disappoint! A true village collaboration showcasing our community “spirit,” the Ghost Walk will feature skits involving community groups and businesses such as:

  • Long Grove Community Church
  • In Motion Dance
  • Long Grove Performing Arts Academy
  • Fred Astaire Dance Studio
  • Buffalo Creek Brewing
  • Long Grove Lions Club
  • Scout & Forge
  • Country House of Long Grove
  • Epilogue
  • Long Grove Arts & Music Council
  • Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association
  • Volunteer resident mischief-makers
  • And of course, the Long Grove Historical Society

The event is family friendly and tours run 6:00 pm thru 9:30 pm, rain or shine. Guides will escort you on a one hour haunted walk through our historic downtown. Advance registration is required along with a donation of $10/adults and $5/children, ages K-8th grade. Reservations can be made online only at LongGroveHistory.org. Due to high demand, this event sells out by mid-October so please make your reservations today!

Apple Fest 2017

Cast Members of the Long Grove Historical Society's "A Celebration of the Apple" show include (L to R): Zack Langhoff, Veronica Lada, Nikki Gayton, Karen and Katie Kroll, Mike Dvorak, and puppeteer Krist Neumann, portraying Ma and Pa Gridley.

Cast Members of the Long Grove Historical Society’s “A Celebration of the Apple” show include (L to R): Zack Langhoff, Veronica Lada, Nikki Gayton, Karen and Katie Kroll, Mike Dvorak, and puppets “Ma and Pa Gridley.”

Our Apple Fest weekend was kicked off in style with a first-ever performance of “A Celebration of the Apple,”at the Historical Society’s farmhouse back porch. Audience members relaxed on benches under the apple tree, and were entertained with songs, poems, jokes, history and lots of lore regarding apples. A highlight of the show was the debut of “Ma and Pa Gridley,” a couple of real Long Grove pioneers brought back to life through the farmhouse back porch window. Professional puppeteer Krist Neumann showcased his amazing talent to the delight of both kids and adults!

We are enjoying a bit of a heat wave this weekend in Long Grove, perfect for carnival rides, outdoor music, pie-eating contests, and festival treats such as apple cider donuts. The fun starts on Sunday at 10:00 am and continues till 6:00 pm in our historic downtown. The band American English is featured on the main stage at the covered bridge from 4-6 pm. Come enjoy the day in Long Grove!

Puppeteer Krist Neumann's family owns the Long Grove shop "Viking Treasures."

Puppeteer Krist Neumann’s family owns the Long Grove shop “Viking Treasures.”

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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.

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!

Zombies, Wolves, & One Seriously Scary Doll

Long Grove merchants and residents worked together to create this display of hand-carved jack-o-lanterns welcoming those brave enough to experience Red Riding Hood's haunted trail.

Long Grove merchants and residents worked together to create this display of hand carved jack-o-lanterns welcoming those brave enough to experience Red Riding Hood’s haunted trail.

Reading the title of this post might cause you to ask, “What do these three things have to do with Long Grove?” On the Historical Society’s October 28th Ghost Walk, not only could you find zombies, wolves, and an evil doll residing in our village, but the Ghost of Cuba Road materialized as well to scare the nearly 300 children and parents who participated. The Halloween fun kicked off Friday afternoon with Trick-or-Treating in the historic downtown shops. It was delightful to see so many cutely costumed kiddos as I was purchasing embellishments to add to my own witch getup for later that evening.

Serving as a tour guide, it was my job to safely navigate families of willing “victims” through our haunted historic district. The route took us past the line of scarecrows on Towner Green, some of which were not quite dead. The zombie dancers at In-Motion returned again this year to entertain, as did crazy Jake Eisler and his stick of dynamite. Good thing Jake was a die-hard Cubs fan, coming back from the grave to listen to the world series game and give us updates on the score! The Long Grove Community Church welcomed us in for a tour of their 1800’s cemetery, featuring the real-life tombstone of one past Long Grovian named Fredriche Krueger. Yes, “Freddy Krueger” was indeed lurking about, as well as many other spirits of the past. A trip back to the safety of the village involved crossing our haunted covered bridge, and a journey through Red Riding Hood’s spooky, wolf infested woods. The tour concluded this year with perhaps the most spine-tingling story of the evening, as Mike Dvorack used sound and light effects to tell the tale of “Arabella” the seemingly sweet yet secretly sinister doll. One father of a 5 year old confided in me that his daughter would probably now be sleeping in Mom & Dad’s bed for the next night or two! Having fun scaring the children….accomplished.

Here’s hoping that your Halloween is equally thrilling and chilling!

Attending the 2016 Ghost Walk are Long Grove residents (L to R): Doug and Jane Primack, Ellie, Jennifer and Collin Russell, Angie Underwood and Georgia Cawley.

Attending the 2016 Ghost Walk are Long Grove residents (L to R): Doug and Jane Primack, Ellie, Jennifer and Collin Russell, Angie Underwood and Georgia Cawley.

Mel’s Gas Info-Station

Long Grove resident Randy Towner, carrying on the family gas station at the crossroads, Mel's.

Randy Towner helps carry on his father’s business, Mel’s Marathon Mini Mart, at the crossroads in downtown Long Grove.

Every small town has a “hub” from which all real information flows. In my central Illinois hometown, circa 1970’s, it was the local diner, Kathy’s Kitchen. The grain elevator was another hotspot for local news, and I got to witness this firsthand during the summers when I worked for my Dad, who managed the elevator, and my cousin Rita, who managed the office help. Farmers would come in every day to “check the grain prices” but I suspected another reason they stayed and visited with each other so long was the desire to “check the latest chatter” going on around town.

In Long Grove, the undisputed central source of information is Mel’s, our crossroads gas station. Originally owned by long-time residents Mel and Dee Towner, the station is built on family property that dates back to the 1920’s and includes the open area now known as Towner Green. The station is currently managed by Mel’s sons Randy and Wendall, who run a mini mart in addition to the traditional gas pumps. Nothing much happens in Long Grove that Randy has not caught wind of almost immediately. When I truly want to find out what is going on in town, I go fill the car up, or better yet…send my husband to find out the latest report. Aaron loves to come home and inform the Village President what information hasn’t yet made it to Village Hall. And if I ever feel the need to verify the advance intelligence, it always checks out.

It helps that Mel’s also provides a tow truck for use in emergencies, so communications with the Lake County Sheriff officers are frequent. Case in point:  recently a local youth drove a car into a neighborhood pond, and one of my Trustees happened by the scene as the rescue was in process and phoned me. I felt like I had some breaking-news information to tell my husband as he walked in the door, only to have him fill me in with even more details gleaned as he was getting gas for the lawnmower.

The Towner family has long held a role in helping our community prosper. Mel Towner served 44 years as a volunteer fire fighter, and Dee Towner’s father donated the land to build our first fire department. The gas station today is a touchstone to our roots as a rural community. If a business in the historic downtown is closing, or a new store opening up, 9 times out of 10 I will hear the news from Randy first. I think it is great that we have a hometown merchant who provides a place to check in and take the pulse of the community; a place where you can experience both a friendly greeting and some local flavor. Mel’s is located at the heart of our crossroads and is in a variety of ways the center of what keeps many of us in Long Grove connected.