Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Raspberries mark the Last Day of Summer

As I started work on my google map of local U-Pick Farms I was surprised and delighted to get a message from a friend who had just started her own raspberry U-Pick farm.  She suggested we come up on Sunday, there was a pioneer festival in nearby Genoa, IL that she particularly enjoyed...with homemade pie! Since Monday was Sparky's first day at school, I thought this would be a great send-off to the summer, not to mention a nice distraction.  So we piled another Mom and a buddy for Sparky into the car, and off we went.

"Pioneer Days" is a festival sponsored by The Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society on the last Sunday in August.  Genoa, apparently, was about the mid-way point in the Chicago to Geneva stagecoach run, and the festival celebrates that time, with a large group of Civil War reenacters, along with various townsfolk, offering a peek back in time.  After being totally misdirected to a park in the industrial side of town by my GPS, we happened upon the festival just off of Rt. 72 and Main St - read "happened upon" for "got stuck in the gaper's block caused by the stagecoach as it entered and drove on Rt. 72 for a short jaunt.  Not a sight you see every day!

The festival is a lot of fun, very homespun: Sparky and his friend were first entertained by some girls from the local brownie troupe who were teaching kids to play historical games like marbles and jacks, and then became infatuated with the "corn shucking" machines.  They each shucked about 10 ears of corn, and then had handmade corn bean bags made by the pioneer ladies at the treadle sewing machines.  Behind them, they totally ignored the fascinating process of spinning rope, and the blacksmith making nails and horseshoes.

Most of the reenactors were bristling with arms, and many were engaged in balloon quick-draw shootouts, or "drunken brawl" reenactments and such.  Of course, once I saw the pie, I was just as distracted as Sparky had been by the corn shucker, they had pie of almost every imaginable variety, all homemade, many heritage recipes like mincemeat (clearly, by about noon the pies had been somewhat picked over; impressive, considering the fair starts at 11)

We then left the relative mayhem of the festival and drove a couple of miles west to Kingston, IL.  UPberries is located just after the turn of a gravel road, just off of Kingston's Main St.

Between the Bionicle assault in the car, the motorcycles at the diner where we had lunch, and the shooting at the pioneer festival, it was a relief to get out of the car and be greeted with neat rows of verdant bushes, with little dots of crimson peeking between the leaves. The kids immediately got to work, and in fairly short order we had ten pints picked between the four of us.  The berries are enormous and juicy, the kind you can stick on the tops of your fingers,  and absolutely delicious.  (So juicy, in fact, that we all looked like we'd gone butchering instead of berrying!  With two energetic boys, this offered their imaginations fodder for the trip home (IIRC, zombies figured heavily in the conversation)  our share of the 10 pints of berries turned into several simple desserts, several days of snacks, and a few jars of our favorite, favorite jam ever.

A highly, highly recommended way to end your summer.


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