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Wednesday, May 21, 2008 11:34 pm

Home for heroes

You don’t have to be Superman to enjoy Metropolis

Untitled Document Do you have a little one who loves to tie on a cape and play Superman? If so, head south to Metropolis for the 30th annual Superman Celebration, which will be held June 12-15 in this otherwise sleepy southern-Illinois town near the Ohio River. The superhero fans in your household will enjoy the Super Museum (611 Market St., 618-524-5518, supermuseum.com), which features, among many exhibits, the belt used by TV’s Superman, George Reeves, and the Power Crystal from the 1978 blockbuster starring Christopher Reeve.
Take Junior’s picture with a 15-foot-tall Superman statue or in the phone booth where Clark Kent made his famous transformation from mild-mannered newspaperman to man of the hour. At this year’s event, meet celebrities up close and personal during this hokey yet fun event.
Who will be there? Check ahead of time to be sure, but the organizers say that Allison Mack of Smallville fame will be the headliner. Mack, who plays Metropolis reporter Chloe Sullivan on the CW show, will be signing autographs and posing for photos along with actor Ned Beatty, who appeared in two Superman films as Lex Luthor henchman Otis, on Saturday, June 14.
June 15 will see a flood of tights and capes as Metropolis hosts the largest-ever gathering of people dressed as Superman. The kids may want to don their own costumes and be part of the fun of helping Metropolis in its attempt to make the Guinness Book of World Records! To be part of this event, says Karla Ogle, chairwoman of the Superman Celebration, a costume must consist of a blue bodysuit, red cape and trunks, red boots or spats, a yellow belt, and the famous red-and-yellow S on the chest. All costumes must be approved in advance to ensure that they meet the stringent Guinness requirements. For more information, call the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce at 800-949-5740 or send an e-mail to metrochamber@hcis.net. Superman isn’t the only draw that makes Metropolis a great summer stop. There’s also very real history at Fort Massac, the oldest state park in Illinois.
Local legend has Hernando de Soto at this site back in 1540, but the first documented occupation by Europeans was in 1757, when the French built Fort de l’Ascension during the French and Indian War. The fort was later destroyed by the Chickasaw.
Later, during the Revolutionary War, Col. George Rogers Clark and his regiment of “Long Knives” wrested control of the Illinois territory to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States. In 1794, President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt, and it served as a military post for the next 20 years. In November 1803, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark camped at Fort Massac. The New Madrid quakes of 1811 and 1812 damaged the fort, and it was abandoned in 1814.
The site was used as a training camp during the Civil War. Around this time, Maj. Elijah P. Curtis built a two-story brick home that today houses the Massac County Historical Society. For information or to arrange a tour of the home, call 618-524-3497.
In 1908, Fort Massac became the Illinois’ first state park. Today the reconstructed site includes two barracks, three block houses, officer quarters, a well, and stockades. In October, Metropolis attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the annual Fort Massac Encampment, the largest tourism event in southern Illinois. Among other highlights of a Metropolis trip: • If your little darling is fascinated with jailbird history, visit the grave of Robert F. Stroud. The famous “Birdman of Alcatraz” is buried in the Masonic Cemetery. For information, call 618-524-2714. • Check out the series of six murals on buildings along Ferry and Market streets in downtown Metropolis. “Each reveals a different story and makes our heritage come alive through artistic renderings of local historical events,” says Carol Hoffman of the Southern Illinois Tourism Bureau. • Those wanting to explore American Indian heritage can drive a few miles south to Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site, near Brookport. From about 1050 to 1400, the area was home to a chiefdom covering an area stretching from modern-day Brookport to Hamletsburg along the Ohio River. Large flat-topped manmade mounds held the houses and temples of religious and tribal leaders. Visitors can view the mounds from an overlook platform that includes interpretative panels telling the story of this significant Mississippian community. For more information, call 800-248-4373 or go to www.kincaidmounds.com.

Cindy Ladage of Virden is a regular contributor.
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