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Illiopolis Business Association 

Local History

FESTIVAL TIMES

Illiopolis Baseball team 1895 (Click here for a larger view and details)

An enjoyable event of the past occurring annually in August was the Woodman Picnic.  Early in the day families began arriving with their baskets of food and by noon the hitch rack along Wabash Park was lined with buggies and carriages.  It was a day for family reunions and festivities provided by the Woodmen.  There were potato and sack races, water melon eating contests, a tug of war, and a log-rolling.  At noon the dinners were laid out on cloths spread on the grass and the bountiful meals eaten with the wells of the town supplying the drinking water.  Throughout the day the local band furnished music and in the afternoon a speaker delivered an address from the band stand.  At the same time part of the crowd was assembled at the ball park to watch a baseball game.

Illiopolis Merchants Band (Click here for larger picture and more information)

Crowning event of the late afternoon was the balloon ascension at the east end of Wabash Park near the merry-go-round. All day the aeronaut had been inflating his patched canvas bag with a wood fire built beneath and now he was ready to take off. Ropes which anchored the balloon were untied, the balloon ascended, horses reared, and the crowd waited in suspense for the parachute to unfold. Someone then drove to the landing field to transport balloonist and bag back to town.

A band concert or silent movie concluded the big day. Much of the entertainment could, be enjoyed, free of charge and to quote Mr. Richard Blanchard, one of our older citizens who remembers pleasures of the past. “You could take a quarter and have more fun then than you can have now for five dollars.”

Fall Farm Festival

In the~ fall of 1910 the first of a series of annual farm festivals was held during a week of October. School was dismissed and every one attended. Farm products of grain, fruits, vegetables, and poultry were exhibited in tents set up in the park. At the town hall women dis­played their needlework and culinary skills. The various exhibits were judged by county leaders in domestic arts and agriculture and premiums were awarded for different classes.

Horse races, which were always a popular sport in the community, were run in the afternoons at the Baker track south of town. Famous among the fast steeds was Mr. Ed Baker’s Dr. Kelly. Of equal importance in at­tracting crowds were the horse shows held on the main business street where both saddle and driving horses com­peted for honors. There were classes for both men and women and they presented the spectators with a high class performance.

At the same time a street carnival came for the week and that, with a dance in Woodman Hall, provided gaiety for the evenings.

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