Readers give their picks for Illinois bicentennial bucket list
People’s Choice installment adds turkey testicles, Mother Jones
In honor of the state’s Dec. 3 bicentennial, the Tribune Travel section rolled out an ambitious to-do list: 200 things every Illinoisan should do at least once in a lifetime.
Over the past year, our monthly installments of the bicentennial bucket list ran the gamut, from things to eat and drink to sights to see, trails to hike, performances to attend — a roster spanning the northernmost reaches of the Land of Lincoln all the way down to the Man of Steel statue in Metropolis.
Our lengthy list mixed the no-brainer big stuff (Skydeck at Willis Tower, Starved Rock State Park) with more obscure attractions, like a fence full of shoes in the middle of farm country and a sunken Boeing 727 beckoning scuba divers in southern Illinois.
We covered a lot of ground, but readers told us we missed a few spots along the way. They emailed their thoughts for what should have made the cut but didn’t.
A selection of those suggestions are written about here, in the People’s Choice installment of the bicentennial bucket list, which you can read in full at chicago tribune.com/bicentennial.
Turkey Testicle Festival
Huntley, 11721 E. Main St.
Some might find it hard to swallow, but folks flock to this Thanksgiving Eve tradition built around a bird’s reproductive organ. The action takes place under a tent outside Parkside Pub, where the party includes live music and cups of the unorthodox deep-fried food that may or may not taste like chicken. You be the judge.
— Don Dickte, Lake in the Hills
Mother Jones Monument Mount Olive, 700 N. Lake St.
The Joan of Arc of labor, fiery, Irish-born union organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones fought for workers’ rights in Chicago and beyond. Before her death in 1930, she asked to be buried in Union Miners Cemetery by “her boys,” a group of striking mineworkers killed in 1898. A 22-foot granite obelisk honors Mother Jones at her final resting place.
— Laura Zielinski, Frankfort
Driehaus Museum Chicago, 40 E. Erie St.
Get a feel for the Gilded Age in the Nickerson Mansion, a swanky 19th-century home turned into a museum by local philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus to showcase his collection of Tiffany glass and other decorative arts. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 is the subject of one of the museum’s current exhibitions, running through Jan. 6.
— Cameron McEwen, Chicago
Rip’s Tavern fried chicken Ladd, 311 N. Main Ave.
Rip’s got its start in the 1930s, when Italian immigrant Silvio “Rip” Gualandri opened a bar in Ladd and gave away fried chicken to booze-buying customers. The “quarter light” remains a fan favorite: a wing and a breast with a side of fries or coleslaw for $6.
— Roger R. Dooley, Villa Park Century Walk
Naperville, various sites
Visitors could spend a full day tracking down all of the mosaics, murals, sculptures and other installations that make up this suburb’s Century Walk, an evergrowing collection of public art peppered throughout town. The ambitious project started more than 20 years ago. It’s about to welcome its 50th public art “location”: Laughing Lincoln, a bronze statue of a jovial, cleanshaven, 30-year-old Abraham Lincoln perched on the cornerstone of the first DuPage County Courthouse. A public dedication ceremony for this artsy ode to Abe is scheduled at 2 p.m. Dec. 2 at Naperville’s Central Park, 104 E. Benton Ave.
— W. Brand Bobosky, Naperville DeKalb County Barn Tour DeKalb County, various sites
Get your agriculture fix at this annual, one-day driving tour ($25 per vehicle) in northern Illinois farm country. The rural road trip includes stops at a bunch of different barns, each detailed in hand-drawn sketches in a souvenir map guidebook. Next year’s event is slated for Aug. 10.
— Jessi LaRue, Sycamore Volo Auto Museum
Volo, 27582 Volo Village Road
The museum’s 400-car collection features vintage and specialinterest autos as well as classics from pop culture, like the Blues Brothers’ Dodge Bluesmobile and the Caped Crusader’s Batmobiles. Cars aren’t the only stars at this sprawling attraction, where other exhibits include antique arcade games, planes and bicycles.
— James P. Furey, Streamwood Metamora Courthouse Metamora, 113 E. Partridge St.
Future POTUS Abraham Lincoln lawyered dozens of cases in this 1845 red brick building, about 15 miles northeast of Peoria. Learn about Lincoln’s life on the old 8th Judicial Circuit and check out the stuck-in-time courtroom in what’s now a state historic site open for tours.
— Peggy Hatfield, Lombard Sycamore Pumpkin Festival Sycamore, 133 W. State St.
Going strong for more than half a century, the DeKalb County town’s biggest event is a multiday affair each October, featuring thousands of decorated pumpkins, a carnival, a craft show, contests and more. The celebration of cucurbits caps off with a Sunday parade.
— Champ Davis, Oak Brook Mann’s Chapel
Rossville, 15205 Mann’s Chapel Road
Built in 1857, this pretty-as-apicture red-brick church is the oldest surviving house of worship in Vermilion County, near the Indiana border. These days, the tiny chapel can be rented for special occasions or simply admired from the outside.
— Jason Mann, Sugar Grove French Heritage Museum at the Stone Barn
Kankakee, 165 N. Indiana Ave.
Parlez-vous français? Plenty of the earliest settlers in the Kankakee River Valley sure did. Learn more about these pioneers and missionaries in this cozy museum housed in a mid-19th-century limestone barn/carriage house. Open Saturdays, closed January through March. Drop by Dec. 15 for Hot Chocolate Day, a French
— Linda LaMontagne, Willowbrook
Rockford, 4000 St. Francis Drive
Last August marked the 40th installment of this popular fest put on by the Greater Rockford Italian American Association. The shindig includes bocce games, music and dance performances, carnival rides and rows of booths — operated by Italian families and restaurateurs alike — dishing out plenty of food to
— Mike Doyle, Belvidere
Barry burger at Mack’s Golden Pheasant Restaurant Elmhurst, 668 W. North Ave.
The 12-ounce hand-pattied Barry burger served with “great crisp fries and a crisp fresh salad with garlic dressing” is one of many items on the menu at this family-owned institution, a chalet-inspired eatery started by Czech immigrants Frank and Mae Mack in 1948.
— Hank Sikora, Warrenville
Naperville’s Century Walk, a collection of public art spread throughout the suburb, includes the “Pillars of the Community” mural.
History-making labor leader Mother Jones is buried in Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, roughly 50 miles northeast of St. Louis.
Armloads of fried chicken are served to hungry diners at Rip's Tavern in Ladd. A wing and a breast with a side of fries or slaw will cost you $6.
Festa Italiana is a long-running, family-focused tradition held each August in Rockford. Bocce, music and food are among the attractions.
Dare to try the deep-fried treats at the Turkey Testicle Festival, which takes place under a tent outside Parkside Pub in Huntley.