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Decorations adorn a tree designed by the Kankakee Valley Garden Club on Wednesday as the Kankakee County Museum’s 43rd annual Gallery of Trees opened to the community.


43rd annual Gallery of Trees

The more than 30 trees will remain on display throughout the entire month of December with the exception of Dec. 24, 25 and 31.


43rd annual Gallery of Trees

Decorations adorn a tree designed by The Helen Wheeler Center for Mental Health on Wednesday as the Kankakee County Museum’s 43rd annual Gallery of Trees kicked off. More than 30 trees, decorated by local nonprofit organizations, line the walls of the museum and will remain on display throughout the entire month of December with the exception of Dec. 24, 25 and 31. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. There is a suggested donation of $2 per person and visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite tree. Additionally, on Friday, Dec. 17, the museum will remain open until 7 p.m. for the annual hot chocolate and ugly sweater event.


Local
Railroad club unveils annual locally inspired model train

KANKAKEE — Perhaps no toy is as associated with Christmas as a model train.

This season, for the 13th year, the Kankakee Model Railroad Club is again offering an HO car with a Kankakee history. Annual sales of the cars are the club’s only fundraiser.

This year’s car celebrates JR Short Milling. Founded in 1910, Short Milling bought corn from area farmers and milled it into flour. Today, Short Milling is the largest domestic supplier of extruded snack pellets, which are the basis of many snacks on store shelves; and is a global supplier to the food industry.

The Short Milling car is a powder blue closed hopper. The car is available in completely assembled form for $30 or as a kit for $25. Model Railroad Club members do the assembly. There are not a lot of parts, but if you intend to handle it yourself, you’ll need a steady hand, some glue and possibly tweezers and a hobby knife, according to the club.

Jim Schwade, the curator of the model railroad museum, says the club tries to select a longtime Kankakee business as the subject for its holiday car. The models are a way of touching on local history.

The cars are available for purchase at the Kankakee Railroad Museum, 197 S. East Ave., Kankakee, located just north of the Amtrak station.

The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The suggested donation for admission is $2 for adults. Children are free. The museum is entirely staffed by volunteers. Bring checks or cash as they do not accept credit cards.

The museum has three operating train layouts: O scale, the size of Lionel trains; HO scale (half or O and the most popular scale today), the scale of the model train cars: and N scale, smaller yet. The three layouts are filled with Kankakee, Chicago and Illinois model touches. The museum also has a wide array of local railroad memorabilia, including china.

Admission also includes walk-throughs of an actual caboose and passenger car.

Schwade says that the museum reopened Oct. 1, after being closed due to COVID-19. Attendance, though, he says, has been down.

“All are welcome,” he said.

Thought many of the Short Milling cars have been sold already through the club, the manufacturer and model railroad magazines, 60 are still available. The cars will run on an HO layout or can be used as a visual touch of Kankakee history, for a town that has a lively railroad heritage.

There are limited numbers of cars still for sale from some of the previous years, including Shaeffer Piano, a blue boxcar; the Seneca and Kankakee, a maroon stockcar (for transporting animals); Kankakee, Beaverville and Southern long green closed grain car; Gohlke Coal, a maroon hopper with a coal load; Kankakee Daily Journal, a grey boxcar; and Kankakee Foundry, a black gondola. All are limited editions. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Sold out and gone forever are boxcars from John Panozzo Produce, Radeke Beer, Bear Brand Hosiery, Kankakee Packing, Maple Lawn Dairy and Kankakee Ice.


Local
Bourbonnais trustees discuss use of federal COVID relief funds

BOURBONNAIS — The Village of Bourbonnais has made its first moves toward allocating the village’s $2.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

During Wednesday’s village board finance committee meeting, trustees agreed to use $433,000 of the village’s federal funding to pay Republic Services for garbage collection. Earlier this year, the village agreed to a seven-year contract extension with Republic Services.

“Are we sure refuse falls under that?” trustee Jeff Keast asked, referring to allowable uses of the federal funding.

“We are,” finance director Tara Latz replied.

Mayor Paul Schore added, “We researched this thing. The dust has settled, and we are starting to know what we can do.”

At the meeting, trustees also agreed to allocate $8,200 to the Bourbonnais Township Fire Protection District to purchase a Lund University Cardiac Assist System, which is a device used for CPR.

The device costs $16,400 and the Kankakee County Board allocated the other half of the cost from its ARPA funds.

Townships, fire protection districts and parks were not among government bodies receiving ARPA funding, Schore explained.

In October, the village received $1.3 million. The second $1.3 million allocation is estimated to be received next September.

“There are certain stipulations we can use the funds for,” Latz said. “We need to talk about how we will use these funds.

“We need to take our time with this and spend the funds on eligible projects we agree on, and what is in the best interest of the residents.”


Local
Bourbonnais historians take to YouTube to bring past to life

If you were a Kankakee River Valley Potawatomi, how would you react to the Indian Removal Acts of the 1830s? Would you comply with or violently oppose your removal from the river valley? Would you stay and try to assimilate with the white settlers even though you had no personal rights?

These are the type of life-changing decisions made throughout the community’s history that the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society looks to bring to life via its new YouTube channel.

It will launch its channel with a series called “Local History 101: Making Life-Changing Decisions in the Kankakee River Valley.” These videos go beyond printed accounts by immersing the viewer in the gut-wrenching decision-making that was an integral, emotional part of our local history, the society said.

In episode 1, titled “Potawatomi Peril (to 1838),” the viewer will assume the role of an 1830s Potawatomi. A local Native American will lead the viewer through the story, and at the end of the episode, viewers will learn how their companion answered the Indian removal question.

Episode 2, titled “Antebellum Abolitionists (1838-60),” addresses the issue of slavery and puts the viewer in the role of a neighbor to Thomas and Margaret Durham in the 1850s Bourbonnais Grove. As Quaker abolitionists and the first non-Native American inhabitants of today’s Perry Farm Park, the Durhams will ask the viewer if they will help hide runaway slaves.

Would you risk committing a felony — six months in jail and $16,000 fine in today’s world — by hiding runaway slaves and thereby violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850? Although there are no records due to the need for secrecy surrounding these matters, Bourbonnais Grove was on the Underground Railroad’s Danville to Chicago Road.

From Chicago, the runaways could make their way to Canada and freedom. Did Durhams’ neighbors (French-Canadian Roman Catholics, Methodists and others) support abolitionist views and willingness to hide runaways? As in Episode 1, a local will accompany you, and at the end of the program, you will learn how your companion addressed slavery.

Historical society volunteers will serve as actors for the videos. In Episode 1, Dr. James Paul portrays Noel LeVasseur who interacts with the Potawatomi at his 1837 trading post in Bourbonnais Grove. In Episode 2, Paul portrays Thomas Durham who visits with Bourbonnais Grove residents at his 1853 farmhouse.

Two documents with extended information — “Potawatomi Peril Narrative” and “Antebellum Abolitionists Narrative” — will be available to viewers. Both are available on the society’s website, bourbonnaishistory.org. You can find its YouTube channel at bit.ly/BGHSYouTube.

More episodes are planned for the future. The episodes were originally part of Kankakee Community College’s Lifelong Learning Institute course offerings.


43rd annual Gallery of Trees

Some of more than 30 trees decorated by local nonprofit organization light up Wednesday as the Kankakee County Museum’s 43rd annual Gallery of Trees kicked off. The trees will remain on display throughout the entire month of December with the exception of Dec. 24, 25 and 31. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. There is a suggested donation of $2 per person and visitors are encourage to vote for their favorite tree. Additionally, on Friday, Dec. 17, the museum will remain open until 7 p.m. for the annual hot chocolate and ugly sweater event.


43rd annual Gallery of Trees

Decorations adorn a tree designed by the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday as the Kankakee County Museum’s 43rd annual Gallery of Trees kicked off. More than 30 trees, decorated by local nonprofit organizations, line the walls of the museum and will remain on display throughout the entire month of December with the exception of Dec. 24, 25 and 31. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. There is a suggested donation of $2 per person and visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite tree. Additionally, on Friday, Dec. 17, the museum will remain open until 7 p.m. for the annual hot chocolate and ugly sweater event.


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