Will County Heritage Festival a glimpse back in time
By Tony Graf email@example.com September 18, 2011 8:28PM
Sandy Vasko, president of the Will County Historical Society, stands by the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail on Saturday during the Will County Heritage Festival in Lockport. | TONY GRAF/SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: November 18, 2011 12:23AM
LOCKPORT — The Will County Heritage Festival provided a glimpse back to 1836, while looking to the future of a popular local attraction.
Saturday’s festival celebrated the 175th anniversary of Will County — and informed visitors of plans for the Heritage Village, formerly known as the Pioneer Settlement.
The Will County Historical Society is moving the Village to a site at Second Street and the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail. A funding goal has been established to make the move, and contributors have come through in a big way, though help still is needed.
“If ever I saw a community coming together, this is it,” said Sandy Vasko, president of the historical society.
On Saturday, Vasko went through an impressive list of contributions: $10,000 from Chevron, $5,000 from AT&T, $2,500 from Comcast, $2,500 from the University of St. Francis, and $1,000 from Nicor. Individuals donated as much as $1,000.
For the festival, the Lockport Woman’s Club donated baskets for a raffle, Cardinal Fitness donated memberships for a raffle, and Thimbles donated a quilt for a raffle.
Berkot’s Super Foods donated 1,000 hot dogs for the festival. The Lockport American Legion volunteered to cook, and also provided buns and chips to go along with the hot dogs.
More than 15 students from various high schools volunteered, and local Boy Scouts sold water.
On Saturday, historical exhibitions were featured along the I&M Canal Trail between the Lincoln Landing and Second Street in Lockport.
The festival featured 10 historical societies, two genealogical societies, one museum, a Will County Forest Preserve District exhibit, and historical exhibits by Gina Wysocki and Homer Township resident Cathy Boo.
Four carts transported visitors up and down the trail, but the day’s cool and sunny weather was ideal for walking.
The festival observed four milestones in local history:
The 175th anniversary of Will County;
The 175th anniversary of the digging of the I&M Canal;
The 100th anniversary of the Lockport Texaco site; and
The 150-year observance of the beginning of the Civil War.
The Heritage Village is owned by the historical society. For years, it was a well-known attraction at Lockport’s North Public Landing.
The Heritage Village includes the Wells Corner schoolhouse, the Symerton Depot, the Greenho farmhouse and the Mokena jail, along with other small buildings and farm implements.
In 2008, the buildings were moved north to storage space on the old Texaco property, now owned by Chevron Corp. The move freed up the North Public Landing to become the Lincoln Landing, an interpretive park explaining President Abraham Lincoln’s connection to Lockport and the canal.
The Lincoln Landing, which opened in February 2009, was developed by the Give Something Back Foundation and the historical society.
For the past few years, the Heritage Village sat in storage as leaders sought a new home for the buildings.
The Give Something Back Foundation committed to pay half the moving expenses, and the historical society is looking to come up with a match, Vasko said. That means the society must raise around $60,000, she said.
More help is needed to reach that goal. For more information, contact the historical society at 815-838-5080.