Archive for  August 2009

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Buffalo in Chicagoland

Buffalo at Fermilabs in Batavia

Buffalo conjure up images of Big Sky country, frontiers and Western movies. So what are they doing in the Chicago suburbs?

They are perhaps one of Chicagoland’s best kept secrets, but a herd of around 45 bison have been a permanent fixture at the Fermilab National Accelerator in Batavia for 40 years, and are now yet another attraction at one of the suburbs’ top wildlife spotting areas.

Fermilab is a physics laboratory surrounded by nearly 7,000 acres of land, and although bashing protons together may have little appeal to most visitors, the site also offers a public art gallery, live music and theater performances and even barn dancing nights.More Link

Cheap ThrillsSummer (and the thermometer) are winding down, school is starting up, and here you are: wondering what the heck to do this week? Never fear, there are dozens of cheap FREE things to do around town. Listed below are some of the events happening this week, so be sure to get in on the fun while you can.

Sunday, August 30

Chicago lives for music and this weekend you can get your Merengue on at Viva Chicago Latin Music Festival in Grant Park. Dance your cares away from 1:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at this annual celebration of Latin grooves.

Monday, August 31

Bike those Monday blues away! The weather is clear and crisp and Chicago is calling you. Take a long, leisurely bike ride along the scenic Lakefront Trail. Maps of the 18-mile trail are available on the Chicago Park District website, and can help you plan your trip to include tennis, golf and even a little stargazing.

Tuesday, September 1

Who knew Dendritic Spine Growth could be so beautiful? And, um… who even knows what that is?!  The International Museum of Surgical Science (IMISS) is holding an exhibition, Redefining the Medical Artist, which is certain to get your synapses firing. Displayed in the exhibition are mind-blowing anatomically correct illustrations done by UIC’s Biomedical Visualization graduate program. Truly a must-see, and mad props to Time Out Chicago for giving the heads up on this one. IMISS is always free on Tuesdays.

Wednesday, September 2

Looking to expand your horizons? As part of its summer screenings, the Chicago Cultural Center will show The Other El Otro, a film that explores the limitless possibilities a new identity can provide. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles, and begins at 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 3

Say hello to Sue at the Field Museum, which is free on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Shell out a few extra clams and you can upgrade that freebie to include the Real Pirates exhibit. Now go out there and buckle those swashes!

Friday, September 4

Empower the political poet in you at the University of Chicago’s lecture, “A City Out of Thin Air: Politics, Place, Poetry.” Steve Schroeder will discuss poetry’s influence on and criticism of politics as part of the Chicago Cultural Center’s Brainstorm: Talking About Culture in the City series. The lecture will begin at 12:15 p.m. at the Cultural Center.

Saturday, September 5

Happy Saturday! Why not take your bar-hopping up north to Andersonville? Enjoy some Swedish (or Turkish, or Moroccan, or Algerian, or…) noms, sample some of the best mussels and Belgian ale in the city, and… what? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well then, join the scavenger hunt and figure it out! You could even win a prize!

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The Dusters

Summer down here in Central Illinois has many unique qualities. Want to take a few guesses at what those might be?

No – heat and humidity are not unique. Good try though.

What about corn? Think that’s unique? No?!

Well look at it this way – for a few weeks every summer and into the early fall, I can find one unique thing about corn: it makes the world disappear.

Vistas across the flatlands of the prairie that were here just a few weeks ago have evaporated in the summer heat. It was like one day you woke up and you were living in a tunnel. Corn that was put in the ground back in May and spouted like tiny green soldiers on parade is now what – seven, eight, twenty-two(!) feet tall? Suddenly those drives on the back roads in search of a good sunset to photograph are gone – replaced by tall walls of green with little golden caps. As a photographer, I have been known to drive around down here with an eight-foot ladder in the back of my pickup truck. People have seen me standing on the top of my ladder – which is poised oh-so safely in the bed of my truck – just to get a shot over the sea of corn.

And then there are these guys – the Dusters. If the corn stands 22′ tall (it doesn’t), then they’re taking their little planes and flying 23′ off the ground – at what seems to be a zillion miles per hour. I can only shake my head in amazement at their gutsiness. Wires, trees, crazy winds, it’s not a job for the faint of heart but it is necessary since Illinois corn is everywhere nowadays. My hat’s off to these guys (from the top of my ladder no less).

On a personal note – it’s a joy and a privilege to be a contributing photographer here on the Enjoy Illinois blog. My own personal Web site uses the phrase “finding beauty in unexpected places.” That to me is Illinois. There’s a lot of beauty here. I look forward to checking in with you all a few times a month. Thanks for stopping by.

– David Vernon

To learn more about Dave, check out his bio.

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Eastern Illinois University, photo by Jack

Eastern Illinois University, photo by Jack

You can’t visit Illinois without taking a trip to one of the many college towns throughout the state. Whether you are headed north, south, east or west, you are bound to find yourself in a small town that relies somewhat on the nearby college to stimulate its economy (think: university hospitals, libraries, festivities, etc.).

You’d be surprised to find just how many college towns there are in Illinois: Carbondale, Champaign-Urbana, Charleston, DeKalb, Edwardsville, Evanston, Lebanon, Macomb, Normal and Peoria. Best thing is, where there’s a college, there’s bound to be tons of shopping, dining and entertainment, all most likely within walking distance.

I plan on writing posts about many of these college towns and will cover everything from history to fun facts and things to do. The first college town on the list is Charleston, home of Eastern Illinois University.

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Starved Rock State Park

On Sunday, July 26, my family and I set out for our annual trek to Starved Rock State Park.  I grew up in a town not too far away from Starved Rock (Streator), so I am already pretty familiar with the park and surrounding vicinity. For the rest of my family however, Starved Rock is quite a bit different from the everyday experiences of life in the ‘burbs that they are accustomed to, as its terrain is rare to come by in Illinois.
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