Monday, August 15, 2016

Windsor Harvest Picnic is Almost Here!

Windsor Harvest Picnic is Almost Here!  Come and Explore!

It’s almost here!  Illinois’s longest running festival, celebrating 120 years this coming weekend!  The Windsor Harvest Picnic Committee’s dedicated volunteers have been working hard all year to bring you the best.  There will be tasty treats, family friendly events including a carnival provided by Fountain City Amusements, and high class musical entertainment!  This year’s lineup includes:  Firebox, Sampson Jones Gang, Phil Dirt, and Shenandoah!  To see the entire schedule for the Windsor Harvest Picnic go to

Windsor is full of rich history, and members of the community group WHAT, Windsor Happenings Around Town, have collected historical information and placed it in a brochure for your convenience.  While in the area, check out the Windsor Historical Walking Tour to get a glimpse of the past.   

After exploring the town and working up an appetite, visit the Windsor Food Center to find a great selection of nourishment to satisfy all of your taste buds.  And, if looking to cool down with a new fun flavor of soda, make Uptown Variety your next stop!  You can find jelly belly sodas, delicious sandwiches, penny candy, and other fun items!

Another great part of Windsor is its access to Lake Shelbyville from Wolf Creek State Park.  I highly recommend the Fox Trail for an afternoon hike with sites that overlook the lake.  If you would rather get in the water, there is a nice sandy beach in the park, so bring out your floatables and sunscreen and enjoy the weather!  And, if you enjoy boating, the boat ramp is easily accessible further into the park.  On your way to Wolf Creek State Park, don’t miss the goat tower farm where you can find the tallest goat tower around!  The owners are very friendly and enjoy having visitors.  For more information about the Lake Shelbyville area, visit  Enjoy your time in the great outdoors!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Treasures in Findlay, IL

Treasures in Findlay, Illinois by Jenny Biggs
Living near Findlay, Illinois has been one of my highlights during my service in Shelby County.  There are a number of great things that make Findlay such a wonderful place including the friendly and caring residents, the beautiful hiking trails with great sites of Lake Shelbyville, the Old Country Church filled with classic country and bluegrass tunes on Saturday nights, multiple events at the community center, and an activity packed Walleye Festival occurring the last weekend of July.  This fun-filled event is put on by dedicated members of the community that collaborate on providing great entertainment for people of all ages. 

If you missed the Walleye Festival this year but are still looking for a good reason to visit Findlay other than those listed above, the community group FLIP (Findlay Long-term Improvement Program) is hosting their annual 5K on August 13th at Eagle Creek State Park, providing a scenic route for participants to enjoy!  Interested . . . contact Jody McCormick at 217-725-5176 for more information.
While at Eagle Creek State Park, be sure to visit the creative campground host, Mike Welch, who built a beautiful wooden chair that is large enough to seat your entire family.  He doesn’t mind people climbing up and having their photo made, and if you are lucky, you will see the hot rod that he built out of a ’93 Dodge Dakota named “Lil Yella Rat.”  Once Mr. Welch gets an idea, there’s no stopping him!  Be sure to check out his other creations when visiting.   

After soaking up the beautiful scenery at Eagle Creek State Park, participants can enjoy a tasty meal at Foor Family Restaurant and then proceed to check out some of the great treasures at Don’s Resale Shop in the downtown area of Findlay.  You can also check out some beautiful work done by one of Findlay’s own local artisan’s at I’m Board Productions, or if crafts are more your style, Personal Stitches may be the place for you.  If you live close by, be sure to come back in the evening for some great food at the Lumberyard or Tailwinds, enjoy a glass of wine at Niemerg’s Winery, and then head to the Old Country Church, located near the town’s park to wind up the night with some classic country.  Look for a white building with a red roof, and come on in.  Music starts at 7pm. 

Be sure to check out FLIP’s website at to learn more about local businesses and upcoming events!  And, if you would like to learn about nearby attractions, go to  We hope you enjoy your stay!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Strongman/woman Competition Comes to Strasburg during Lions Homecoming!!!

Strongman/Strongwoman Competition Comes to Strasburg, Illinois
Lots to do this weekend!  If you are looking for some great entertainment, join the Village of Strasburg, Illinois in celebrating their 2016 Lions Club Homecoming, July 8- 10th! This town, also known as the “Home of the Gnomes,” knows how to celebrate.  Come on out and see for yourself.  
This event is open to the public, and there will be all sorts of family friendly activities to keep you busy!  Be sure to come hungry as these folks know how to cook up some great food! 

Friday night the festivities will begin with a magical evening and lots of laughter.  Saturday morning, you can run or walk off all the tasty treats you ate the night before by participating in the “Gnomecoming” 5K Run/Walk.  If basketball is more your style, there will also be a 3 on 3 tournament that will be sure to test your endurance.  Tractor pulls will keep the afternoon going, as well as games for both kids and adults.

Sunday, the day you have all been waiting for is the . . . THE STRONGMAN/STRONGWOMAN COMPETITON!  That’s right, no need to watch Ninja Warrior on your lazy boy because YOU WILL SEE some LIVE ACTION right here in Strasburg, where this town truly is “Right! In the Middle of Everything.”  So, come on out, flex your muscles, down that last bit of protein shake, grunt, yell, and sweat!  And everyone else, be sure to cheer on the participants as they will be putting on a great show!

For more information, see flyer and map below, check out the Lion’s Club Facebook page at, or call Lion Gary Kull at 217-254-3141.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Celebrate Stewardson

Village of Stewardson
                Many know this town by its large cow adjacent to T & L Locker Meat Shop.  If you are into selfies, this is a spot you do not want to miss.  This is also a great place to purchase local meat for your next grill-out, whether you are looking for steaks, ground beef, ribs, brats, rope sausage and more.  If you are in the mood for a prepared meal, the local eatery, Why Not? is easily found in the center of town where you can find good home cooking.  After your bellies are full, be sure to pay the other businesses in town a visit, especially if you are on the hunt for accessories, bridal gowns, and prom dresses, which can be found downtown at Personalities or Ooo La La Brides and Prom Queens.  And, if you enjoy the smooth texture of homegrown grapes in a glass, check out Vahling Vineyards and peruse the plethora of choices available.  The friendly owners will be happy to provide you with information about your wine of choice. 

Well, we have covered cows, dresses, and wine, which provides a great mixture for Stewardson’s very own Mr. Heifer Beauty Pageant, which is just around the corner as part of their 4th of July Celebration to be held on June 26th.  Check out the flyer below for more information.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Wine and Art Spring Festival

Vahling Vineyards Wine and Art Spring Festival

Despite the rain this past weekend, visitors flourished to the Wine and Art Spring Festival held at Vahling Vineyard’s.  With representatives from eight wineries present, there was a plethora of wines just waiting to serve the curiosity of the palette.  The wineries in attendance were Berryville Vineyards, Bretz Wildlife Winery, Castle Finn Winery, Crooked Creek Winery, Fox Creek Vineyards, Lasata Winery, Sleepy Creek Vineyards, and the host of the event, Vahling Vineyards.  The friendly sommeliers gave great suggestions to each visitor on what wines would best satisfy their taste buds.  They were also very helpful at answering questions about the types of grapes used and the process of aging the wine.   

For those of you like me who may not know hardly anything about wine, I recommend taking a friend who can share their knowledge on the intricacies of wine tasting.  Even if you have determined the types of wine you like best (white versus red, sweet versus dry), do not be afraid to try something new.  The interesting names of the wines, and creative labels used for the bottles may lead you to a new favorite.  Some of the titles that caught my eye were Moonlight on the Wabash, Grandpa’s Recipe, Lion Eyes, White Squirrel, Barn Dance, and the Winey Mary that had everyone.  This particular wine had the distinction of both tomatoes and jalapeƱos.  

Besides the wine, there were other tasty treats to consume.  My favorites were the spiral spuds and pork burgers provided by Strasburg’s Lions Club.  I can now add spiral spuds to my list of new things I have tried while living in Illinois!  This was just what the doctor ordered to finish off an excellent day. 

And, to further top off the day, I met some very sweet vendors who were selling the most unique items at the festival.  This couple works together on making homemade fishing lures carved out of cottonwood.  They are called APARTAP lures (applied properly at right time and place . . . they will catch lures).  They are hand carved and hand painted, leaving no two lures exactly alike.  There are many lures to choose from, or you can special order one to your liking.  Mr. Kermicle will do the carving, and Mrs. Kermicle will do the painting, and then you will have your very own, one of a kind APARTAP fishing lure to catch your next big one!  

A HUGE thanks to VAHLING VINEYARDS for putting on such a great event (even in the rain), and to all that made this event a memorable experience!  Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, showing the hospitable nature of the Midwest!  To learn more about Vahling Vineyards in Stewardson, Illinois, be sure to check out their website:

A BIG thanks also goes out to the Radio Station WMKR, Genuine Country 94.3, for providing us with tickets for this event.  We had a wonderful time, and I recommend checking out this event next year!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Enjoying the Beauty of Spring!

Enjoying the beauty of Spring!
It’s that time of year again when one can find the many joys of spring.  Plants are blooming and birds are singing.  This time of year is great for getting out and exploring.  The weather is not too hot, nor too cold, so pack a light jacket, snacks, plenty of water, and enjoy your adventure! 
Shelby County has an abundance of trails to check out, so start making plans for your next leisure event!  You can visit Eagle Creek State Park in Findlay, Wolf Creek State Park in Windsor, Hidden Springs Natural Forest in Strasburg, the General Dacey Trail in Shelbyville, and other trails on property owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  It is always a great idea to take a map for your journey, so be sure to stop by the Shelby County Office of Tourism, located at 315 E. Main Street in Shelbyville to find maps for the local state parks.  And, for the most up to date maps of the U.S.A.C.E. trails, check out the following website:
Hope you enjoy the beauty of spring and your time in the great outdoors! 

Below are just a few of the treasures I found while hiking on the Fox Trail at Wolf Creek State Park in Windsor.  Be sure to check them out before they are gone . . . 

Birdfoot Violet


Dutchmans Breeches

Golden Thread Moss

Prairie Trillium

Spring Beauty

My favorite overlook from Fox Trail

Monday, April 18, 2016

Shelby County Partners, Communities Working Together

Shelby County Partners, Communities Working Together
Shelby County Partners, a collaboration of five communities surrounding Lake Shelbyville, “is a like-minded group that wants to see Shelby County businesses, schools, nonprofit groups, and especially its people achieve goals that better our communities and benefit our families now and for future generations,” states Nate Wascher, president of the C.O.W.S. group in Stewardson.

The Shelby County Partners are made up of community members from the groups F.L.IP. in Findlay, C.O.W.S. in Stewardson, S.C.A.N. in Strasburg, W.H.A.T. in Windsor, and various representatives from Shelbyville.  These communities have been through the MAPPING Program (Management and Planning Programs Involving Nonmetropolitan Groups) provided by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.  The leaders of this program encouraged residents to identify high priority goals that would benefit their towns, as well as strategies and projects to achieve their desired results.

After experiencing positive results from the MAPPING process in their individual towns, the five communities decided to form a group known as the Shelby County Partners in order to identify goals that would benefit the county.  Some of these goals include increasing access to broadband for both residents and tourists, promoting community development by re-evaluating Shelby County’s five year plan, and increasing the awareness of options available to tourists. 

Marcia Johnson, from the group F.L.I.P. in Findlay, shared that, “Shelby County Partners is a way for the communities in the county to work together toward larger goals which individual towns might not be able to accomplish. Also, communities can find inspiration and strength by sharing successes and working together.”
Shelby County Partners is also a way for the communities involved to share about their local attractions, and encourage neighboring communities to check out their businesses and events.  Freddie Fry, director of the Shelby County Office of Tourism, states, “We know the value of visitor dollars spent in our area, but as we travel to each other’s communities, we are finding new services and products that let us leave more of our own dollars in Shelby County.”

The main goal of the Shelby County Partners is to work on various projects that will have positive impacts in Shelby County.  This group meets monthly to discuss ways in which they can collaborate on promoting efforts of community and economic development throughout the county.

If you would like to learn more about the Shelby County Partners, feel free to contact their Peace Corps Fellows/AmeriCorps member at, or by calling 217-774-2244. 
For more information on the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs MAPPING Program, or the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Western Illinois University, contact Gisele Hamm, MAPPING Program Manager at or Karen Mauldin Curtis, Peace Corps Fellows Program Manager at