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.
Vintage Days 2018
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.”
When Life Gives You Lemons…
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
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!
There are few things that I find more peaceful than spending time in nature. Luckily for me, I live in a place where it is possible to do that on a daily basis. But like so many of us, I get busy and over-booked and forget to really pay attention sometimes. This week however, I finally took a cue from a very observant creature.
We often have hawks visit our yard, the adjoining prairie lot, and the creek and conservancy that border it. They can be spotted circling overhead or perched in nearby trees at all times of the year. Besides being majestic to behold, we love the hawks because they help keep down the local field mice population. And while I appreciate all of God’s creatures, every rodent snack a hawk snatches from my yard is one less rodent to keep out of my basement this fall. Happy hunting, hawk-eyed friends!
This spring, my husband and I first noticed one particular hawk who seems to visit our yard more frequently, and who has a favorite perch on the top of a large evergreen tree at the back edge of our lot. It has been fun to watch her (I’m deeming it a her although I really have no clue) all summer long from the back windows and outside deck. Seeing her fly over the prairie or spotting her perched on a limb in vigilant watchfulness has been a happy reminder that we share our little corner of Long Grove with wildlife free to come and go. Or is she really as wild as we think?
A couple of days ago we realized that nearly every morning around 8:00 am she is there, perched on top of the evergreen. Aaron goes out and fires up the John Deere for his 3 minute commute across the prairie path to his office. The hawk flies over him and perches on a tree in the hedgerow between the lots, then she hunts in the prairie after Aaron has effectively “scared up” her breakfast. It has not only been us who have been watching the hawk. She has been watching us, using her keen eyesight to observe our routines and patterns and learn just when to wait for her most opportune hunting moment. The hawk helps us to keep the mice population under control, but we help her to feed her family. How many weeks has it taken me to notice the connection? The hawk had it figured out months ago!
There are so many lessons to be found in nature, sometimes we just have to take the time to really look.
Celebrating the Illinois Bicentennial
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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
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