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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008 01:02 am

Fall... in love

You don’t have to be alone this winter


By now, your summer fling is either nearing an end, you're thinking about taking the relationship to the next level, or the thought of spending the holiday season alone is depressing the heck out of you. Luckily, Springfield and central Illinois host an array of autumn activities and locales that are perfect for one last romantic rendezvous or laying the groundwork for a lifetime of love and devotion.

Wishing on a star just might put a twinkle in your eye if you and the luminary of your life visit a Star Party at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The parties, which UIS has hosted for three decades, are held each Friday (depending on the weather) at 8 p.m., and run from Sept. 5 to Oct. 25. Call 206-8342 for information. Not counting your date, the heavenly bodies that are viewable from the roof of UIS' Brookens Library this fall include: Jupiter, the moon, ring nebula, and coupled stars Alberio and Mizar.

Also, Hill Prairie Winery kicks off its Harvest Festival and Fish Fry on Saturday Oct. 4 in Oakford (23753 Lounsberry Rd.; 635-9900), north of Petersburg. For $5 a piece, lovebirds can sip spirits to the tunes of acoustic band The Mudbugs Unplugged and, later, Kilborn Alley. On Sunday, Oct. 5, classic rockers AntoneDeRocchi and Jim Wicker perform. Doors open at noon each day. Each Sunday through Oct. 26 a different band is also featured at the winery. Visit www.hillprairiewinery.com for complete event info, events, and a wine list.

Over in Monticello, the idyllic environs of Allerton Park include 1,500 acres of gardens and nature trails. And what's more romantic than the great outdoors? Allerton's Music in Nature concert series continues through the fall with Irish and folk bands Motherlode and Exorna on Sept. 20 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Oct. 11 concert series event presents an opportunity to get close to your significant other when Allerton hosts Halloween-themed scary ghost storytelling, which begins at 7 p.m. If Mother Nature is successful at playing matchmaker during your visit, Allerton also rents space for weddings, receptions, and other
special events.

Get wild at Henson Robinson Zoo.

If your animal instincts are telling you to walk on the wild side, then take your boo to the zoo. Springfield's Henson Robinson Zoo, home to over 300 animals, is open every day this fall except Thanksgiving and the day after. Besides providing an excuse to chat about the birds and the bees, the zoo hosts a number of activities this fall, including a fundraiser to benefit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Amphibian Fund on Sept. 27. Tickets to the walk cost $20-$25.

Springfield parks are another great way to enjoy fall with the object of your affection. Located in the heart of Springfield, Washington Park is home to a botanical garden, the beautiful music-making Rees Memorial Carillon (in case you're in need of inspiration), two lagoons, secluded wooded areas, and lots of trees to watch turn colors.

On the north side of town, Lincoln Park, offers all the beauty of Washington Park and contains the Nelson Center, which houses two skating rinks. Nothing quite breaks the ice better than watching your date fall down on it. Parks also feature concerts, movies, and other activities throughout the fall. Check with the Springfield Park District for updates at www.springfieldparks.org.

Lastly, and admittedly a little on the unconventional side, Nov. 4 is Election Day. So why not go with your date to the polls? Democracy is hot – and there is no better way to profess one's adoration of another than by exercising one's own civic duty. Romeos and Juliets can go here to find where they should vote: www.co.sangamon.il.us/election/WhereDoIVote.asp.

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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