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Summer kicks off today, and so does our first ever summer photo contest!

This time around, we want to know where you go to clear your mind when life gets a little crazy. Is it a park? A museum? Maybe a spot with a gorgeous view that never gets old? Chances are there is a place in Illinois that has a special meaning to you. So take a photo of it and send it to us at enjoyillinois@gmail.com!

Saint Charles, IL - Photo credit: phigonggoi

The winner gets a weekend getaway to the Pride of the Fox,
St. Charles, Illinois.

All entries are due by July 21. At that time, a panel of our photobloggers will choose their favorites. Then we’ll put it up for a public vote on the blog to decide the winner.

For more information on the contest, just hop over to the “Photo Contest” tab at the top of the page. Can’t wait to see where your special place is in Illinois.

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Balloon Festival. Picture courtesy of Great Galena Balloon Festival

Don’t quite know how to show your dad some love this weekend?  Perhaps the Great Galena Balloon Race in northern Illinois can be your destination!  With a plethora of different events taking place over three days, there is sure to be something to make Dad smile.

On Friday, the Balloon Launch, Alefest and Night Glow are the highlights of the day.  The Balloon Launch, starting at 6 pm, provides the curious or the adventurous with the opportunity for a balloon ride.  The Alefest features over 100 beer styles.  Cost of admission is $20 for this event, which includes craft beer samplings, a tasting glass and guide, and live entertainment.  The event is from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm, and participants must be 21 years of age or older.   The Night Glow begins around 8:45 pm, when all of the balloons light up the night sky.

Saturday’s festivities include a Collectors Car Show featuring over 40 collector cars from Antique Town Roads of Galena, High Point Cruisers of Scales Mound, Mainstreet Cruisers of DBQ, and Southwest Wisconsin Auto Club.  There is plenty of entertainment for children as well, including tethered balloon rides, face painting, and bounce houses.  The big event, the Great Galena Balloon Race, will take place at 6:00 pm.  A must-see!

Sunday provides the last chance to see all of the balloons in the air until next year’s festival.  This “Crack of Dawn” balloon race will give your family a good head start on a family brunch or lunch in the area. 

With races, tethered rides, a car show, live music and an Alefest on Friday night, it’s hard to imagine not having a good time!  Not only does the weekend-long event provide many activities for the whole family, but the proceeds benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. 

The events will be taking place on the North Course Practice Range at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa.  To reach the parking area, follow Highway 20 to Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa.  Take Eagle Ridge Drive to Thunder Bay Road.  Take a left at Thunder Bay Road to reach the parking area.  Shuttles will be available to take you directly to the site from there.

For more information, visit the event’s website here.

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Take dad on a hike at Shawnee National Forest. Photo credit: ddmantx

While a gift is a great way to show dad you care, a memorable dad date can take it to a whole new level and cement his June 20, 2010, among the elite in the pantheon of great Father’s Days.

Here are a few suggestions to give dad something he’ll never forget.

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Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

Enjoy a fun day at the park with your family and view amazing sculptures at the Summer Sol-a-Bration, Saturday, June 19, from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Governors State University campus in University Park.  The Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park is planning a family oriented event that should bring a smile to everyone in attendance. Activities for the entire family include: sculpture trading cards, Build-A-Sculpture, build and fly a kite, a Body Rolling Derby (roll down a grassy hill!) and other games and activities for kids of all ages.

One of the great things is that admission and parking are FREE. Some of the activities will have a nominal charge and refreshments and food are available on campus. It’s easy to find – just a mile from Exit 339 on I-57 and only about 34 miles from the Loop! If you’re in Chicago, take the Electric Line one hour south from Millennium Park station to University Park.

– Bob Lukens

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