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Thursday, June 3, 2004 02:10 pm

Summer fun in the capital city

Some ‘don’t miss’ events if you’re sticking around town

Cover photo by Nick Steinkamp

In your hands you hold the famed Summer Guide, provided as a service to you by the hardworking and ever-caring folks at Illinois Times. For more than 20 years, readers have turned to us for help in their time of need. Where do I go? What do I do? How do I find my way to somewhere fun? Don't be afraid. Plunge into a wonderful world of fairs and festivals, homecomings and celebrations, walks and runs, cookouts and eat-ins.

To help guide you through the seemingly infinite number of exciting and enticing events, we've assembled a detailed calendar of summertime happenings here and in the region. Here are a few highlights:

Wondering what to do with those pesky and bored kids during summer vacation? Both Lincoln Library and the Illinois State Museum are offering entertaining and educational programs for children of all ages throughout the school vacation months. Among the many special events are the trick roping and yodeling of Cowboy Randy Erwin at the library and the African tales of storyteller Linda Gorham at the ISM. And speaking of the museum, June 12 is the grand opening for the new ground floor natural history hall. For those of us who grew up with the somewhat lifelike dioramas of stuffed animals and painted landscapes, the new exhibit, Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments, will certainly be a change.

Did someone say they were looking for a melodic and bucolic thespian experience? The Theatre in the Park at Lincoln's New Salem starts afresh this summer under new management, with new lawn seating and a wonderful variety of music shows. The Muni, near Lake Springfield, will surely be, as it has been for many a year, a favorite choice for summer evening entertainment in central Illinois.

Summer means outdoor live music and we have our share of mind-boggling and body-quaking events rattling through the area in the upcoming months.

Hardee's JamFest returns for its fourth year to the Nelson Center in Douglas Park on June 5. The benefit continues to provide our local citizenry with the finest showcase of area bands and musicians ever assembled, featuring more than 20 groups on three stages during the daylong and into the night party. Once a capital city rarity, downtown music events are now common in Springfield. Washington Street Jazz, a major fundraiser for the Springfield Area Arts Council, starts the party on the evening of June 26 with six jazz and blues bands, plus food and drinks. Miller Lite buddies up with Sangamon Valley Roots Revival on July 10 to bring you another Rooftop Roots Festival from high atop the parking garage of the Hilton Springfield. On July 24, sample delectable delights from several downtown restaurants, all day and evening, while feasting on the sounds of local live music favorites at the Taste of Downtown.

Lincoln Land Community College hosts an outdoor music festival July 17 and 18. The first year for LLCC's Summer Fun and All That Jazz sounds very promising with singing legend Nancy Wilson headlining Saturday and the amazing John Pizzarelli closing down the gala on Sunday night. During the daylight hours, look for a car show, lots of grub, kid events, arts and crafts, and a chance for another outdoor party event to become a standard in central Illinois.

And speaking of that, how about a hand for the Decatur Celebration and Fred Puglia. After 19 years, the DC is still the largest free family street festival in Illinois. From Aug. 6 through Aug. 8, downtown Decatur swells with thousands of people enjoying diverse music acts on multiple stages, a cornucopia of food vendors, and a superb children's area.

Toss in several county and two state fairs, all with beer tent, sideshow, and grandstand entertainment, plus numerous small town homecomings and celebrations, and you can begin to see the vast amount of party possibilities heading across the prairie landscape this summer in central Illinois.

Now with your trusty Summer Guide at your side, embrace the heat, bless the air conditioner, and get out and find some fun.

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