Great Escapes Close to Home

10 March 2015
Published in Places

Exciting getaways are closer to home than you might think! Whether you’re planning your family's spring break, a couples retreat or a weekend with friends, explore what awaits you in our guide to great escapes! 




car icon black2 = Miles from Woodstock.


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Paramount Theatre presents "Les Misérables," a live Broadway-caliber performance March 18-April 26, 2015. Photo: Tom King


The Aurora area is perfect for weekend getaways, boasting exciting events and festivals year-round. From world-class theater to opera, and every type of live music imaginable, the performances never end. 


Live sports more your style? Aurora has professional baseball, college football, USSSA-sanctioned tournaments, biathlons, triathlons and whitewater rapids.


Need some retail therapy? The Premium Outlets is sure to cure. Find impressive savings with more than 120 designer brands such as Ann Taylor and Armani. Need more of a low-key shopping experience? Young and old alike fall in love with the local charm of Sandwich's renowned antique stores, where a vintage find can bring about memories to cherish forever.


View the entire Chicago area from Fermilab’s 15th floor. Take an architectural tour that includes works by Bruce Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. 


Dine at any of Aurora’s Culinary Champions or visit a real Enjoy Illinois Delicious Destination while traveling the historic Illinois Lincoln Highway. The kids will love the various waterparks and hands-on museums. Shopping and family packages available at – so hop on down and create a weekend experience that's worlds away from ordinary!


For more, visit or call 630.256.3190.





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The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is an amazing 1,700-acre garden of trees and other plants from around the world. 


No matter what time of year, there’s always something fun and unique going on in DuPage County. 


History: Cantigny Park (Wheaton) is a 500-acre park that features the Robert R. McCormick Museum housed in a historic mansion built in 1896, the First Division Museum with tanks, cannons and other historic equipment located on the grounds, more than 29 acres of formal gardens, picnic grounds, and a top-ranked public golf course. Naper Settlement (Naperville) is an outdoor living history museum that is a must-see for any American history buff. Graue Mill & Museum (Oak Brook) is Illinois’ only operating waterwheel gristmill. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad and now features fascinating exhibits and displays. 


Culture: Stroll through the unique Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art (Elmhurst). Thrill to the excitement of a Broadway-style live performance at the award-winning Drury Lane Theatre (Oakbrook Terrace). Enjoy a variety of performing arts at the McAninch Arts Center (Glen Ellyn) on the College of DuPage campus. 


Natural Wonders: Drive or stroll through The Morton Arboretum (Lisle), an amazing 1,700-acre garden of trees and other woody plants from around the world. Enjoy the Children's Garden, Maze Garden, 16 miles of hiking trails, guided tours, special events and more throughout their environmentally friendly and handicapped-accessible grounds and facilities. 


Shopping: DuPage County rivals Chicago for spectacular shopping. Oakbrook Center (Oak Brook) was voted Illinois’ No. 1 upscale shopping destination with more than 160 stores and restaurants. Chicago Premium Outlets (Aurora) already has more than 120 stores and is going through a major expansion. 


Dining: You’ll never go hungry in DuPage County, with hundreds of top-notch restaurants. Stop in for a tasting at the award-winning Lynfred Winery (Roselle) – Illinois’ first!


For more: Visit or call 630.575.8070.






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Geneva Lake is a great place to play on the water from swimming and boating to sightseeing and dining. 



Spring is here and it’s not too early to start planning your summer vacation. Whether planning a getaway for family, friends or couples, nearby Lake Geneva, Wis., is the perfect place to fulfill your summer vacation wish list. 


Geneva Lake is the most accessible body of water in Wisconsin, which means you don’t have to look any further for a great place to play on the water. The area’s four beaches provide ample opportunities for swimming and sunbathing. Boating fans can take advantage of a variety of watercraft rentals from Leatherlips Watersports, Jerry’s Majestic Marine, and Clear Water Outdoor. Guests of the Abbey Resort and Avani Spa can rent a slip in the resort’s harbor, giving them access to their own watercraft during their stay. 


The Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers a variety of tours including sightseeing, dining and historic cruises. The Mail Boat Tour is a perennial favorite as all ages get a kick out of watching the Mail Jumpers leap on and off the moving boat to deliver mail dock by dock around Geneva Lake.


Adventure seekers enjoy ziplining with Arial Adventures or Lake Geneva Canopy Tours or a hot air balloon experience with Lake Geneva Balloon Company. Dan Patch Stables at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers pony rides for little cowboys and cowgirls or horseback riding through acres of the beautiful Grand Geneva property for those 7 years old and older. 


Golfers can challenge themselves on championship courses including Lake Lawn Resort’s course Majestic Oaks, known for its stately oaks, deep sand bunkers and subtle undulations. The Palmer, Player and Trevino courses also await golfers at Geneva National Golf Club.  


Shoppers can also enjoy the walkable downtown filled with fun boutiques. And there are no shortage of restaurants with a view in Lake Geneva to enjoy.


For more, visit or call 800.345.1020.






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Take an electric streetcar tour along Lake Michigan and through downtown Kenosha.


Just a short distance away, an abundance of family fun awaits you on the Lake Michigan shore! The Kenosha area in Southeastern Wisconsin is perfect for a spring break adventure, a weekend getaway, or a summer vacation.


Kids of all ages love the free Jelly Belly Express train tour – and free candy samples – at Jelly Belly Visitor Center. Also enjoy a train of a different kind: a scenic ride aboard an authentic Electric Streetcar that travels along Lake Michigan and through downtown Kenosha. Enjoy educational and entertaining experiences at five museums – three are on the streetcar route. At the free Kenosha Public Museum, see the mammoths that were un-earthed in Kenosha County and plan to spend some time at the Field Station, where hands-on activities allow exploration of the arts and sciences. The free Dinosaur Discovery Museum holds the largest display of meat-eating dinosaurs in the country, while the Civil War Museum is one of only three venues featuring a 360-degree film experience in the country – and is the only 360-degree Civil War feature.


Learn about Kenosha’s industrial and automotive history at the free Kenosha History Center, and uncover Lake Michigan shipwreck history inside the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum. Get artsy at Alpaca Art Pottery Painting – and get active at RecPlex (home to an indoor waterpark and an ice arena) or Kenosha YMCA. During the summer months, enjoy Kenosha Kingfish baseball games, the Bristol Renaissance Faire and a climb to the top of Southport Lighthouse (ages 8 and older). 


For more, visit or call 800.654.7309.






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Take a walk up the picturesque Milwaukee Riverwalk to pose with the “Bronze Fonz” of “Happy Days” fame. 


Looking for somewhere to take the family for a spring getaway? You’re just a short drive away from a fun getaway in Milwaukee. Milwaukee makes it easier and more affordable to get away so you can focus on the fun. Now is a great time to visit the city with two brand new museum exhibits opening. The Milwaukee Public Museum’s "Crossroads of Civilization: Ancient Worlds of the Near East and Mediterranean" opens March 15 and will feature life-size figures created in-house, like a recreation of King Tut in his chariot and state-of-the-art interactive displays. Betty Brinn Children's Museum, designed specifically for kids 10 and younger, recently opened its new "Word Headquarters" feature exhibit, an interactive pretend communications company. Discovery World continues to inspire and entertain with its interactive science and technology exhibits, and a visit to the Milwaukee County Zoo provides year-round family fun.

Come up for Cubs/Brewers games May 8-10 and be sure to join in the tailgating at Miller Park or take in pre-game fun at a brewery tour at MillerCoors or Lakefront Brewery. Add arts and culture to the mix with Broadway productions at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, including Beauty and the Beast, Blue Man Group and Book of Mormon, and be inspired by original creations from fashion designers including Dior, St. Laurent and Cardin on display at the lakefront Milwaukee Art Museum’s current exhibit through May 3.

 Foodies can begin exploring Milwaukee’s burgeoning culinary scene at the Historic Third Ward’s Milwaukee Public Market, featuring Wisconsin products, seafood, chocolates, frozen custard and more. Take a short walk up the picturesque Riverwalk, past the “Bronze Fonz” of “Happy Days” fame, to Old World Third Street, where the city’s German heritage is celebrated with legendary Mader’s restaurant and specialty shops featuring Usinger sausages, cheese and spices.

For more, visit or call 800.554.1448.



A Lost World Under Our Feet

07 March 2015
Published in History

An Oakwood Hills man discovers traces of life on Earth – even before dinosaurs – right under his feet.


Nothing is more satisfying than taking a trip back in time and losing yourself in the past. You only have to pretend that you have a time machine and set the dial for the time and place you want to explore. 


Let's set our time machine for McHenry County, 420 million years ago during Earth’s Silurian Period. 


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 The first coral James Iverson found on his property in Oakwood Hills is hundreds of millions of years old.  Photo: Evan Hart


The reign of the dinosaurs was still roughly 200 million years into the future during this period, but the shallow tropical sea that covered Illinois teemed with life. Shelled animals like brachiopods, clams, snails and trilobites called this sea home. A massive coral reef that contained sponges, crinoids and bryozoans stretched from Racine, Wis., to Thornton, Ill. 


It was by accident that James Iverson, 54, ended up taking a trip to this prehistoric period, and it's a trip he can't resist taking regularly. It started right in his back yard. 


"I found my first McHenry County fossil about 20 years ago while landscaping on my property in Oakwood Hills," Iverson said. "The hexagon pattern made me think it was a fossilized bee’s nest. A trip to the local library and a couple geology books later and I had a new appreciation for what I had found. It turned out to be a piece of coral – hundreds of millions of years old. I was fascinated and hooked."


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A brachiopod (marine animal from the Silurian Period) found in Crystal Lake. Photo: Evan Hart


Since then, Iverson has searched quarries, gravel pits, farm fields and river banks throughout McHenry County.


"I’m always amazed by my discoveries," he said. "Hidden in plain sight is a lost world of marine fossils just waiting to be discovered." 


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Sedimentary rock found in Cary. Photo: Evan Hart


An ancient brachiopod from a quarry in Crystal Lake was followed by numerous pieces of coral discovered in Oakwood Hills, Bull Valley and Cary. Sedimentary rocks with varying layers of color and, from a much more recent time, an expertly crafted arrowhead from a Fox River Grove riverbank also made their way into Iverson's collection. 


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An arrowhead found along the river bank in Fox River Grove. Photo: Evan Hart


"With the approahcing spring weather, I encourage others to get outside and take a trip back in time to uncover the geology of McHenry County," Iverson said. 


Helpful Resources:


Opening image: Eurypterus, a common Upper Silurian eurypteid, by Obsidian Soul. 


Animal Mandalas in Woodstock

04 December 2014
Published in People

Woodstock author and artist Wendy Piersall brings the beautiful, intricate creatures of her new book "Coloring Animal Mandalas” to life at Read Between the Lynes on December 6. You can color these pieces of art during the afternoon book signing and meet and greet. 


wendy-piersall-headshotMeet “Coloring Animal Mandalas” author Wendy Piersall from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Read Between the Lynes on the Woodstock Square and experience the relaxing art of mandalas while you’re there. “I will have an area set up at with plenty of colored pencils, pencil sharpeners and printouts from 'Coloring Animal Mandalas’,” Piersall said. 


Piersall, a Woodstock resident, has been drawing these circular, spiritual animal patterns since 2009. When her publisher, Ulysses Press, asked her to create a book dedicated to animal mandalas, she jumped at the chance. ‘Coloring Animal Mandalas’ was released in September 2014. 


The book is perfect for tweens, teens and adults. “You don't have to be artistic to enjoy or be good at coloring – all you need is an interest in the process," she explained. “Coloring as an adult is very relaxing and almost meditative. So the process of coloring is just as important as the finished product.” 



 "Coloring Animal Mandalas" was published this fall, with a flower mandalas book due next summer. 


An Artistic Journey

The book is a full-circle, “deeply gratifying” journey for Piersall. With 20 years’ experience in graphic design, she took a break from illustration 10 years ago after experiencing burnout. “It is a personal triumph for me to be able to not only get back to doing artwork again, but also to have the opportunity to work with a national publisher,” she said of her Berkley, Calif., publishing house. “I feel so blessed and honored to be able to do illustration work at all, but to have so many people enjoy my work is the icing on a very rich cake.”


Her artistic process for publication includes drawing in Adobe Illustrator. “I think my world record for fastest mandala drawn was 10 minutes,” she recalled. “Sometimes I get lucky and can make something beautiful with little tricks in the software. But that's very rare. Usually, the mandalas take between two to six hours to draw each. They take about the same amount of time – sometimes more – to color them.”


Recently, Piersall has gone back to working with paper with paint, pens and pencils. “I've always loved the feeling of having the utensils in my hands and how colors lay down onto paper,” she explained. “It always helps my creativity to break away from the screen and do art for the sake of art. I am able to capture a little of this process on my computer by using a drawing tablet, which is like an electronic pen and paper. I honestly don't think I could function as an artist without it.” 



Piersall suggests using colored pencils or fine-tip markers to color the mandalas. 


Mandalas and More

Look for “Coloring Flower Mandalas” from the Piersall-Ulysses team next summer.


She's also trying her hand at illustrating a friend's children's book. “[The book] is going to take a lot of extra work on my part because I don't have a lot of experience drawing people or scenes," she said. "So I am taking a few months to dive into some self-training so that I can work on that with her next spring.” 


Keep up with Piersall’s works in progress via Instagram, her blog and on YouTube



Creativity blooms in Piersall's studio-office at her home in Woodstock. 


Loving Life in McHenry County

Piersall and her husband and children moved to Woodstock from DuPage County just over a year ago. “We were very drawn to Woodstock and have absolutely fallen in love with everything about the area,” she said. “It’s not just the incredible scenery and beautiful historical architecture that we love – and we love that a lot. 


“The people up here are amazing,” she added. “There seems to be a thriving creative community all over McHenry County and it absolutely feeds my artistic side to be a part of it all. We had always dreamed of having a house on a lake somewhere, but now that we're in Woodstock, I honestly don't think we would ever want to live anywhere else.” 


She’s excited to be hosting the book signing and mandala coloring workshop at Ready Between the Lynes – “a great indie bookstore that loves to support local authors like me,” she said. 


“Plus it's on the Woodstock Square during the Christmas season,” she added. “In addition to all of the great shops, Woodstock also has free horse-drawn carriage rides this weekend. What's not to love about all of that?”

The Food Shed Co-op: Your Store

09 November 2014
Published in Food & Spirits

The Food Shed Co-op – a local grocery store where consumers are owners and decision makers – is gaining momentum in McHenry County. Learn about the perks of ownership, progress that's been made and what is still needed to break ground on the store. 



iqMmiLaltOcM0AGa7VOlkKJcTUUAVBHJkJ9YwP3lVtwIt’s only a matter of time – as well as members and cash – before The Food Shed Co-op grocery store opens its doors in McHenry County. Approaching 300 owners and a rate of five to 10 new owners weekly, The Food Shed is gaining momentum every day. This news is much to the delight of folks wanting to spend their dollars on healthier, fresher, locally sourced food that is produced ethically on farms close to home. 


The Food Shed is a small part of a large global food movement and one of many cooperatives that have opened in the United States recently. Think of a food co-op as a year-round farmers market where quality control and decision-making is in the hands of consumers instead of corporations. 


So how does it work? The food cooperative model is a community-owned grocery store that will operate according to the 7 Cooperative Principals and according to what its owners want.


Two shares of stock ($100 per share) must be purchased to become an owner. Owners have a stake in what is stocked on the shelves of the Food Shed Co-op when it opens.


Making Progress

The Food Shed has made great strides in fewer than two years since a dozen residents met to discuss a community-owned grocery store. In October 2014 alone, the owners elected their first board of directors and won a $20,350 grant from the USDA to fund a feasibility/market study, which will help determine store size and exact location within McHenry County. Woodstock and Crystal Lake are being considered. 


A market study and a financial analysis will provide data needed to narrow down the store's location, how large the store should be, how much money is required and number of owners needed.


The Food Shed regularly runs ownership drives to reach the 800-1,000 members generally needed to get a store underway. The $1 million to $1.5 million needed to build a store comes from owner equity loans, grants, etc. It’s an exciting time for McHenry County consumers longing for control over their food choices. 




Volunteers like Ryan and Katrina Ellison (at the McHenry County Fair) are needed to help spread the word about The Food Shed Co-op.  



Bigger Picture of Co-ops

I’m involved with The Food Shed Co-Op because business as usual in regard to the environment, our food supply and consumption in general is neither sustainable nor desirable. Food co-ops like The Food Shed, on the other hand, provide the following benefits:


-A channel to take our global thoughts, joys and concerns and put them into action locally. 

-A way for families and individuals to shop for the food we need and leave a smaller footprint on the planet, compared to where we buy food now. 

-A vehicle to understanding the climate and social impacts of the foods we choose to put into our baskets.

-A way to connect communities in our increasingly disconnected world. For example, some envision the Food Shed as a destination for education (e.g., cooking classes) and a space for music, community events and group meetings. The possibilities are endless, which is why new members and volunteers are so important – to continue adding to the dialogue as we grow and eventually break ground. We hope you join us! 


For more, like The Food Shed Co-op on Facebook, call 815.315.1541 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



SCOTTScott Brix is a member of the board of directors of The Food Shed Co-op. He owns Wildzyme Bioproducts Inc., a Woodstock company that provides technical service and bulk sales of industrial enzymes and probiotics for food, beverage and nutrition applications. He lives in rural Marengo.

Johnny Appleseed Festival

08 September 2014
Published in Places

The legend of Johnny Appleseed meets the excitement of fall with children’s activities, markets, demos, contests and more during the 22nd Annual Johnny Appleseed Festival September 27 througout downtown Crystal Lake.


In the 1800s, John Chapman, a frontier nurseryman, introduced apple trees to several states, including Illinois, according to This fascinating character was also an avid storyteller, friend of Native Americans, missionary and insect enthusiast. He’s become such a folk hero of American history and conservation, that many towns pay homage to him this time of year.

And for 22 years now, Downtown Crystal Lake / Main Street has celebrated his legend with our very own Johnny Appleseed Festival. You are invited to see what it’s all about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, September 27.

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Capture the spirit of fall during the fest with pony rides, wagon rides, petting zoo, moonwalk, pumpkin train, amusement rides, pumpkin train, clowns, facepainters and heritage demonstrations. You will even find Johnny Appleseed himself strolling the streets with tales and treats for the kids.

Don’t miss the library's storytelling corner, student martial arts and dance demos, a pie-eating contest, apple pie baking contest, craft fair, police and fire vehicles, plus the farmers market with food a court and live music at Depot Park.

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At 3 p.m., Johnny Appleseed Festival culminates with the Great Ball Race on Brink Street, an exciting spectacle of colorful balls racing down from the top of the hill. Tickets are available for purchase, and if your ball wins, you take home $1,000! New this year is the Great BIG Ball Race held immediately after the main event. Representatives from five local businesses and service organizations will be racing up the Brink Street hill as spectators cheer them on!


For more, call 815.479.0835 or visit

Fall Fests & Fun on the Farm

28 September 2014
Published in Places



Photo: Dan Wiegel


Fall Family Fest, Cary – FREE for adults

September 6

Pony rides, petting zoo, pumpkins, hay rides, face painting and more. MCL is a proud sponsor and will see you there! 


Harvest Fest & Fair on the Square, Woodstock Square – FREE

September 21

Harvest Fest and Fair in the Square is a free, family-friendly event to be held on the Woodstock Square, rain or shine.


County Meadows, Veteran's Memorial Park, McHenry

September 21

The show will feature crafts, a farmers market, a small vendor fair and wine tasting.


Huntley Fall Fest, Deicke Park – admission on Saturday night only

September 26-28

Food, mainstage music, carnival, kids' workshop, scarecrow contest and more. 


Johnny Appleseed Festival  – FREE

September 27

Crystal Lake's largest one-day event which brings families and the community together to celebrate fall with music, demonstrations, craft fair, farmers market and the Great Ball Race. MCL is a proud sponsor and will see you there! 


Antique Tractor Show and Plow Day, Von Bergen's Country Market, Hebron

September 27

Annual antique tractor show and plow day, customer appreciation, pony rides, wagon rides, pumpkins, sweet corn, music and more. 


Cary Main Street Fest – FREE

September 27-28

The inaugural Cary Main Street Fest in downtown Cary will be an outdoor fall festival will feature local restaurants and businesses, a marketplace of vendors and artists, live entertainment and a children's area to celebrate all that Cary has to offer.


Ride of the Zombies – FREE fun fair

September 28

Inaugural family bicycle ride and family fun fair at Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Woodstock to bring awareness to the link between sleeping disorders and behavioral disorders in children. Proceeds will go to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s Sleep Medicine Department. MCL is a proud sponsor and will see you there! .


Cider Festival FREE

October 5

Cider Festival features musical entertainment by Charlie B and Friends, harvest demonstrations,horseshoe tournament, apple bake-off contest, bake sale, kettle corn and white elephant sale. The museum, Gannon 1843 log cabin and 1895 West Harmony one-room school are also open free all day.


Marengo Settlers' Days – FREE

October 9-13

Marengo Settlers Days will feature a carnival, parade, music, food, beer tent, baby contest, competitions and entertainment for the whole family.


Fall Fun at Volo Auto Museum

Weekends in October

Free hayrides and maze every weekend in October, plus the following “ghoulish” anniversary events: Meet Svengoolie: Celebrating 35 Years (October 4); 30 Years of Ghostbusters (October 11); 35 Years of Alien (October 18); 50 Years of The Munsters (October 25-26). 


Autumn Drive, Rural Marengo and Woodstock – FREE

October 17-19

Sixteen family farms in rural Marengo and Woodstock open to the public with antiques, arts, crafts, pumpkins and many surprises to discover along the way. MLC is a proud sponsor and will see you there! 


Terror on the Railroad, Union

Fridays and Saturdays in October

Terror on the Railroad at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union invites you to experience a haunted Halloween train if you dare!


The Haunted Square, Woodstock Square

Weekends in October

A yearly Halloween celebration of scares on the Square with Madness Manor, a giant, terrifying and interactive haunted house open weekend nights – exact operating hours, pricing and additional date information available soon. 



All SeasonsWoodstock – U-pick apples and pumpkins, corn maze, petting zoo, hayrides, bakery, market and Country Kitchen.


Cody’s Pumpkin Festival, Marengo – Homegrown fruit and vegetables, U-pick pumpkins, corn maze, corn tunnel, hayrides, barrel rides, tractor track and food/beverage.


Harms Farm & Garden Center Fall Harvest, McHenry – Pumpkins, squash, gourds, Indian corn, firewood, apples/cider, pumpkin train, corn maze, animal zoo, Nessie’s Nest and haunted walk.


Red Barn Farm MarketWoodstock – Corn mazes, a spooky house for children, farm animals, Mom's Kitchen, whimsical pumpkin figures, squash, gourds, potatoes, popcorn, pumpkins, entertainment and children’s activities.


Richardson Adventure FarmSpring Grove  – World’s largest corn maze, zip line ride, pumpkins, kids’ play area, wagon rides, ORBiting, food/beverage and picnic areas.


Royal Oak Farm Market AppleFest and PumpkinFestHarvard – Giant and ornamental pumpkins and gourds, hayrides, the Royal Oak Express, petting zoo, carousel, playhouses, Country Kitchen, apple barn and bakery.


Stade's Farm and Market Shades of AutumnMcHenry – Fun house, corn maze, barrel train, combine rides, hayrides to the pumpkin field, cattle trailer maze, petting zoo, pumpkin cannon and free live entertainment.


Tom's Farm Market,  Huntley – Pumpkins, pony rides, face painting, farm animals, corn maze, homemade fudge, baked goods and Tom's Country Café.


Von Bergen's Country MarketHebron – Pumpkins, farm animals, squash, gourds, Indian corn, mums, a corn maze, children's maze, pumpkin barrel ride, craft corner, seasonal vegetables, jams and honey.

Cary Park Dist. Fest Ushers in Fall

25 August 2014
Published in Places

Cary Park District promises a day of fun for the whole family during the Fall Family Fest on September 6.  

Kick off autumn family fun in Cary with hayrides, pony rides, a petting zoo, kids’ crafts, face painting, a pumpkin patch and more during the Fall Family Fest, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, September 6 at Lions Park.

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This annual fest is a smash year after year for children of all ages as families usher in another fun fall season in McHenry County!

New this year, event host Cary Park District is adding a craft and vendor show where visitors can shop from a variety of crafters and vendors. Interested sellers can fill out a registration form here

Children also receive goodie bags at the entrance. 

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Admission $9 for children 3 and older; $5 for children ages 1-2; and free for adults and children younger than 1.

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Thank you to the volunteers and following sponsors for helping make this year’s Fall Family Fest a success:


For more information, call 847.639.6100 or visit Like the park district on facebook

SLCL Housewalk Sneak Peek!

08 September 2014
Published in Places

Amazing homes that typify the staycation are on display during Service League of Crystal Lake’s 40th Annual Housewalk – all for great local causes. Take McHenry County Living’s exclusive preview tour now!

Photos: R. Hacker Photography

“Staycation” – taking leisure in one’s home – is the theme of the Service League of Crystal Lake's 40th Annual Housewalk with two tours on Friday, September 26. From calming water features to basement escapes, from breathtaking views to incredible interiors, these homes are true destinations.

“These four fabulous homes will make you feel like you are on vacation without even leaving the Crystal Lake area,” according to Amy Wittenberg, publicity chairwoman.

Partaking in the Housewalk is also a special opportunity that makes a big difference – your ticket directly benefits those in immediate need in the community – something we can all feel great about.

“The Housewalk is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Service League, last year raising more than $25,000 for those in need in Crystal Lake,” Wittenberg explained. “All the proceeds from all the Service League events go back to the community in the form of scholarships to students or assistance to those in need in the community.”

McHenry County Living is pleased to share with you a sneak peek of the staycation homes of this year’s Housewalk. See MCL's Facebook photo album for more exclusive photos! >>>


R. Hacker Photography Dias 21 of 22

The Boulder Ridge Home – Outdoor Living with a Golf View 

The first house is a golfer’s dream home – a fabulous country club estate located on the 9th hole of the Boulder Ridge Golf Course (above). This house features a gourmet kitchen, artistically painted walls, decorative light fixtures and stunning fireplaces. The lower level is an escape in and of itself with a relaxing home theater, pool table, bar and wine cellar adorned with reclaimed woods and a stained glass window. The backyard, overlooking the golf course, is adorned with verdant landscaping, an outdoor fireplace, bubbly ponds and its very own Bocce ball court.


The Sander Home – A Lovingly Restored Retreat

Next, the Sander Home blends history with modern luxury – a renovated Cape Cod cottage located in the Gates of Lakewood that is both a home and retreat. This is a house steeped in history dating back to when construction began in 1922. Built on 1.5 lots, the property was originally owned by the Consumer Ice Co. – a direct link to Crystal Lake’s legacy in the ice industry. Another notable fact – the front yard is home to the oldest Ash tree in Crystal Lake. Architecturally, the Sander home retains all the charms of the original while having doubled in size with plenty of meticulous renovations. Interior highlights include a formal living room with original wood floors, fireplace and staircase; a sun room bathed in light from the original windows (above) and decorated with family mementos and artwork; a modern kitchen with refinished cabinetry, custom millwork and new appliances; and family room with its own fireplace and great views of the lush backyard.


The Ozment Home – Mediterranean Escape

Also located in the Gates, just one block over from the Sander home, is the Ozment home – a special Mediterranean escape with deep roots in local history. Built in 1927 by John Barrett, former vice president of farm machine giant International Harvester, this home was built as a one-third-scale model of his villa in Portugal. A key figure in the community, Barrett helped organize the Village of Lakewood in 1933 and was village president. The charm and elegance of this Spanish eclectic-style home (above) can be seen through arched doorways, stained glass windows, original iron fixtures and clay tile roof. Renovations and additions include hand-painted Mexican tile, formal gardens, a concrete swimming pool (opening photo) and exceptional screened-in porch. The Ozments worked closely with Manchester Builders of Crystal Lake to beautifully integrate the villa’s historic style and modern amenities.


The Allen Home – Resort-Like Colonial

The final house on the walk is a spectacular white colonial set in a vast wooded area with resort-like yard. Creatively decorated by the Allen family with contemporary rustic décor, there are surprises in every room. The kitchen flows into the breakfast and great rooms, creating an open floor plan perfect for entertaining. Two of the upstairs bedrooms are clearly decorated for the Allen girls’ unique interests. The finished basement shows owner Tom’s career in fire fighting and the family’s enjoyment of board games. Outdoors, a screened-in porch overlooks the gorgeously landscaped yard, in-ground pool and relaxing cabana area with cozy sectional couch, TV, fire table and chandelier (above).


Housewalk Details

  • Friday, September 26, 2014
  • 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Tickets: $30 in advance; $40 on event day
  • Raffle tickets are $5 each, $20 for five tickets to win a cash prize of $500 or $250, or a lovely piece of jewelry donated by Dalzell & Co. They are available through SLCL members and on event day.
  • For more, visit


Get Your Tickets

  • Around the Clock Restaurant & Bakery at 5011 Northwest Hwy.
  • Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery and Garden Center at 5301 E. Terra Cotta Ave.
  • Dalzell & Co. at 41 N. Williams St.
  • 1776 Restaurant at 397 W. Virginia St.
  • Twisted Stem Floral at 407 E. Terra Cotta Ave.
  • Wickham Interiors Inc. at 67 N. Williams St.
  • Yours & Meyn Simply Designed at 37 N. Williams St.
  • Mueller Interiors Inc. at 440 W. Virginia St.
  • Online at

See more beautiful photos of the Housewalk homes here! 

Our Local Little Free Libraries

16 July 2014
Published in Places

Little Free Libraries in McHenry County and beyond are all about thinking outside of the box by thinking inside of the box.


In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis. – inspired by his mother, a schoolteacher and avid reader – built a box in the shape of a schoolhouse, mounted it on a post in his front yard, and filled it with books so his friends and neighbors could help themselves to a book.

There are now more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries like Bol’s worldwide with more being built every day.

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Our Area’s First Little Free Library

The story of how Little Free Libraries grew in McHenry County begins with Suzanne Gooding of rural Garden Prairie, Ill. (just west of Marengo). She read an article about Bol’s library in On Wisconsin, a magazine of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. When she shared the story with her husband, David (photo, above), a woodworker, he used his carpentry skills to duplicate the box. Their efforts gave rise to the first Little Free Library available to residents of Boone, McHenry and neighboring counties.

“Dave and I talked about it and thought it was a very good idea, but we also thought that our yard would not be a good location because a nearby hill limits visibility of our driveway,” Suzanne said.

With permission of the farmer who owns the land, David installed his Little Free Library on the northwest corner of Kishwaukee Valley and Garden Prairie roads, about three quarters of a mile south of the family’s residence.


Finding Treasures in Cary

Kay Shackelford (photo, above, right), Cary resident, heard about the Little Free Library concept from her sister who lives in Kenosha, Wis. Shackelford thought it was such a good idea she asked her boyfriend, Geno Nicholas (photo, above, middle), if he would build one that they could mount in her side yard.

“I started with some plans from the Little Free Library website, but I wound up building to dimensions that I thought would be the right size,” Nicholas said. “My goals were to make it unique, attractive and weatherproof. We installed it last summer, so it had to survive last year’s winter. It did that quite well, so think I accomplished at least my weatherproofing goal.”

The library is located at 902 Elden Drive.

“I think Little Free Library promotes community and sharing and – being an active reader myself – I like the idea of promoting reading,” Shackelford added. “Our community library is located right around the corner from us, but this is really a different thing. [It provides] an opportunity to share with the community on a personal basis. That was the driving force for me.”

“I first noticed Kay’s Little Free Library last fall,” said patron Amy Hodgson (photo, above, left). “I live just a around the block and go for walks regularly. I knew what it was right away because I had read an article about little free libraries in a magazine. Kay has a very eclectic selection of books.

“Sometimes I’ll just take a book,” she added. “Today, I came to drop off a book because I didn’t bring one the other night. I think I stop at least once a week. When I leave a book I’m always excited about somebody finding the book, because that’s how I feel. It’s always like finding a treasure.”


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“A Great Concept” Comes to Crystal Lake

McHenry County’s newest Little Free Library stewards, Jill and Larry May (photo, above), live just west of downtown Crystal Lake at 115 Elmhurst St. They were turned onto Little Free Libraries while visiting Madison, Wis.

“We were there one weekend and I saw what I thought at first was a large bird house in front of somebody’s yard,” May said. “I asked my husband to stop because I wanted to look at it. We got out of the car and found our first Little Free Library. The structure, being located in a small garden, was quite lovely. I thought, ‘What a great concept.’”

On the back roads heading home from Madison, the Mays also happened upon the Goodings’ Little Free Library. “When we got home, I contacted [David] through information on the Little Free Library website,” Jill said. “I learned he built his own library and asked if he could build one for us. He not only did so but delivered it – ready to be painted – to our door last fall.”

The Mays hope others follow their lead. “We wanted to be part of this grassroots movement, so I’d be very happy if others were inspired by our library enough to put one in their own yard,” Larry said.


“All Kinds of Books Appear”

So how does Little Free Libraries work? Once the library is built, stewards generally begin stocking them with books they’ve read and are ready to share, but most find that their libraries self-generate a supply of books in time.

“We filled up the first time with books that Suzanne or I had read,” David said. “These were mostly hardbound novels. It wasn’t full when we first put it up, but a few days after it was installed the lady who delivers our mail mentioned she dropped off a few books. Then the mother of our neighbor gave us books to put in when she heard about it. After that a number of books just appeared in the library. Every time friends or family hear about the library, they donate books. All kinds of books appear.”

The Goodings originally thought it would work like a library where people would take a book out and then return it. They found, however, that although there are very few returns, their library is always full because there are so many other books being brought in exchange for books being taken.

Shakelford has had a similar experience. “I always have a lot of extra paperback books, so I started with them,” she said. “Geno brought me some of his, and of course people trade books. I’m always surprised to see the new book titles that appear out there. My biggest surprise was that children’s books were very popular. I had some left over from my grandchildren, which I put out there. They went very quickly. I find that I need to find a supply of books written in Spanish.”

Find Your Local Little Free Library – Borrow a Book, Share a Book

Garden Prairie: Northwest corner of Kishwaukee Valley and Garden Prairie roads.

Cary: 902 Elden Drive.

Crystal Lake: 115 Elmhurst St.;127 College St.; 1420 Trailwood Drive; CLPD Nature Center, 330 N. Main St.

Lakewood: Mularz Family Library, 494 Richmond Lane (on Lakewood bike path). 


Woodstock Theatre's New Look

08 July 2014
Published in Places

The Woodstock Theatre’s expansion completion wows with double the screens, the latest in digital technology, plus beautifully preserved accents dating back to the 1920s. 

With eight screens, 3-D digital sound, stadium seating, a new lobby and concession areas, a party room and new restrooms, the historic Woodstock Theatre is proud to be a true entertainment destination for the 21st century.

“Woodstock Theatre is a great experience,” owner Willis Johnson said. “Technologically, the theater matches any other.”

The impetus to undergo this massive expansion is to serve the public’s demand for more movie choices. “We could not play all the films we needed to play on four screens,” Johnson said.

Historic Accents

Although Woodstock Theatre is driven by changing needs of modern moviegoers, it remains forever mindful of the rich legacy of the 1927 building and the importance Woodstock places on its heritage.

The restoration of the theater’s ornate, original dome in the largest auditorium, therefore, was significant to the renovation.

“The dome restoration is what really made the renovation turn the corner,” Johnson said. “We knew the dome was there. It certainly was a specific focus of the renovation.”

Johnson also recalled a theater employee finding a historical chandelier while touring antique shops in Richmond. The chandelier had a tag on it that said, “Woodstock Theatre.” The chandelier now hangs in the lobby of the theater.

Positive Response

Community reception to the renovated theater has been very positive and their expectations have been surpassed, according to Johnson.

“People did not expect that they were going to have a theater like this,” he said. “I don’t think people expected that they were going to get that caliber of theater.”

Another positive aspect of the expansion, coupled with the fact that it shows matinees year-round, is that it will bring “people to downtown Woodstock where they can experience everything else the community has to offer,” Johnson said.

The farmers market, restaurants, pubs, shopping, festivals and more are all within walking distance of the theater. An added convenience for visitors is a pedway designed to connect parking to Main Street and the theater.

The new theater will also allow it to host more special events. It has already been host to the Orson Welles Film Fest in May and will host the annual Woodstock International Film Festival in September.


>> Woodstock Theatre is located at 209 Main St. Visit or call 815-338-8555 for showtimes, special events and other information. 


Sidebar 1: Behind the Scenes

Classic Cinemas did face some significant obstacles during the renovation, Johnson said.

“We found an oil tank underground, which held things up a for a little bit,” he said, adding that additional time was necessary to remove the tank and complete required soil tests.

“We had some support issues under the theater floor that we had to deal with as well,” he added.

Those and other structural issues led to a six-month delay in the completion of the project.

“We saw what we had to work with and knew it would potentially be a major feature of the renovated theater,” he said.

Sidebar 2: A Historic Site

The Woodstock Theatre was originally the Miller Theatre, owned by John Miller and designed by architect Elmer Behrns in 1927. Behrns also designed other Illinois theaters, including York Theatre in Elmhurst, which Johnson also owns and operates under Classic Cinemas.

The Miller was built on the site of another theater, the Princess Theatre (1911), and had a seating capacity of 1,000. It opened with mixed movies/vaudeville.

It was renamed Woodstock Theatre in 1976 and added a theater in 1979. Classic Cinemas then acquired the Woodstock Theatre in 1988. In late 1991 a new marquee was created with chasing lights like you’d see in front of a theater from the past.


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