Visiting a community or city is most satisfying when one takes in all that is offered – music, art, history and culture. But there is something to be said if you want to enjoy the outdoors. LaVista Park in Godfrey is one such destination, where an enjoyable undertaking includes the cool air of autumn mixed with the warm glowing sun.
Undertaking might be too strong of a description. But that depends how actively you explore the one mile stretch of this hiking/biking trail surrounded by 93 acres.
The trail is really a piece of cake now, considering when first developed, it wasn’t paved. Now there’s a hard surface, so your footing is firm. Starting at the entrance of the park at LaVista Drive and Illinois Route 3, you proceed past an organic garden, prairie grass area, endless towering trees and a deceptive decline, you don’t realize, will be an incline when you return. I can only imagine now the leaves are turning and I’m sure the scenery is picture-worthy.
Another highlight of the walk is completing the first half. The expanse of the Mighty Mississippi opens and for a brief minute, from a distance, the water actually looks blue. You’re stopped at what we know is the Great River Road, Illinois Route 100. It is still a wonderful site to view; nothing but water for as far as the eye can see. But don’t get it twisted; the Muddy Mississippi is truly that.
Communing with nature has to have its benefits. I’m sure there’s some cathartic, medical reason why we should do more stuff outdoors. If nothing else, just feeling the crispness of the air, noticing the change of seasons and being one with nature should be enough…right?
During my little walk, there was a bird in its house that was just not so concerned at my inquisitive posture to take its picture. It was almost as if it were saying, ‘Go ahead and take your pic, and be gone!’ Maybe that’s what I would have thought if I were him.
As I headed back, remember the easily traversed decline at the beginning? The athlete in me said I could take this hill like Hirojima. To my surprise, my half frisky assault petered out before I reached the top. Probably is a reflection why I wasn’t a member of the ROTC in high school. Still, I felt exhilarated thinking I could make it all the way. My advice – take the incline leisurely.
Probably the best justification for this type of outing was seen on one of the maps in the park: Experience life through recreation. The benefits of parks and recreation are endless.
Jared Hennings is the Facilities Manager at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey.
More than 800 people came out and celebrated the Alton Miles for Meso 5K Race’s fifth year anniversary. The fundraising race is organized by the Simmons Law Firm and benefits mesothelioma research. Everyone who attended had a great time while supporting important research for this rare cancer.
This year’s event attracted runners, walkers and families who wanted to attend a kid-friendly event. The Kid Zone is one of the most popular draws of the event for families. Both kids and adults had a blast as they played a variety of arcade games, bounced in the bouncy house, got their hair spray-painted or painted a pumpkin while snacking on popcorn.
Prizes for both kids and parents were awarded. A balloon man also made fanciful balloon creatures like alien hats that delighted both kids and adults alike.
Miles for Meso would not be as successful without its sponsors that include several local businesses in the community who also participate in the race’s vendor fair. Attendees had a blast checking out the giveaways at each booth and learning about the businesses that support Miles for Meso.
New this year to the vendor fair was Hope Rescues, an Alton-based no-kill shelter. Shelter co-founder Jackie Spiker brought three dogs that needed forever homes. Two of them were adopted as a result of the race.
Everyone also enjoyed a live performance by local country band the Five & Dimers who contributed to the festival atmosphere. Gateway DJ Mike Roper also did an impressive job of firing up the crowd as they started the race. More than 800 people walked or ran the race route that wound through the brick streets of Historic Alton and included Mississippi River views from Henry Street. Many of the elite runners, some of whom have competed in the Olympics, said that Alton’s course is one of the most difficult road courses they run because of the hilly brick streets.
In addition to the beautiful views of historic houses, the Alton Miles for Meso race has been so successful over the past five years because it is the only 5K race in Southern Illinois that offer runners a change to win State Championship Titles from the Road Runners Club of America. In addition, the top three men and women to finish the race receive significant cash prizes compared to other races.
Titus Tirop, a teacher at Lebanon High School, took first place in the men’s category of Championship 5K with a time of 17:39. He won $250. Andrew Murrie placed second with a time of 18:44 and Tim Thompson came in third with a time of 19:15. Both Murrie and Thompson work at the Simmons Firm and donated their award winnings back to the charity.
Jackie Hall, a member of Runnababez Elite, took first place in the women’s category of the Championship 5K with a time of 18:17. Second place was Sarah Lovell, of Urbana, Ill., with a time of 20:13, and Lauren Hubbard, of Arnold, Mo., placed third with a time of 20:21. They each received $250, $150 and $100 in prize money respectively.
Overall, everyone who attended had a great time and, here at the Simmons Firm, we’re already making plans for next year’s race, which will take place on Sept. 27, 2014. So be sure to save the date!
Miles for Meso is a national charity that helps people around the country organize 5K races to benefit mesothelioma research. The first race took place in Alton in 2009 and was organized through the support of the Simmons Law Firm. Since then races have taken place in multiple states, including Missouri, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, New York and Washington. Cumulatively, Miles for Meso events have raised more than $370,000. The Alton race alone has raised $125,000 and considered the organization’s flagship event.
Jong Cambron is the Public Relations Director of the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau
If you are traveling to or through the Alton area and looking for the best choices for food, undoubtedly people here will be eager to point you in the direction toward Broadway and downtown to visit the likes of Tony’s Restaurant, Princivalli’s Café, Gentelin’s on Broadway, My Just Desserts, Bossanova, and Chez Marilyn.
But what about if you are looking for excellent food in a much more casual atmosphere – where it’s okay to have a beer with your lunch? Obviously, not all these places will be kid friendly, but that’s fine when you are looking for that one-of-a-kind experience and leaving the kids at home!
Most likely the first place that will come to mind with that line of thought will be Fast Eddie’s Bon Air (www.fasteddiesbonair.com). It is most likely the most widely known bar and grill establishment in the region. They do in fact have awesome peel n’ eat shrimp, kabobs, burgers, and even a tasty menu item known as the “Big Elwood on a Stick.” And you can definitely consider it okay to have a beer with your lunch or dinner there.
But there are other places equally worthy of your taste buds’ attention throughout the River City – and they all serve a good variety of beers, whether you’re looking for domestic, imports, or microbrews.
One such place is Mac’s Time-Out Lounge, located at 315 Belle Street in the heart of downtown Alton. They have, among many other things, some of the best burgers my fiancé and I have ever enjoyed. And we’re both “eaters,” so trust me when I say this. I enjoyed my first Leinenkugel’s Orange Shandy there recently as well with my dinner – the verdict: pretty good! I think I am falling for “fruity” beers.
Once only known as the best biker bar in the St. Louis region, Woodstock Lounge is located at 613 E. Broadway in Alton and just across the street from Jacoby Arts Center. If you’re on the trail for the best pulled pork Alton has to offer within an unexpectedly welcoming atmosphere, look no further.
Woodstock’s owner went through a renovation and expansion of the kitchen and dining areas not too long ago and it has paid off. Their pulled pork sandwich is the best I have had. I order this dish off their extensive menu on a regular basis, and it never disappoints. They also have some extraordinarily good pizza. Any of what they have here is good with a Bud Select!
Another great place for some of the most excellent pulled pork is Rib City, located near Alton Square Shopping Mall (www.ribcity.com). They also have the most extensive barbeque menu options, including ribs done many different ways. Be prepared to get messy! Their dessert menu is pretty excellent too – and it all goes well washed down with any choice off their beer list.
There are a couple of other establishments in Alton that are worth mentioning and not as well known to visitors from out of the area. They are Alton Sports Tap (www.altonsportstap.com) and Johnson’s Corner, which is located at 2000 State Street. Both have great menus full of the most amazing bar eats in town. And both have plenty of choices when it comes to a beer to go with your meal.
I am sure there are plenty of other fine choices for unique, grown-up mealtime experiences throughout the River Bend region. I haven’t had the chance to eat at all of them yet…but the ones I have eaten at listed here are ones I can give this eater’s 5 out of 5 star ratings. I’m looking forward to discovering the others and checking out all their beer options as well. Hope you can join me at one of these fine establishments soon…cheers! Melissa Crockett is the owner of Studio Sixpence, a local social entrepreneurial firm providing business resources to artists as well as providing creative resources to businesses, including representation for both. She is a freelance writer and a scenic/architectural photographer and on the board of directors for Alton Main Street Inc. She has two grown sons and enjoys walking, reading, and taking in live music in her spare time.
I couldn’t narrow it down to just three events for this weekend so this week it’s the top five events. From corn mazes, a tribute to apples and haunted tours there’s something for everyone.
14th Annual Fall Corn Festival
Saturday, Sept. 28 @ Glazebrook Park, Godfrey
The Fall Corn Fest is full of “corny” fun for the entire family! Come and enjoy a full day of fun at the park which includes music, petting zoo, pony rides, inflatables, games, arts & crafts, face painting, games, vendors and a corn eating contest! (REMINDER: You must use Pierce Lane entrance to Stamper Lane to get to the park due to road construction)
19th Annual Airport Open House & Fly In
Saturday – Sunday, Sept. 28 – 29 @ St. Louis Regional Airport, Bethalto
You won’t want to miss the 19th annual Fly-In and car show. On Saturday, take a close look at warbirds, antique aircraft and automobiles on display. On Sunday, free flights will be offered for kids.
Grafton Riverside Flea Market
Saturday – Sunday, Sept. 28 – 29 @ The Loading Dock, Grafton
You won’t want to miss this fabulous flea market on the river! Over 50 dealers with all types of goods, antiques glassware, tools, candles, furniture and good old-fashioned junk!
Apple Festival at Pere Marquette
Sunday, Sept. 29 @ Pere Marquette Lodge, Grafton
Come out to beautiful Pere Marquette Lodge and join us in commemorating apples and all of their uses. The event is free and will include live entertainment, craft vendors, handmade products and more.
The haunted season kicks off this weekend with eight haunted tours on Saturday and Sunday. Learn about the haunted history of the most haunted small town in America one one of the tours.
Jong Cambron is the Public Relations Director at the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Mississippi Earthtones Festival
Saturday, Sept. 21 @ Alton Riverfront Amphitheater, Alton
If you want to celebrate the Mississippi River and learn about ways to protect it, then this is the perfect event. There will be informational booths, a chance to help clean up the river and to listen to some great music at the Amphitheater. It’s an all-day event that’s family friendly so bring your kids.
The Mississippi Earthtones Festival is this Saturday at Alton Riverfront Amphitheater.
5th Annual Alton Miles for Meso 5K Race or 1st Annual Alton Walk for Sickle Cell
Saturday, Sept. 21 @ Downtown Alton and Rock Spring Park, Alton
These two walking/running events are a great way to keep in shape and burn off some calories while supporting good causes. The Simmons Law Firm has been organizing the annual miles for meso 5K for half a decade and donates the money back to mesothelioma research.
Sept. 20 – 22 @ St. Francis Xavier Church, Jerseyville
Visit the country store to purchase some homemade crafts or just enjoy the numerous food stands including hot fried fish, delicious grilled pork chops and more during the annual Harvest Fest at St. Francis Church. There are also games and entertainment throughout the whole weekend. Don’t forget to purchase a ticket to the grand prize drawing. The winner will walk away with a cool $10,000!
Jong Cambron is the Public Relations Director at the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The Cracked Egg café, a little place just north of Alton in Brighton, Ill. at 104 S. Main St., opened in February. Please go there if you love real home cooked food taste at reasonable prices. All of their food seems, to me, made fresh from scratch, even their pies and desserts. Their menu says that they are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. but they just extended their hours to 9 p.m. daily except Sunday. Closed on Mondays but open all other days, Sunday until 2 p.m.
I don’t know where these people learned their culinary skills but they all knew how to cook good tasting food. I found the place to be very clean with the clean kitchen in plain view. The kitchen was busy but very clean, also. I have been known to judge how much a business values its customer by the cleanliness of their bathroom and this bathroom was clean and had everything needed to keep their employees washed up and sanitary. The restaurant looked like it would hold about fifty people at one time. They also sell soft serve ice cream and fountain sodas.
Nancy, Jim and Jane Stites and I all went on a Tuesday since their special on Tuesday is country fried steak and mashed potatoes. Jim’s favorite food is country fried steak and he loved it. I also had the country fried steak with real mashed potatoes and gravy plus a very flavorful bowl of seasoned tasty green beans. I plan to go on a Wednesday next time and try their yummy looking meatloaf special just like Mom used to make.
Nancy and Andy were small business owners for 40 years in the Alton area. They both volunteer with the Lewis and Clark Confluence Towers in Hartford and the AARP.
A very pleasurable diversion while visiting in the Riverbend is Glazebrook Park in Godfrey. Located at 1401 Stamper Lane, the park contains 40 acres of everything from relaxation to physical activity, anchored by many memorial trees planted annually through donations.
What I enjoy most is its landscape and how you can get lost in its picturesque beauty. Feel free to bring your family and let your kids romp at the playground, or if you’re feeling frisky, take advantage of the 1.5 miles of walking and bike trails. Feeling friskier?…there are four soccer fields and one volleyball net to satisfy even the most energetic appetite.
There is a roomy gazebo (no water or electric) and if catching fish suits your fancy, the one acre lake is no disappointment – it’s stocked with bluegill and channel catfish.
I can hear you saying…’Is that all Glazebrook offers?’ I’m glad you asked that question. The Great Godfrey Maze is an awesome attraction for your enjoyment. Open August 30, it consists of two paths cut into seven acres of corn for you to get lost in.
The maze is a great way to get outdoors, enjoy the fall weather and submerse yourself in the rich agricultural history of the region. The maze is open on the weekends in the fall. Call 618.466.1483 for general admission prices.
Jared Hennings is the Facilities Manager at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey.
People I encounter from outside the area always tell me how lucky I am when I share with them where I’m from, where I now live, and how beautiful and exciting it must be to “live right on the River.” I admit they are quite right. It is beautiful, exciting, and I am so fortunate to step out on my front or back porch each day and enjoy the view of the Clark Bridge expanding across the water and the skyline.
There are so many opportunities to enjoy life along the Mississippi for both residents and tourists alike. The City of Alton hosts $5 Fridays throughout the summer at the Amphitheater located in Alton’s Riverfront Park (http://www.riverfrontamphitheater.com/).This summer concert series features some of the hottest cover bands in the St. Louis region playing popular tunes we can all enjoy.
Coming up on Aug. 16 is Street Fighting Band, playing tribute to the Rolling Stones. To wrap up our summer celebration appropriately is none other than Changes in Latitudes, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band that will take over the Amphitheater’s stage on August 23. And to round out the $5 Fridays concert season, a Led Zeppelin tribute band known as Houses of the Holy. And yes, tickets are just five bucks!
Other unique celebrations of life on the River include such things as the upcoming Mississippi Earthtones Festival taking place each year on the third Saturday of September. Now in its seventh year, this free event takes place on September 21 from noon to 10 p.m. Festival-goers at this free & family-friendly event will find countless ways to celebrate the Mississippi River through art, music, and conservation (http://www.riverfrontamphitheater.com/earthtones/).
A variety of eclectic entertainment and exhibits make up the one-day eco-village with opportunities galore to experience one-of-a-kind conservation exhibits, Earth-friendly products and services, and nature craft vendors. Visitors will also find a great selection of food and beverages all day. Last year was my first year to experience this festival and admittedly it was the event I experienced all year!
This year’s MEF main stage entertainment includes music from the region’s most diversely talented groups such as Stone Sugar Shakedown and Blu Skies, starting out with a mini-concert featuring the handmade eco-friendly instruments of the St. Louis-based Green Strum Project (https://www.facebook.com/GreenStrum). The evening wraps up in earth-friendly style with Aaron Kamm & the One Drops on center stage from 8 to 11 p.m.
Yet, another way to learn more about life along the Mississippi River is to visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (http://www.ngrrec.org/) and witness an upcoming photography exhibit they will be hosting from Aug. 30 through Sept. 13. This exhibit is free and open to the public during regular hours of operation.
The MS River Photo Exhibit, organized by the Northeast-Midwest Institute and its Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative in partnership with member-city arts organizations, showcases the beauty and challenges of the River through a display of 47 photographs by artists from throughout the River regions. (https://www.facebook.com/PhotoExhibitOfTheMississippi). Alton area photographers featured in the exhibit are Melissa Crockett and Jeffrey Vaughn.
The exhibit first served as a backdrop for a March 2013 Capitol Hill meeting of mayors from the River states. Underwritten in part by Ingram Barge Company, the exhibit, displayed atop a map of the River, featured the work of artists from cities spanning the entire length of the waterway.
This traveling exhibit is headed down the River throughout the summer and fall of 2013. Beginning in Dubuque, Iowa, it makes its way to Alton at the end of August. Be sure to stop in and check it out and see even more reasons why the River Bend region is a great place to visit…and a great place to live!
Melissa Crockett is the owner of Studio Sixpence, a local social entrepreneurial firm providing business resources to artists as well as providing creative resources to businesses, including representation for both. She is a freelance writer and a scenic/architectural photographer and on the board of directors for Alton Main Street Inc. She has two grown sons and enjoys walking, reading, and taking in live music in her spare time.
I have a passion for discovering new things when I’m outside. They might not be extraordinary discoveries but if it’s new to me then that’s good enough.
For example, the new nature trail at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge allows me to discover something new almost every time I walk it. The trail winds through the prairie to view the seasonally changing flowers and grasses, by the pond to see frogs and busy dragonflies, and into the woods to explore the forest habitat before returning to the Visitor Center.
Dragonfly Widow Skimmer
Just in passing by the pond you have the potential to see any of the 147 dragonflies or damselflies found in Illinois (Statistic according to Illinois State Museum). This past week I’ve spotted a Widow skimmer, Eastern pondhawk and Common whitetail and there are more to find. With names like Stream cruiser and Cobra clubtail, I can’t wait to spot a new one.
Each week the prairie changes revealing a new flower I hadn’t spotted before. And the butterflies fluttering above them are an added bonus. This Zebra swallowtail hung out around a butterfly weed for a while and let me take its picture. Spicebush swallowtails can be seen too.
In the woodland you can listen for birds in the treetops. Next time try to pick out a bird call you haven’t heard before. In the visitor center we have iPad apps to help you identify your bird. And if you’re interested guide books are available to help identify common animals, flowers, trees and grasses while on your walk.
We don’t have a name for the new nature trail yet and need some help in coming up with one. A trail naming contest will run Aug. 1-Sep. 1. Submit a creative name by email, Facebook, or in the Visitor Center while exploring the trail. Entries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The contest is open to all ages. Each person may submit one entry.
Three of the best entries will be available for final vote in the Visitor Center and on Facebook from Sep. 2-17. The winning trail name will be revealed at the Refuge Open House on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Come visit the new trail before summer is over and see what new things you can find.
Cortney Solum is the Visitor Services Manager at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge. She enjoys spending time outdoors, especially when she can share it with families visiting the refuge. Cortney, her husband and their dog Coach live in Jerseyville, Ill., and she enjoys hunting, hiking and camping.