Students traveling to warm beaches or exotic countries abroad this summer may be shocked that other students are staying in Galesburg and doing far less glamorous things like research.
But the students staying local may be equally shocked that there are a number of things to do right here at Knox’s home base. This does not include going to Green Oaks, which remains open this summer. Nor does it include the easy train trip to Chicago. Instead, here (in no particular order) are the more unconventional top ten things to do in Galesburg this summer.
1. Become an early riser.
On the second Sunday of every month, the Galesburg Area Bird Club wakes up for a bird walk at the park at Lake Storey. They head out bright and early at 7:30 a.m. simply for the love of birds. The club is informal and welcomes everyone, even sleepy-headed college students. For those who are interested in wildlife, this is a must-do.
2. Hear train horns? See what they are all about.
There is no Knox student anywhere who has not been stuck behind a train or had a phone call interrupted by its blaring horn. Galesburg firmly reminds all its residents that it is a train town.
But from Thursday, June 20 to Sunday, June 23, everyone comes out to celebrate this fact. These are the Railroad Days, an annual event series featuring documentaries, trivia and free exhibits at Knox’s very own Ford Center for Fine Arts. There are fun runs and sports competitions. There are flea markets, plane and tractor shows, carnivals, street fairs and crafts. There is literally something for everyone.
Events last all day and costs are reasonable, if not free. This event series is for everyone, because everyone knows about the trains. More information can be found at www.galesburgrailroaddays.org.
3. Reach for the stars.
Galesburg may not have an observatory, but Peoria does. The only thing standing between dorm-bound Knox students and stargazing is a 45- minute drive to the Northmoor Observatory, located at the Donovan Golf Course in Peoria Heights.
Every cloudless Saturday night, the observatory opens from dusk until midnight to those with the cosmos on their minds. Helpers will be on-hand to guide discoveries all night.
4. Indulge in theater.
As usual, there is always something playing on the Orpheum’s stage. This summer, the Prairie Players Civic Theatre will be putting on “The King and I,” a classic tale about culture, change and a little romance.
The show will be on from Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21, and tickets are, of course, only $10 for students.
5. Find favorites at Seminary Street.
Unfortunately, Knox classes start so late that one of Galesburg’s favorite weekly events is mostly missed by students. Those here over the summer, though, should go to First Fridays. They are held on Seminary Street between Main Street and Tompkins Street, and occur, as the name implies, on the first Friday of every month.
Featured are local artists, live music and, of course, all the fantastic food that Seminary Street has to offer. For those who can never get enough of The Landmark, baked., or Cornucopia (can anyone ever get enough?), First Fridays are the place to be.
6. Speaking of food…
Most big cities have entire days dedicated to food. Galesburg does too. This year’s annual Taste of Galesburg will occur on Thursday, July 25 on Simmons Street between Seminary Street and Kellogg Street. For a mere $5 entry fee, students and community members get access to the very best in dining in the middle of the Midwest. As if that were not enough, there will also be live music and a beer garden for those who are of the age to partake. For more information, check out www.tasteofgalesburg.com.
7. Hit the road.
Knox’s website may mention the Knox County Scenic Drive, but everything on Knox’s website is hidden. The Scenic Drive has a real, actual map, taking drivers through farmlands and fairgrounds all while painting rolling hills, open skies and vibrant colors. Stops along the way include one-room schoolhouses, craft shops, churches and museums, but the drive itself is free and totally worth it. For said real, actual map, go to www.knoxcountyscenicdrive.com.
8. Get full of hot air.
…And anger is not necessary. Every year, Galesburg invites some heated competition with the Great Balloon Race, with celebrations and night glows at the park at Lake Storey. The festivities will be from Friday, July 26 to Sunday, July 28, and will include craft vendors and even more food. For those who have not seen these huge, colorful marvels, attending the balloon race is a must. Sneak peaks can be found at www.galesburgballoonrace.com.
9. Follow the beat of some different drummers.
Half of the fun of summer is spent outside. The other half is spent listening to music or, preferably, going to concerts. The “Songs from the Woods” monthly concert series in Peoria combines both.
On June 8, July 13 and Aug. 10, the Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights will be home to folk music that they boast is some of the best around. And it all comes at the incredibly reasonable price of $7. There is no reason not to go.
10. Q: Where did Galesburg come from?
A: Find out at Galesburg Heritage Days, an annual event at the park at Lake Storey that goes back in time. This year, the festivities will occur from Friday, Aug. 16 to Sunday, Aug. 18. Included are Civil War reenactments, canoe races, food stands matching the period and a traveling circus. History buffs certainly will not want to miss this, and it might not be a bad idea for those in Galesburg to brush up on, well, Galesburg. There is probably more to this small town than a Beanhive-bound college student may think.