Genuine Northwest, Summer/Fall 2021 Edition

Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.

Summerfield Zoo

3088 Flora Road, Belvidere, (815) 547-4852,

If you haven’t yet visited this zoo, you may be surprised to find mountain lions, zebra, lemurs, giant tortoises, wolves, reindeer, monkeys and more. You’ll also see beautiful Arabian horses that owners Rick and Tammy Anderson have bred for 20 years.

“As a small zoo, visitors can get up close and meet many of our animals in person,” says Rick Anderson. Visitors enjoy animal presentations, bottle-feeding baby goats, pony rides and interacting with animals in the petting zoo.

While it’s fun just to show up, you can also pre-schedule up-close baby animal encounters with a zookeeper present. The zoo also offers periodic events such as Breakfast or Lunch with the Otters, in which up to four visitors enjoy a meal while watching Emmitt and Octavia play in their pond and waterfall.

Field trips and private group tours take place on days the zoo is not open to the public and include an educational guided tour of all of the species at the zoo. Sign up for special events by emailing or by sending a private Facebook message.

Admission: $12 adults; $10 seniors/veterans; $8 kids. Everyone is $8 on Wed. & Thurs. Daily animal shows are included with admission and all proceeds go to the care of the animals.

Hours: Wed., Thurs. & Fri. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

War Memorial Arch

Galena Avenue near Second Street, Dixon, Ill.

After World War I ended one century ago, many American towns built “Welcome Home” arches for their returning heroes. The Dixon arch is one of only a few still standing.

Dixon is the Lee County seat of government. The arch was first constructed of beaverboard and bunting to honor all returning Lee County veterans.

Nearly 25,000 people turned out for a triumphant homecoming parade on June 12, 1919. A short time later, members of the Dixon American Legion Post formed a committee to erect a permanent arch. One side of it read, “Dixon Welcomes and Honors All Who Have Served.” The other side read, “A grateful people pause in their welcome to the victorious living to pay silent tribute to the illustrious dead.”

Years later, the city’s name replaced both inscriptions.

After a fundraising effort in the 1940s, the arch was rebuilt with a concrete base and steel structure. It was rededicated to all veterans on Armistice Day 1949.

In 1965, when Galena Avenue was widened to four lanes, the arch was taken down temporarily and it, too, was widened. It was also wired for neon lighting and went back up in January 1966.

In 1985, the Illinois Department of Transportation determined that the arch needed to be moved 145 feet south to allow for a right turn lane onto Illinois Route 2. The newly designed fiberglass arch was rededicated on Nov. 11, 1985. While most of us simply call it “the Dixon arch,” its formal name remains War Memorial Arch. It stands, as it has for a century, as a memorial to all who have served their country.

Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass

165 N. Park Ave., Neenah, Wis., (920) 751-4658,

The largest and most representative collection of glass paperweights in the world is housed at this museum. It began with 652 paperweights – mostly antique – bequeathed by Evangeline Bergstrom in 1958. Today, nearly 4,000 weights are displayed, many created by the finest glasshouses in Italy, France, Germany, England and the U.S.

Paperweights first emerged as an art form in 1845. Much older glass pieces are found in the Mahler Collection of Germanic Glass, which represents three centuries of glassmaking in Northern and Central Europe, with the earliest example dated 1573. The collection was donated to the museum by founding members Ernst and Carol Mahler. The Contemporary Glass Collection shows works from the Studio Glass Movement, which began in the U.S. in 1962. Works are on display by Dale Chihuly, Dominick Labino, Lino Tagliapietra and many other modern glass artists. Also at the museum is the Art Glass Collection of 19th and 20th century, when more formulas were created or rediscovered from earlier times than in any era of glass history. The rapidly changing interests of the rising Victorian middle class drove innovation in color, pattern and brilliantly cut crystal. The Victorian Art Glass collection includes works by René Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Fredrick Carder and Joseph-Gabriel Argy-Rousseau. Admission is free and docent-led tours are available by calling two weeks ahead.

Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sun. 1-4:30 p.m.