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Thursday, Nov. 6, 2003 02:20 pm

If he shows, he’ll have to blow out 124 candles

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Vachel Lindsay

In 1908, in his poem "On the Building of Springfield," the celebrated poet Vachel Lindsay wrote:

Let every street be made a reverent aisle,
Where music grows and beauty is unchained.

At the time of his death 23 years later, Lindsay's star had faded -- and his hope for a Springfield where "beauty is unchained" seemed elusive. And in 1932, when Lindsay's widow, Elizabeth, packed up and left for Oakland, Calif., Springfieldians seemed ambivalent. The Illinois State Register took note of her departure: "It is greatly deplored that Springfield did not offer sufficient inducements to Mrs. Lindsay to retain her residence here."

But attitudes changed. In 1946, a group of Vachel Lindsay enthusiasts formed an association to keep the internationally renowned poet's legacy alive in his hometown. From 1958 to 1990, the association maintained the Lindsay family home at 603 S. Fifth St. After it was acquired by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency, the home was extensively renovated and reopened in 2001.

The association has continued to participate in many activities at what is now officially known as Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site.

On Saturday, Nov. 8, the association is helping mark the poet's birthday (Lindsay was born on Nov. 10, 1879) with a celebration at the residence. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is free and open to the public. It will include birthday cake and refreshments and a performance by The Vachel Lindsay Repertory Group at 11:30. Students from Deborah Huffman's Lanphier High School English classes will also share the poet's memorable work.

The association also is mounting its annual membership drive in conjunction with the event. New members who join at the basic "Prairie Troubadour" ($25) level will receive a full-color, 16" x 28" reproduction of Vachel Lindsay's painting "The Lotus and the Rose" in addition to standard member benefits. l

For more information about membership in the Vachel Lindsay Association, visit www.vachellindsay.orgor call 217-528-9254.

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