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.”
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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