Starved Rock Country Magazine - Summer 2024

Page 1


Steeped in myths and legends, absinthe joins a Peru distillery's beverage lineup


A massive military show and WWII reenactment returns to an Ottawa farm


Borrow inspiration from past decades and have fun with retro activities and eateries


MAGAZINE SUMMER 2024 Additional copies at 248 W. Canal St., Utica 61373
CHOOSE YOUR OWN Discover thrills and fun by air, water and land!

•August Hill Winer y

•Illinois Sparkling Co.

• Fine Field Potter y

•Hegeler Carus Mansion

•LaSalle Canal Boat

•Ottawa Visitors Center

• Tangled Roots Brewing Co.

•Starved Rock Lodge

2 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
Featuring gifts of all kinds from across Illinois, including local favorites Like us on Facebook: @StarvedRockCountryWelcomeCenter
Located at 248 W. Canal Street in Utica Open Daily - Noon to 6:00pm
Illinois Made Gift Shoppe


Come enjoy all our delicious dining options from North to South including Al Fresco dining and drinking on Mill Street.

From gourmet treats, wines and unique spices to antiques and specialty gifts. We have it all. Come for a day or the weekend.

LaSalle County Historical Society


Every Saturday & Sunday June - September 10am to 4pm

Handmade • Homemade • Homegrown • Vintage









Oct 12-13 TH 54th ANNUAL BURGOO




Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 3 The Village of North Utica • PO BOX 188 • Utica, IL 61373 • 815-667-4111
Photos by Paula Guttilla Hatchet Canyon Photography

Battles of World War II come to life on an Ottawa farm during an annual reenactment and military vehicle show



Step into the fun of the past with activities and eateries that call back to previous decades

Bonnie Jean manipulates metal and gemstones into magical, nature-inspired jewelry and artwork



Check out a sampling of flavor-focused festivals across the region

Peru distillery Star Union Spirits begins crafting absinthe, a drink surrounded by legends and myths

Strap on a parachute and take the leap with Skydive Chicago; tackle a high-flying zip line and challenge course at Echo Bluff Park

Spend a day on the Illinois River by renting a variety of watercraft; raft the whitewater rapids of the Vermilion River; tour the area on a cruise


Hang up the hiking boots and explore trails by two alternative means: horseback at Cedar Creek Ranch and ATVs at The Cliffs Insane Terrain

Recreational shooters can practice their aim at South Post Guns' new indoor range and Buffalo Range Shooting Park's outdoor range

had a future in

4 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country Inside 44 GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOT
Get a bird's-eye view of Starved Rock Country with a skydiving adventure! Read more on p 27 Photo provided by Skydive Chicago ON THE COVER 34 8 ECHOES
A rare classic car once

Wake Up With Nature

One Lodge Lane; Oglesby, IL | 815-667-4211 |
Experience the magic of the Midwest when you wake up with nature at Starved Rock. We’re the only lodge in Starved Rock State Park where you are steps away from scenic sandstone canyons and photo worthy seasonal waterfalls.


eaders who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s probably remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

The stories follow a simple formula: Events happen during a chapter that lead the characters to a decision. At the end of the chapter, readers are presented with a few choices. Should adventurers turn around and go home? Turn to page 4. Should adventurers continue their journey? Turn to page 8.

The books allow readers to choose the characters’ paths through the story, with dozens of possible endings.

A visit to Starved Rock Country is like living inside one of those books. You, the adventurer, arrive for a day trip or a vacation. You check into your lodgings, sample one of the local restaurants for lunch or dinner, and now it’s time to embark on an activity.

This issue of Starved Rock Country Magazine is here to help you choose the course of your adventure. Should you:

n Soar into the wild blue yonder and leap out of a plane at Skydive Chicago? Turn to page 27.

n Collect a group of family and/or friends to tackle the zip line and aerial challenge course at Echo Bluff Park? Turn to page 30.

n Spend a day on the Illinois River with a boat, kayak, paddle board or other watercraft rental from Quest Watersports? Turn to page 32.

n Raft down some of Illinois’ best rapids on the Vermilion River? Turn to page 34.

n Give your feet a break and explore trails by horseback or ATV? Turn to page 40.

One of the attractions of the Choose Your Own Adventure books was the opportunity to pick up the same book and experience the story with different twists and conclusions on every reading. Just like revisiting those books provided a new experience each time, tourists can repeatedly return to Starved Rock Country to experience the region from a new angle.

As a starting point, our Choose Your Own Adventure section on pages 26-41 is divided into three ways to approach the region: by air, by water and by land.

For the CliffsNotes version of activities and events in the area, check out the June, July and August calendars on pages 11-13. From live music shows to theater performances to summer festivals, the events calendar is a handy overview of what’s happening this summer.

Speaking of summer events, a must-see attraction is the two-day Ottawa Military Show on July 13-14 (see page 8). This display of military vehicles and live World War II reenactment is interactive for families and truly a sight to behold.

As you turn the pages of the magazine, I hope we can help guide your summer expedition in Starved Rock Country. Happy adventuring!

Ottawa, IL 61350


Email photo or article submission queries to jbarichello@shawmedia�com�

Copyright 2024� Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content in any manner, without permission, is prohibited�

Vol 12 No 2

Summer 2024 Edition



Jeanette Smith


Julie Barichello


Rhonda Dillon


Julie Barichello

Ali Braboy

Stephanie Jaquins

Kate Reynolds

Melissa Rubalcaba Riske

Ryan Searl

Charles Stanley


Scott Anderson

Ryan Searl

Tom Sistak

6 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
Photo by Jeff Heimsoth of Quest Watersports

Echoes of


Ottawa farm hosts 5th World War II Reenactment

“America’s Greatest Generation” was at its height in 1944, during the early part of World War II. For the fifth year, the public will get a chance to enter that era and witness

their impact on the war when reenactors portraying American GIs as well as German and Russian military units recreate conflicts such as tactical convoy battles.

8 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
| Must See |


9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13

8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14

3277 E. 18th Road, Ottawa

The Ottawa Military Show, featuring about 100 reenactors, will take place at the Krug Farm, 3277 E. 18th Road, Ottawa. The free event will span two days beginning Saturday, July 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and continuing 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14. Battles, talks and vehicle rides are planned for each day.

Like last year, the show will highlight about 50 vintage military vehicles, encampment sites and soldiers from both sides of World War II – the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and the Allied powers (France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and China). The Second World War was the largest and deadliest war in human history, lasting from 1939 to 1945.

For a second year, Rod Hammerand of Dubuque, Iowa, is returning as the event’s

reenactment coordinator.

“We think this event will be inspiring for everyone, both the reenactors and the public. And we like including the public in that excitement,” Hammerand said. “Last year, about 100 to 150 reenactors recreated the battle for 1,000 to 1,500 spectators with many great and fun moments. There was a child in military garb sitting in a hay wagon. Soldiers ambushed him and then took him to one of the encampments. The public loved it. So, this year, we’ll again be involving the public.”

In between battles, spectators can visit campsites to see military equipment up close and ask reenactors questions about everything from equipment to what military life was like in 1944. The public also will see displays from other wars.

“We hope to have a big crowd visit the

The event is free and open to the public.

The show includes vintage military vehicles and World War II reenactors with camps and convoys. Spectators can join the skirmish with a signed waiver and ride in the convoy during an ambush.

Ottawa Military Show on July 13-14 and be part of this incredible event,” Hammerand said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some great weather. We look forward to showing how soldiers reacted during the battles and the type of equipment it took to fight those battles. We’re excited about the whole weekend.”

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 9

Visitors will have opportunities to ride in vehicles dating from World War I through the Vietnam War. At noon Saturday, a military convoy will travel through downtown Ottawa, driving down Champlain Street until turning west onto Norris Drive, then turning south on La Salle Street. The convoy will turn east on Main Street and then circle back north on Columbus Street.

“Reenactors do this because they love history,” Hammerand said. “People participate to show what life was like for soldiers during the Civil War, World War I and the Korean and Vietnam wars.”

Overall, war reenactment is a complex hobby that can serve a variety of purposes for those participating. Whether they are seeking to learn more about history, make new friends or have fun, reenactors play a role in keeping the past alive for future generations.

While the event is free, donations to help defray organization and reenactment costs are appreciated.

“Being a reenactor is an amazing experience but not a cheap hobby,” Hammerand said, noting reenactors have paid in a range of $1,500 to $3,000 for German weapons. “With the cost of ammunition, travel, food and lodging, you must love what you do.” C S R

10 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
BU IL D IT ON CE  BU IL D IT RI GHT FIREPL ACES BATHROOMS EXTERIOR DOORS CABINETRY& COUNTERTOPS WINDOWS STONE, SIDING& ROOFING KITCHENS DECKING& FLOORING INTERIOR DOORS ma ze lu mb er .c om Illinois’ longest operating lumberyard continues to thrive along Peru’s historic riverfront. Maze Lumber has been providing top quality building materials to Illinois Valley contractors and homeowners for over 176 years, still owned by the founding fathers (Maze). Located in a 15,000-square foot showroom and office, we offer building materials for the modern home as well as a full line of the traditional lumber items used in home building, commercial construction, and industrial applications. Our experienced sales staff takes pride in their ability to provide knowledgeable assistance along with prompt delivery at reasonable prices. 5 SM-LA2155293 BUILD IT ONCE  BUILD IT RIGHT Water Street, Peru | 815-223-1742 BU IL D IT RI GHT DOORS CABINETRY& COUNTERTOPS ROOFING KITCHENS FLOORING INTERIOR DOORS er .c om | 81 5- 22 3- 17 42

June 2024


Tour Bike Ride

Book a sightseeing cruise on the Sainte Genevieve Riverboat, a paddle-wheeler based in Ottawa. To register, visit www.

Dulcimer Festival returns June 8-9 to Goold Park in Morris. Celebrate contemporary acoustic and roots music with two days of performances and workshops.

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Reserve a time slot to shoot recreationally at the indoor range at South Post Guns. Read more about local shooting ranges on page 44.

Dave Goerne & Dale MemorialChiavene Fun Fly

Dance in the street during the kickoff of Jammin' at the Clock, every Friday through Aug. 30 at Heritage Park in Streator.

It's a bird, it's a plane! Spectators can watch remote controlled planes soar over the Streator RC Flyers field during the Dave Goerne/Dale Chiavene Memorial Fun Fly, June 13-15.

Experience a classic American pastime by catching a home game of Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp baseball, 7:05 p.m. at Schweickert Stadium in Peru.

Experience a modern adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" in a Festival 56 staging of Shakespeare in the Park at 7:30 p.m. under the trees of Soldier & Sailors Park in Princeton.

The Steve Sharpe Band performs during Music Under the Oaks at Schweickert Pavilion in Peru's Centennial Park.

Summer begins with a sizzle at ShrimpFest & Brew Hullabaloo at Rotary Park in Princeton.

Enjoy 10 bands, 200 vendors and 18 food trucks at fForest Fest in Morris.

Ottawa Family Pride Festival returns to downtown Ottawa for the third year with special appearances by drag queens Nina West and Mrs. Kasha Davis.

Music and food are the highlights during the Rhythm & BBQ Festival in Morris. Join the ride to the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial for the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run.

Burning Red - A Taylor Swift Tribute Band takes the stage 7-9 p.m. in La Salle for Night 2 of Celebrate La Salle. Catch live music each night June 20-22.

Pick one of the variable distance bicycle routes and explore the rural scenery of Bureau County in the annual Z Tour bike ride! Sign up at

Sample two festivals in Ottawa: Art in the Park returns to Washington Square, and the inaugural Infinity Food Festival celebrates flavor. Read more on page 22.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 11
| calendar |
27 28 29

July 2024

Catch Day 2 of the Ottawa Military Show, featuring a WWII reenactment and display of military vehicles. Read more on page 8.

Book a Land & Water Cruise with a narrated trolley tour followed by a cruise along the Illinois River. Register at www.starvedrock

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" takes the stage at Engle Lane Theatre in Streator. Shows continue nightly through Friday.

Kick off your Independence Day celebration with the Fireworks Extravaganza at the Grundy County Fairgrounds in Morris.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Catch a slice of Princeton's nightlife with a Late Night Cabaret, 10 p.m. at The Grace Theater.

Spend an evening at the rodeo! The T & A Bucking Bulls Rodeo will ride at 7 p.m. at the La Salle County 4-H Fairgrounds.



Shop for art plus enjoy music, food and live events in the streets of Ottawa during the Third Friday Artisan Market.

(More dates: June 21, Aug. 16 and Sept. 20)

"Grease: The Musical" opens at The Grace Theater in Princeton. More shows July 26-28 and July 30-Aug. 4.

Catch three days of boat races today through Sunday. The PRO National Championship Boat Races return to Lake DePue for 2024.

Looking for an authentic piece of Americana? Visit the Route 34 Drive-In to watch a movie from your vehicle or a lawn chair.

It's World Skydiving Day! Help set a world record by scheduling a jump at Skydive Chicago. Read more about skydiving on page 27. Monster trucks will roar onto the Bureau County Fairgrounds in Princeton for a matinee and an evening show. Ride in a monster truck and meet drivers.

"Anastasia: The Musical" brings the classic animated film to life at Stage 212 in La Salle. SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 1 2 3

Rodeo at the La Salle County 4-H Fairgrounds

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| calendar |

August 2024

The 2024 Friendship Days Festival will conclude with a Taylor Swift Dance Party on the riverfront in downtown Ottawa, noon to 3 p.m.

Book a special tour on a mule-drawn canal boat on the I & M Canal. The boat ride will be narrated by an Abraham Lincoln actor. Details at events

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT 1 2 3 4 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 31

"Newsies The Broadway Musical" runs Tuesday through Friday this week at Engle Lane Theatre in Streator.

A midweek excursion to the Bureau County History Center's "1912" exhibit will introduce visitors to the story of local Titanic survivors and early 20th century life in the rural Midwest.

Taste of the Illinois Valley will fill Centennial Park in Peru with the scents and flavors of food vendors. Also enjoy live music, craft vendors and a family fun zone.


Downtown Morris keeps summer groovin' with Rock the Block. This block party closes the street for shopping, games, dining and music by Libido Funk Circus.

Country musicians

Cooper Alan and Drew Baldridge headline Friday's live music at Northpoint Plaza in Streator. Streator Fest runs Aug. 1-4 with live music and a carnival.

The Mendota Sweet Corn Festival kicks off its four-day carnival and celebration Aug. 8-11 in downtown Mendota.

Bring a chair and take a seat in the street! Listen to live music in downtown Princeton during the monthly Down on Main summer concert series.

Every third Friday, May through October, shop the Kindling Market at True North in Morris, 3-9 p.m.

Listen to music, dine at food trucks and shop 40 to 50 vintage and thrift vendors.

Antiques, artisans, hand-crafted items, fresh produce, flowers, baked goods ... the 3 French Hens Country Market has it all. Shop in the open air at 402 Liberty St., Morris, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Celebrate an array of fine arts – ranging from visual arts to music to dance and more – during the 10th annual Liberty Arts Festival in Morris.

Country pop star Mitchell Tenpenny will take the Bureau County Fair stage at 7:30 p.m. in Princeton. Special guest Lauren Alaina will perform.

Celebrate one of Illinois' premier classic car events at the Roamer Cruise Night, 5-10 p.m. in downtown Streator.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 13
| calendar |
Liberty Arts Festival

Arts & Entertainment |

Retro Retro Date Night in Starved Rock Country

Retro activities are groovy again. Dig it?

Celebrate date night with recreation and restaurants that hearken decades gone by. Starved Rock Country Magazine staff picked 10 of their favorite activities and eateries where visitors can experience the pleasures of the past.

14 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country



Drive-in theaters celebrated their heyday in the 1950s, with about 4,000 locations across the United States. These days, their numbers have dwindled to the hundreds. One of the remaining outdoor big screens stands in Earlville at the Route 34 Drive-In Theatre, 4468 E. 12th Road (Old Route 34). The theater opened in 1954 and still operates Fridays through Sundays spring to autumn with classic cartoons followed by two films. Drivers can pull up to the hut and buy tickets for the double feature – $10 for adults, $8 for children and seniors, and free for children ages 4 years and younger. Previously cash only, the theater now accepts Visa and MasterCard with a convenience fee.


O-Nett Gaming in downtown Ottawa is home to more than 30 classic arcade games and pinball machines. Customers can buy an arcade pass – $5 per person for one hour of play or $10 per person for a full day. All games are set to free, so once an arcade pass is acquired, guests can play as many rounds as they desire until the pass expires. O-Nett is open daily during afternoons and evenings.


Nothing encapsulates American nostalgia quite like a baseball game. Schweickert Stadium at Veterans Park in Peru is home to the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp, a collegiate Prospect League team. General admission and parking is free. With 28 home games on their schedule from May through July, the Pistol Shrimp are an accessible way to spend a summer evening. Wave hello to SouthClaw Sam, the bright orange Pistol Shrimp mascot.


Bring your own roller skates and roller blades or rent a pair at Paramount Skating Arena in Ottawa for an evening on the roller rink. The arena is open 7 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Roller skating reached its Golden Age in the 1940s and ’50s, with a slight decline before a resurgence in the 1970s through the 1990s. Business Insider reports roller skates saw another surge in popularity in 2020 when people sought socially distant activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Head to Illinois Valley Super Bowl in Peru for bowling on one of the recreation center’s 24 lanes. IV Super Bowl is open seven days a week; guests can call ahead to check lane availability at 815-223-5085. Look for Cosmic Bowling nights when the house lights are turned off and guests can bowl under a high-tech light show. IV Super Bowl also features an arcade room, food and regularly hosts live music and comedy shows.



225 N. Columbia Ave., Oglesby

Experience the 1950s carhop era by parking under the awning and ordering meals to be delivered to your vehicle at The Rootbeer Stand in Oglesby. The drive-in diner serves sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and house-made root beer. Booths and tables are available for those who opt to dine inside. The payment method is cash only.


2819 Fourth St., Peru

This classic American diner opened in 1937 and remains a retro icon in the region with its checkered tile counter, stool seating at the counter and shiny red-and-white booths and chairs. The signature sandwich is the hand-pounded, hand-breaded pork tenderloin. The menu includes a variety of sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and a featured Sandwich of the Month.


709 N. Bloomington St., Streator

This classic Streator diner is a step into the city’s past. The dining room is decorated with red-and-white booths, local historical photos, vinyl records, street signs, city sports memorabilia and two retro bicycles on display. Menu items not to miss include 1919 Root Beer, the house-made onion rings and the Trapp’s beef sandwich, a recipe that pays homage to a former Streator tavern. Pick up a package of thumbprint cookies to take home for dessert. The diner stands across the street from Streator High School, home of the Streator Bulldogs.


1802 Fifth St., Peru

This beloved local lunch spot opened in 1969 and serves diner menu staples such as sandwiches, burgers, soups and chili. Like classic diners of the 1950s, John’s Place also serves malts, floats and sundaes. Countertop seating is available plus a dining area with tables and chairs. Check out the dozens of classic Coca-Cola signs and retro posters and artwork on the walls while your order is prepared.


309 E. Dakota St., Spring Valley

Tastee Freez has sold soft serve ice cream to residents and visitors in Starved Rock Country since the franchise launched in 1950. Tastee Freez shops rapidly expanded to 1,800 locations by 1957, becoming an icon of 1950s Americana and immortalized in the second verse of John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane.” Over the decades, most locations were renamed and incorporated into other restaurants. However, one of the few original Tastee Freez locations still stands in Spring Valley.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 15


Local artists invigorate the community with thoughtful, creative pieces. Each issue, Starved Rock Country Magazine and Starved Rock Country Community Foundation are partnering to highlight artists and their work.

onnie Jean finds inspiration in wild and hidden places.

The self-taught metalsmith and jewelry maker crafts natureinspired wearable art. Using metal and gemstones, she captures small, magical scenes of the outdoors, such as a dewdrop glinting in the morning sun or a sunset on a backwoods lake.

Using the artist name Bonnie Jean, she sells her work through her business, Quirky Squirrel. All of her pieces are created in her home studio along the Fox River in rural Ottawa.

“I have loved to create art in any medium since I was very young,” she said. “If there were art supplies available, I was using them. If there was an art class, I took it.”

For years, Bonnie Jean practiced art in various media as a hobby. She focused on creating items for her home or as gifts. In 2015, she began experimenting with metal jewelry.

“I was making hand-hammered copper pieces and hand stamping things. Less than two years later, I wanted to do more and learn more, and I slowly started playing with sterling silver and gemstones,” she said. “Without any in-person classes in metalsmithing in the area, I relied on YouTube, Facebook groups, some online classes and lots of trial and error. I had finally found a medium that challenged me constantly and gave me so much enjoyment to create with.”

The process behind each piece of jewelry is different. Sometimes Bonnie Jean sketches a fully detailed vision of the finished piece before working with the materials. Other times she simply picks up the metal and begins shaping it.

The majority of Bonnie Jean’s work is crafted on a small scale, but she challenged herself to think bigger for a joint exhibition with fellow artist Lindsey Chavez at Open Space Art Gallery last year.

“I wanted to create more than just jewelry for the show and decided a few large wall pieces in metal would be perfect,” she said. “In keeping with my love of working in small detail but creating a large piece, I made a dragonfly with lacy wings of tiny soldered wires. I thought the whole idea was crazy and I would never finish it, but it ended up being the centerpiece of the show!”

Bonnie Jean takes pride in practicing and accomplishing small details. Recently she completed a sterling silver and turquoise ring inspired by a piece her great-grandfather made. The detail work was more complex than other pieces she has crafted, but past experience through trial and error honed her skills.

Bonnie Jean’s necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings are regularly on display and available for purchase at Open Space Art Gallery in downtown Ottawa, as well as many regional vendor fairs such as the Third Friday Artisan Market in Ottawa (June 21, July 19, Aug. 16 and Sept. 20), Rusty Halo vendor markets in rural Ottawa (the autumn market is Sept. 14-15; the holiday market is in November) and the Artisan Market at Hornbaker Gardens in Princeton (Sept. 14).

Spotting a person wearing one of her creations is a badge of honor for the artist.

“Being able to wear my art and seeing others wearing it is one of my favorite things,” she said.

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C S R 2 1


Bonnie Jean lives with her partner and four sons in rural Ottawa. She designs and creates jewelry and wearable art in a studio along the Fox River. Bonnie Jean also teaches classes on simple jewelry making and metal stamping at Open Space Art Gallery in Ottawa. "My work invites people to discover adornments that speak to them and accentuate their personal style," she said.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 17
1. Woodland Dew: Sterling silver and prasiolite; $175 2. Vibrant Sunset: Sterling silver, sea urchin shell and yellow topaz; $300 3. In The Moment: Copper and solder, 20x26 inches (in frame); $2,000 4. Collection of copper electroformed pieces: Copper over real leaves, rough peridot stones; $60-$150 5. A pair of custom couples rings: Sterling silver, turquoise and aquamarine; custom pieces vary, $300+ each 6. Grandfather’s Inspiration: Sterling silver and turquoise 7. Crystal Ball: Sterling silver and clear quartz, $180 8. Worker Bee: Copper, brass, sterling silver and amber; $250
ABOUT THE ARTIST 3 4 5 6 7 8 To
view or
Bonnie Jean's
work, visit For updates about markets where she will sell art, upcoming classes she will lead and newly crafted items, follow her on Facebook at
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Satisfy your appetite while you explore the region this summer


his summer is ready to sizzle and smoke with food festivals. Check out this sampling of flavor-focused events – from established favorites to a brand new event in its inaugural year – paired with live entertainment, family activities and adjacent festivals.

ShrimpFest and Brew Hullabaloo

Saturday, June 1 • Rotary Park, Princeton

Sometimes Michael Stutzke yearns for a good plate of shrimp.

Essentially, that’s where the Princeton Rotary Club’s ShrimpFest and Brew Hullabaloo began.

Several years back, the Rotary Club was brainstorming ideas for a scholarship fundraiser. Stutzke, previously of Florida before he retired to Princeton, told the group about a shrimp festival his former Rotary Club hosted.

At first, the suggestion raised a few eyebrows. In a region known for corn, cows and pigs, shrimp was an outlier among local food festivals.

But that also meant the shrimp market was theirs to corner.

“The board said, ‘Let’s give it a shot,’” Stutzke said. “This is our third year. We’re off and running now.”

This year’s ShrimpFest and Brew Hullabaloo will celebrate with shrimp, food trucks, cold beverages and live music from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at Rotary Park in Princeton.

Each meal consists of six jumbo shrimp served either grilled or fried. Grilled shrimp include a choice of sauces such as honey, sriracha and barbecue. Coleslaw and hushpuppies are provided on the side.

Festival organizers pride themselves on the shrimp they serve.

“There’s nothing worse than getting a shrimp and it’s half the size of your thumb,” Stutzke said. “When we say jumbo shrimp, these are legitimate jumbo shrimp.”

Additional meal options are available from six food trucks, including Flo’s on Pulaski, Didoughs Pretzels, Farmer Smoked BBQ, Nelson Family Concessions, The Station Food Truck and Grandma’s Kitchen and Desserts.

Brews are the other main focus of the festival. A special

20 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country | Dining & Drinks |
Rhythm & BBQ Festival

offering this year is a Brew Hullabaloo signature craft beer by Coal Creek Brewing Company of Princeton. Euclid Beverages also will bring a beer wagon with a variety of options.

Live music will perform 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., beginning with jazz standards by the Al Brown Jazz Group, followed by classic to current rock by Infinity. Rounding out the day’s entertainment is the 14-piece band Brass from the Past, which covers Motown, pop, jazz, R&B, soul, rock and punk.

The 2023 event drew 7,000 people and raised a net of $15,000 for three Princeton High School scholarships.

“We have created an event that benefits the students in our community,” Stutzke said, “and there’s something nice about bringing so many people together.”

Rhythm & BBQ Festival

Saturday, June 15 • Goold Park, Morris

The Morris BBQ Association has a trifold mission: bringing people together to celebrate the culinary art of barbecue, appreciating music and raising funds for charities. All three boxes are checked with their Rhythm & BBQ Festival.

The festival, sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, centers around a competition for up to 35 registered barbecue teams from across the Midwest. Teams face off in three categories: ribs, chicken and best dish, which challenges competitors to incorporate a designated ingredient into a barbecue dish.

Dozens of smokers and grills will speckle Goold Park in Morris when the festival returns for its third year on Saturday, June 15. Light smoke and the scent of cooking meat will waft across the wooded lawn while thousands of guests roam among the teams.

Meats and dishes prepared by competitors are for judges only, but attendees are encouraged to meet the competing barbecue teams and learn their tricks for preparing the cuisine.

“They love interacting,” said Stan Knudson, of the Morris BBQ Association. “They love sharing secrets. Most of the people will tell you exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.”

If – or more likely, when – the scent of barbecue sparks guests’ appetite, they can grab a bite at various food trucks.

“The food trucks give a range of options,” Knudson said. He noted past food vendors have included pizza, tacos and desserts. “We’ll have a couple of traditional barbecue trucks as well. They feature things like brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork, ribs, rib tips.”

Another focus of the festival is live entertainment, primarily rock and blues music. “That tends to go very well with the culture that is barbecue,” Knudson said.

Southern rock band Jake Karlik & The Idols from Tulsa, Oklahoma, will headline this year’s show. Additional acts include soulful singer and songwriter Kenny P and folk rock artist Liam Tipple.


ne of the most expensive and ornate private homes in the Midwest when completed in 1858, the Mansion was built by businessman, politician, and philanthropist William Reddick. Home to the Reddick family for nearly 30 years, the mansion anchors Washington Square, site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate. This ornate 22-room mansion is open for tours. Tours are offered at 11 am and 1 pm.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 21
Join Us for Our Annual Golf Outing, Sat. June 1st, Pine Hills Golf Club, Ottawa, IL. Visit our website for other events. O
Reddick Mansion
Gardens Mansion Tours: Friday-Monday | 11am & 1pm Please call for other arrangements & group tours 100 West Lafayette St. | Ottawa, IL 61350 815-433-6100 |
View our Menu: 253 9th Street • LaSalle, IL 61301 • 815.223.8960 • Rockin’ Starved Rock Country for 47 years! Live Music 3 Days a Week. Over 70 beers and 10 wines available. Breakfast Lunch
pm BRUNCH Saturdays & Sundays 9am-2pm. Try our amazing Farmers Omelette or other delicious menu items Home of the Cheeseburger in Paradise LIVE Video Gaming Slots & Poker We Deliver 815-223-8960 Mondays and Wednesdays $1.50 burgers
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Limited vendors will be available with a focus on barbecue supplies – previously featured wares have included smokers, rubs, sauces and barbecue equipment.

Each year, the festival selects a nonprofit to benefit. This year’s event will support Illinois Valley Industries, which assists adults with intellectual, developmental, physical or emotional barriers.

Infinity Food Festival

Saturday, June 29 • Downtown Ottawa Downtown Ottawa is the epicenter of four festivals on Saturday, June 29. The Infinity Food Festival is the hub that will feed them all.

More than 30 food trucks will flock to the Jordan Block (the 100 block of West Main Street) and Washington Square to serve cuisine celebrating a variety of flavors and ethnicities from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 29. The food festival coincides with three other events: Ottawa Art League’s Art in the Park, where local artists will display and sell their art from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Washington Square; the Starved Rock Regional Center’s Celebration Kids Expo featuring a car show, bounce houses, crafts, games and other family activities 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the riverfront park west of the Illinois River bridge; and Music in the Park, a free outdoor concert 5 to 7 p.m. at Washington Square.

For organizer Dylan Conmy, the original spark behind the Infinity Food Festival is a simple one:

“I like food,” he said. “Everyone likes food, and everyone needs food. I think everybody’s got a foodie in them.”

Conmy sought a wide representation of cuisine for the event’s inaugural year.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything. Barbecue, Ecuadorian, Puerto Rican. We’ve got [a] lobster truck. We have a grilled cheese truck coming – that’s where you’ll find me,” Conmy laughed. “We have the Shroom Shack coming from southern Illinois, which is vegan and gluten free. …. There are a good handful of trucks that will have vegan and vegetarian options.”

More cuisine options in the food truck lineup are Thai, Filipino, Mexican, Caribbean and halal meat, plus fare that includes pizza, smash burgers, hot dogs, sausages and desserts.

“There’s something for every age, and we’ll be feeding them all,” Conmy said. A beer tent will be stationed at the Jordan

22 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
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Taste of the Illinois Valley

Block with a craft beer tasting experience. Four food trucks will remain posted at Washington Square during the two-hour Music in the Park concert. For downtown visitors in the mood for a sit-down meal in the evening, Conmy said signage and menu information will be available to direct diners to nearby restaurants. C S R

More food festivals

Beef & Ag Festival

June 15, Soldiers & Sailors Park in Princeton Beef is the star of the 45th annual Beef & Ag Festival, hosted by the Bureau County Cattlemen’s Association. Don’t miss a burger or steak grilled by local farmers and volunteers. Sides and beverages are available to round out meals. Snack and dessert vendors will be on hand as well. Family and children’s activities are set up around the park, and live music will play throughout the festival.

Taste of the Illinois Valley

Aug. 1-3, Centennial Park in Peru Beverage and food vendors will set up at Centennial Park in Peru and sell favorite local flavors. Admission is free for all three days of live music and a family Fun Zone. Craft vendors will be at the park Friday, Aug. 2, and Saturday, Aug. 3. The 2024 music lineup includes Cody Calkins Band on Thursday, Aug. 1; Libido Funk Circus on Friday, Aug. 2;

and two performances Saturday, Aug. 3, starting with Kevin Kramer and followed by World Turning Band, a Fleetwood Mac tribute.

Mendota Sweet Corn Festival

Aug. 8-11, downtown Mendota

Each year, about 6,000 people fill the streets of downtown Mendota and consume 50 tons of boiled sweet corn. Although Sunday afternoon's free sweet corn is the star of the festival, the four-day event is packed with music, vendors, a flea market, carnival, parade, queen pageant and a midway filled with ethnic, regional and carnival food fare.

Ethnic Sausage Festival

Oct. 19, Kirby Park in Spring Valley

The Ethnic Sausage Festival will return Saturday, Oct. 19, at Kirby Park in Spring Valley. Visitors can sample flavors from across the globe in an event that highlights sausages from a variety of countries and regions, such as Italy, Ireland, Poland, Germany and the Middle East.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 23
4387 Venture Dr, Peru • (815) 220-1638 • Come Visit Us! Rhythm & BBQ Festival

Star Union Spirits presents


Distillery brings a drink of myths & mystery to life

History and craft have always been at the forefront of Star Union Spirits.

The small-batch distillery in Peru’s former Westclox factory is renowned by spirit and cocktail enthusiasts for its thoughtful and artisanal take on distillation. Between Star Union’s commitment to using authentic ingredients and its reverence for history (eagle-eyed patrons will spot the distillery’s museum display cases packed with local artifacts and a tasting room decorated with local architectural salvage), it should come as no surprise that a daring new addition joined the beverage lineup: absinthe. Absinthe has long fascinated connoisseurs and curious imbibers alike with its storied history and enigmatic allure. Now, thanks to the skill and innovative spirit of the team at Star Union, residents of Starved Rock Country and beyond have the opportunity to experience this legendary – and extremely small-batch –elixir.

Star Union crafts absinthe with meticulous attention to detail and a reverence for tradition. Using a blend of carefully selected botanicals, including wormwood, anise and

24 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country

fennel, the distillers have created Alembic Absinthe, a spirit that captures this historic, often misunderstood, drink.

There are many who only know of absinthe through reputation – hearing the tall tales of madness and hallucination that have long dogged the drink. But Star Union seeks to dispel those long-debunked myths, emphasizing the responsible consumption of absinthe as a celebration of craftsmanship and creativity.

Alembic Absinthe derives its name from the alchemical still used in its production. The still is a small tabletop vat consisting of two vessels connected by a tube used for distillation of liquids. The process is labor intensive, producing only five gallons at time.

Alembic Absinthe is part of Star Union’s expanding focus on botanical spirits.

“It’s kind of an experimental line,” said Bob Windy, who co-owns Star Union Spirits with Jeff Yosowitz. “We can do about 30 or 40 bottles at a time, small runs with a focus on consistency and quality. Along with the absinthe, we’ve been exploring other botanical spirits, including our micro-batch London Dry Gin and Ginever Dutch Gin.”

Originally conceived by local mixologist Dan Williams and developed further by Star Union distillers Aren Dean and Casey Beall, this take on absinthe features notes of licorice, anise, wormwood, lemon grass and juniper – all of which are integrated into the bottle’s illustrated label. Also included in the label design is the famed “green fairy.” One of absinthe's many unique attributes, the “green fairy,” or “ouzo,” effect occurs when select clear spirits are exposed to water, turning a once clear drink into a cloudy green beverage through a process known as louching.

The most popular way to serve absinthe, and the way visitors can enjoy it in the Star Union tasting room, involves an ornate fountain dripping icy water onto a sugar cube suspended above the clear drink. In a few magical minutes, the cube will dissolve and leave drinkers with an opaque spirit that tastes as complex and good as it looks.

“We have a growing reputation as a place that’s really embracing artisanal spirits,” Windy said. “So we want to make sure that when you come into our place, you’re having a unique and memorable moment – and that’s what’s so special about sharing an absinthe fountain. It’s an experience as much as it is a great drink.”


Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 25


26 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country CHOOSE YOUR OWN
Your guide to thrilling recreation in Starved Rock Country By Air • By Water • By Land Pages 27-30 Pages 32-37 Pages 40-41




Take the leap at Skydive Chicago

Looking for a rush? Here’s one: jumping out of a plane almost 2.5 miles in the air and plummeting 120 mph toward earth.

Skydive Chicago specializes in that thrill. It begins with a freefall from 13,000 feet in the sky. There’s a short-lived, stomachlurching moment of acceleration when you transition from the 80 mph plane to the 120 mph fall. Next comes the wind, roaring in your ears and whipping at fabric, akin to leaning your head out the

window of a fast-moving car.

Sixty seconds tick by. The rip cord is pulled. The parachute blooms overhead. Then the wind noise is quieted. The next five to seven minutes are spent drifting with a bird’s-eye view of the landscape –a quiltwork of farm fields, a grid of city buildings and streets, the winding path of rivers.

That’s a view Ariel Beverly knows well. Beverly, a high school art teacher from St. Charles, is a frequent flier at Skydive Chicago’s facility northeast of Ottawa.


3215 E. 1969th Road, Ottawa


Open seven days a week through September; reduced hours beginning in October

Reservations are recommended at least 24 hours in advance. Discounts are available for online registration. Walk-ins are welcome but subject to a higher fee and may encounter limited availability. Registrants must be 18 years old and weigh less than 250 pounds to skydive.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 27 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY AIR
Frequent skydiver Ariel Beverly jumps from a plane at Skydive Chicago in rural Ottawa.

“I’m actually a third-generation skydiver,” Beverly said. “Both of my parents were skydivers – they met skydiving – so I really grew up around the sport. My grandpa was actually a skydiver as well, which was pretty cool because he’s one of the pioneers of the sport.”

Beverly made her first jump at 18 years old, but her commitment to the sport solidified in her mid-20s. Since 2021, she has completed about 170 jumps.

Despite the growing tally, she easily remembers her first skydive.

“It was just pure excitement and adrenaline,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve had that same level of excitement since that first jump. The unknown of it amped it up a lot.”

Anthony Ebel, general manager of Skydive Chicago, is eager to welcome

new jumpers. No experience is required – the Skydive Chicago team will instruct first-timers about safety and explain each step of the skydive. For inaugural jumps, guests are harnessed to an instructor in a method known as a tandem skydive.

Ebel said guests can be as active or as passive as they want during a tandem skydive. They can participate by pulling the ripcord to deploy the parachute and steering the parachute.

“There are two strings we call toggles. [If] you pull the right one down, you’ll corkscrew to the right. If you pull the left one down, you’ll corkscrew to the left,” Ebel said. “We can make the ride as calm or as crazy as you want it.”

If a guest forgets any details about the process, not to worry – that’s what the tandem instructor is there for.

“It’s a lot of information. We always tell you if you forget any of this stuff, that’s totally fine,” Ebel said. “If you want to be part of the skydive, you can be part of it. Otherwise you just enjoy yourself, enjoy the scenery.”

Some people come to Skydive Chicago for a one-time jump to scratch off their bucket list. The facility hosts between 4,000 and 5,000 new jumpers a year. Others are hooked after their first experience and return for more. Skydive Chicago is home to the Advanced Freefall Program, which enrolls about 100 students annually to train them in solo skydives and help them become licensed skydivers.

Tracey Holman, event manager at Skydive Chicago, has witnessed many bucket list jumpers convert into return customers.

28 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY AIR
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“People will land and they’ll be like, ‘I’m doing this forever!’” Holman laughed.

Holman’s uncle introduced her to the sport. She was eager to try it, although nervous about her fear of heights. After her first jump, she discovered fear of heights has little impact on skydiving. Anyone who is comfortable riding in a plane and enjoying the view from the window will be comfortable skydiving, she said.

“It’s so high up that you don’t get scared. You think, ‘Oh it’s really pretty.’ It’s a beautiful view,” Holman said. “You don’t get that sensation of fear of heights.”

As a teacher, Beverly has guided several of her graduating students into skydiving and helped assuage nerves.

“I am constantly asked questions from people who are nervous or skeptical. It’s usually fear-based, or being nervous about stomach drop or failure of the gear,” she said. “It’s so, so rare for anything bad to happen skydiving, especially if you are doing a tandem.”

After putting fears to rest by explaining the sport’s safety precautions, Beverly said she focuses on the positives.

“I like to focus on how cool it is to fall and fly through the sky,” she said. “The experience of flying and of skydiving in general is so worth that little bit of risk, just like everything in life. Everything has its own risk, and you just have to weigh if it’s worth it or not for the experience.”


Be part of a world record this summer

Skydive Chicago is renowned as a world-class facility that hosts national events, competition skydiving and world record-setting attempts.

In July, Skydive Chicago will be part of an effort to set another global record.

The U.S. Parachute Association (USPA), in collaboration with the Australian Parachute Association, British Skydiving and Canadian Sport Parachuting Association, has designated July 13 as World Skydiving Day. Participants around the world will attempt to set a record for the most skydives on a single day.

Both tandem skydives and solo jumps by licensed skydivers qualify. Anyone who registers for a jump at Skydive Chicago on July 13 will be counted in the world record. All participants can order a certificate showing they were part of the event.

For information, visit world-skydiving-day.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 29 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY AIR
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through this summer

Gather a group to tackle Echo Bluff's zip line and challenge course

Up for some high-flying adventure and team building this summer? Echo Bluff Park, enclosed in the woods in rural Spring Valley, offers a zip line and challenge course.

“It’s in the woods. You just see trees,” Echo Bluff Camp Director Samantha Brown said of the zip line. “It’s a little park out in the middle of nowhere. It’s 87 acres of hiking trails, and the challenge course and zip line are right in the middle of the woods, so that’s kind of cool.”

To use the 250-foot drop zip line, participants sit on the end of a platform and jump off, so it’s more of a pendulum swing.

“They go down and they come back,” she said, noting it’s different from a skyline zip line in which a person travels tree to tree.

Echo Bluff’s zip line is intended for

groups, Brown said, as it’s attached to a 10-obstacle challenge course completed in the air. Echo Bluff has hosted companies and organizations for team building exercises. It’s also popular with their campers.

“Campers love it. It gives them confidence, teamwork and camaraderie,” she said.

Echo Bluff’s website says the zip line and challenge course provide an emotionally and physically sound environment that allows for informed and supportive risk-taking opportunities that help participants develop a higher level of self-worth, increased confidence and the willingness to take appropriate risks and to grow from new experiences.

Zip liners should dress for the weather, Brown said, and wear closed-toed, comfortable shoes.

Zip lining is by appointment only.

To register, visit Echo Bluff also offers hiking, paintball, ninehole disc golf, archery and an ice skating rink.

Echo Bluff Park is in Hall Township, off Route 29 between Spring Valley and DePue. The park lies on the grounds of a once-booming mining town named Loceyville (founded in 1877) and later renamed Marquette, according to its website. Loceyville/Marquette was a “mine camp,” and the owners of the mining companies built stores, taverns and a school for the exclusive use of their employees. Row houses were built, and the population reached 2,000 during the town’s peak.



12641 3065 E. St., Spring Valley 815-447-2115 |

30 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
Stephanie Jaquins | Photos provided by Echo Bluff Park

Experience the charm of decorated store fronts as you shop, dine, and explore Princeton’s historic

Main Street. Treat yourself to an Airbnb or Hotel stay, attend a unique event, embark on a tour of our national landmarks, museums, public arts & parks, for a the perfect weekend getaway!

1912 EXHIBIT & NELLIE BECKER: A TITANIC STORY Bureau County History Center

SHRIMPFEST by Princeton Rotary Club June 1


Barracuda: Tribute to Heart - June 7

Mike & Joe - July 12

Dillon Carmichael - August 9

World Turning Band: Fleetwood Mac Tribute - September 5

Mae Estes - October 5



Seven Miles South & Jason Pritchett June 15

SUMMER SOLSTICE SHOP SMALL EVENT Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce June 21

Z TOUR BIKE RIDE & BIKE FEST June 22 at Zearing Park


Kev Roy & the Joy June 21 at Apollo Theater and Frontier Lawn


Barrel Society & Wild Ginger Wine and Bistro

July 3

FESTIVAL 56 SUMMER SEASON JUNE 22-AUGUST 4 festival56 com for tickets

Shak espeare’s R & J | [title of show] Urinetown the Musical | Grease Sea Monsters of the Deep | Friday-Night Cabarets


Mitchell Tenpenny with Lauren Alaina on August 22 bureaucountyfair com

BUREAU COUNTY HOMESTEAD FESTIVAL September 6-8 homesteadfestival com I L L I N O I S

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 31 The City of Princeton · · (815) 875-2631 princetontourism visitprinceton_il
Soldiers & Sailors Park photos by Mike Vaughn
Lovejoy Way Mural Captain Swift Bridge Soldiers & Sailors Park Down on Main Summer Street Concerts

The Water where to go when

Navigate your way to memorable adventures on the Illinois River with Quest Watersports

When the summer temperatures rise and the sun shines in a clear sky, the Illinois River beckons recreationists to the water.

For those who follow the river’s siren call, Jeff Heimsoth is there to answer.

Heimsoth is the owner of Quest Watersports in Ottawa, a business that offers a variety of water recreation rentals such as boats, kayaks and paddle boards. The Illinois River is a popular water destination for many, especially those in the Chicago suburbs who are less than a two-hour drive away.

Rather than buy and haul their own equipment, visitors can rent through Quest Watersports and launch crafts at the nearby Heritage Harbor, a marina resort along the Illinois River. Heritage Harbor offers boat slips where all of the water-based activities are staged.

“This river’s waters are very calm and relatively warm, so it is an ideal place to go boating, particularly if you want to do tubing, wakeboarding or surfing,” Heimsoth said.

Time with rentals from Quest Watersports can mean different things to different people. Some seek

a thrilling physical activity such as tubing, surfing or wakeboarding. Others may want to relax, board a boat and drift down the river, or drop an anchor and linger near one of the beaches.

For guests who launch from Heritage Harbor, Heimsoth recommends traveling to his favorite spot: the side channel next to Buffalo Rock State Park. There, water recreationists can avoid the river’s traffic and find a relaxing place to stop.

“There are dramatic and beautiful cliffs that come out of the side of the river – really pretty setting. Some people will climb up and go cliff diving,” Heimsoth said.

Ottawa’s position between the Marseilles Lock and Dam and the Starved Rock Lock and Dam allows for about 13 miles of boating and water recreation. The stretch of waterway features the spectacular sandstone cliffs of Buffalo Rock State Park, and there are numerous islands with side channels where boaters can anchor, stay away from traffic and relax.

When recreationists are ready to take a break from the water, they can park in one of Ottawa’s free boat slips for up to

32 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY WATER


48 hours and explore the city.

Quest Watersports and Heritage Harbor are separate businesses but closely affiliated. All of the activities are located at Heritage Harbor, while Quest Watersports houses the showroom of available rentals and handles reservations and repairs.

At Heritage Harbor, “we offer any kind of boating you want, so if you have your own boat, you can launch your boat with us, you can keep your boat in a slip with us, or if you prefer, you can have us store your boat, and we’ll put your boat in the water whenever you want,” Heimsoth said.

A favorite offering through Quest Watersports is the Quest Express Boat


To book watercraft rentals through Quest Watersports, call 815-433-2200 or visit

Club, which is a hybrid program between boat ownership and rental. Club members sign up for an annual membership and receive unlimited access to a fleet of boats that Quest Watersports maintains. Members can have the adventure of boating without the need to buy, insure, transport, store and maintain a watercraft.

“It’s popular among relatively new boaters who want to explore the activity, and the program makes it very easy for them to do that. [It’s also] popular among people who owned a boat in the past but have found that they don’t want the hassle with cleaning and storing and putting it away for the winter,” Heimsoth said.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 33 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY WATER

Riding the White Water

Raft the Vermilion River's rapids

The Midwest isn’t the first place to come to mind when thinking of whitewater rafting.

But for those who want the exhilaration of this extreme sport within a day’s drive of Chicago, Starved Rock Country is home to Illinois’ premier option.

Amidst rushing currents and serene woodlands is the Vermilion River – one of the few rivers in Midwest that offers whitewater rafting.

“It’s the only one in Illinois that’s got any thrill to it at all,” said Bob Herbst, owner of Vermillion River Rafting, which is the only whitewater rafting business on the Vermilion River.


34 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY WATER
6/8 .................. Oglesby’s Taylor Era 6/13- 6/16 ....... Oglesby Summer Fun Fest 8/17 ................ Summer Days Car Craze 9/14 ................ Boots, Brews & BBQ 10/19 .............. Harvest Fest 12/7 ................ Hometown Christmas Check out our website for updates and events!
Visit Oglesby

The Journey Begins


To secure a spot, reservations are recommended by calling 815-667-5242. The price to raft is $30 for children ages 6 to 16 years and $40 for everyone older than 16. Children ages 6 to 16 must have an adult to accompany them on the trip.

A trip booked through Vermillion River Rafting runs 9.5 miles from the Route 178 bridge at Lowell to the city of Oglesby. The stretch of river includes 14 sets of rapids, with most being Class 1 and Class 2. Rafters have a chance of encountering Class 3 rapids at Wildcat Falls if the river level is over 4 feet high.

The route provides a sense of remote adventure. Rafters will see only one manmade structure during their trip, near the exit point. The riverbanks between the entry and exit points are ripe with beautiful nature scenes featuring woodlands, plants and animals, plus a pass alongside Matthiessen State Park. Many points along the river are perfect for picnicking, fishing and swimming. Trips last three to four hours.

“If you come here with a good attitude, you’re going to have a lot of fun,” Herbst said.

Herbst suggests rafters bring a cooler with drinks, plus sunscreen and shoes that are not flip flops. If a person wears

prescription glasses, he advises wearing a headband with the glasses because otherwise they may fall into the water.

The company website cites the Vermilion River as a good beginner course for whitewater rafting.

Vermillion River Rafting operates seven days a week starting May 1, but all trips are rain and water dependent. A lack of rain and drought conditions the past two years reduced opportunities, but Herbst is hopeful for a successful rafting season in 2024.

Trips are self-guided; groups are not accompanied by a guide. Vermillion River Rafting supplies customers with a four- to six-person raft, paddles, life vests and rafting instructions. Customers also can choose to rent Funyaks, which are inflatable kayaks.

The rafting company continues operation until the middle of July. Trips later in the summer are possible but not guaranteed because the weather might not produce enough rain to maintain river levels.



Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 35 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY WATER
A group embarks up the Vermilion River – which flows north – toward some of the state's best rapids.
IL Rt. 178 • (815) 408-5125 • SM-LA2155565
36 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY WATER MSplash ore ways to make a If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the water in Starved Rock Country, consider exploring the Illinois River on a boat tour or a family excursion to an indoor water park. US Army Corps of Engineers - Starved Rock Lock & Dam 950 N 27th Rd (Dee Bennett Rd), Ottawa, IL • 815-667-4054 • I&M Canal / Illinois Waterway Information • 2024 Boater Safety Classes Jun. 15, July 20, Aug. 17 • Group Programs • Gift Store and Navigation Charts Illinois Waterway Visitor Center at Starved Rock Lock and Dam Your Best View of Starved Rock TASTING ROOM * 106 MILL STREET * UTICA, IL Enjoy wine by the glass, flight, and bottle Indoor and outdoor seating WINE + MUSIC ON THE HILL * PERU, IL Saturday & Sunday, May-Oct., enjoy wine + music on our spacious hillside and Cave Tastings in our winery caves Learn more at
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The Sainte Genevieve is a sternwheel riverboat offering a variety of cruises on the Illinois River. Guests can register for sunset cruises, narrated sightseeing tours, Sunday brunch cruises and other special events. A full bar is available on every cruise, and live music performs on designated journeys along the river. For information, visit


Book a tour for a riverside view of Starved Rock State Park’s sandstone bluffs. Starved Rock Lodge hosts several tour options in the summer, including the Land & Water Cruise with a narrated trolley tour followed by a boat tour; the Visit a Canyon & Boat Ride tour featuring a guided hike followed by the river tour; and the Waterfowl Cruise to view scenery and wildlife aboard the Eagle I. For information, visit



Grand Bear Falls is an indoor water park linked to Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock. Access to the water park is included in stay packages for guests at Grand Bear Resort. Day passes also are available for general admission guests without an overnight stay. Visitors can rush down water slides, drift along a lazy river, wade in a kiddie pool, play in the wave pool and swimming area or relax in a hot tub area. For information, visit


Pirate’s Cay Indoor Waterpark is affiliated with Fox River Resort in Sheridan. Children can play beneath dump buckets, shoot water guns and climb aboard a pirate ship play area. Visitors can rush down winding tube slides and body slides, as well as float on a lazy river. Those who stay at the resort receive a discounted admission rate to the water park. For information, visit fox-river-resort-deal.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 37 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY WATER

pedaled kayaks

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Hiking is one of the best-known methods of discovering the trails and paths of Starved Rock Country, but there are ways to engage with nature and give your feet a rest, too. Consider exploring nature via horseback or take it off-road in an ATV.

Off the Beaten Path


Visitors can explore the outdoors on horseback at Cedar Creek Ranch, near the small village of Cedar Point.

“We like to say, let the horse do the hiking,” said Paul Williams, owner of Cedar Creek Ranch.

Williams said visitors can enjoy the feeling of the Wild West in the Midwest at the ranch. The property was a cattle ranch before Williams purchased the land in 2000 and converted it to house horses.

Williams said his desire to buy the land all started because he found a horse named Vegas.

“I just fell in love with that horse,” he said. “With a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, I was able to establish Cedar Creek.”

After years of using the ranch as a place where families could board a horse, Williams expanded operations and began to offer trail rides for visitors in 2007. He took in five rescue horses that enjoyed providing trail rides between grazing in the pastures.

Williams said the trail rides offer visitors the chance to see the natural beauty of the area perched atop one of the ranch’s resident horses.

“It’s a great experience. The trail is very scenic with hills, water, timbers and there’s even some history with views of the Cedar Point Coal Mine site,” Williams said. Trails through the valley offer views of the Old Cedar Point Cemetery.

The ranch is home to 28 horses, including some that have retired from offering rides, Williams said. Many of the horses are rescue animals who get to enjoy their second chance of life as they are cared for at the ranch.

40 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY LAND
hiking boots for horseshoes and ATVs

Many of the trail guides are young adults who came to the ranch for riding lessons, growing up while helping to care for the horses, Williams added.

Visitors can engage with more than horses at Cedar Creek Ranch. The grounds have a petting zoo and a herd of miniature Nigerian dwarf goats that enjoy distracting guests in goat yoga.

“It’s a lot of fun as you can do yoga with the goats who are happy to play and hang out,” Williams said. “If you ever are feeling stressed, then you need to come hang out with the goats.”

The dwarf goats frolic about during the yoga session. Williams said the baby goats are even smaller, close in size to a tiny dog such as a Chihuahua.

“It’s not an intense yoga,” Williams said. “It’s for relaxation and to detoxify your body. It’s to destress.”

For a splash of adventure, try a Gator Creek cruise aboard

an amphibious vehicle that can cross both land and water in the local creek.

Williams has opened the ranch to events, such as hosting weddings overlooking the valley and birthday parties, too. The ranch hosts special events – this year's schedule includes Rockin the Ranch in August featuring local bands and a Renaissance Fair on Sept. 28-29. For the last 13 years, visitors head to the ranch for the last three weeks of October for the Fright Trail, where a portion of the trail system is filled with scary scenes.

Williams has planned for a new ranch experience he’s dubbed a City Slicker Experience, inviting guests to stay overnight and wake up early to help tack up the horses and enjoy a private early morning ride before the trails open. The ranch has overnight stays in a converted old wagon that has temperature controls, and it also has more primitive accommodation in a tipi.

Drive into adventures

For those who don’t mind a little mud on the tires, The Cliffs Insane Terrain off-road park in Marseilles combines thrills with beautiful views. Celebrating its 20th year, the 300-acre park provides trails for every level.

In September 2020, Jimmy and Tiny Lowry took ownership of the site and have worked hard to provide a place where people can go off-roading in their ATV, UTV or dirt bike.

“We have some of the best trails, from mild to insane,” Jimmy Lowry said.

Visitors bring their own equipment and set off on the trails. There are options for a guided tour or, for those who long for adventure but don’t have the big toys, call to reserve a UTV guided tour riding along with a driver.

Lowry said it’s hard to pass up the scenery found throughout The Cliffs.

“We really do have beautiful views,” Jimmy Lowry said.

The park is open year-round, as long as weather cooperates. In addition to trail riding, the park can host events including birthdays. The park also has hosted special events including foot races.

The Cliffs has an in-house grill, Grumpy’s, that serves burgers, beefs and the favorite: a crispy porker, also known as a pork tenderloin.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 41 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE | BY LAND
Photo provided by The Cliffs Insane Terrain
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Give It Your Best



at indoor and outdoor ranges

Take a breath and focus.

Ready? Aim.

Squeeze the trigger … and fire.

The thrill and skill of firing at a target – whether clay pigeons soaring across the sky, spinning targets at an Old West-style range, or paper silhouettes – is a multisensory experience. Anticipation builds as you grip a firearm, whether a pistol, rifle or bow. There’s the sound of gunpowder igniting, the recoil of the shot and the satisfying thud of hitting the target.

These are the sensations that make target shooting an addictive pastime.

Amy Hanson of Peru has been shooting recreationally for eight years at local ranges.

44 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
| Must Try |
Kate Reynolds | Photos provided by South Post Guns

“It sharpens my shooting skills and accuracy. Target shooting makes me feel more competent with firearms,” Hanson said. She paused, then added, “It’s also one of the ways I have fun while meeting people who enjoy the sport.”

Starved Rock Country is home to both indoor and outdoor gun ranges where visitors can pass recreational hours.

The region’s only public indoor range is found at South Post Guns in Streator. The family-owned business sells guns, shooting equipment and apparel in its store, and it operates an indoor shooting range and a 20-yard 3-D archery range on the premises. It is one of the few facilities in Illinois that rents out fullyautomatic machine guns for marksmen to use on site. South Post Guns also hosts several competitions, including a bowling pin shootout.

The destination looks different from your usual gun shop and shooting range. Brian R. Pflibsen and his son, Auston, are proud of the building they converted into a log cabin-style aesthetic. Brian Pflibsen custom built

the facility with reclaimed wood, and they’re continuing to expand their offerings this year. Builders are adding a cafe, for which Pflibsen built custom bartender doors. More additions include an upstairs room for business conferences and events and an outdoor seating area.

While the building maintains a rustic atmosphere, the eight-lane shooting range is sleek and modern.

“Besides general target shooting, we offer several training and refresher courses,” Pflibsen said. Courses are open to all experience levels, from beginners to seasoned shooters.

Pflibsen said women comprise up to 20% of the customer base.

“They have the opportunity to take several NRA women’s courses the shop offers, all of which are designed with safety in mind,” Pflibsen said.

Safety is the top priority at South Post Guns. Pflibsen said the facility is committed to following all regulations and keeps a range safety officer on duty to monitor activities.

Looking for a place to shoot recreationally? Try one of Starved Rock Country's popular shooting ranges.


104 E. Livingston Road, Streator 815-510-9395

South Post Guns & Shooting Range on Facebook

Open Monday through Saturday

Visitors must reserve range time at least two hours in advance.



1254 N. 2803rd Road, Ottawa 815-433-2471

Open Thursday through Monday No reservations required.

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 45
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Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce Music in the Park Ottawa Friendship Days Kites in Flight Third Friday Artisan Market Farmers & Makers Market Ottawa Family Pride Festival Infinity Food Festival SM-CL2156510
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Outdoor Sport

For those who want to shoot in the sunshine and open air, head to Buffalo Range Shooting Park in Ottawa. Outdoor ranges provide target shooting in a setting that offers various weather conditions and longer ranges, some up to several hundred yards away.

Buffalo Range Shooting Park is a family-owned outdoor destination founded in 1970. Open to the public, it provides an environment that encourages the safe handling and use of firearms while promoting recreational shooting sports for all ages.

The grounds offer a variety of shooting ranges, including 25-yard, 50-yard and 100-yard rifle ranges, a pistol range with shooting lanes from 5 to 20 yards, a trap range to launch and shoot clay targets and a Double Deuce 22 long rifle range that emulates an Old West shooting gallery with spinners, knock-down targets and gongs.

Buffalo Range also is home to The Pit, an abandoned strip mine that has been converted into a unique shooting range with distances of 40 to 75 yards. Guests can bring their own targets to set up in The Pit. Controlled rapid fire is allowed in this section.

Pete O’Brien of Wyanet has been a sportsman for 20 years, with extensive shooting training for the last five. During a recent visit to Buffalo Range, he was preparing to shoot at a mid-range target. When asked why he liked outdoor shooting, he smiled.

“What I like about outdoor ranges is the fresh air and the ability to shoot long distances,” he said. “This park offers many distance ranges, so I get a good experience here. Plus, I can improve my skills, understanding and abilities while enjoying the camaraderie with like-minded individuals.”

Hanson said she enjoys outdoor ranges because they allow her to be part of a community of shooters participating simultaneously.

“I think there is more space and several more shooting options for shooting handguns or rifles,” she said.

Buffalo Range Shooting Park is a destination for experienced shooters as well as those new to the sport. The park is committed to safety and maintaining a familyfriendly atmosphere.

46 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
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When the

Tucker Came to Town

An iconic and rare automobile once had a future in Ottawa

With its streamlined styling and innovative features, the American public was ready for the Tucker automobile in the 1940s – and so was Ottawa.

Francis “Kay” Killelea, now 104 years old, remembers it well.

In 1947, home for a year after nearly four years in the Army serving in Europe and the Pacific, Killelea was ready to leave Ottawa and relocate to California.

But his brother James, also a veteran, urged him to change his mind.

“He said, ‘You got to stay with me because I got this car franchise.’ It was the Tucker, so I ended up staying,” Killelea said.

The vehicle, proposed by Michigan automotive entrepreneur Preston Tucker, not only offered a headturning appearance but also standard equipment including an automatic transmission, padded dashboard, a pop-out safety glass windshield and other features now standard on automobiles.

It was a big difference from the new cars the big automobile manufacturers were offering. Those were based on their prewar models they had discontinued in order to build the tanks and airplanes used to win World War II.

HIDDEN HISTORY takes a closer look at interesting but lesser known moments in Starved Rock Country’s past.

A Tucker automobile quickly drew a crowd when it was parked near the old La

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 47
The Tucker automobile showroom in Ottawa in 1947, now the home of TPM Stems, 1401 N. La Salle St. The only Tucker automobile ever displayed in the Tucker dealership showroom in 1947. Salle County Courthouse.

For the Tucker’s Ottawa showroom, the brothers remodeled a vacant building at 1401 La Salle St., now the home of TPM Stems florist shop. Built in 1885, the building’s uses had included a grocery store, meat market and feed supply.

They also visited the Tucker manufacturing plant on the South Side of Chicago near Midway Airport. Previously it had been a factory for WWII B-29 bomber engines.

“They had an assembly line set up and they let us test drive some of the finished Tuckers,” Killelea said.

Often called the Tucker Torpedo, the proper name for the vehicle was the Tucker 48.

One of the Tuckers was brought to Ottawa for a week so potential customers and the curious could get a look.

People crowded into the showroom for a view. One day when the Tucker was parked at the corner of Madison and La Salle streets next to the La Salle County courthouse, a crowd quickly gathered around.

Killelea was able to take the Tucker for some test rides.

“That thing would really fly,” he recalled. “I remember going out on Route 71, and that Tucker would hit 100 mph like nothing at all.”

The Tucker was powered by a rear-mounted helicopter engine that could accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds with a top speed of 120 mph.

The Killeleas took in 50 deposits for new

Tuckers. Unfortunately, only a prototype – The Tin Goose – and 50 cars were built before the factory had to close.

Preston Tucker’s operation was investigated by the federal government’s Securities and Exchange Commission, and the ensuing legal battles left Tucker broke and the assembly plant shut down. The finished cars were sold at auction.

Tucker was working on a car to be manufactured in Brazil when he died of cancer in 1956 at age 53.

Today, almost all Tuckers are accounted for.

They are prized exhibits in car museums and other locations where they are on display – including the Smithsonian Museum. Francis Ford Coppola, who directed the 1988 movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” starring Jeff Bridges, is a Tucker owner.

Today the vehicles’ sales prices are in the millions of dollars.

The Killeleas returned the 50 Tucker deposits they had received and instead opened a Studebaker dealership. After Studebaker shut down in 1967, James Killelea moved to Texas and Francis Killelea opened a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Ottawa.

“What happened to the Tucker was all political,” Killelea said, noting the charges against Preston Tucker later were dropped. “It was a threat to the other car companies.”

“But I still think it was a great car,” Killelea said. C S R

48 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country
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A Tucker automobile on display at the 2024 Chicago Auto Show.
Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 49 Illinois’ Newest RV & Tenting Campground Info/Reservations: (815) 431-0936 926 N 2150th Rd Oglesby, IL 61348 SM-LA2155300 Uncork A Great Time At Clarks Run For Upcoming Events and Live Entertainment Schedule, like both locations on Facebook! Wine & Beer Tasting Room, Live Music. Now Serving You At 2 Locations! Clark s Run A ntiques 215 N. Div ision St., Utica • 815.667.719 0 Qualit y unique craft s, antiques, and gift s TA ST ING RO OM & OU T DO OR PAT IO Enjoy our wonder ful w ine and beer selection Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm, Closed Mon Clark s Run Creek Wine & Gift s 143 Mill St., Utica • 815.6 91.8049 Utic a ’ s Best Kept Secret Gift s & Wine, B ourbon, and Specialt y Dr ink s Rent our upst air s ro om for special event s Bachelorette Par ties, Bir thdays, or Shower s Mon, Wed, & Thurs 12-7pm, Fri & Sat 12-9pm, Sun 12-6pm, Closed Tues 2 Check Facebook for Music Schedule Gaming Available!

There is a hidden glimpse of yesterday a few miles southwest of Ottawa along the Illinois River. Local historians call it “the old road bridge” and “the Fall Creek culvert.” The structure stands parallel to Route 71. The bridge can be considered a hidden gem because it is not easy to see – it is surrounded by an overgrowth of brush and trees. When riding along Route 71 south of Ottawa, slow down and you might catch a glimpse of the old road bridge.

50 | Summer 2024 • Starved Rock Country ratS v e dRockCou n yrt May 2024
Postcard Starved
Photo by Tom Sistak
Rock Country

Your Guide to Live Music & Libations in LaSalle County this Summer

• August Hill Winery

• CatsEye Wine Bar

• Hegeler Carus Mansion

• Heritage Harbor

• The Lone Buffalo

• Star Union Spirits

• Starved Rock Lodge

• Washington Park ...and many more!

Starved Rock Country • Summer 2024 | 51
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