Saturday, September 28th:
Who has read or seen the article about Fred Stobaugh? The 96 year old Peorian whose wife passed away in April and this summer submitted a song he wrote, “Sweet Lorraine” to the local music studio. Fred’s song has become an internet sensation. He is the oldest artist ever to hit the Billboard 100 charts (beating out Tony Bennett). But that isn’t what this is about. It is a story of love, of life and of joy. One of best friends. If you haven’t seen this video or heard his story, click here. Be prepared, grab a box of tissues before you watch this. Trust us on this one.
We were very moved and inspired by his story and this documentary, and decided to head to Peoria, IL to see if we could find Fred and Jacob from Green Shoe Studios. We contacted Jacob prior to our arrival and utterly shocked and delighted when he responded that he was interested in meeting with us! Unfortunately, our timing was off and Jacob was not in town this past weekend.
We had also done some research on the town, checked out some photos on Instagram and decided to head to Peoria regardless of our search for Fred and Jacob.
This was our first town which we didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a plan – and – had no idea where we were going to be sleeping. Excited and invigorated and anxious, we were off.
Peoria is about a 3 hour straight shoot across 74 from Indianapolis. Another beautiful drive, we passed the exits from several towns that had meaning to us. Normal, IL – it was as if they knew we were coming. Potomac is the town Cate grew up in in Maryland. Springfield, Illinois capital and home of Abraham Lincoln.
Fun little history fact. We would later meet a man in Delavan who shared the history of Normal, IL with us. The town was originally named North Bloomington and changed to Normal in the 1860s. It was named after Illinois State Normal University, a “normal” school located in town. A normal school was classified as one that taught high school students to be teachers. Now, they are called teacher’s colleges, but the town name stuck.
We were quickly approaching a small town called Farmer City and decided to pull of 74 to see what it was all about. Check out the next blog about Farmer City and photos from this sweet little sleepy town.
We pulled into Peoria around 2:30 and headed straight to the waterfront district where the 51st annual Fine Art Fair was happening. Perfect weekend to come visit!
Unfortunately, there was not much signage or direction to know where to go purchase tickets and after two failed attempts at entering, one of which being walking through the VIP lounge – we found the correct entrance and we were in. The fair, the 75th largest in the country had some spectacular art, jewelry and sculptures. After perusing several booths, it was time for some lunch.
One minor problem: we realized neither one of us had any cash! We decided to head back out through the only “entrance” we could see – the VIP area. After talking to the two girls at the “entrance” they agreed to let us exit to get our money and they would let us back in. Little did they know what was coming next!
As we were about to walk back through, we started talking to Heather and Reagan – sisters who were born, raised and still living in Peoria. Reagan was our age and Heather, married with a son. We told them about our trip, the fact that we pulled up to Peoria without a plan or knew where we would be sleeping that night. Were we worried or concerned they asked? Nope, not at all.
Heather and Reagan quickly introduced us to Ron and Dan. Ron owns one of the local bars in Junction City (next town over) with his son and their bar donated the wine to the VIP area of the festival.
Dan manages and works at one of the local restaurants called Candlelight Inn and was serving up their famous chicken strips and fries. Hands down these were the BEST most juciest chicken strips we have ever eaten. If you find yourself in Peoria, GO GO GO.
Before we knew it, wine was being poured, we were being served food and introduced to everyone that was coming through. Heather and Regan and Dan were quickly calling their contacts to see who could get us a cheap hotel room, Ron kept pouring the wine – heavy hand Ron, how can you not love that!
It was such a pleasure meeting everyone in town including Lieutenant Steven, Dave who runs Echo Valley Farms, Carol and everyone else associated with the art fair – and Peoria!
We were absolutely blown out of the water by everyones generosity and kindness and excitement with our arrival into Peoria. We were quickly offered a couch for the night and taken out for a night on the town.Our new little group of friends spent the night enjoying several beers at Ron’s bar – Tavern on Prospect. He and his son just bought the bar about 4 months ago and it’s gorgeous. Dark wood, cozy and homey. A perfect neighborhood bar.
Nick was pouring beer after beer, Ron was taking us around to meet everyone, Reagan was introducing us to her friends and parents (Reagan, your mom is amazing! Please give her our best wishes for the Chicago marathon next week. We will be rooting for her from the road.).
We had a beautiful conversation with Jack Bowers (I so hope you are reading this!). Jack must have been in his 80s and has been in Peoria his whole life. He was sitting at one of the tables by the bar sipping his red wine when we approached him to chat about the town and our trip. We asked him what is the one place NOT to miss in Peoria – his answer – Grand View Drive, of course! Intrigued? Check out our next blog.
Saturday night was one we will never forget. We are so deeply grateful and humbled by the generosity and love Peoria showed us. We will be back soon, we promise!