A weekend’s journey is closer than you might think. Check out these fun destinations that are close to home but still feel so far away.
Visit Elkhorn, WI: Celebrate German Culture at DAS Fest USA
By Stephanie N. Grimoldby
Raise a stein if you know that Wisconsin has the second-largest percentage of German-Americans in the U.S.
StatisticalAtlas.com, which uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau, puts only North Dakota ahead of Wisconsin, with 44.4 percent of the state’s population identifying as German, compared to Wisconsin’s 42.3 percent. However, Wisconsin’s millions far outweigh the 304,000 German-Americans you’ll find in North Dakota.
It would seem the Badger State is an ideal place for a celebration of German heritage, and this year Walworth County is hosting exactly that type of event.
DAS Fest USA – a free festival dedicated to German-American history – takes place Aug. 13-15 at the Walworth County Fairgrounds in Elkhorn.
“It’s a time for family and friends to get together and celebrate life outside, on what we hope is the heels of this trying pandemic,” says Tammy Dunn, executive director at United Way of Walworth County and the driving force behind the gathering. “We have a lot of exciting acts that will be entertaining for our guests, including educational attributes and a few surprises that will make DAS Fest unique.”
In its inaugural season, DAS Fest offers three stages of German entertainment, including polka and Grammy-nominated musician and producer Alex Meixner – performing all three days.
There also will be authentic German cuisine, highlighted by Mader’s Restaurant of Milwaukee, voted the top German restaurant in mid-America by TripAdvisor.
“We’re really excited about having Mader’s Restaurant,” says Chris Clapper, a director of the festival and executive director of the Elkhorn Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Center. “As our headlining food vendor on DAS Fest grounds, Mader’s will occupy the Methodist Dining Hall and offer a sit-down dining experience with a menu that includes their famous pork shank dinner. It’s exciting that we have been able to engage someone like Mader’s, and they are behind us 110 percent.”
German-inspired activities include Dachshund races, Bingo games – patrons have to yell “Volltreffer” to claim their prize – and other German competitions like stein hoisting, plus shopping at the indoor and outdoor Marktplatz for authentic German wares.
And, of course, there will be plenty of German bier. Friday’s opening ceremony features the Freistadt Alte Kameraden Band who help tap a keg and distribute free beer until it’s gone.
If you miss that experience, just stroll down Stein Street to enjoy German-style beverages from local wineries and breweries like East Troy Brewery, Duesterbeck’s Brewing Company of Elkhorn, and Wein-Bauer of Franklin Park. There even will be authentic bier all the way from Camba Brewery in Germany.
However, DAS Fest is more than just raising a stein.
“This event is being brought to the community by the Elkhorn Chamber and the United Way of Walworth County, where revenue captured by this event will be poured back into nonprofit agencies and businesses for the betterment of the county,” says Kate Abbe, a festival director who oversees partner engagement and marketing at the Elkhorn Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Center.
“It’s not to build wealth for one entity, but ultimately to build a sustainable pool of resources for the entire business community and the nonprofit arm of our county,” she adds. “The UWWC supports over 40 nonprofit agencies. A lot of them struggled through 2020, and added support is necessary. This is an opportunity to band together in a unique way, under a beer tent … and we just happen to be drinking Hofbräu.”
DAS Fest directors have high expectations. “We’re hoping for 30,000 over the three days,” says Clapper. “And it’s obtainable.”
DAS Fest received a Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grant through Travel Wisconsin, which has given the directors nearly $40,000 to use for marketing the festival.
“They believe in the event,” Clapper says of Travel Wisconsin. “I think because we are easily accessible from Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, that this will be big. That’s what we’re hoping. Our tagline is #DiscoverYourDeutsch, and we look forward to creating a space for German enthusiasts to ‘prost’ with us and to introduce German culture to an audience eager to be together this summer.”
Learn more at dasfestusa.com.
Canal-Era Living Coming Soon as New Navvy Town Neighborhood Introduced at Heritage Harbor Resort
A modern take on the 1840s I&M Canal era is underway at Heritage Harbor Resort, where condominiums and cottages are coming soon to a new community.
“We’re very excited to introduce our newest neighborhood, Navvy Town,” says Pierre Alexander, Heritage Harbor Resort Marketing Manager. “The two-story, multi-family quad buildings, called the Canal Quarters, will include one- and two-bedroom condominiums ideal for investors and renters while the open-concept, two-story cottages with two bedrooms and 2½ baths are perfect for second-home owners who want to maximize their time on the river enjoying the harbor life.”
Located 90 minutes from Chicago in Starved Rock Country, Heritage Harbor overlooks the Illinois River and features a state-of-the-art, 152-slip marina as well as several distinct neighborhoods with villas, cottages, single-family homes and custom residences. The community also includes the Red Dog Restaurant, Tiki bar and beach, and neighborhood clubhouses and pools.
“An increase in people working from home and the exodus from big-city metropolitan areas has led to a boom in sales at Heritage Harbor,” Alexander says. “There’s a realization that telecommuters are no longer tied to mass transit and large employment corridors and can enjoy a recreationally rich vacation lifestyle and the benefits of small-town living while working remotely.”
Priced from $189,000, one-and-two-bedroom condominiums start at 580 square feet and are four to a building. Two-story cottages, priced from $289,000, are also available and are 1,150 square feet in size with the option of finishing the full basement. Two-bedroom Carriage Homes will also be offered. Six of the two-story buildings are under construction. Navvy Town will also feature an outdoor water amenity and recreation hall for games, movie nights and other family fun.
In addition to Navvy Town, Heritage Harbor has recently introduced Port Place, an enclave of 12 maintenance-free homes. Centered around a common area with a fire pit, benches and overhead lights, Port Place offers ranch and two-story homes, with main-level master bedroom suites, ranging from 1,196 to over 2,287 square feet. Prices start in the mid $300,000s.
The West Peninsula neighborhood offers single-family ranch, two-story and first-floor master bedroom cottages ranging from 1,490 to over 2,290 square feet with two to four bedrooms, two to four baths, charming front porches, guest suites, second-floor bunk rooms, optional basements, and attached or detached garages.
A new neighborhood of low-maintenance homes is also available in the Boat House neighborhood. Priced from $309,000 to $395,000, these homes range from 975 to 1,700 square feet with the option to add a finished walkout lower level. Additional highlights include two or three bedrooms, 2½ baths, charming front and back porches, open-concept island kitchens and living rooms, owner’s suites with private baths, and finished lower levels with a recreation room, full bathroom, bedroom, storage and covered deck.
Custom home builders will want to visit Pinnacle Pointe, a waterfront neighborhood with its own pool and clubhouse. Luxury ranch and two-story designs, priced from the $550s to over $1 million, are available, though buyers may also purchase a home site and use their own builder. Homes range from 1,705 to over 3,512 square feet with three or four bedrooms, two to 3½ baths and two-car garages. Homes may include open-concept kitchens and family rooms, screened porches, finished walkout basements, guest suites and decks.
“Heritage Harbor offers home buyers and visitors year-round fun and exploration,” Alexander says. “While the marina offers various water sports and river access that make summer alive with activity, residents enjoy winter activities such as the Ottawa Kris Kringle market, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and hiking, and guided tours such as the Sunset Winter Solstice Hike at nearby Starved Rock State Park.”
Heritage Harbor is connected to the 97-mile I&M Canal Biking trail and includes several community parks. The on-site activity director plans year-round activities, such as live music on weekends, special neighborhood events and holiday gatherings, craft and cooking classes, organized group tours and the weekly Saturday 5K walk/run. Downtown Ottawa features a selection of palate-pleasing restaurants, shops and boutiques.
Interested homebuyers can learn more through the Live Like a Homeowner Discovery Package. It offers a two-night stay in a cottage for two adults and two children under 21 and includes a $50 gift card for the Red Dog Grill, a private tour and a customized Starved Rock experience for $249.
Heritage Harbor is located at 111 Harbor View Drive in Ottawa. Call (815) 433-5000, extension 1 to schedule an appointment or email [email protected]. Enjoy a virtual drive-through of the community at visitheritageharbor.com.
Visit Dekalb County: Corn, Cars and Tractors Spark the Summer
By Pat Szpekowski
There’s no need to wait for a show of hands to see who’s traveling this summer.
When deciding where to go, consider exploring the adventurous DeKalb County, Ill., filled with family-friendly events that are truly worthy of a day trip. About an hour west of Chicago, this sprawling and thriving area is jam-packed with things that cover every interest.
“We are so happy that our communities are opening up again after such a year of uncertainty,” says Cortney Strohacker, executive director of DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Without skipping a beat, we’re ready to welcome back everyone to enjoy our familiar and most cherished events that celebrate our region’s best assets and destinations.”
Summertime in DeKalb County is the perfect time to get outdoors, breathe the fresh air and enjoy a variety of diverse and cherished community festivals.
Take a ride to the farm-rich country atmosphere in Waterman, where the free Waterman Lions Summerfest and Antique Tractor & Truck Show is an annual delight in July. This all-day event is filled with fun and food, a beer garden and live entertainment, including a Tractor Parade that winds through the streets of Waterman.
The 21st Annual Fizz Ehrler Memorial Turning Back Time Car Show, on July 25, was a fabulous day for car enthusiasts in the historic downtown area of Sycamore. This annual gathering of automotive art attracts show-and-go types and includes street rods, street machines, rat rods, custom trucks, race cars, antiques, classics and more. Throw in a mix of motorcycle displays, too.
Before the leaves turn and it’s time for sweater weather, savor this year’s corn crop at the 43rd Annual Corn Fest in Downtown DeKalb, scheduled for Aug. 27-29. The three-day festival is filled with live music, a carnival, an auto show, and lots and lots of corn.
Join the happy crowd and enjoy free steamed sweet corn at Saturday’s Chuck Siebrasse Corn Boil, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The event is named in honor of a lifelong DeKalb resident and respected community leader who chaired the corn boil for 25 years.
As you chart your course for summer fun, there’s a good chance you’ll want more info on DeKalb’s historical sites, forest preserves, venues and other destinations. It’s all conveniently available at your fingertips in English and Spanish, thanks to a new smartphone app.
“Why not download our free touring app, called ‘Out & About DeKalb County’?” adds Strohacker. “Within the app, you can map out which spots you’d like to visit in person, or even view them all from your phone.”
Find out more of what’s in store by visiting dekalbcountycvb.com.
Starved Rock Lodge: It’s Finally Time to Reunite
By Kathy Casstevens, marketing director, Starved Rock Lodge
Now that the pandemic is in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to plan a getaway with family and friends. Starved Rock Lodge, located in Oglesby, Ill., has a calendar filled with fun things to do this summer.
Land & Water Cruises run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person. This is a great way to enjoy lunch in the Lodge’s air-conditioned historic dining room. After lunch, guests board the Starved Rock Trolley to take a ride on the Eagle 1.
One-hour Illinois River Cruises are offered on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person.
The most popular activity is the combo tour, the Visit a Canyon & Boat Ride, offered on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A snack, bottled water and souvenir drawstring backpack are included. Tickets are $35 per person. This tour includes a trolley ride, guided hike to see amazing examples of St. Peter Sandstone at Council Overhang and Ottawa Canyon, plus a boat ride along the Illinois River.
Guided hikes are offered every weekend. Departure time is 10 a.m., and lunch (in a drawstring backpack) is included. Historic Trolley Tours are offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a 3 p.m. departure. Tickets are $20 per person. Reservations are required for all tours and hikes. Book online or call (815) 220-7386.
Why wait for the weekend for an overnight getaway? Whether it’s a family reunion, Girlfriend Getaways or a dream wedding, Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center is close to home but worlds away. The unexpected beauty of the glacier-cut canyons, seasonal waterfalls and amazing bluff views are just what you need after being cooped up inside. Mid-week overnight packages are outlined on the Lodge’s website. Guests can choose a comfy hotel room or a cozy cabin in the woods with free parking – a fantastic benefit, especially on weekends.
If you’re a day-tripper, there’s nothing like having lunch on the Veranda at Starved Rock Lodge, where outdoor dining comes with LaSalle County’s best views of the scenic Illinois River Valley. Locally made craft beer is on tap from Tangled Roots Brewery, or else try the Starved Rock Signature Ale. The Grill Menu includes salads, grilled brats and burgers. There’s even a Doggie Delights menu for furry friends, who are welcome in dedicated sections of the Veranda. If you’d rather cool off inside, the Back Door Lounge and Main Dining Room serve lunch and dinner daily. Live music runs every Friday night from 8 to 11 p.m. Sunsets are photo-worthy and the mood is laid-back and relaxing.
If you want to stay indoors, don’t miss one of the Tribute to the Stars shows in the cool comfort of the historic Great Hall. You’ll enjoy live performances by talented tribute artists as they take you on a walk down memory lane. All matinees include a buffet lunch. Prices vary per show. Details are on the Lodge’s website.
Learn more at starvedrocklodge.com, or call toll-free at (800) 868-7625.