Hit the road with Dad (June 19-21)

June 18, 2009

My dad used to take us on loooong drives around this time of year, sort of aimless wanderings to have a look at the countryside. Perhaps it was a rancher’s way of keeping tabs on what his neighbors were doing, or maybe it was a way to fulfill the eternal male love of cruising. He would be tickled with the idea of the National Road Festival this weekend (June 19-21) throughout the Illinois counties traversed by the historic highway.

Never heard of the National Road? Neither had I, actually, until I stumbled onto the event earlier this spring. Turns out the National Highway’s origins date back to Thomas Jefferson, who signed a bill in 1806 which eventually led to a road (a wagon trail, really) through Pennsylvania, Maryland and the territories that later became West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. It was built, but in 1838 funding was halted, and by the 1850s the dream of a cross-country road was supplanted by the railroad. Later, of course, when the auto was invented, paved highways revived the dream, and Highway 40 followed the route of the original National Road. You can read the full story of its history here.

The festival that celebrates the road is really more of a smorgasbord of small-town events — ones most fathers will get a kick out of, like stock car racing, street rod shows, barbecues, horse racing, outdoor concerts and more. The online schedule includes event along all 164 miles of the road in Illinois; scroll down to find those nearest St. Louis.

Of special note are:

  • the guided tours of Cahokia Mounds‘ excavation sites Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,
  • the weekly free PB&J sandwich and music extravaganza at lunchtime in Highland on Friday (June 19),
  • bluegrass music in Woodland Park in Collinsville on Sunday (June 21) from 3 to 8 p.m., and
  • the River-to-River poker run from Pocahontas on Saturday.

If Dad’s not worn out from all the action on the Illinois side of the river, bring him to Brentwood Ice Rink for the Father’s Night Skate.  From 7 to 8:30 p.m., dads get in free with a paid child admission.


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