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June 1-16

National Counted Cross-stitch Show

Rockome Gardens | 125 N. County Rd. | 425 East | Arcola | 10-5 daily | $5 | 217-935-4106

You leave town, you want to see exotic attractions. Well, seminars, exhibitions, and sales tables devoted to cross-stitching may not promise a lot of excitement, but considering that Rockome Gardens is one of the few Amish amusement parks around and this month will host a large group of people carrying needles, there could be at least as much tension here as you'd find at the average barn raising. (The faint of heart may prefer Rockome's 15th annual Farm Toy Tractor Show, which features farm toy exhibits, complete farm layouts, a pedal-powered tractor pull, and a toy auction, August 2-4.)

June 1-2

Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres

Fort de Chartres State Historic Site | Route 155 | Prairie du Rocher

10-4 daily | Free, $5 parking | 618-284-7230

No one alive today remembers a time when French military power inspired anything more than derision, but this weekend France rises once again from the bread box of history as 1,000 enthusiasts recreate daily life between 1720 and 1763, when the French ruled Illinois. This is the 32nd annual event at this partially restored 18th-century fort.

June 14-15

County Market Hot Air Balloon Rally

Quincy Regional Airport |

1654 Highway 104 | Quincy

5-midnight Friday,

noon-midnight Saturday |

Free | 217-222-0190

This Father's Day weekend event features glowing hot-air balloons hovering in the night sky; the Cheerios NASCAR race car will also be on display.

June 22-23

"Sneak-In, Fly-In" Fun Fly

Prairie Dell Road (west of Highway 26) | Freeport

9-5 daily | Free | 815-563-4830

Looking for open space to fly that P-51D ARF that you bought on a whim and a Visa? This two-day event for fans of radio-controlled airplanes includes displays of model planes, gyrocopters, and more. Food and basic camping facilities are available on-site.

July 7

Catsup Bottle's 53rd Birthday Celebration

Collinsville

-7:30 | Free | 618-345-5598 | www.catsupbottle.com

Brooks Foods, the company responsible for the giant catsup bottle that looms over Route 159, relocated long ago, and there never was any catsup (or ketchup) in the thing, but the 1949 structure is still a favorite roadside attraction. It's a long trip to Collinsville just to see a water tower in drag, but the daylong festival does feature a catsup-tasting contest and locals dressed in bottle costumes, in addition to food, arts and crafts, and a classic-car and -truck show.

July 13-14

Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival

Gebhard Woods State Park | Morris

10-6 Saturday, 10-5:30 Sunday | $12 requested donation |

708-331-6875 | www.gwdf.org

The pastoral concept is not dead! This weekend there'll be dozens of folk performers, a Saturday evening dance, and a dulcimer jam session at Waupecan Valley Park Lodge, as well as concerts and workshops all weekend on topics such as building a dulcimer. Mountain or hammered--it's your choice.

July 19-21

Low Riders and Custom Car Show

Lawrence Park Island |

Rock Falls

3-10 Friday, 8 AM-10 PM Saturday, 11-2 Sunday | $6 |

815-626-3393

If you've ever wondered what a "bopping contest," a "boom sound-off," or a "bed dance contest" was, you can find out this weekend. The 21st annual event also features a motorcycle and low-rider bicycle show, flamethrowers, and more.

July 26-27 and July 30-August 3

City of Joseph Pageant

Partridge and Hubbard | Nauvoo

:30 nightly | free |

800-453-0022, ext. 315 | www.beautifulnauvoo.com

Founded as Venus, Nauvoo was re-named Commerce and purchased by Joseph Smith in 1839. But after Smith was killed in 1844, Brigham Young led his followers to a sandy place in Utah, and the rest is history. The Mormons have recently returned to Nauvoo, and the story of the town's founding will be told in song and dance when the local chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints presents a musical featuring a cast of hundreds on a stage the size of a city block overlooking the Mississippi.

August 8-18

Illinois State Fair

State Fairgrounds | Springfield

7 AM-midnight daily | $3, kids 12 and under Free | 217-782-6661 | www.state.il.us/fair

It's the 150th anniversary of the Illinois State Fair. Can you buy a driver's license on the midway? Just asking.

August 11

"Shower of Stardust"

Weldon Springs State Recreation Area | Clinton

Free | 217-935-2644

This is a chance to view the annual Perseid meteor shower out in deep country dark. Visitors can see 50 meteors an hour (give or take) from a schoolhouse built in 1865 (and moved to the park in the 1980s) or from the Meadowview picnic area. Camping overnight is permitted.

August 29-September 2

National Sweet Corn Festival

McFerren Park | Routes 1 & 9 | Hoopeston

$2, kids under 6 Free |

217-283-7873

Controversy in the heartland: two Illinois towns claim to host the National Sweet Corn Festival: Mendota and Hoopeston. Hoopeston's is older (58 years to 55 for Mendota) and features the National Sweetheart Pageant, a flea market, a demolition derby, and music; Mendota's (August 8-11) has a pet show, corn costumes, and other entertainments. Both give away sweet corn by the ton--reason enough to go to either, but the nod here goes to Hoopeston: high-quality sweet corn is the single best reason to leave town for Labor Day.

August 31

William Shatner Big Game

Challenge Park Xtreme |

2903 Schweitzer Rd. | Joliet

7 AM-9 PM | $150 | 815-726-2800 | www.challengepark.com

This paintball extravaganza benefits William Shatner's favorite charity, Ahead With Horses, which gives disabled children a chance to feed, groom, and ride horses. As many as 3,000 people are expected to compete at Challenge Park Xtreme, a 150-acre paintball, mountain bike, and skate park with areas named "Armageddon" and "Jungle of Doom." At press time, three teams captained by celebrities were scheduled to compete: the lineup is Mancow versus celebrity paintballer Tom Kaye versus Team Shatner.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/David Heatley.

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