Illinoisans on Illinois: Tips and Tales from Around the State

by Logan Jaffe Oct. 5, 4 a.m. CDT We told you we were getting out of...

We told you we were getting out of Chicago. You told us where to look.

I’m back from my most recent reporting trip to southern Illinois. Last week, I wrote about some things I’ve learned from getting out of Chicago and getting to know our state, and I asked you to write with suggestions for places to go and stories to look into.

Thanks for writing back. I heard from people like state Sen. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy, who wrote to say she appreciated the East St. Louis lunch tip, and Les Dart of Crawford County, who invited me to the Illinois Oil Field Museum’s “Old-Timer” Reunion in Oblong, east of Effingham.

I plan to compile the information from your emails — keep them coming, by the way — into a resource our newsroom can use while reporting around the state. Here are a few more tips you sent our way, lightly edited:

Lindsay Welbers, from DePue, relayed a story about a dilemma that almost grounded the American Power Boat Association races, held on Lake DePue, eight years ago:

In 2010, a drought nearly caused the water levels in Lake DePue to drop too low for the boats, which would have caused the races to leave, and if the races ever left DePue they are unlikely to return. The village president stayed up day and night for the better part of a week pumping water into the lake from the river, and building a dam to hold it in. Those actions led to the races staying in DePue, effectively saving the town from its major economic event leaving.

Benjamin Wells, who grew up in Marion, suggested visiting southern Illinois vineyards for stories (and, you know, wine tasting):

I’d urge you to check out the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail centered around Makanda and the work being done by those wineries — the only such region in the state. Any discussion of these dozen or so vineyards inevitably touches on immigration, climate change and land use, among other salient topics.

Marie B., who grew up in a Chicago suburb before moving to the Quad Cities, said the Quad Cities can seem “pretty bleak” but “aren’t a total wasteland”:

There’s a pretty interesting John Deere museum in Moline. Also, the Arsenal Island in Rock Island has a historic swing bridge and some impressive 19th century military architecture.

Marie also recommended driving the Illinois portion of the Great River Road — a historic tour along the entirety of the Mississippi River — exploring segments of old Route 66 and visiting Cahokia Mounds near East St. Louis.

And Priya Dugad, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, offered this reminder:

Went to Giant City State Park for the eclipse. It was fantastic. No idea that existed within the state, about 15-odd minutes from Carbondale. That said, it needs to go both ways. I’m only in the Chicagoland suburbs, and I encounter a decent frequency of people who think Chicago is dirty, crime ridden, etc. Chicago drives the Illinois economy, and people — including some of the governor’s press releases — talk like it’s a war zone.

Dugad has a point. Depending on where you live in Illinois, assumptions and stereotypes about other parts of the state — Rock Island, Kankakee, East St. Louis, Chicago, wherever — can run deep.

That’s why it’s worth looking deeper.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. I couldn’t figure out how to fit this response in with the others, but I wanted to share it in case it helps you ease into the weekend. It’s from a reader named Jim, “a born and bred New Englander” who spent two years at Northwestern University. He wrote: Thank you for a heart-warming article. We’re in an age that expresses honesty and devotion in a painful way, and it’s good to be reminded we can relax. Thanks, Jim.

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