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:

We all scream for…Ice Cream!

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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."

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!

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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!

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!

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.

Strawberry Fest Returns

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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.

Penny Carnival

Girl Scouts and Historical Society volunteers prepare to run the games for the younger kids at the Penny Carnival.

Girl Scouts and Historical Society volunteers prepare to run the games for the younger kids at the Penny Carnival.

As part of the Vintage Days festivities last weekend, the Long Grove Historical Society hosted a Penny Carnival on the grounds of their restored 1860’s farmhouse. This was not a fundraiser, but rather an event to connect with the community in a family friendly way and participate with the downtown merchants in a lower-key, local festival. It was a huge success and a perfect result of residents coming together to make something special happen.

First off, you could not have asked for a more beautiful summer day–cool, clear, and comfortable. The girl scouts and Historical Society volunteers were ready and waiting, after spending the previous weeks concocting games to entertain our local families. For example, my household was home to the creation and construction of both the “More Cowbell, Baby” bag toss, and the “NASA Frog Launcher” game. Other vintage-inspired games included the penny toss, bottle rings, duck pond, and tin can knock-over. The cost to play was one penny, and the kids received tickets which could be redeemed at the end for prizes such as penny-candy, trinkets, and small stuffed animals.

As this was a first-time event, nobody knew just how many families to expect, if any. We were pleasantly overwhelmed with nearly 150 families spending their Sunday afternoon having old-fashioned fun on the farmhouse lawn. I was supposed to conduct tours of the museum, but instead was assigned to pitch in running a game and I served a constant line of happy children for two hours straight! I don’t know whether to blame Mike Dvorak, our “carnival barker” or John Kopecky, our “wagon driver” for bringing in the crowds, but at one point I looked up to a line of 30 strollers parked all in a row and knew our expectations had been exceeded. In a wonderful way!

When I look back at my years as Village President, there are some days and experiences that will be remembered as pure joy.

I had a blast helping families and kids with the bean bag toss game!

I had a blast helping families and kids with the bean bag toss game!

Vintage Days

Our first ever Vintage Days is being held this weekend in downtown Long Grove.

Our inaugural Vintage Days celebration is being held this weekend in downtown Long Grove.

A perfect Sunday afternoon can be had today in Long Grove, because Vintage Days are in full swing! Our Village already offers several vintage and vintage-inspired stores year-round: Scout & Forge, 2 Fancie Gals, Olivia’s, Epilogue, the list goes on…But this weekend we are joined by over 25 vendors, live music, entertainment, children’s activities, free haywagon rides, and more! The fun is kicking off now and goes until 6 pm tonight, with an Arts & Music Council sponsored concert at 4 pm on Towner Green by bluegrass band Special Consensus. The Historical Society is sponsoring a kid friendly penny carnival on the grounds of their 1860’s restored farmhouse, located in the back of Stempel parking lot. No admission for any of these outdoor activities, so stop by for some old-fashioned, free family fun!

Yesterday I spent several hours checking out the scene, and the vibe was terrific. Despite a few brief cloudbursts, lots of happy families and bargain hunters were crossing under our covered bridge to check out the action at the Long Grove Community Church’s ice cream social. The bridge is closed to vehicles for this lower-key fest, so if you are ever looking for that perfect photo opp, today’s the day! The merchants that I spoke with were extremely pleased with all the shoppers in town who were not only happy to be here, but in the mood to make purchases! Pictured below are a couple of the pop-up vendors that I got the chance to meet:

Erin Conley, owner of Novel Nellie, which features vintage and handmade clothing. I purchased one of Erin's skirts and am wearing it to the festivities today! One more great thing about Erin--she grew up right here in Long Grove!

Erin Conley, owner of Novel Nellie, which features vintage and handmade clothing. I purchased one of Erin’s skirts and am wearing it to the festivities today. One more great thing about Erin–she grew up right here in Long Grove!

Ruthie Sudsalot was a delight, and her "Jackass Charm" soaps smell fantastic and are a hoot! With the tag line, "Clean Bodies, Soiled Minds," they are a perfect gift for that special someone.

Ruthie Sudsalot is a delight, and her “Jackass Charm” soaps smell fantastic and are a hoot! With the tag line, “Clean Bodies, Soiled Minds,” they are a perfect gift for that special someone.

Vintage Days is such a great fit for Long Grove, and the merchants, residents, and visitors I talked to yesterday really seemed to agree. It was heartwarming to experience so many elements of our town coming together and embracing a community spirited event, harkening back to simpler times. I hope this is the start of a new tradition!