Summer Fun, Old & New

It’s summer in Peoria! Time for sailing and swimming, golf and grilling, road trips and river cruises, concerts and festivals, and fireworks exploding in the sky…

Several weeks ago, I found myself on the Spirit of Peoria at a fundraising event for the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. The venerable paddlewheeler was bustling with local supporters and traveling guests enjoying food, drinks, music and conversation. As I sat on the top deck, tickled by a light breeze and basking in the last rays of the day’s sunshine, I watched the sailboats gathering outside of the IVY Club and thought to myself, “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

It was the perfect summer evening… and, I trust, just one of many in the weeks to come.

Last summer, a good friend took me on my first kayaking adventure on the lake at the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in Fulton County. Michael Wiant, director of Dickson Mounds Museum, Emiquon’s official visitors’ center, was kind enough to be our guide that morning. Not only did he help us out with the “heavy lifting” of our kayaks, he patiently instructed us on the basics of paddling, pointing out the different plants and wildlife along the way.

It’s really quite remarkable what we have in Emiquon—this jewel of nature, not even an hour’s drive from Peoria. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend a visit.

If you’re not on the water, nothing says summer quite like a trip to the ballpark. I’ve long enjoyed watching the Chiefs at O’Brien Field, but didn’t know much about Peoria’s Sunday Morning League, the oldest continuously-running amateur baseball league in the country. It’s a fascinating slice of history, and in this age of rapid change, it’s good to know that some traditions still stand the test of time.

You may not recognize the talented young people featured on this issue’s cover. City Dance Peoria is fairly new to the area, but the organization is already making a major impact, using dance and hip hop to reach out and inspire at-risk youth in our community. Kudos to them! Read their story in this issue—I’m intrigued.

At their best, sports and the arts can be “great equalizers,” breaking down the barriers that sometimes divide us, and bringing people together around their talents and passions. Traditions are important, but great things can also happen when we try something completely different. This summer, make sure to do both. a&s