Sharing a laugh with Jolly Old St. Nick this morning at the Long Grove Coffee Company.
Feeling virtuous after surviving my morning strength training session, I stopped by downtown Long Grove to reward myself with an eggnog latte (I know…not as nutritious as a smoothie…but ’tis the season!) and what to my wondering eyes did appear–Santa! Seizing the opportunity for an interview, I spent a few minutes basking in his holiday glow and finding out what was up for the day.
Santa gave his reindeer this sunny Saturday off as he claimed to have driven himself to Long Grove, cruising down our newly resurfaced Old McHenry Road in his convertible, with the top down! I guess our 30 degree temps might feel tropical to someone acclimated to the North Pole. I asked him what kind of cookies he would like us to leave out this year on Christmas Eve, and get this–he is cutting back on the calories this holiday season and working out five times a week! Kudos to Santa for being a role model for healthy living, even though I still could not resist the temptation of the eggnog.
Visitors to Long Grove will get numerous chances to see Santa as he is spending the entire day in town, greeting families and listening to children’s wish lists at various shops and restaurants. The top of my wish list? Seeing our covered bridge restored. Tonight Santa is paying a special visit to the Historical Society farmhouse, to lead the start of holiday carols at 6:00 pm for our annual Yuletide Sing. This family friendly event is free and will feature complimentary hot chocolate and fire pits for warmth. I invited Santa to be our guest later tonight at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio’s Holiday Ball, “Dance your way to Fred’s Chalet.” Alas, even though Santa loves to dance he has plans to thank the local volunteers who make up the CERT team of first-responders, at their Christmas party. No doubt about it, Santa is a busy man these days spreading hope, happiness and holiday cheer throughout the village.
Horse-drawn carriage rides are a special treat on weekends this holiday season in Long Grove.
Yesterday was Small Business Saturday. My family participated by patronizing a few of the shops in our favorite small business shopping district–downtown Long Grove. Roving carolers helped set a festive mood and fellow shoppers were enjoying the annual carriage rides around the crossroads, showcasing two great reasons to celebrate the season in the unique ambiance of our historic village. Check out below some of the many smiling faces that I encountered:
Judy, at the Long Grove Confectionery, who cheerfully wrapped my grab bag gift for the upcoming bunco party.
Matt, at Scout and Forge, who showed me some vintage treasures and recently became a new Dad!
Rachel, at Epilogue, who helped me pick out the perfect hostess gift to bring to the cocktail party that evening.
Marian, at Within Reach (on the left), who helped me select something adorable for my newborn grandson!
Mary, at the Long Grove Coffee Company, caught in a random act of kindness delivering Small Business Saturday balloons and a hot beverage to a fellow merchant.
During this holiday season it’s easy to find reasons to support our local merchants. I’ll be back in the weeks ahead to dine and dance and shop with my Christmas list in hand. I encourage you to do the same!
John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood and Jessie Visocnik (L to R) doing some pre-haunting of the Historical Society lawn for “A Scary Night at the Farmhouse.”
This past Friday, October 26th, things were feeling very “Halloweenish” in downtown Long Grove. Merchants hosted kids in costumes for trick-or-treating in the late afternoon, and the streets were alive with mini ghouls and ghosts sprinkled amidst the princesses and superheroes. I happened to be taking a dance lesson at Fred Astaire during this time, and it was a delight to see so many young families stopping in for candy. And hats off to the enthusiastic Dad who dressed as a purple and rainbow accessorized unicorn!
A scary but cute trick-or-treater is greeted at the Long Grove Visitor’s Center by our official Halloween host, Mortimer Coffin.
Later in the evening, the Historical Society Farmhouse became haunted with singing witches and warlocks, under the direction of crypt-keeper for the evening, Mike Dvorak. Families enjoyed relaxing on the patio with fire pits for warmth and spooky atmosphere. The Ghost of Cuba Road was even spotted in the back yard among the treeline, forever searching for directions. My personal favorite musical number of the evening was a custom version of “Werewolves of Long Grove.”
Setting the scene for scary songs and stories!
Another sighting of the Ghost occurred at Buffalo Creek Brewing following the show. Apparently, all that haunting works up a powerful appetite!
Amy Gayton (L) and John Kopecky (R) join the Ghost of Cuba Road for a post-show pizza party.
No place in Long Grove was safe, as Frankenstein was even spotted at the Dance Studio, menacing the local villagers.
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!
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!
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 lead to a good time during Irish 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.
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.
This weekend’s Strawberry Fest featured a pop-up appearance of the Scout & Forge vintage ice cream truck.
Summer has officially arrived in Long Grove and it’s gonna be a hot one. I just checked the forecast for this upcoming weekend and we are looking at several days in a row of temps in the upper 90’s with heat indexes well in the 100’s. And of course we all know, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity! If you have access to a pool or lake, that will be the place to be. For the rest of us, I recommend ice cream.
Enjoying one of my favorite flavors at Covered Bridge Creamery, “Exhausted Parent” with Manager Nicholas Modlin.
Fortunately, we have a new ice cream shop in town to make it easy to keep cool on these lazy, hazy days of summer. Covered Bridge Creamery is located right across from Fred Astaire dance studio, making it an ideal spot to unwind after a dance lesson. The outdoor patio and gazebo also features live music on weekends and occasional summer nights. It was one of several places to relax and enjoy Strawberry Fest this past weekend in Long Grove. With our extra hours of daylight in the summer, it is great to have the Creamery open in the evenings now as a post-dinner dessert destination. Based on all the happy smiles I have seen every time I enter, this has quickly become a popular spot with the locals!
Long Grove residents Aaron Underwood and Meghan Potempa indulge in a sweet treat from the vintage ice cream truck at Strawberry Fest.
Another fun and unique ice cream option at the festivals is the authentic 1940’s ice cream truck owned by Matt and Meghan Potempa, who run the downtown vintage store, Scout and Forge. I guess it is just the kid in me, or happy memories of hearing the siren call of the calliope music, but somehow ice cream just tastes better when acquiring it street-side from a truck. And not just any truck, but a cool, restored, vintage one! The ice cream truck will be back for the Vintage Days festival on August 18th and 19th in historic downtown Long Grove. Plan to check it out along with the open air street market, live music, children’s Penny Carnival, and more. Whether it involves ice cream or not (and I hope it does), keep cool this weekend!