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Summer Fun in Chicago

August 2019

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

It’s August, it’s hot, and we’ve all been working far too hard. Let’s get out of town, shall we? The Perseid Meteor Showers start this weekend, August 9th – 11th. How about a place, far enough away to have truly dark skies at night, where we can lay back and watch this wonder of nature?

White Pines State Park, 6712 West Pines Road, Mt. Morris IL, only 90 miles from Chicago, is a perfect choice. Meet us after work, say about 6pm? Our little caravan can take the short trip west, where we’ll choose a few campsites that are close together and set up camp, close by the showers and other amenities.

Then let’s hike a mile or two before we head for dinner at the White Pines Inn. This building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It was constructed from huge logs, shipped to Illinois from Oregon, and boasts a floor-to-ceiling limestone fireplace. The food is reputed to be very good, and the red raspberry pie is, well, mmmm, delicious. https://www.whitepinesinn.com.

After that we’ll return to our campsites, stretch out beneath the stars, (Have you forgotten how many there are? Away from the city you can actually see the Milky Way.) and watch for meteors. They call it a “shower” but it’s not like the meteors are raining down on us. They are quite amazing, but you have to be very calm, and very attentive; open your eyes and field of vision, as the little streaks of light often disappear in just a second. It’s fun to watch, and lasts for several hours, so be ready, and bring a blanket, drop cloth or something similar.

The weekend is here already and just look at the great things we’ll be doing!  Friday, the 16th, meet us for dinner, about 6pm, at The Kennison, an American style restaurant that celebrates one of Chicago’s most loved con-men, David Kennison. He claimed to be the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, to have fought in both the War of Independence and the War of 1812, and to have out-lived four wives by whom he sired (depending upon which story you read) four or six children.  He died in Lincoln Park, where a boulder commemorates his grave, at the age of 115.

The restaurant is right across the street from the boulder, featuring salads, appetizers, and entrees that include such delights as Fish & Chips, Scallops, and Bone-in Pork Chops, each with a unique flavor profile that’s far from ordinary. But you know what? I want their Cheeseburger, on a potato bun, with caramelized onions, pickles, cheese, house sauce and fries. It’s calling to me already. The Kennison is at 1800 North Lincoln, 312.981.7070, https://www.thekennison.com.

Next stop, Steppenwolf Theatre, https://www.steppenwolf.org, 1650 N. Halsted, where we’ll be seeing tonight’s performance of True West, a significant retelling of Sam Shepard’s play about “the volatile relationship of Austin and Lee, estranged brothers who find themselves holed up together in their mother’s well-kept suburban house with a typewriter, a set of golf clubs and the undeniable call of the desert. In its first Steppenwolf revival, our new generation of artists take on Shepard’s masterpiece.”

Good morning! It’s Saturday, August 17th, and we are going to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, right off I-94, across the border in Wisconsin. Here we’ll be transported back to a 16th century English town, full of “knights in shining armor, jousting, archery, Cornish pasties and dubious English accents.” There are plays, Falconry demonstrations, plenty of delicious food, and a chance to “interact with characters to complete quests and solve mysteries.” Even better – this is “Heroes and Villains Weekend” filled with daring deeds and wicked mischief. You’ll even have a chance to become “the Queen’s Hero” and escort her to the city gates at the end of the day. I hope you win!

What a wonderful day, cheerful, exciting and vibrant, so very different from our daily lives in the big city. Check it out at: http://renfair.com/bristol, 12550 120th Ave., Kenosha, WI. Time to head home, rest up, and get up early tomorrow.

Because today, Sunday, August 18th, we’re going down to North Ave. Beach for the 60th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show!  You know why we must arrive early – over 2 million, yes, I said “million”, people will be watching this thrilling event, and we’ll need to claim a decent spot for our group.

The Navy’s spectacular Blue Angels will be here, along with the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, and a host of other pilots, flying acrobats, and more to keep us engaged and entertained throughout. I’m especially looking forward to watching Great Britain’s Royal Air Force Red Arrows. Since they are flying the same skies as the Blue Angels, I expect that a friendly rivalry will yield some truly spectacular demonstrations from both groups.  Holy cow! The weekend is over already? We’re exhausted, but satisfied, happy, and looking forward to a calmer weekend.

This Saturday, August 24th, please come with us out to DeKalb, Illinois, for the annual Corn Fest, https://www.cornfest.com. DeKalb, one of our favorite smaller cities, is home to Northern Illinois University. The Corn Fest features a Corn Boil (buckets and buckets of fresh corn on the cob, waiting for butter and a little salt), beer garden, carnival with a Ferris Wheel and other safe rides, slides, and things to do. The sound stage will be occupied by a host of fine musicians, including Saturday night’s tribute to Prince: Marshall Charloff & The Purple Xperience, followed by the always exciting Hi Infidelity.

We’ll stay someplace locally, then on Sunday, August 25th, take it easy while we grab a late breakfast, and then visit Whiskey Acres farm and distillery, http://www.whiskeyacres.com/.  The family grows its own corn and rye, using much of it in producing some of the world’s finest whiskey and other spirits.  The tour of the distillery is enlightening, the tasting room is cozy, and the various spirits are enticing and delicious. Wasn’t that a good, yet different, kind of fun?

Who’s up for JAZZ?  The Chicago Jazz Fest  https://jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest,/ opens today, Thursday, August 29th, in Millennium Park for the 40th year. This is my favorite Chicago festival; great music from legendary musicians, with a gentle and laid-back feel, in fine jazz tradition. Tonight, we want to catch the tribute to Nat King Cole, featuring his younger brother, Freddy Cole. It starts at 7:45, so take your time, and meet us at the Cloud Gate about 7pm, so we can get a good spot.

Well, that certainly wasn’t enough jazz, was it? So, we’re returning today, Friday, August 30th, about 5pm to hear Joel Ross, (starting at 5:25pm), and staying through 9pm to catch both the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. That’s almost enough jazz for one weekend, yes?

On Saturday, August 31st, my friends, meet us at Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W Irving Park Rd., to see The Recommendation, https://windycityplayhouse.com/recommendation/ a story of two college freshman roommates, from wildly different backgrounds, who become strong friends suddenly faced with a challenge that could change both their lives. Windy City is an immersive theater experience; only 35 guests are admitted for each show, so be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance.

Sunday, September 1st, we’re taking off to relax and do some neglected chores. Monday, September 2nd, let’s all remember, is Labor Day. This very real holiday celebrates the hard-working men and women, past and present, whose strength, dedication, effort and skills built this country, “made for you and me.” Relax. Celebrate with friends and family, and rejoice that we are alive and happy and together.

Well, WOW! August was so full of adventure that it rolled right into September. Don’t worry friends, there is still plenty to do.  In Chicago, we’ve learned, there is always plenty to do. Until next month, dear readers and friends, keep exploring.

August 2019