Author Archives: Explore Peoria

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Corn Stock Theatre Premiering a Virtual Murder Mystery

Corn Stock Theatre and Willow Bend Theatrics will present the world premiere “A Deathly Development”, a virtual murder mystery running Friday, March 19 through Sunday, March 21.

Written by Kathy Chitwood and Whitney Chitwood and directed by Nyk Sutter-Downs, the plot follows a murder on the grounds of the Davisville Turkey Festival.  The victim is Carrie Campbell, a prominent townsperson.  Special Investigator Getz will call on the viewing audience to help solve the case.  Presented in a documentary format,  viewers will be able to watch footage of the interrogation of suspects along with narration.

Director and Corn Stock Theatre Manager, Nyk Sutter-Downs, said “This experience has been so unique and unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before. This show was designed to be produced within the limitations presented by the pandemic. The entire rehearsal process was conducted over Zoom and the cast has never been in the same room together; in fact, most of the cast members have never met one another in person.”

Sutter-Downs continued, “To this day, no one in the cast knows “WhoDunIt” and I purposely kept that secret throughout the entire process. That way, I was able to work with each character individually to flesh out their character’s motive and how they could have caused Carrie’s death. Personally, I can’t wait for their reactions once the true murderer is revealed!”

To keep the actors safe from COVID-19, the cast and crew were socially distanced and wore face coverings while filming.  Also, all rehearsals were conducted virtually.  Cast members include Trish Ballard, Jeff Craig, Nate Downs, David Fritz, Leigh Anne Hager, Julia McCammon, Kathy McCormick, Mary Ellen Milem, Jim Sullivan, and Daniel Sutter.

Tickets are $20 for an individual ticket and $25 for a family ticket and are available at

To find Peoria area event information, visit our Peoria area events calendar.

Peoria Riverfront Museum Reopens with New Exhibitions

The Peoria Riverfront Museum reopens this Saturday, March 6 with new exhibitions featuring a new and expanded presentation of Preston Jackson’s “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story”.  Also new is the “101 Treasures of the Peoria Riverfront Museum Collection,” which includes unreleased early publicity photographs of Richard Pryor by area photographer and Golden Voice Studio owner Jerry Milam.  And the “Community: African American Experience During Migration,” exhibition spotlights the story of New Philadelphia and Black Illinois achievers including Peoria High School alumna Annie Malone, the first Black woman millionaire in the United States.

Jackson, an acclaimed Peoria-based artist, who is professor emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and recipient of the Order of Lincoln Medallion, the State of Illinois’ highest honor, redesigned his seminal work, “Bronzeville to Harlem,” to be a semi-permanent installation in the museum’s renovated Owens Gallery, formerly The Street Gallery.

“Magnificently timed as we reopen the museum with an exhibition of the museum‘s 101 greatest treasures, legendary artist Preston Jackson has promised to give his lifetime masterwork, ‘Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story’ to the Peoria Riverfront Museum‘s permanent collection,” said museum president & CEO John Morris. “At the perfect moment in our society’s history, this act of extraordinary generosity by the artist, his family, and his many supporters represents the largest, most valuable, and important story-telling art installation ever given for the public inspiration in the history of Peoria.”

“Exhibited for the first time this expanded version of Preston Jackson’s ‘Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story’ has for more than 25 years grown into a sprawling, vibrant cityscape. The neighborhoods referenced in the title flourished with northward moving African American populations in the first third of the 20th century during ‘The Great Migration,’” said museum chief curator, Bill Conger.

Opening alongside “Bronzeville to Harlem” is “101 Treasures of the Peoria Riverfront Museum Collection,” showcasing a selection spanning 57 years of collecting the most important artistic works, scientific objects, historic relics and achievement-related stories that define the museum’s permanent collection. On display are works by Auguste Rodin, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Sol Lewitt, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Pauline Palmer, Frederick Remington, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as historical artifacts from the Lincoln’s goblet to John Dillinger’s death mask, a Canyon Diablo meteorite and minerals and insects from the museum’s natural history collection.

“Community: African American Experience During Migration,” is a special exhibition on the shaping of America and in particular the Illinois communities of Brooklyn and New Philadelphia by freedom-seeking Black achievers, including former Peoria and Brooklyn resident Annie Malone who become America’s first Black woman millionaire.

The new exhibitions are designed with education in mind, including students and their families visiting with the museum’s Every Student Initiative Student+Family Fun Pass, that provides free museum visits to all Peoria Public Schools and East Peoria District 86 K-8 students. The pass provides free bus transportation to and from the museum, courtesy of CityLink. Pass holders can also view special Giant Screen Theater movies and earn a trip to “T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator,” debuting in Peoria May 29.

Entry to the exhibitions and Dome Planetarium is free for members and Every Student Initiative Student+Family Fun Pass holders, $11 adults, $10 seniors age 60+ and students with ID, and $9 youth ages 3-17. Giant Screen Theater experience is extra. For more information on the museum, exhibitions, Dome Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater, call 309.686.7000 or visit 

Peoria Riverfront Museum 

The only multidisciplinary museum of its kind in the nation, the Peoria Riverfront Museum uses art, science, history and achievement to inspire confidence, lifelong learning, and talent. Since opening in 2012, the privately funded museum has provided more than one million experiences through major exhibitions, a permanent collection, interactive galleries, a dome planetarium, giant screen theater and educational programming including curricula-related student visits. The AAM-accredited, Smithsonian-affiliated private nonprofit museum is supported by more than 4,000 members and donors, and is housed in a county-owned LEED Gold-certified building on a campus overlooking the Illinois River.

Find Peoria area events information on our Calendar!

FamilyCore Frosty 5K and Dog Walk

FamilyCore will host the 22nd Annual Frosty 5K and Dog Walk on Saturday, January 30 with race options this year due to the pandemic.  Runners may choose to participate in the in-person event on Peoria’s Riverfront or run on your own time as part of the “virtual race.”

The in-person race, which began as a coat drive for children, leads runners along the scenic route of 3.1 miles or the 1 mile walk along the Peoria Riverfront. Dogs (accompanied by a human) are welcomed on both the 5K and 1 Mile race courses. The race will begin at Running Central (located at 311 SW Water St. in Peoria) and conclude at the Gateway Building (located at 200 Northeast Water St. in Peoria).  Participants will be required to wear a mask during the race.

The virtual version takes place at the runner’s discretion (prior to in-person race completion).  The 5K entry fee is $30 prior to January 22 and $40 the day of the event. A family rate for three to four 5K runners is $80. One mile walkers are $30.  Registration is currently open.  Find full details on the Events Calendar.

The Frosty 5K is one of the main fundraisers for the non-profit organization FamilyCore (previously known as Counseling & Family Services).  With over 80 employees who work with schools, the court system and other social service agencies to connect counseling, intervention, preventative education and other support services with those who have a need, FamilyCore are celebrating 120 years helping central Illinoisans.

FamilyCore provides adoption, counseling, foster care, single parent services as well as youth outreach including after school and summer programs that focus on educational and recreational activities.  With locations in downtown Peoria and Pekin, they are members of the Heart of Illinois United Way and United Way of Pekin.

Contact Veronica Stalter at (309) 676-2400 ext. 282 for race or sponsorship information.  Learn more about the organization at

Bernice King to Speak at Virtual MLK Celebration

The 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will continue the tradition of the annual luncheons held in honor of the late civil rights activist as a virtual event due to the pandemic.  The event has been organized by the Public Employees for Community Concerns (PECC) for over 20 years.  The group of African-American City of Peoria employees goal is to provide an extension of local government to the minority community as well as promote networking among public employees, facilitate and advocate discussion of the community’s concerns and increase the visibility of public employees within the community.

Featured speaker this year will be the youngest daughter of the late Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Dr. Bernice King.  King is CEO of The King Center and heads the Nonviolence 365 education and training initiatives.  King is a graduate of Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Masters of Divinity and Doctorate of Law Degrees from Emory University.  She has also received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from Wesley College.

King is currently a member of the State Bar of Georgia, is a trained mediator, serves on the HOPE Southeastern Board of Directors of Operation HOPE and is a member of the International Women’s Forum and National Council of Negro Women.  She is an innovative, energetic and committed leader dedicated to fulfilling the calling of taking her parents legacy and The King Center into a new era.

The event will be held from Noon – 1 pm.  Tickets for the luncheon are $30 per person available online at

The Perfect Holiday Treat for the Entire Family

Corn Stock Theatre will present the beloved American classic holiday story of  It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play one night only on Saturday, December 19th at 7:30 pm.  The production transposes the holiday cinematic classic movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed with a clever twist thrown in: the story is staged as a live radio broadcast:  Seven actors portray numerous characters, and sound effects are done by two Foley (sound effect) artists.

Director Anna Oxborrow has always loved the holiday classic and the lesson we learn from it when she stated, “It’s a Wonderful Life has a beautiful lesson behind it, that we should be grateful for the little things and more so, being grateful for the people in our lives and how they all affect our lives.  There is a reason we are in each other’s lives.”

With COVID-19 constraints, the cast and crew adhered to maintaining social distance while rehearsing which actually worked well for a radio based script. Each of the seven actors were positioned at their own station and the two sound effect gurus working the Foley table were also staged away from the rest of the cast.

Jeramie Glass (George Bailey/young George)

Continued Oxborrow, “It isn’t often you get to see how a radio show is made and I hope this gives our viewers a glance into a radio show from the 1940’s.”  Five of the seven cast members are playing multiple characters, but they all come into the radio studio with a base character (think actors playing actors who play actors) that viewers will get to know based on their nonverbal communication and how they set up their area.

The cast includes Nathan Irwin, Jeremy Glass, Greg Blume, Chris Peterlin, Megan Johnston, Celeste Matheson and Grace Blume.  Sound effects Foley table gurus include Theresa Black and Kristin Whitaker.

“I hope the audience walks away knowing that they matter to Corn Stock Theatre and that they matter to the people who are in their lives,” reflected Oxborrow. Tickets are  $18.95 ($15 plus a $3.95 service fee) and are available at

Peoria Ballet’s Nutcracker Goes Virtual for 2020

Peoria Ballet’s The Nutcracker has been re-imagined this year as a digital performance which will premiere on Saturday, November 28 and be available to view  through Sunday, December 13 via Vimeo. Performed by Peoria Ballet students under the direction of Artistic Director, Jorge Laico, the performance was filmed in the transformed Nutcracker set at the Peoria Ballet studio.  You’ll see the beautiful backdrops and props that you’re accustomed to seeing at the theater.

Featuring dazzling choreography, gorgeous costumes, and graceful dancers performing to the familiar and classic music of Tchaikovsky, this family holiday tradition has been a community favorite for over 45 years and is a treat for audiences of all ages.   The show includes favorites like the Waltz of the Flowers, the Spanish dance, the Arabian dance, the Chinese dance, the Russian dance, Marzipan and the Polichenelles along with characters such as Sugar Plum Fairy, Dew Drop, Clara & the Nutcracker Prince plus Mother Ginger and the Mouse King.

Tickets for the virtual event are $20 and are available at  For more information about the Peoria Ballet, visit

Festival of Lights a Contender in The Great Christmas Light Fight

Update: The East Peoria Festival of Lights in Illinois is the CHAMPION of the Heavyweights Division of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight!  Congrats!

The East Peoria Festival of Lights will be in the national spotlight this year with the festival being a 2020 contender for Season 8 of The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC TV.  The Festival of Lights, celebrating its 36th year, is in a new community displays division on the national show, competing against three other American cities for the coveted lighted trophy. The identity of those other cities will not be known until the show airs later this year, with the broadcast date to be announced.

This year’s East Peoria Festival of Lights starts with the Parade of Lights and continues with the Thanksgiving opening of the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display. Many aspects of the festival are named for Folepi, the festival’s toy soldier mascot and an acronym for “Festival Of Lights East Peoria Illinois.”

The Parade of Lights will begin at 5:45 pm on Saturday, Nov. 21 and spectators will see approximately 30 lighted floats gliding along the parade route. Spectators can spread out and socially distance along the approximately two-mile route which starts at East Washington Street and Dolans Lane, and continues along East Washington Street, turning left at the intersection with Camp Street. It then turns right from Washington onto Taylor Street, continues along Taylor and ends at Taylor Street and Springfield Road. A map of the parade route is available at  In addition, central Illinoisans can watch the parade from the comfort of home via livestream on WMBD TV-31’s website,, and the station’s Facebook page.

In the days following the parade, the floats will be moved to a city park which will become Folepi’s Winter Wonderland.  Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display opens at 5 pm on Thanksgiving and will remain open through January 3, including all holidays.  Visitors can view the lights in the comfort of their vehicles, the ultimate in social distancing. Featured are the parade floats and lighted displays grouped in themed areas such as the Western Town, Circus Land, Space Travel and the Prehistoric Area. Hours are 5 -9 pm Sundays through Thursdays and 5 – 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $10 for regular vehicles (cars, trucks and vans), $30 for a small bus (party, shuttle, mini and school), and $150 for full-size charter buses.

When possible, Festival officials encourage visitors to come to the display Sunday through Thursday, as wait times those nights are significantly less than on Friday and particularly Saturday. Traffic on Friday and Saturday is much higher, so there will be a long line to get in the display on those nights. Those who can come to the display only on Friday or Saturday should keep in mind there will be a long entrance line and should make appropriate plans for waiting to enter.

Those who go to Folepi’s Winter Wonderland on Monday nights can get a sweet treat during Chick-fil-A Mondays at the Festival of Lights. Every vehicle through the drive-through display on Mondays from November 30 through December 28 will receive a free dessert at Chick-fil-A East Peoria. Two free dessert offers per vehicle will be available while supplies last. Visit for more details.

A popular place for taking selfies or photos of the kids is Folepi’s Enchanted Forest (located at 401 W. Washington St., in East Peoria’s Levee District shopping area). Folepi’s Enchanted Forest features the festival’s 35-foot tall Christmas tree, lighted trees and displays, and the Terry the Tractor parade float. The display will open for the season during a tree-lighting event, featuring carols by the Caterpillar Employees Mixed Chorus, from 5:45 pm to 6:15 pm on Saturday, December 5.

Fondulac District Library will sponsor Holiday Story Walks in the Reading Garden at the forest’s entrance. The story walks consist of colorful printed storybook panels illuminated with spotlights and placed in the Reading Garden. The schedule includes The Polar Express on December 4 – 10, The Snow Globe Family on December 11 – 17 and The Night Before Christmas on December 18 – 27.  There will be no indoor activities at the forest or Santa visits due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Narrated Nativity, located at the intersection of Taylor Street and Springfield Road, has a three-dimensional appearance at night and details the “reason for the season”. Those tuning to radio station 1610 AM will hear a 2-minute narration. Admission is free. Unlike the rest of the festival displays, the Narrated Nativity is funded by private donations through the Nativity Display Association.

The lights are the star of the show, but there are many other events that comprise the Festival of Lights.

The ninth annual ornament hunt, Find Folepi, will begin with the release of the first clue on Wednesday, November 25.   Clues will be posted each Wednesday on, on Facebook at East Peoria Festival of Lights, on Instagram at folepi_ep_festival_of_lights and in the Times-News Reporter newspaper. The winner will receive a package of prizes from local businesses, and they can keep the ornament. The hunt is open to everyone.

The 30th annual FOLEPI River Trail Classic competitive run and non-competitive walk will take place on Nov. 28 on the River Trail of Illinois beginning at 8:30 am (walk) and 9 am (4-mile run)  featuring a staggered start and some other changes to meet social distancing requirements. Visit for registration information and other details.

Set in East Peoria’s Historic Four Corners District and adjacent areas, Folepi’s Gifts Galore Shop and Stroll runs from Noon – 3 pm on Saturday, Dec. 5 featuring locally owned store shopping and free balloon art by The Unique Twist. Many of the participating businesses will also offer door prize drawings.  Spend $25 or more at the participating businesses to receive a free pass to the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display.

The Get Lit New Year’s Eve Celebration is a great chance to see the floats and displays up close when you can run, walk or ride the lighted trolley float through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland. The 20th annual Get Lit will take place beginning at 9 pm – Midnight on New Year’s Eve and is a way for families to celebrate the new year while enjoying treats by the fire pits and other fun activities. Visit for registration information and other details.

For more information about the Festival of Lights, visit, East Peoria Festival of Lights on Facebook, folepi_ep_festival_of_lights on Instagram, Festival of Lights – East Peoria on Twitter, or call toll-free 1-855-833-5327.

Festival of Trees Going Virtual for 2020

Crittenton Centers Annual Festival of Trees has been converted into a virtual event this year due to COVID restrictions, but will include many of the elements of the event that have made it so popular for the past 11 years.  Starting Thursday, November 12th, the event will showcase over 80 holiday items in windows around Peoria for your viewing and bidding pleasure. All items will be up for silent auction which will run Thursday, November 19 through Sunday, November 22 virtually at

All proceeds go back to help children and families in our community.  No credit card is required to view silent auction items.  The silent auction ends on Sunday, November 22 at 3 pm.  Crittenton Centers has been serving the Peoria community for 127 years. Their mission is to protect and nurture children and families in the Peoria community. Crittenton Centers’ services include: The Crisis Nursery, Child Development Center, and Family Services.

Silent auction items include 80 designer-decorated trees, wreaths, and holiday decor and may be viewed in person as part of this year’s Scavenger Hunt taking place at event sponsor locations including:  the Metro Center, Bremer Jewelry, Le Bakery, Mt. Hawley Court (Corner of Pioneer Parkway & Knoxville Ave), Bob Lindsay Acura, Bob Lindsay Honda, Jeffery Alans, and Lippman’s Furniture, and Interiors.  Download the scavenger hunt form to complete when visiting the locations and return by Sunday, November 22nd at 2 pm to be entered to win one of two prizes.

The first live stream event for the Festival is the “Jingle & Mingle” and will take place on Thursday, November 19 beginning at 6 pm.  Featuring a “How It’s Made” journey from how the perfect cocktails, delicious dishes, beautiful trees, great childhoods, and strong communities are made hosted by local entrepreneur Travis Mohlenbrink, the $50 ticket package includes a pre-made dinner including cider glazed chicken breast, roasted root vegetables, rosemary baked potatoes, roll, and dessert or a vegetarian option with a choice of  wine or beer and a special surprise gift made by the children of Crittenton Centers.   A raffle to win a diamond necklace valued at $1620 will take place in conjunction with the event.  Raffle tickets are $20 each with the winner drawn during the livestream event.

The second livestream event in the Festival is the “Brunch & Bubbly” which will take place on Saturday, November 21 beginning at 9 am.  The $75 limited-edition package ticket includes a complete crafted DIY kit to complete your handmade wood sign of the words Comfort and Joy, a complete breakfast casserole with meat, fruit cup, and sweetbreads from Cracked Pepper or a vegetarian option, a mimosa drink kit, and a surprise gift from the children at Crittenton Centers. The $35 package ticket includes all of the above except the crafted DIY kit.  A raffle to win a diamond necklace valued at $1120 will take place in conjunction with the event.  Raffle tickets are $20 each with the winner drawn during the livestream event.

Instructions to join each livestream plus a link to the event will be emailed to ticket holders.  Tickets for the livestreams must be purchased by Saturday, November 14.  For full details on the Festival of Trees, visit

Children’s Home Asks for Help Fulfilling Holiday Wish Lists

While this year has been filled with disruption and chaos for all of us, Children’s Home wants to ensure the young people they serve don’t miss out on feeling special during the upcoming holidays.

This month they kick off their Holiday Wish List campaign, which allows people to purchase pre-packaged $50 gift baskets that will be delivered to the children, young adults and families the agency serves each month. Each basket has a different theme and targets a different age group, ranging from infant to young adult, and purchasers can select which ones to buy. The baskets were designed based on some of the most commonly requested items from clients.

“Concerns with COVID had our team brainstorming on alternative means of still delivering wish lists to our kids,” says Children’s Home CEO Matt George. “I love that this is a safe, contactless way of matching donors to individualized gifts for a child that might not otherwise have anything to open.”

This year’s adapted gift drive is backed by support from local vendors including So Chic Boutique, The School House Express, and Lori’s Kitchen Store. These businesses generously donated their time and expertise to help coordinate and assemble the baskets.

Individuals, families, businesses, or other groups can purchase Wish Lists by visiting   There is no limit on number of baskets purchased. Children’s Home is hoping to fulfill more than 1,200 Wish Lists by its target date of November 30 so that gifts can be delivered to kids and families before the holidays. Questions about the program can be directed to or 309-687-7215.

“I’m consistently amazed at the generosity of this community,” remarks George. “Whenever there’s a need, we rise to meet it… and this year we need our community more than ever. We are grateful for any gift folks are able to give a child this year.”