Am I making it clear that we have a link or two to this week's state? Plus both kids can firmly claim that they have been to Illinois, they've even slept there! (On special spiderman and Tangled sheets, natch, thanks to Grandpa Gary) So when I started gathering my information to share with the kiddos this week I wasn't a bit worried about finding plenty to tell them. In fact, I soon found myself overwhelmed with data - even I had no clue Illinois had so much to offer.
The state falls middle of the road as to actual size but is fifth overall in terms of population. A large part of this, of course, is due to the city of Chicago. Nearly half of Illinois' approximately 12 million person population reside in the "Chicagoland" area. When I lived there I found that when you asked someone where they were from if they said "Chicago" that could mean anywhere within nearly a two hour radius of the heart of the City. Everyone knows about Chicago from the Sears Tower, the Great Chicago Fire, the World's Columbian Exposition, its nickname of the Windy City or Second City or as the Candy Capital of America, but I wanted to make it clear to the kiddos that Illinois was more than just Chicago. So while we of course discussed all of those things when we put up the Illinois wall tonight, I had plenty of other things to share with them.
Farming is done in nearly 80% of the state. While you may associate corn with Illinois, did you also know that nearly 90% of the pumpkins grown in the US are grown within a 100 mile radius of Peoria? Or that 85% of the WORLD's supply of canned pumpkin is produced at the Libby's plant in Morton?
And what about the people? President Ronald Reagan was born and spent his youth in the area around Tampico. And while not born in Illinois, presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and current president Barrack Obama all called Illinois home for some time. Did you know Superman hails from Illinois? That's right, Metropolis is mentioned in the comics as the hometown of Superman, but no state is ever identified. So the people of the town petitioned DC Comics who agreed to allow the official hometown be located in Illinois. It's also the birthplace of such famous figures such as Walt Disney, Hilary Clinton, Robin Williams, Shel Silverstein, Bill Murray, Carl Sandburg, Miles Davis and Kanye West.
I was blown away to find out the number of major corporations founded and/or headquartered in Illinois. It is currently the home of thirty-one Fortune 500 companies ranging from Caterpillar to State Farm, from McDonald's to Walgreens. Dairy Queen, Steak 'n Shake and Uno's pizzeria, just to name a few, also all began in The Land of Lincoln. The kids tonight loved seeing all the well known logos make it up on the wall.
Have I piqued your interest yet? Convinced that maybe Illinois is not synonymous with Chicago? Stay with us this week, I promise it'll be fun!
Speaking of fun, one of my favorite pastimes is officially back as of today - Happy Opening Day of Major League Baseball! My much loved Tigers were officially in action today opening up at home versus Kansas City. The Bean and I rushed through our errands this morning to be sure we'd be back to watch the ceremonies before the game and the first pitch. My team admittedly looks a little different this year, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. So happy baseball is back! And that we won!
I tried tonight to combine a Taste of Chicago (which also just happens to be the name of the two week festival held in downtown every summer) along with a nod to Opening Day. There's not much that says baseball food more than hot dogs and Chicago has their own style of dog that is more than a little unique. At dinner we feasted on authentic Chicago Style Hot Dogs and Chicago Macaroni Salad. I was amazed to discover that both kids LOVED the Chicago dogs. Noah could not stop talking about how much he liked it. (He has now decided to forgo his plans to move to Idaho, he's going to become an Illinoisan) And of course you can't go out to the ballgame without some Crackerjacks which has its origins at the Columbian Exposition held in 1893 in Chicago. I think the kids were just as excited about the prize in the box as the treat itself as we put up the wall tonight.
So excited that we will be doing our Illinois mail call tomorrow night. My wonderful friend and co-worker Beth I know was hard at work for quite some time to put together a package for the munchkins that promises to be chock full of Illinois surprises. Plus we'll explore a little more into the Illinois connection to pumpkins as I try out a couple of award winning recipes from the Morton Pumpkin Festival as well as a Swedish butter cookie to pay tribute to the strong Swedish presence in northern Illinois (which Grant can attest to). So until then...
Illinois Fun Fact of the Day: The Great Chicago Fire destroyed 17,000 buildings over 2,000 acres as it raged for nearly 31 hours, doing an estimated $222 million in damages to the city. 300 people lost their lives in the fire and it left nearly 100,000 homeless.
My artist hard at work on my windows today
She was drawing an alligator
Ready for the game
They announced the National Anthem and this was her immediate reaction - so proud of my baby!
Anything worth doing is worth doing right! Official Chicago buns and 100% beef hot dogs
Chicago Macaroni Salad
Take me out to the ball game!
One awesome dinner
The perfect treat for today
Illinois is up and running!