Category Archives: Attractions

Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall Coming to East Peoria

The traveling memorial honoring those who gave their lives for our country while serving in Vietnam will be in Central Illinois for five days this month. Arriving with a formal motorcycle escort, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will be on display Wednesday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 27 in East Peoria’s Levee Park in the 400 block of West Washington Street. This will be the first time East Peoria has hosted the traveling memorial wall.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It stands 6 feet tall at the center and is almost 300 feet long. As of 2011, there are 58,272 names on the wall, the same as the Washington, D.C. wall.

Volunteer opportunities are available for the formal motorcycle escort and to set up and take down the display.

The wall will arrive in East Peoria between 9:30 – 10 am Wednesday, Sept. 23. It will take volunteers about four hours to assemble the wall, which has 142 sections consisting of two panels each.

Those who want to help assemble or take down the wall should be age 18 or older and able to do the physical activity of setting up or taking down the display. Set-up is set for Wednesday, Sept. 23 from 10 am – 3 pm and the wall will be disassembled Sunday, Sept. 27 from 2 – 5 pm. To volunteer, email event co-chairman Dan Decker at dandecker73@gmail.com.

Quiet Pride Motorcycle Club, comprised of current and former military personnel, is organizing the formal escort of the wall into East Peoria, assisted by the East Peoria Police, Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police. Those wanting to be involved with the escort should email their name and phone number to Ron Hawotte at vanmo501@yahoo.com

An opening ceremony will occur at noon Sept. 24. Featured will be the posting of colors by the Tazewell Military Rites Team, the Star Spangled Banner performed by East Peoria violinist Elise Ahrens, the Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony conducted by the Pekin Junior ROTC, and remarks by Brig. Gen. Clayton Moushon and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Harold Arthur “Hal” Fritz.

Moushon, of East Peoria, serves as the first Air National Guard assistant to the commander, Legal Operations Agency. Fritz, of Peoria, is a recipient of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Vietnam War. During a firefight and despite serious wounds, Fritz continued leading and fighting alongside his platoon against a strong enemy attack, and the enemy fighters eventually withdrew.

The display will be open 24 hours a day, and social distancing guidelines will be observed. Admission is free.

During the memorial’s appearance, volunteers will man a book listing the location of each name on the wall and materials to make etchings of the names will be available. Fondulac District Library will have displays about the Vietnam War in the lobby of the Civic Plaza building adjacent to Levee Park.

A brief closing ceremony at noon on Sunday, Sept. 27 will feature a 21-gun salute and the retirement of the colors.

Community donations funded the wall’s appearance.  Funds received beyond will benefit the Greater Peoria Honor Flight. The group transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the national memorial sites and representatives will be on hand while the wall is in town with information about becoming involved with the organization.

For more information about the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, visit www.cityofeastpeoria.com

Peoria Players Theatre Prepares for Their 2nd Century

PEORIA – Nicki Haschke is a good person to talk to about the community theater scene in central Illinois.

As business administrator for Peoria Players Theatre for the past 27 years, Haschke, who turns 47 next month, spent time on the community theater stage as a youngster, starting out with a Corn Stock Theater production of “The King and I” when she was just five years old.

It’s a family thing for Nicki. After all, her mother, Sherry Haschke, serves as bookkeeper for Peoria Players and has been a mainstay with the theater group for 41 years.

There’s plenty of history associated with the Peoria Players organization which starts its 101st season next week. That makes it the longest running theater in Illinois and 4th oldest in the nation.

The 2019-2020 season includes “Tarzan” (the Disney version), “Million Dollar Quartet”, “Matilda” (by Roald Dahl), “Kinky Boots”, “Raisin in the Sun” and “Mamma Mia.”

“Mamma Mia” is the Abba-filled musical “that’s our box-office record-breaking show from two years ago,” said Haschke, noting that musicals have proven to be crowd favorites when it comes to filling seats at the Players theater in Lakeview Park.

Coming off the 100th anniversary year when theatergoers were able to vote on some of their favorite shows to be performed, five of the six shows offered this season are musicals.

“We try to find the right balance, blending family musicals with something new,” she said. Haschke made the point that Players personnel are already working on the 2020-2021 season.

Central Illinois is blessed when it comes to community theater talent, she said. “Three years ago, Eastlight, Corn Stock and Players all had auditions around the same time. We don’t usually overlap but every show had a huge cast,” said Haschke, adding that it takes an average of about 50 people to put on a Players production.

“It’s part of the great arts community we have here,” she said.

Haschke’s familiarity with the Players’ stage means she can recall program highlights such as the trained dog act imported from Ohio that made such a hit in “Will Rogers Follies” in 1997 and big production shows like “Music Man” (2010) and “Beauty and the Beast” (2016).

But having just unveiled a new season, Haschke is looking ahead, encouraging the public to take advantage of a season ticket offer—a seat for all six shows for $100. Individual tickets are $20 for adults while youth tickets are $15 each.

Those that haven’t been to a Players show in a while will be happy to discover that comfortable theater seats were installed last year, she said. Both the front lobby and box office have also been remodeled, noted Haschke.

For more information, call the Players box office at 309-688-4473 or visit https://www.peoriaplayers.org

Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts

PEORIA HEIGHTS – The Blickenstaff touch was in evidence at the ribbon-cutting for the Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts in Peoria Heights on August 15.

The transformation of the Kelly Avenue Library into the arts center is just one of the area projects that developer Kim Blickenstaff is working on.

Over 400 people attended an event that promised cupcakes, live music and a cash bar, said Jenny Parkhurst, executive director of performing arts at the Heights center, named for Blickenstaff’s mother, as well as the Scottish Rite Theater in Downtown Peoria, another Blickenstaff project.

“This would have been the 100th birthday for Betty Jayne,” said Parkhurst of the significance of the ribbon-cutting date.

“We’re available for bookings and private parties,” she said, pointing to a lineup that already includes a Halloween Goblin Bash and the “Greg and Dan Show Unplugged”(Nov. 23), a special performance by the morning radio team on WMBD 1470/100.3.

“Here at the art center, we’re also looking at a comedy series—‘Stand Up in the Heights,’” said Parkhurst, adding that youth events and live music programs were also scheduled.

The addition of air conditioning at the Scottish Rite site means that 900-seat venue would soon be open to larger shows, she noted.

Peoria Heights Mayor Mike Phelan expressed appreciation for the art center. “I spent time in the library as a child. It’s exciting to see it now under private ownership welcoming all walks of life. You can feel the energy here,” he said.

“Work was all done by local contractors while the Farnsworth Group, the architects involved, preserved the uniqueness of the building,” said Phelan, referring to the library’s design by the late architect Richard L. Doyle whose work is in evidence elsewhere in the Heights—Tower Park, Village Hall and the Congregational Church.

Also on hand at the Thursday ribbon-cutting of the Betty Jayne Brimmer Center was Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis who recalled a tour of the facility led by Blickenstaff several months earlier. “He said the band would be here, the bar would be there. He did it,” said Ardis admiringly.

Mark Misselhorn, chairman of Peoria’s Downtown Advisory Commission, liked what the center has to offer. “There’s a great vibe here plus it’s not duplicating anything else in the area,” he said.

Lee Wenger, recently retired from WCBU-FM, Peoria’s public radio station, gave the new center a thumbs-up as did Jonathon and Nikki Romain, busy developing an arts center of their own at the old Greeley School in Peoria’s North Valley.

“We had to come to see what they’ve done here,” said Jonathon Romain.

More information on the center is available at https://www.thebettyjayne.com

Art of the Brick Exhibit Showcasing Unique Lego Brick Sculptures

LEGO has been reimagined and improved beyond simple creations from childhood at the Peoria RiverFront Museum. The featured “Art of the Brick” exhibit hosts full-sized 3D statues such as a 20-foot long T-rex as well as re-imagined iconic works of art such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Certainly, the grown-up version of these classic plastic bricks cannot be missed.

The intricacy of even one LEGO brick masterpiece is truly stunning. However, some may be surprised to learn the amount of work which goes into creating an individual piece such as the T-rex which is comprised of over 80,000 individual pieces.  It’s certainly not child’s play.

“Each sculpture has its own obstacles and challenges,” says the exhibit’s artist, Nathan Sawaya. “For example, creating a human form out of rectangular bricks requires special attention to detail to get the curves of the human body formed from thousands of little corners.”

Designed to inspire ingenuity and creativity, the stunning exhibit has been shown worldwide. From Los Angeles, London and Moscow, it has certainly become a global affair. Now in Peoria, “Art of the Brick” allows Peorians to experience the creativity of the world’s first major museum exhibit to solely feature the plastic bricks as its art medium. Now, it’s the chance of a lifetime to enjoy classic artworks done in a whole new way.

One gallery within the exhibit showcases the innovative, multimedia collection of LEGO brick-infused photography produced in tandem with award-winning photographer Dean West.  You’ll also be able to discover your inner artist, engineer or architect in the hands-on, interactive LEGO brick gallery “The Science of the Brick,”. Featuring building challenges, games and open play spaces, you can create your own masterpieces, build a maze out of LEGO bricks, design a brick race car and more.

“Mastering techniques from impressionism to classical sculpture in brick form allows them to be more relatable to audiences,” says Sawaya. “Even to people who wouldn’t usually set foot inside an art gallery.”

The Art of the Brick:  The World’s Most Elaborate Display of LEGO Art will be on display through September 2. Admission for members is free and general public tickets are $18 adults, $17 students and seniors 60+ and $16 youth 3-17. Tickets can be purchased along with more information at www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.com