How Strong Are Southern Illinoisans?

Apparently, Southern Illinoisans are so strong that there were briefly two Facebook groups and a new dot com with the same name…

This morning, I heard from a friend who had said she had sent a request to join Southern Illinois STRONG, formerly the name of the Facebook group that is related to what was the “Eat & More to Help” section of this website and the ASOSI app. I went to approve her request and found others, but not hers. Then she said that it had been on the news. That was news to me…

With a little research, I discovered that there is a newer Carbondale area group that has surfaced since the sheltering at home in Illinois response to COVID-19. They use Southern Illinois Strong as the name of their Facebook group and dot com that also sells a t-shirt. This appears to be the one that was on a local news outlet with a mission of ensuring the survival of locally owned food establishments in the Carbondale area.

As a Slice of Southern Illinois also supports that mission, assumes the duplicate name was oversight, and forgives any perceived appearance of intent, we have chosen to change the name of our Facebook Group to match everything else:  A Slice of Southern Illinois.  The section of the app that has and will continue to help people find help and ways to help others in Southern Illinois will remain titled Southern Illinois STRONG. Long after COVID-19 hits the history books, we hope you will still be sharing and participating in each others fundraisers and community needs.

We feel that this is also in the best interest of both groups in terms of transparency. Our definition of Southern Illinois extends from I-70 south to the southern state line. Again we wish the other group well as we also want our local business to thrive and succeed. This is why we continue to add links to locally owned spots in the ASOSI app for shopping, artisans, food, lodging and more. There are links to sites to see and places for family fun. The Southern Illinois STRONG section has been important for helping to get the word out for local fundraisers for schools, families with medical needs, fur babies needing help, and more. Please keep sending these to us! Keeping the blog, business, group, video, and social media name the same seemed best for consistency.

A Slice of Southern Illinois is somewhat of a lifestyle blog, and you will undoubtedly continue to find recipes and travel suggestions for our region and more. It is family-inspired, from the heart, and should be Christ-honoring. I am unapologetic for those elements. Much of the app and other planning was how I kept myself occupied with something meaningful while I was mostly on bedrest during chemo a few years ago. My desire is to continue building upon it with my family.

The A Slice of Southern Illinois app,  also called ASOSI, is free for download on Google Play and in the Apple App Store. Please feel free to like our Facebook page. Requests to join the group, and start helping to spot opportunities to help in Southern Illinois may be sent via Facebook. Thank you for your continued support and participation. Even more importantly, thank you for continuing to support each other and our region. Faith, family, friends, fortitude, and more are abundant in our region. Let our hope be contagious. Southern Illinois truly is STRONG!

A Beautiful Day–to Drive Thru the Farmer’s Market

A multitude of well-behaved, socially distanced, people in cars paraded through the Carbondale Farmer’s Market this morning to shop local.

Vendors sold out of some things early. There were gorgeous flowers, plants, spring veggies, meat, eggs, and fur baby treats to buy. You could even pick up coffee, tea, baked goods, or some delicious-looking hot dogs. Even when forced to operate as a drive thru during a pandemic, the farmer’s market continues to be a treat for the senses. It operates on Saturdays mornings from 8:00 a.m. to noon at 2001 West Main Street in Carbondale, Illinois.

A Walk Through the Winter Farmer’s Market

I decided to take a short video as I made my first lap around the stands at the Carbondale Community Farmer’s Market this morning. The video has been posted on YouTube. (If all goes well, it is also embedded in this post…) I was amazed at the quality and variety we have here even during the dreary winter months. Fresh greens, herbs, mushrooms, and more were available.

The market meets on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Carbondale Community High School through March 28, 2020. Some of the upcoming events, besides the weekly Fit program, are a seed swap, kids’ day, and plant give away.

It is definitely worth crawling out of bed to visit on a dreary morning. I found dried ancho chili peppers as well as a bunch of fresh salad greens to play with this week…

Local root veggies

Southern Illinois honey

SNAP/LINK can go further on healthy food at a Farmer’s Market than on junk food elsewhere.

More quality locally made products
Fitness Fun at the market…
Live entertainment
More veggies…

ASOSI Around the World

Sunday Drive: Alto Pass and Pomona

Yesterday after church, my daughter, her boyfriend, and I headed to Alto Pass for the first, hopefully annual, Cinco de Mayo Festival.

When we got to the celebration, we were greeted by smiling faces and people enjoying the warm sun. A mix of music, Latin American blended with hit radio songs, filled the air. Bright, beautiful color was everywhere from the piñatas to food and items offered for sale. Two words could describe all of the authentic Mexican food for sale along the blocked off street: ¡Que rico!

There were seasoned mangos on sticks, elote, and agua frescas of tamarind and horchata. People were preparing fresh tacos of bisteq and carnitas and more. So good!

The Union County Sheriff car kicked off the parade. First responders, pageant queens, traditional dancers, and others followed. Horses brought up the end. It may not have been a long parade, but it was nice.

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After leaving the Cinco de Mayo Festival, we headed on to Bald Knob Cross. Thankfully, the road up to the cross is much better these days than when I was a child. It does still twist and wind for a few miles upward. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to get materials to the building site.

A nice visitor’s center sits by the cross with restrooms, information, souvenirs, and an observation deck with a gorgeous view of the Shawnee National Forest.

At the base of the cross, there is a timeline as well as signs to tell you what you might be able to see in that direction if conditions were right. Each side has a name : Faith, Hope, Charity, and Love. There are benches for sitting and picnic tables for eating and enjoying the view.

Leaving the cross, we decided to head to Pomona to see the Natural Bridge. It was a short distance, but part of the drive into the part of the Shawnee National Forest that has the rock formation is still gravel…

There is a small picnic area by the parking lot for the trail to the Natural Bridge. The trail itself does require some mobility as it is fairly natural and not accessible.

We could hear the sounds of running water as we approached the bridge. A faint mint smell was in the air. All of the lush, green foliage was beautiful. It was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful afternoon in Southern Illinois.

Related Links:

Cinco de Mayo Festival at Alto Pass

https://www.facebook.com/events/848378758828955/?ti=cl

Bald Knob Cross of Peace

https://www.baldknobcross.com/

Pomona Natural Bridge

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recarea/?recid=10678

Shawnee National Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee

Root Beer, Llamas, and Wine: A Fair September Day

The first Saturday in September was a bit warm and humid, but still a pretty nice day at the Du Quoin State Fair. I spent quite a bit of time in the Exhibit Hall looking at the different entries from all over Southern Illinois–produce, quilts, artwork, photography, cakes, and pies.

I spent even more time checking out all of the yummy things made in Southern Illinois and enjoyed meeting and talking with so many of the people and their products. Did you know that there is a Wabash Valley Wine Trail? Road Trip!

The Southern Illinois Beekeeping Association was on site with local honey and products made with it, such as Big Muddy Root Beer.

Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch had a demonstration going as well as some of their fleece products. The little pumpkins were adorable…

Devil’s Breath Chile Company had some wonderful samples. They of course make some hot products, but the beef I sampled was a milder option with quite a nice balance of flavor.

Reinneck Ranch Inc. of Mascoutah also had samples and some wonderful products on hand.

There was fresh produce on site, and even the guys from Crown Brew were available to serve decadent coffee concoctions.

The BBQ Popcorn that Uncle Joe’s from Ina has started making was very tasty.

Aunt Jenny’s Fudge had samples. I tried the chocolate praline. O.M.Y! (Oh. My. Yum!)

Louie’s Seasonings, as in those used at the historic Louie’s P & R in Herrin, were available as well as Kuntry Kettle apple butters.

Excel Bottling from Breeze, responsible for the regional favorite Ski, provided samples of soft drinks.

Stanley’s Italian Style Beef Seasoning from Harrisburg had samples of Italian beef. Mr. Stanley was kind enough to pose for the camera.

There was so much delicous-smelling fair food to choose from when it was time to eat. I chose a local food truck with a cause that hit close to home. A bit of online research revealed that Fight Like a Girl was created by Du Quoin’s Marcy Robinson and her husband Les in memory of her sister, Kristina Stacey.

The ribbon fries with cheese were awesome!

I walked through the midway, but after recently spending months fighting nausea during chemo, I passed on any rides. While my kids and their friends enjoyed the midway action, I took a LOT of photos. Imagine that…

The ever-popular “Free Bird” was observed in its natural habitat. Ok, perhaps it wasn’t the original band singing the song, but this band was pretty darn good. The guy singing had a great voice.

After many decades, people still gather at this iconic structure to eat and perhaps rest a bit at the tables. As I’m still trying to rebuild my energy from this past year, I rested often. I was thankful for every bench and picnic table at the fairgrounds!

Livestock and dairy shows are still part of the fair’s backbone. I was sad that I missed the dairy goat show (this girl showed dairy goats for 11 years in 4-H. Tonti Broken Arrow Carpris, my family’s farmette as a kid, was a proud member of the Southern Illinois Dairy Goat Association…) but did see some cows. Horses also make up an important part of the fair. Unfortunately, I did not make it to see the stables this year.

Above: The grandstand in the background of the children’s area. I empathized with all parents pushing double strollers and wagons as I remembered the days when Mija and Mijo were energetic toddlers… At least it wasn’t muddy. That always added to the resistance workout.

Below: The midway as photographed from its North end. It seems the kids have now graduated to this side of the food vendor area.

A Community Tradition of Harvesting Memories

The Carterville Lion’s Club Free Fair kicked off this Wednesday in Cannon Park with the Farmer’s Market and runs through Saturday, September 8, 2018. This year’s theme is 105 Years of Our Tradition: Harvest the Memories. The Free Fair is a family-friendly event where many gather each year for some good, clean fun.

Friday evening features a 5K Twilight Glow Run and Poker Walk as part of the event festivities. Jackson Junction will be performing from 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm.

Saturday’s lineup includes a parade at 10:00 am, the Lioness Cake Walk, and Stride Pro Wrestling. Debbie Browning is this year’s Parade Marshall. Some of this year’s free events are a pet fair, children’s eye screenings, Identi-Kid services, Emery Brothers Roller Skating, a Ping Pong Avalanche, and hands on healthy snack and eating demos from the Carbondale Neighborhood Co-op Grocery.

Carnival rides, games, and bingo will be operating Friday evening and Saturday. Arm bands are $24 and single tickets are $3.

Additional info is available on the event’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeFairPageant/

A Taste of the 2018 Centralia Balloon Fest

This past weekend, my daughter, her friend, my brother, and I visited the 29th Annual Centralia Balloon Fest. Although there was still some humidity, the weather was much more comfortable than in some of the previous years.

People seemed to be enjoying the colorful balloons, bands, crafts, and food. Although we were not there early enough for the balloon races or car show, my daughter was able to capture some great video footage of the hot air balloons as they decorated Foundation Park. The glowing balloons at night were absolutely gorgeous–especially when their reflections were graced the water.

Video below by Kiersten Sullens:

Above: One of those Little Egypt pork shop sandwiches…

Above Photo Credit: Kiersten Sullens

Above–a bit of the craft fair.

Above–more of the craft fair.

Above: A hometown favorite, Country Bob’s

Below Photo Credit: Kiersten Sullens

Above Photo credit: Kiersten Sullens

Above: The Greek plate

Video below by Kiersten Sullens:

Sunshine and Market Fresh

It was still pretty warm this morning, but the weather was perfect for the Carbondale Farmer’s Market. Despite a late start, I still arrived in time to snap some photos, shop a bit, and get my iced holy basil tea.

Many dogs enjoy walking around the market each week with their humans.

Beautiful fresh flowers from a Carbondale vendor paired with some iced holy basil tea from Mustard Seed Sowers.

Lots of yummy choices from Leepy’s Gourmet Foods.

Southern Que was on site with delicious barbecue.

Mario’s Mama continues to be a favorite among canine shoppers.

One of the talented musicians that entertain shoppers at the market.

It’s Festa Time!

HerrinFesta Italiana kicked off this week in Herrin. The event has been a Memorial Day Weekend tradition in Southern Illinois since its beginning in 1991 and celebrates Herrin’s Italian heritage.

There are two entrances to the Festa: The Piaza and The Midway. An admission fee is required for many of the concerts in the Piaza, but admission to the Midway is free. While beverages requiring proof that one is 21 years of age or older are sold within the Piaza area, (with the exception of Faith & Family night,) they are not permitted on the Midway. A carnival, food, and shopping opportunities make up the Midway.

Over the years, many local and famous acts have graced the HerrinFesta stage in the Piaza. Some of these include Survivor, Firehouse, 38 Special, Drew Baldridge, and Three Doors Down. 2015 became known as the year that “Riding the Storm Out” was not an option when a heavy downpour and lightning storm interrupted the REO Speedwagon concert. (It was still a great performance as the band played as long as feasibly possible.) The 2018 line up includes The Beach Boys, Slaughter, Queensryche, and a first for the event, Faith & Family Night at the Festa with Natalie Grant and Jordan Feliz.

Some of the special events that people look forward to each year include the parade, bocce ball, pasta eating contests, and the Road Races. This Year’s HerrinFesta Parade Grand Marshalls are Mayor Steve and Sharon Frattini. On May 21, Lexie Tourville was crowned Miss HerrinFesta Italiana 2018.

More information is available at http://www.herrinfesta.com

Photos from Past Years at the Festa: