Compiled by Jon Weaving – jweaving@illinoisouth.org

Summer fun continues to heat up in ILLINOISouth with plenty to do before the kids return to school. Even though the sunlit days are getting shorter, there’s still time to have some fun.

It’s BIGGER, BETTER and FASTER over at Gateway Motorsports Park as they gear up for the 2nd annual Verizon IndyCar Series Weekend, August 24th & 25th…now that’s going to be one hot ticket…and track!

Check out over Cover Story as they’ll also be hosting the 2018 World Championship Chili Cookoff in September. Summer racing followed by Fall Chili…what a great combo!

Who wants a piece of Birthday Cake? Join us for a slice of “Bicentennial” Birthday Cake on Constitution Day, August 26th at the Du Quoin Fairgrounds. We’ll be hosting a Statewide Birthday Celebration during this year’s Fair. While you’re there, check-out the entertainment lineup and all the fun the Fair has to offer.

For you Art lovers, we’ve got a couple of special “Anniversary” Shows…Midwest Salute to the Arts in Fairview Heights is celebrating their 30th year in August, while Art in the Park in Highland celebrates their 15th year in October!

Popeye Celebrates the Bicentennial!
Bring the whole family and a carful of friends to Chester for a weekend of celebrating Popeye and Illinois/US history at the 39th Annual Popeye Picnic, September 7-9! The Picnic boasts three full days of events including: Castor Oyl’s Carnival Rides; Popeye Trivia; Cartoons in the Park; a 5K Run/Walk; Live Music; Popeye Parade and Unveiling of Nana Oyl’s statue (Sat); Popeye (car) Cruise (Sat); Model Plane show (Sun) and so much more! Be sure to bring a camera for photo ops with the statues of Popeye, Wimpy, Olive Oyl, Jeep, Swee’Pea, Bluto and the rest of the gang located around town. For a full schedule of daily events, visit popeyepicnic.com.

As if the Picinic wasn’t enough…the USS LST-325 is set to arrive at the Chester Riverfront on September 6th and stay through September 10th. For the uninitiated, this historic vessel is a decommissioned tank landing ship that served the United States Navy from 1942-1961. It’s the only preserved LST still in operation. More then 7,000 people came to see the ship when it last visited Chester in 2011.

That’s not all…Chester’s historic Landmark Hotel (circa 1830) is set to re-open as a local brewery prior to the LST’s arrival. After being closed for eight years, the new St. Nicholas Landmark will operate as a tap house and restaurant, serving 12 craft beers, unique upscale pub food and classic entrees from its sister location, St. Nicholas Brewing Co. in Du Quoin, 618-790-9212, stnicholasbrewco.com.

Wait, there’s more…Also starting during the Popeye Picnic weekend is the Illinois tour of Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a new Museum on Main Street exhibition conducted cooperatively by the Smithsonian Institution and Illinois Humanities. Crossroads pays homage to the importance of rural communities throughout the state’s history. The exhibition will be housed from September 8 to October 20 at the Chester Public Library, located at 733 State Street.

Accompanying the national Smithsonian exhibit is a local exhibit created by library staff and volunteers. The local exhibit will feature Illinois’ first capital, Kaskaskia, the Mississippi River, local farms to factories, and the future. Historical artifacts, maps, photos, video interviews and age appropriate activities for school aged children will be included in the exhibit. Special programs related to Crossroads will be presented during the six-week exhibition. Group tours and school tours of both exhibitions are welcomed. Contact chesterpubliclib@gmail.com or call Tammy at the Chester Public Library at 618-826-3711 for more information.