I grew up in a town called Johnsburg, in Northwestern Illinois. You may know it from the Tom Waits song (“…and she grew up outside of McHenry, in Johnrburg, Illinois”). Born and raised in this petite village, I knew every nook and cranny by the time I was in grade school. In terms of size, it is quite small, with a total of six square acres to its name; most of which is covered in cornfields. I had my first kiss there, my first heartbreak, I wrote my first short story there, and it was my first home base in terms of travel. I always had big dreams of traveling the world and becoming a writer.
As I got older, Johnsburg began to feel smaller and smaller, so I moved to Chicago as soon as I graduated high school. I wanted to get out and live somewhere new and explore the world. Now that I’ve done some traveling, I can recognize how special this beautiful town is, especially to me and who I’ve become. I am always happy to come home for a day or a weekend to enjoy a slower pace, some beautiful landscapes and all that fresh air.
It’s interesting, the pride you gain for your hometown after being away for awhile. It has it’s issues, as every place does, but Johnsburg will always be high on my list of favorite places. I love the cornfields, the bars, the people; I will forever bleed blue and gold (We’re from Johnsburg couldn’t be prouder, if you can’t hear us we’ll shout a little louder!). I love that if I’m ever feeling overwhelmed or just need a break from the city, I can always come home.
This past weekend, Mike and I drove up north to attend one of Johnsburg’s best festivals: Saufen Und Spiel – a nod to the village’s German roots. It’s a three day fest featuring Banjo & Beer Night, Black Light Bean Bag Toss, and the main event: the parade. I try to make it home for this fun fest, because it’s become somewhat of a tradition. I missed last year because it coincided with my Iceland trip. This year, I was not going to miss it for a million bucks because I was so excited to see this little one enjoy the parade:
We got to Johnsburg just in time to head over to our parade spot on the main drag in town, Johnsburg Road. Once we were settled, beers in hand and ready to catch all the candy, the parade began. We waived to the policemen, cheerleaders, marching bands, karate kids, and local government officials driving through in old Thunderbirds. All of which were throwing candy by the handfuls at the kids that lined both sides of the street. It was fantastic.
After the parade and more Sour Patch Kids than anyone should have in one sitting, we walked through the grounds of the festival. The Thunderbirds were lined up in all their glory next to the bevy of bounce houses. There were also a number of different food trucks serving brats and beers and sweets. A few bands would later play on the main stage, which was set back from the food vendors.
We didn’t stay for too long, but it was nice to walk through and see some familiar faces. We went back to my parents to play outside with the little ones and enjoy some cocktails on the porch. The weather was perfect for our day of outdoor activities and they have the perfect yard to run around in. Brody was with us as well and we were able to let him off the leash to run around the yard, which he loved.
I made Mike drive me up to my old high school, which has change quite a bit in the ten-ish years since I graduated. Even so, I was a little overcome with memories as we walked around the grounds. When I went there, the school only had two main hallways and we had to take turns changing the letters on the announcement board out front (now it’s electric). I had a lot of really great and really angsty times there, but I’m thankful to have had the small town high school experience.
After we walked around for a bit and I talked Michael’s ear off about all of my hometown memories, we headed back to my parents’ house. Our dinner featured meat and potatoes and corn of course, and it was delicious (if you’re ever up that way, stop at Stade’s Farm for the best produce you’ll ever buy).
As always, I was sad to go back to the city after spending all day with my family. Luckily, Johnsburg is only an hour and half drive away and we’ll be back again in a couple of weeks for apple picking. No matter where I go, my little hometown will always have a big part of my heart.
Have you ever been to Johnsburg, IL? What do you love about your hometown?