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The black hole of content from August of 2016 to April of 2017 — when I jumped forward to blog the summer of 2017 as it was happening — have been haunting me. I’m so excited the time has finally come for me to catch up on them! I can’t wait to turn my detailed notes and journals into blog posts from Canada, the United Kingdom, Hawaii, Thailand and Bali! But first, a few final briefings from the continental US, picking up where I left off with my August 2016 trip to Illinois…

My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me!

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I was born and raised in the capital of New York, and moved to its biggest city just about the first moment I was able when I was seventeen. I kicked off life as a big city loving, East Coast girl. But tracing back my family tree, the roots are all Midwestern. And there’s always something special about going back to your roots.

Lincoln

Decatur, IL Historic District

Decatur, IL Historic District

Both my parents were born and raised in Illinois, though they didn’t meet until much later, when they’d both made their way to New York City. Though we didn’t have the weekly extended family dinners many of my friends had growing up, we did our best to be close-knit from across the country, with both grandmas frequently coming to visit us in New York and us making annual visits out to see them, too.

Today, my grandma, my mom’s two brothers, and one of my cousins all still live in Decatur. After an embarrassing six years without making the trek out there, I realized I had to make regular visits a top priority again. (A promise I made good on in 2017!) The summer hit Decatur Celebration was the perfect event to plan around.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many years its been — there’s some serious nostalgia involved in going to grandma’s house.

Yoga at Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

At Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

Hours spent playing outside as a kid came flooding back as I regaled my gram with my new inversion practice on the front lawn. Even my mom got in on the fun.

Yoga at Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

Yoga at Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

Yoga at Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

For this brief three night, four day trip, it was pretty much all about family.

Over a year later, my favorite memories are of the whole family piled into the living room on every sofa, chair and floor space, just laughing and swapping stories and catching up on life while my grandma does what grandmas do and frets that we don’t have enough snacks.

At Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

At Grandma's House in Decatur, IL

One afternoon, my mom and I drove over to my Uncle Dave’s house to see the transformation that had taken place since my new Aunt Laura, his then-fianceé, now-new-wife, moved in. As two of Laura’s biggest fans, we could not have been more excited about this development, and were so happy seeing all the work and love they put into their home.

And then, there’s the garage. My Uncle Dave is a big kid at heart, which made him just about the most fun uncle two crazy kids could have asked for growing up. My sister and I have long mused over the origins of our childhood nickname for him, “Uncle Gerbil Head,” and though we can’t recall them, I’m certain there’s a good story in there as well as hours of giggles. Uncle Dave/Gerbil Head has, since long before I entered the world, had an obsessive love for all things Coca Cola, and has amassed a collection of memorabilia that would make an collector swoon in the process. While a permanent museum home for it all is in the works someday in the future, I love getting a private tour of all his favorites when I’m around.

Coca Cola Museum, Decatur, IL

And this trip, my new Aunt Laura had a tour of her own to give — of her adorable new glamper! In spite of recent debacles, I’ve become somewhat of a camper enthusiast over the years, and so I was just about drooling with envy as Laura showed off the camper van she’d bought second hand and spiffed up in her signature Victorian style.

I can’t wait to hear about all the adventures they take this little camper on!

Camper Van in Decatur, IL

Camper Van in Decatur, IL

Camper Van in Decatur, IL

Camper Van in Decatur, IL

And then it was on to the show! Decatur Celebration is an enormous three day event that takes over Decatur every summer and attracts a reported tens of thousands of visitors from across Central Illinois.

It’s part parade, part concert, part carnival, part county fair — and it’s pure summer fun. My mom and I hustled downtown the first morning to try to score a spot at the, I swear I am not making this up, Razzle Dazzle Goodtimes Parade. Despite showing up late it was easy to get a front row seat, and we smiled the whole way through at the show of classic Americana that felt like it was from another era.

Decatur Celebration Parade, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration Parade, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration Parade, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration Parade, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration Parade, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration Parade, Decatur, IL

We spent the rest of the weekend catching up with family and Kirsten’s friends, exploring the fair grounds, checking out different stages, hopping on carnival rides we couldn’t resist, and of course, eating fair food. While we didn’t catch the Adorable Baby Contest or the Hot Dog Eating Competition or the Miss Illinois Festival Pageant, it made me happy knowing they existed.

I always love supporting the artists who come out to community events like these and was thrilled by the selection of arts and crafts vendors, snapping up several travel-related prints from one of my favorites.

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Much of Decatur Celebration is centered around music, and they’ve attracted some pretty big name stars over the years, household names like Nelly, Bret Michaels, Lonestar, Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa, and my personal favorite Joan Jett. For Decatur Celebration 2016, the artist Kirst and I were most excited to see was Jonathan Jackson from Nashville.

As mega-fans of the show, we were practically giddy at the idea of seeing Avery live and in person. However, we didn’t quite stop to consider that, um, Jonathan Jackson is not Avery and the two might have a touch different taste in music. While we didn’t love what we dubbed the “yelling rock n roll” genre he was playing here, we are still Avery fans #4life.

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

My only sadness? That I didn’t learn about this Wine Garden until the last day, when it was too late! Looks like I’ll have to return for another Decatur Celebration soon.

Decatur Celebration County Fair, Decatur, IL

As usual, one of my favorite parts of my trip to Illinois was not some big attraction or exciting activity but actually the normally mundane act of riding in the car. That’s when my cousin and I get some of our best talking done, and this time we had my mom riding shotgun to make it even better. I was loving our drive out of Decatur, staring at the cornfields and imagining my mom out there detassling as a teen, when I requested we pull over for one last photoshoot.

After all, it’s not nearly often enough that I get both these two together in one place — especially in their own hometown. Kirsten’s shirt says it all!

Cornfields in Decatur

Cornfields in Decatur

Cornfields in Decatur

Cornfields in Decatur

Cornfields in Decatur

Cornfields in Decatur

Cornfields in Decatur

I know, places like Decatur and Tampa might not be the most exotic or far flung or enthralling destinations that I blog about, but they are important places in the fabric of my childhood and my memories, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing a little piece of my past with you.

Next stop, back to the East Coast before jetting up to Newfoundland!

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16 Comments...
  • Steph Dring
    December 11 2017

    I love your more personal posts as much as I love your exotic posts so keep them coming! Always lovely to spend time with family and see childhood locations!

    Steph x
    http://www.wanderlustpulse.com
    Steph Dring recently posted..WE WENT TO ICELAND!

    • Alex
      December 11 2017

      Thanks Steph! Sometimes I write posts for me, and it’s a bonus if you guys love them too 🙂 After all, this is my great big travel diary!

  • Jo-Anne the crazy lady
    December 11 2017

    Head or hand stands I could do as a child or teenager now days standing on my feet causes me enough pain and trouble. Never seen a cornfield in my life
    Jo-Anne the crazy lady recently posted..Christmas Cards

    • Alex
      December 11 2017

      They are quite uniquely American 🙂

  • Ramona
    December 11 2017

    Love this!

    • Alex
      December 11 2017

      It was a pretty fun weekend in Decatur! Gotta get a trip there on my schedule for 2018…

  • Ijana Loss
    December 11 2017

    Towns like this are like the most American it’s possible to get. And not any of the annoying things associated with America sometimes, just this country’s unadulterated culture. Of course I gotta include the statement that Native American culture was here long before, but I guess I’m talking about post-colonial American culture lol. Also, you look great in a cowboy hat

    • Alex
      December 11 2017

      Ha, thanks Ijana! I’ll take any excuse to wear one. And yes, this is indeed The Heartland!

  • Leigh
    December 11 2017

    Central Illinois is a trip – so Southern! My BFF is from Decatur and I spent my first two college years in Champaign 🙂

    I love your red wedges – super cute!
    Leigh recently posted..Prescott: Arizona’s Christmas City

    • Alex
      December 14 2017

      I love that Leigh! What a small world it is!

  • Susie
    December 12 2017

    Sad you missed out on the wine garden but glad you had a good time overall! Always love your handstand pics, makes me realize I need to practice again!
    Susie recently posted..What to Pack for a Holiday in Fiji

    • Alex
      December 14 2017

      Definitely went through a hardcore phase of taking them everywhere… need to get back into it!

  • Dominique
    December 15 2017

    Beautiful photos, a trip down memory lane is always a nice trip to make!
    Dominique recently posted..Mulu National Park – Animals of the Night

    • Alex
      December 16 2017

      Thanks <3 Love sharing a little piece of Decatur with you all.

  • Julia Nix
    December 20 2017

    Awwwww, don’t be hard on yourself with the publishing timeline. Us ladies can be our own worst enemy at times because we are emotional human beings. I struggle sometimes too. So take a breather when that mode just overwhelms.

    • Alex
      December 21 2017

      Thanks Julia, that’s nice to hear! I am definitely putting the pressure on myself to crush out content and catch back up to real time!

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