Category Archives: Lifestyle

Riding the COVID Roller Coaster in Peoria

Remember when each season brought a different array of events to follow in central Illinois? Explore Peoria remembers.

But that was before the pandemic. Now in the spring of 2021, as vaccinations spread across the community, there are signs of hope.

Yet this month (April) saw the coronavirus return with a vengeance. The Peoria area was labeled a national epicenter for COVID-19 by Dr. Doug Kasper, interim section head of infectious disease at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, who urged continued caution by area residents on WMBD, a Peoria radio station.

The Peoria area has become accustomed to the stop-and-go, roller-coaster ride that’s become the norm in the era of the coronavirus.

It’s been more than a year that restrictions have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus. Work and school routines have been altered. The elimination of crowds and the closing of many places of business has become a routine.

Apparently, we’re not out of the woods yet. Despite these problems, however, the area’s sports light is flickering back on.

Consider Andrew “AJ” Funk, the 29-year-old substitute teacher from Morton who’s trying to bring arena football back to central Illinois in the middle of a pandemic.

The Central Illinois Royals play the Kurse from Kentucky this Saturday (April 24) at the Morton Park District Indoor Sports Facility, 324 S. Detroit Ave. in Morton. For more information, check

“We’ve worked on setting up arena football for a couple of years but COVID has thrown a curve ball into it,” said Funk, who played football at Eureka College.

In the newly-formed division, the Royals square off against teams like the Great Lakes Phoenix, St. Louis Bandits and Indianapolis Enforcers.

“We’ve had eight games on the schedule so far. After Saturday’s game we’ve got a home game at the end of May and another in early June,” he said.

With capacity limited to only a few hundred people at the Morton facility (when restrictions are not in effect), the Royals have sought to stream games to allow for more exposure. “We’re just trying to get things off the ground this year,” said Funk, who also serves with the Illinois National Guard and as a volunteer fireman when not organizing football games.

Funk said he hopes to recreate the excitement of arena football in the area that was enjoyed by the Peoria Pirates, who played at the Peoria Civic Center from 1999 to 2009.

Also looking to stir some excitement is Jason Mott, general manager of the Peoria Chiefs, the Class A farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We’re playing catch-up,” said Mott, referring to the fact that the team had to cancel its 2020 season in Peoria.

“We just hope we’re moving forward—not backward. We’re definitely excited to bring pro baseball back here,” he said.

“Everything is subject to change. We’ll adjust as we go. We’re expecting to be able to accommodate 25 percent capacity when we open. That’s about 1,250 people in the bowl,” said Mott.

Look for some changes to accommodate public safety, he said. “We encourage people to get tickets early. We’re trying to eliminate lines,” said Mott.

“We can’t do things on the field with the fans we used to do. We’re also working on some new food options. People can order online and pick it up at the stand (inside the park) or have it delivered to their seats,” he said.

The impact of the pandemic varies across the league, said Mott, noting that teams like the Quad Cities Bandits are able to go “wide open” when it comes to crowds at their home park in Davenport, Iowa.

Another area team looking to get back on track in 2021 is the Peoria Rivermen ice hockey team that kicks off its 40th season at the Peoria Civic Center in October.

“I would hope that by the end of October we’d be able to put enough people in the PCC to cover our annual operations budget of $1.7 million,” said Bart Rogers, the Rivermen owner and CEO.

Forced to cancel last year’s season, the Rivermen look to take advantage of pent-up demand, he said. “We have lots of good things planned. Three-quarters of our fans are casual fans who might come out once or twice a year. We want to draw them back,” said Rogers.

A new addition to this year’s schedule involve games with a new team in the league, the Vermilion County Bobcats out of Danville, he said.

“Not only will playing in Danville save traveling costs but it gives Rivermen fans around the state the chance to see more hockey,” said Rogers.

Part of the Rivermen organization since 1992, Rogers credited Bruce Saurs, the late former owner, with making the commitment responsible for the team’s success and longevity.

With promotions to honor the team’s 40th year already in the works, Rogers is proud of what the Rivermen have accomplished in Peoria. “We have the seventh longest streak for a pro hockey franchise in the country outside of the National Hockey League,” he said.

Meanwhile the Peoria Civic Center is hoping conditions improve enough to allow for activities before Rivermen games return in late October.

Rik Edgar, the Peoria Civic Center’s general manager, hopes to bring the arena back to life as soon as possible. “We should know more in the next 30 to 45 days,” he said in an email.

It was recently announced that the Center’s Carver Arena will host the Illinois Regional Basketball Tournament (TBT) from July 24 to 28. Among the 16 teams participating will be alumni squads from the University of Illinois and Bradley University.

Other area openings are also on the horizon. After being closed all of last year, the Wheels O’ Time Museum (located at 1710 W. Woodside Drive in Dunlap) plans to open on Saturday, May 1 while the Peoria Riverfront Museum, already holding events, is gearing up for the opening of a national exhibit, “T-Rex—the Ultimate Predator” on May 29.

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!

Who Are the Peoria Mayoral Candidates?

Who are the 2021 Peoria Mayoral CandidatesFor the first time since 2005, Jim Ardis will not be the mayor of Peoria. Ardis, who served four consecutive terms as mayor, decided not to run for re-election this year. That leaves the field open to five candidates on the ballot and a couple of write-in candidates (Couri Thomas and Chuck Brown).   Of the five names that will appear on the ballot for the Feb. 23 primary, three are members of the Peoria City Council while two others are making their first bid for public office.

Interest in the mayoral primary appears to be running high, according to WEEK-TV. Peoria Election Commission head Thomas Bride reported a dramatic increase in early voting so far and looks for this year’s early tallies to “far exceed” early voting results tabulated in the 2017 mayoral primary, the station reported earlier this month.

We’ve scanned some of the Peoria Mayoral candidates coverage provided by Peoria media for the following rundown:


AGE: 62

At-Large Member of Peoria City Council/VP of Workforce and Diversity at Illinois Central College

Ali , who was the largest vote-getter in the 2019 primary in Peoria, said she will step down from her post at ICC if elected to focus on the job as mayor.

“As mayor, I will prioritize jobs, economic growth and population growth, neighborhood safety, education and equity,” she told Peoria magazine.

“I envision Peoria becoming a ‘smart city,’ using digital technology to connect, protect and enhance the lives of citizens,” Ali told the magazine.

“I recently read about how Columbus, Ohio became the fastest-growing city in the Midwest—and one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Columbus is a smart city. It also developed a coordinated plan to create 150,000 jobs over a 10-year period, boosted entrepreneurship and small businesses and involved many stakeholders to work their plan,” she noted.

In a forum held at WCBU-FM, Peoria public radio, Ali related that “In many ways, the city government has to be more like a business in terms of modifying what you’re doing, thinking out of the box and being creative in ways to generate revenue.”

For more information about Rita Ali, visit



AGE: 42

Account manager at Caterpillar, Inc.

Diaz, who operates the Urban Acres farm and Springboard Market in the North Valley where he lives, is making his first run for public office.

On the WCBU forum, he said one of his goals is to make it easier for citizens to work with city management.

“As mayor, I will lead the council to fund basic city services before spending money on pet projects. We must also foster grassroots development, changing policy to empower local entrepreneurs to chase their dreams – and give them the ability to do so within the city,” Diaz told Peoria magazine.

“Our current situation is not unlike the 1980s when Jim Maloof ran to become mayor of Peoria. At that time he branded our council as the ‘do-nothing’ city council, highlighting the vacant buildings and boarded-up businesses at the time. Over the past year, with the added challenges of COVID-19, it appears Peoria has gone back to its past instead of embracing its present and future,” he said.

For more information about Andres (Andy) Diaz, visit



AGE: 53

4TH District Peoria City Council member/ CEO of EngineeringPeople

Montelongo spelled out some of the debts facing Peoria on the WCBU forum: “We have $330 million in pension liability, $150 million in combined sewer overflow, $40 million in the Hotel Pere Marquette debacle, a declining population and resources. Our property tax is one of the highest in Illinois.”

“We need less taxes and fees on business and more growth incentives. Peoria needs to adopt ‘economic gardening’ principles. We need to have a focused economic team, with business consultant resources, available to help every small and mid-sized business grow new customers and reach new markets,” he told Peoria magazine.

“We need to create a neighborhood-by-neighborhood plan and rating to address all of the ‘broken’ windows in neighborhoods. Peoria is at a pivotal moment in time, with some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. We need a strong leader with a focus on jobs and economic growth,” Montelongo told the magazine.

For more information about Jim Montelongo, visit



AGE: 51

At-Large Member of Peoria City Council/ Entrepreneur in restaurant industry

Ruckriegel lists his top three issues as getting the city’s finances in order, job creation and safer neighborhoods.

“The public safety pension problem, however, is likely to be too large to be solved by spending cuts alone,” he told the Peoria Journal Star, referring to mounting pension costs for members of the city’s police and fire departments.

“We exist at a crossroad today,” Ruckriegel told the paper. “A steady hand is needed to navigate this crossroad and my record of experience demonstrates that I am the best candidate for mayor to lead through this crucial time.”

When asked about the possibility of a conflict since his longtime domestic partner is Andrew Rand, chairman of the Peoria County Board, Ruckriegel told the Journal Star: “I will be mindful of my duties at all times. I will address all matters between the city and the county as professionally as any fiduciary would. In my observation, working with the County of Peoria has been to the mutual benefit of each party and I think that is what the citizens expect.”

For more information about Sid Ruckriegel, visit



AGE: 35

Community activist/President of Peoria Black Chamber of Commerce

Making her first bid for public office, St. Louis told the WCBU forum that she was running “because Peoria needs a mayor who wants to rejuvenate our economy by prioritizing scalable and startup businesses over big chains, and who is focused on fixing systemic issues, not continuing the status quo.”

“We should look into establishing a community safety department similar to the one in Albuquerque, N.M. The cabinet-level department responds to calls on inebriation, homelessness, addiction and mental health with civilian-led resources. Reimagining public safety in this way will reduce crime and take some of the burdens off our overburdened police department while making Peoria a more attractive place to visit, live and do business,” St. Louis told Peoria magazine.

“As a community organizer, I have knocked on thousands of doors and made thousands of calls talking with residents about issues that concern them,” she told the magazine.

“To move the city forward, we have to see Peoria not as it is, but as it should be,” St. Louis told the Journal Star.

For more information about Chama St. Louis, visit

Find Peoria area events on the Calendar!

Black History Month 2021 in Peoria

How does Black History Month impact Peorians?  You only have to think of Peoria’s underground railroad ties commemorated by Peoria artist Preston Jackson “Knocking on Freedom’s Door” attached to the Peoria Civic Center building which is located on a historical underground railroad site of the home of Moses and Lucy Pettengill, who courageously helped escaped slaves flee the South to claim their freedom.

And there’s also Peoria’s ties to Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies, notably describing his experiences as a slave in his “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” (1845), which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855). Following the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” (1881).

Douglass spoke several times in Peoria, noted Marilyn Leyland of the Peoria Historical Society, referencing Romeo Garrett’s research on African American history in the area. “Three days after Abraham Lincoln countered the arguments of Stephen Douglas here (in Peoria) in 1854, drawing the line against expansion of slavery, Douglass was scheduled to play that same role in Aurora,” stated Leyland.

In 1859, Douglass was at Rouse’s Hall in Peoria in late February and in early March delivering anti-slavery lectures from his personal perspective. By this time, Douglass had founded an anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester, N.Y.

Douglass lectured again in Peoria on March 10, 1864, under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Aid Commission. After the Civil War, Douglass returned to Rouse’s Hall, brought by the Library Association of Peoria. His last visit, on Feb. 7, 1870, was for the benefit of Ward Chapel AME Church.

And of course, there’s the most famous black Peorian of all, Richard Pryor.  Widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time, his legacy is commemorated by Preston Jackson, who created the sculpture of Pryor now on display at the corners of Washington & State streets in downtown Peoria.

Jackson’s “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story” which will premiere at the Peoria Riverfront Museum this spring, showcases the stories of American migration and immigration, hope and opportunity, freedom and the struggle for equality.

Twenty-five years in the making, “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story,” created by Jackson, is a sculptural installation comprised of hundreds of unique small bronze and steel figures, relief sculptures, automobiles, buildings, streets and a truss bridge. Originally entitled “From Bronzeville to Harlem,” the cityscape is a simultaneously playful and serious contemplation of the individual stories that made up the urban centers from places such as Peoria, Chicago’s Bronzeville and the Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan.

Completed in 2020, in conjunction with the centennial of the start of the Harlem Renaissance, Jackson more than doubled the size of the original installation and retitled the piece, “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story.”

The period known in history as the Harlem Renaissance represented a cultural and artistic movement spanning the 1920s in the urban communities in the Northeast and Midwest during the great migration. “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story” showcases the stories of American migration and immigration, hope and opportunity, freedom and the struggle for equality.

Installed as the climactic centerpiece of the Peoria Riverfront Museum Gallery known as The Street,  the sculpture provides an artistic experience unique among any in the nation.  An immersion for visitors into the Harlem Renaissance, the exhibit is set to period jazz music and brought to life with expert lighting and an audio narration by actors and the artist himself.   The museum kicked off the month with a special program on Feb. 6 in the museum lobby and African American Wall of Fame.  Find full details at

Peoria Public Schools is preparing the roll out of BH365, its new Black History curriculum in the fall, beginning at the high school level. Features from the comprehensive K-12 curriculum are running on the district Facebook page throughout February.  A state-mandated reform of social studies curriculum, PPS will offer classes with a greater focus on Black History and the contributions of other underrepresented groups to American culture.   “With the adoption of BH365 curriculum, Peoria Public Schools is ahead of the curve on meeting new curriculum standards,” said Lisa Gifford, the PPS Literacy and Social Studies Coordinator who has managed the process.

Some online Black History Month programs include “Eyewitness to History: Tuskegee Airman Dr. Harry Quinton” which will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 2 pm.  Celebrate Black History Month with a very special conversation between two members of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Dr. Harry Quinton is an original Tuskegee Airman, who spent three years in the Army Air Corps and served as an aviation mechanic during World War II. Dr. Quinton experienced the pain of discrimination, and the joy of seeing pilots fly for the very first time. This interview will be conducted by Howard Baugh, son of the late Tuskegee Airman Howard Baugh.

Quinton is a member of the Tidewater Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and Baugh is currently the President of the Howard Baugh Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. located in Petersburg, VA. Learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and its chapters at

Although free, registration is required and may be done HERE

Anther Black History Month event will take place on Friday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 pm when the University of Illinois Chicago presents political activist and son of the late Black Panther Party leader, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. on Zoom to answer your questions. Learn about his involvement in the Black Panther party and how the youth can play a role in preserving the culture.  Hampton’s father was slain along with Peorian Mark Clark in a raid by Chicago police in 1969.  Join HERE

Further Resources:

Among online resources to celebrate Black History Month (suggested by Judy Schmidt of Illinois Extension) are:

Reading Rockets: a national public literacy initiative with a vast collection of book suggestions, interviews, classroom activities and virtual resources that celebrate and educate about the lives and contributions of African Americans.

The National Portrait Gallery with over 1000 portraits of African American history makers.

–The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Find Peoria area events 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

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