Town to spruce up for Route 66 celebration

THIRTEEN COMMUNITIES from Joliet to Towanda will participate in this year's Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Celebration. This year's collectible is a button.
Pam Monson

    Highlighting how much of an asset Route 66 is to the community, city administrator Frank Koehler recently sent a friendly letter to property owners in and around the downtown business district, asking them to spruce up for the 11th annual Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Celebration on Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7.
    “No other roadway is as synonymous with travel, adventure and fun as Route 66,” he wrote. The Red Carpet Corridor event celebrates Route 66 and the important place it holds in the history and current success of the community.
    There’ll be lots to do in downtown Wilmington on Saturday, when the Women of Wilmington and downtown merchants put on a sidewalk sale to beat all others, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Don’t forget to stray a couple blocks from the main event to shop one of the city’s biggest antique malls, Milltown Market, at the corner of North Kankakee and Mill Street. Shoppers will be able to find antiques, imports, gifts, collectibles and more.
    The Wilmington Lions Club will be grilling and chilling downtown. Every sandwich they sell helps the volunteers bring the community free activities like the June kids fishing derby. Those who want to try something a little different can stop in at Nelly’s on Route 66 and try a bison burger.
    At noon, the Chamber of Commerce will hold a laughing baby contest for infants up to 1 year of age, at the Chamber tent on North Water at Jackson Street. Prizes will be awarded to the tots who laugh first, loudest or strongest. Parents and siblings can be as silly as needed to get those laughs.
    The dancers from Finale Dance Studio, in Wilmington, will perform at 12:30 p.m. near the Chamber tent, then at 1 p.m., the Chamber will host its popular Hula Hoop contest for youth up to age 12. The three participants who hula the longest will be the winners. Contestants are welcome to bring their own hoops, as supplies are limited.
    The top dogs dressed for the day will compete in the Hound Dog Contest at 2:30 p.m., at the Chamber tent.
    Don’t forget to pick up freebies and this year’s collectible, a button, at the Chamber tent before boarding a free shuttle to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie at the corner of North Water and Van Buren Street (by the post office) any time between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
    The Midewin is calling its event Prairie Kicks on Route 66. Visitors will step off the beaten path and explore what life was like along Route 66 in its heyday while celebrating the native Illinois spring prairie blooms. Volunteer-led nature and history walks will depart from the Iron Bridge Trailhead just north of Wilmington.
    During the nature walks that depart at 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m., visitors will see the emerging buds and blooms of native plants and learn about efforts to remove non-native species to protect and improve the habitat of native flowers and pollinators. History walks leaving the trailhead at 10 a.m. and noon and 2 p.m. will take visitors back 150 years for a lesson about the early settlers who lived along the road that became the Mother Road.
    While waiting to join a group, visitors to the prairie can take in art demonstrations and special educational programs, take a selfie with Woodsy Owl or Smokey Bear or take a hike for a chance to see the Midewin’s growing herd of bison.
    At 4 p.m., the Midewin will host a communitywide broadcasting of Little Bluestem seeds at the Iron Bridge Trailhead prairie.
    The only way to experience the activities at the Iron Bridge Trailhead is to catch the shuttle from downtown Wilmington or from the Elwood Village Hall, 401 E. Mississippi Avenue. Due to parking limitations at the trailhead, only handicapped parking will be available on site. All others interested in the Midewin experience are asked to park in Wilmington or Elwood and take advantage of the shuttle.
    The last pickup in Wilmington and Elwood will be at 3:30, but the shuttle will run until 4:30 to make sure everyone gets back to their starting point.
    The 2017 Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor collectible button and freebies from member businesses will be available Sunday, May 7, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Chamber tent on North Water Street at Jackson. Be sure to take your photo at the Route 66 mural doing the Silly Walk across Jackson Street (and you thought the Silly Walk was an April Fool’s Day prank!) Afterwards, browse the stores and malls for something unique to commemorate the weekend.
    For more details about Red Carpet Corridor activities, contact Wilmington event chairman Eric Fisher at the Chamber of Commerce, 815-476-5991.
    The village of Elwood is planning a tractor show along the original route of the Mother Road through the small farm town, and a display of local history at the village hall on Saturday and Sunday. Elwood also highlights its Douglas Street Wayside exhibit, featuring statues of Rosie the Riveter and an arsenal worker and a section of restored original pavement.

DMA contest will deck downtown in Route 66 theme

    Wilmington’s Downtown Merchants Association (DMA) invites residents, business owners and organizations to help decorate downtown by participating in its 2017 Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor festival badge contest.
    Participants will receive a 6-foot plywood cutout of the Route 66 badge shape to decorate with whatever media they choose, but subject matter must be family friendly. The more creative and fun, the better.
    The badges will be displayed on Water Street and Kankakee Street during the May 6 and 7 Red Carpet Corridor festival weekend through May 10. Since the badges will be on display outdoors,  they may be subject to severe weather conditions, and need to be constructed with exposure to the elements in mind.
    The public will vote for the badges they like best during the flea market on Saturday, May 6. Winners will be announced and contacted within 48 hours of the event.
    There is no cost to participate. Prizes and ribbons will be awarded for first and second place, and a ribbon will be awarded for third place. If a family or individual wins first or second place, Chamber gift certificates will be awarded. If a classroom, school group, business or organization wins first or second place, a pizza party will be provided for the first place winner and the second place winner will receive an ice cream party.
    Plywood badges and registration forms can be picked up at the Island Park District office, 315 N. Water St. All entries have to be received by the DMA by Friday, May 5. Entries and registration forms are to be dropped off at Two Hounds Antiques, 202 N. Water St.
    The DMA will retain ownership of the completed projects, for future use in the district.
    For additional information, contact Jamie Donovan at Two Hounds Antiques, 815-926-2741.