Maple tree tap opportunities

Tapping maple trees at Ryerson Woods (Photo courtesy of Lake county Forest Preserves)
Tapping maple trees at Ryerson Woods (Photo courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserves)

In the Chicago area, it’s time to tap into the sap that is moving in maple trees.

The Lake County Forest Preserves usually takes folks on guided maple syrup walks, talks and tasting trips. But with the pandemic changing 2020-21 in-person trips, the forest preserves’ staff has come up with a virtual and a self-guided program. They are free but require registration.

Virtual tree tapping  is Feb. 28 from 2 to 3 p.m. Visit virtual education offerings and register online at LCFPD.org/calendar.

The Self-guided program- Maple Syruping runs from March 01 through March 31, 2021. Visit Self-Guided Program-Maple Syruping

” Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s programming will be different. “COVID-19 has made us rethink how we can safely offer our maple syrup programs,” said Director of Education Nan Buckardt.

“Though there will be no in-person programming this spring, people will be able to go on self-guided Maple Syrup Hikes through Ryerson, as well as take part in a variety of related virtual programs,” said Buckardt.

Environmental Educator Jen Berlinghof noted, “There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the sweet science of tree physiology and maple sugaring through virtual experiences.”

Berlinghof suggested checking the free monthly “Virtual Nature Club” for the 3:30 p. m. March 3, program that offers first through fourth graders a chance to learn about trees and how the sap collected is used to make sweet syrup.

Ask an Educator Live” will be on Zoom and Facebook March 10 at 7 p.m. where people can bring questions about backyard syruping.

“This should be a popular program. We’ll be showing participants how they can do this historic tradition themselves,” said Berlinghof, who has been running the maple syrup programming for 17 years.

“If your family is ready to hit the trails, we are providing self-guided Maple Syrup Hikes for the entire month of March. Through informational signs, you’ll learn the science behind how trees make sap and how we turn that sap into real maple syrup as you walk along the designated trail at your own pace,” Berlinghof said.

“The temperature dictates what you will see along the trail. The timing for tapping maple trees comes down to temperature–above freezing during the day but still below freezing at night–plus precipitation and the hours of sunlight in a day,” Berlinghof said.

“Changing temperature is what causes the sap to surge upward from the roots toward the branches, where it helps the leaves grow and the buds bloom. Then in the summer, the leaves will produce more sap, which will settle back down in the roots come winter.”

Jodie Jacobs

 

Chicago Theatre Week adapts to the pandemic

 

Chicagoland's more than 200 theater venues include Lookingglass Theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the Lyric Opera House, bottom left plus Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building and the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)
Chicagoland’s more than 200 theater venues include Lookingglass Theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the Lyric Opera House, bottom left plus Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building and the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)

Instead of trying to snag tickets to hot shows at bargain prices during Chicago Theatre Week, the annual event happens online in 2021 from Feb. 25 to March 7.

Coordinated by the League of Chicago Theatres with Choose Chicago the event will switch to digital content and theatre support.

Along with enabling theater-lovers to see shows without changing out of sweats and pjs, it will be a good chance to discover different theatre companies and use money saved to keep Chicago’s vibrant theatre scene alive for another year.

While nothing can truly replace in-person performances, theatres across Chicagoland have been finding new ways to produce their art,” said Deb Clapp, League of Chicago Theatres executive director.

He added, This year, we invite the community to engage with their favorite companies—or discover new ones—during Theatre Week. Until we can welcome audiences back into our theatres, we invite you to learn about, engage with, and support Chicago theatres during Chicago Theatre Week 2021.”

For more information visit  Chicago Theatre Week | Choose Chicago on Feb. 25, 2021.

Jodie Jacobs

Groundhog Day is back in Woodstock

Woodstock groundhog celebration
Woodstock groundhog celebration

You could check a newspaper or TV station for the weather forecast but if interested in whether spring will come early this year, the fun place to go if living in the Chicago area is Woodstock in McHenry County, IIlinois where groundhog Woodstock Willie will be awakened for his weather prediction Feb. 2.

Old farming tales have it that if the groundhog (or beaver in some European countries) see its shadow it will go back underground and winter will stay around for several more weeks.

So pray that Feb. 2 is cloudy.

Woodstock, a small town with a picturesque square anchored by a much photographed bandstand, was the main filming site for director/writer/actor Harold Ramis’ beloved “Groundhog Day” that came out in 1993.

Scouted by then Columbia location manager Bob Hudgins, the town was the stand-in for Punxsutawney, PA, because Ramis and lead Bill Murray lived in the Chicago’s suburbs.

Its tale of how second, third, fourth and more chances changed Murray who played an arrogant weather forecaster, continues to bring visitors to Woodstock where the movie was filmed in 1992.

Woodstock filming site for Groundhog Day
Woodstock filming site for Groundhog Day

But the main time to come is on Groundhog Day weekend for the town’s annual forecasting celebration. There will be tours of the movie’s sites and memorabilia and photos from the classic comedy on many movie goers favorite list will be on display.

“We had record numbers last year,” said Woodstock Chamber spokesperson Melissa McMahon who is also on the Groundhog Day Committee.  She estimated the crowds numbered a few thousand in 2020.

“That’s because it was a Sunday and the weather cooperated. We do not expect nearly that this year because it’s on a Tuesday and because of COVID,” said McMahon.  “But we are having it. We’re just asking people to social distance and wear masks,” she said

The Woodstock event featuring Woodstock Willie’s appearance is at 7 a.m.  on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. If you go, tour the Woodstock Opera House used as a hotel in the film. See the historic courthouse whose basement was used for the bar scenes and the spot where Ned Ryerson accosted Murray with the follow-up puddle incident.

For excellent behind the scenes insight, click on the location tour video with Hudgins at  Woodstock/Groundhog Day.

Groundhog day in Woodstock,
Groundhog day in Woodstock,

Hudgins phrase for working with Woodstock people and sites, was “Magic in a bottle.”

To refresh the memory check out the trailer.

Written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, it stars Bill Murray who has to relive Feb. 2 until he gets enough right to capture the heart of his love interest played by Andie acDowell.

For more Woodstock celebration information visit Woodstock/groundhog.

If interested in what the Pennsylvania groundhog is forecasting visit Punxsutawney Club.

BTW, another version of the sunny skies forecasting version is that  clear weather on the Christian festival of Candlemas forebodes a prolonged winter.

 

(Photos by Jodie Jacobs)

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

Chicago museums opening now and next two months

Some Chicago museums are opening to members beginning Jan. 23 and then to the public in the coming days. The museums’ reopening comes on the heels of IL Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s announcement this week that the city has moved to tier 2  mitigation.

(Pritzker is expected to announce today, Jan. 23, that the city has also reached tier 1 thus restaurants and bars will be be allowed to re-start indoor seating at 25 percent capacity.)

The Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum on the city’s Lake Shore Drive Museum Campus are among the current open museums. The Art Institute of Chicago plans to reopen in February.

Shedd penguins (J Jacobs photo)
Shedd penguins (J Jacobs photo)

Shedd Aquarium

Visitors can start purchasing tickets to the Shedd Aquarium at noon, Jan. 23, 2021. The Shedd, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, is home to the penguins seen by thousands of viewers across the world on UTube.

Members can visit on the early access days of Jan. 27-29. To join the Shedd  visit  become a Shedd Aquarium member and visit free for a year and support its aquatic life.

The public can visit beginning Jan. 30. To obtain tickets visit Shedd aquarium/purchase. visit To get tickets.

Field Hall dinosaur (J Jacobs photo)
Field Hall dinosaur (J Jacobs photo)

Field Museum

The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, opened to members Jan. 21 and is opening to the public today, Jan. 23. To buy tickets visit Calendar/FieldMuseum/ticketing. Members should sign in at Verify your membership.

Illinois residents can visit for free on January 25 and 28. Tickets for Free Days are only available onsite and cannot be reserved in advance.

For hours, safety protocols  and exhibits visit Know Before You Go.

Chagall Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago (J Jacobs phto)
Chagall Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago (J Jacobs phto)

Art Institute of Chicago

A world-renown art museum, the Art Institute of Chicago at 111 N. Michigan Ave., will reopen Feb. 11. It will start with a limited schedule Thursday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and open to members only the first hour.

More museums have indicated they will open in March. For more museum information and future openings visit Choose Chicago/museum reopening, the city’s tourism site.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Around town: What to put on the calendar

Martin Luther King Jr memorial in Washington DC. (J Jacobs photo)
Martin Luther King Jr memorial in Washington DC. (J Jacobs photo)

 

 INDOORS

Martin Luther King celebrations

The Art Institute of Chicago has a week of programs scheduled starting on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. That is the official “Martin Luther King Day” this year. “MLK Day” as it is often called, is the third Monday of January because it is close to King’s birthday on January 15

The first program is a virtual performance by the Rebirth Poetry Ensemble and In the Spirit from 5-6 p.m. CT. Registration is needed but is free.

For more information visit ARTIC/KingDay and KingDay/Virtual.

 

OUTDOORS

Put outside activities on the calendar. Your forest preserve district has suggestions of where to go and what is available. So go sledding, cross country skiing, hiking. Or ice fishing.

Cross-country skiers can enjoy nearly 189 miles of trails at forest preserves throughout Lake County, including at Lyons Woods in Waukegan.(Photo courtesy of Rick Myslinski)
Cross-country skiers can enjoy nearly 189 miles of trails at forest preserves throughout Lake County, including at Lyons Woods in Waukegan.(Photo courtesy of Rick Myslinski)

Lake County Forest Preserves

As an example, check the winter sport’s page for Solar-lit Evening Hikes

On a 1.3-mile fitness trail at Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville and a1.65-mile hilly section of the Millennium Trail next to the Winter Sports Area at Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda.. This activity is for walkers, snow shoe and cross country skiiers evenings until 9 p.m. through March 14.

Also look for Sledding at Lakewood in Wauconda and Old School in Libertyville. Lakewood is lighted and open until 9 p.m. Old school is a day time hill. Snowboards, toboggans and metal runners not allowed.

For Cross-Country Skiing find groomed trails at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area and at Old School, and along the Des Plaines River Trail between Old School and the Wright Woods Canoe Launch on Route 60. A 4-inch snow base is required for cross-country skiing at the Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods.

 

Snow Sculpture in Lake Geneva, WI (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva tourism)
Snow Sculpture in Lake Geneva, WI (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva tourism)

U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship plus festival

A more than two decades old annual event, Lake Geneva, WI’s Winterfest 2021 Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (visitlakegeneva.com)

is a fun outdoor getaway  that this year is Feb. 3-7. It includes the US National Snow Sculpting Championship between teams from across the country.

Best day to see the finished works is Saturday, Feb. 6.

There is also an ice sculpture tour downtown plus beach bonfires and a cocoa crawl.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Arts Across America: a virtual program worth bookmarking

Kennedy Center in Washington DC (Photo courtesy of the JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)
Kennedy Center in Washington DC (Photo courtesy of the JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a bi-partisan founded institution designated as our country’s National Cultural Center, has often televised arts  awards and programs. With COVID forcing the closure of music festivals and theaters the Kennedy Center is now presenting several performances on line. They are free and worth a view.

For example:  Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 4 p.m. ET the program  has Jewish music performed live by Chloe Pourmorady and Joey Weisenberg from the National Museum of Jewish History.

Then, on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. ET,  the Savannah Music Festival partnering with South Arts, is presenting Greenville, Georgia blues musician Jontavious Willis in a “Just You, Just Me Musical Conversation” between the Drum and the Voice. It features drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.  and vocalist Juquan Vickers in African-American spirituals.

For more information visit Kennedy Center.

 

Jodie Jacobs

Halloween doings

Drive through suburban Highwood to see the skeletons that populate its downtown (J Jacobs photo)
Drive through suburban Highwood to see the skeletons that populate its downtown (J Jacobs photo)

Pumpkin? Check. Candy? Check ((don’t forget some kids have nut allergies) A special fall and Halloween outing?

If not sure yet about where to go or what to do this crazy, upside down year, here are some ideas.

 

Take a selfie at Brookfield Zoo and watch animals noshing on pumpkins. (Brookfield Zoo photo)
Take a selfie at Brookfield Zoo and watch animals noshing on pumpkins. (Brookfield Zoo photo)

Brookfield Zoo 

Even though the zoo is not doing its annual Boo event, it has cute selfie stops, a sweepstake contest, animals being fed pumpkins and fall color and decorations. The zoo, operated by the Chicago Zoological Society) in suburban Brookfield, is a place to go if you want to be outside.

Admission is free Tuesdays and Thursdays in October and November. Admission and parking ($15) must be arranged ahead of time. In addition, Pace Bus 331 goes there. The zoo has two Brookfield entrances. North Gate is at 8400 31st Street, South Gate, the main entrance,, is at  3300 Golf Rd..  For more information visit CZS/fall/BrookfieldZoo.

 

MSI pulls out gruesome items from storage for Boo Fest (Museum of Science and Industry photo)
MSI pulls out gruesome items from storage for Boo Fest (Museum of Science and Industry photo)

Museum of Science and Industry

Located in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, the popular museum is holding Boo Fest. Costumes encouraged. MSI has pulled out some of its creepy curiosities from storage for a scary exhibit recommended for youngsters age 8 and older.

But it also has a Trick-or-Treat area where guests who bring their own bag can get non-food goodies from a chute operated by MSI staff.  And there are cool Live Science Experiences stops where visitors can make Frankenslime or watch a pumpkin drop.

In addition, there are Halloween haunted mine and superstition motion simulators, a crime lab chance to see werewolf files and a Sleepy Hollow building experience.

MSI follows the Covid protocols. For protocols, time-tickets admission and ticket information visit MSI/Explore/Events.

Peanuts crowd move to AppleTV (AppleTV and WildBrain Shows photo)
Peanuts crowd move to AppleTV (AppleTV and WildBrain Shows photo)

Charlie Brown

Watch the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” streaming on demand on AppleTV, Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Premiered in 1966 on CBS, it moved to ABC but now, in 2020, it can be found on AppleTv.

You can see it without a paid account by visiting the Apple TV+ website.

According to the company’s news release, Apple is working with WildBrain, Peanuts Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Film production on Peanuts holiday specials.

“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” will be on Apple TV+ on Nov. 18 and stream for free from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will be free Dec. 11 to Dec. 13.

For more information visit AppleTV/News2020 and AppleTV.

Jodie Jacobs

Holiday light shows still a go

 

Symphony Woods and Woodland Wonder are among the two popular music and movement designs to return to the Morton Arboretum Illumination event in 2020. (Morton Arboretum photo)
Symphony Woods and Woodland Wonder are among the two popular music and movement designs to return to the Morton Arboretum Illumination event in 2020. (Morton Arboretum photo)

Thousands of lights from Lincoln Park Zoo’s’ “Zoolights” and Macy’s Walnut Room “Great Tree” to Morton Arboretum’s “Illumination” and Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Lightscape” will once again be brightening the holiday season.

They just will be operating a little differently during the Covid pandemic. Protocols will be in place such as social distance requirements so timed tickets and reservations will be needed. Tickets are already available even though the events don’t start until November. However, events and times do sell out so best is to plan ahead.

 

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

Instead of walking through the Morton Arboretum, visitors will drive along a two-mile musical light and movement show that redefines the woodland experience. Some favorites will be back such as Symphony Woods and Woodland Wonder plus new, magical sights have been added.

The event goes from Nov. 20, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021 with additional hours and days. For tickets and more information visit Mortonarb/illumination.

 

Appropriate music accompanies your walk through cathedral-style arch. (J Jacobs photo)
Appropriate music accompanies your walk through cathedral-style arch. (J Jacobs photo)

Lightscape

Last year, the first year of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape, the event sold out and its Night of 1000 Jack o’ Lanterns has also sold out so visitors  should get their tickets now. The event runs from Nov. 13, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021.

Lightscape is a one-way, mile-long walking loop past unusual and fun lighting movements accompanied by changing musical themes. The Cathedral of Light will be back but there are also new light designs.

For information visit Chicagobotanic/lightscape. For answers to frequently asked questions visit Chicagobotanic/faqs.

 

ZooLights is a fun time to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. (Lincoln Park Zoo photo)
ZooLights is a fun time to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. (Lincoln Park Zoo photo)

Zoolights

Lincoln Park Zoo’s animal exhibits, landscaping, and buildings dress up for the holidays with thousands of colored lights thanks to ComEd and InvescoQQQ.. Tickets for the event, Nov. 21, 2020 through Jan. 3, are needed for all ages this year but are just $5. For information visit LPzoo/zoolights.

Past Great Tree with diners in the Walnut Room (J Jacobs photo)
Past Great Tree with diners in the Walnut Room (J Jacobs photo)

Walnut Room Great Tree

Right now, the holiday themed windows on the State Street side of Macy’s in Chicago are still a closely guarded secret. But visitors can make reservations starting Oct. 9 to dine in the store’s famed Walnut Room where they can see the Great Tree – beginning Nov. 7. Reservations are at OpenTable

Expect to see about 6,600 lights and more than 2,000 ornaments on the tree. P:lus past Great Tree photos can be seen on the store’s 7th floor.

As to the Walnut Room food, it is a three-course, fixed-price meal for $49.95 (adults, per person) with a variety of choices, “including Mrs. Hering’s chicken pot pie, cider glazed turkey and Frango ice cream pie . Youngsters’ meals are $19.95, include a 2020 Walnut Room holiday mug.

For Walnut Room info visit Macy’sRestaurants/walnutroom.

 

Halloween doings

You never know where you may encounter a ghost. J Jacobs photo)
You never know where you may encounter a ghost. J Jacobs photo)

For the family

First off, if you didn’t make a reservation for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns, try for next year. The 2020 event is sold out.

However, there are fun pumpkin patches where families can have fun, pick up the perfect pumpkin and some tools and ideas for carving their own Jack o’ Lantern. No tickets needed to pick a pumpkin or purchase store items. Rides and some events need tickets to observe social distancing.

Among those in the Chicago region are Didier Farm  at 16678 W. Aptakisic Rd., Lincolnshire, Goebbert’s GardenCenter at 40 W. Higgens Rd., South Barrington and Tom’s Market 10214 Algonquin Rd., Huntley.

Putting on the dog

Humans aren’t the only ones who can dress up for Halloween according to Pasquesi Home and Garden in Lake Bluff. The long-time family-owned business is doing a Howl-o-Ween so dogs get to participate. The event includes photos the shop will take and put online and a goodie bag for pooches. For information visit Pasquesi/howloween. Pasquesi is at 975 North Shore Dr., Lake Bluff, (847) 615-2700.

For teens and adults

See the movie “16 Candles” Oct. 9 at ChiTown Movies or go there later at night for one of Music Box’s horror films. The drive-in movie lot is at 2343 S Throop St, Chicago, IL 60608. If no car, check Row A during ticket purchase and bring chairs for your group. For the schedule, tickets and more information visit Musicboxtheatre/boxofhorrors.

Or get your thrills driving through the zombie and demon-filled alley at the arcade bar in Lincoln Park, 2833 N Sheffield Ave.  For tickets and more information visit alleyofdarkness.

 

Music Works and Goodman do outdoor shows this week

With the pandemic still haunting the indoor entertainment scene, some show venues have taken their artistry to parks and parking lots.

Among them are Goodman Theatre which has been working with the Chicago Park District and Music Theater Works which has been using the parking lot of its new home, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Music Theater Works new home at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie (Music Theater Works and Performing Arts photo)
Music Theater Works new home at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie (Music Theater Works and Performing Arts photo)

Music Theater Works

The longtime Evanston based production company formerly known as Light Opera Works, presents “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits” Sept. 29, 2020 at 7 p.m. CT.

Divided into two parts of 15 numbers each, songs range from “I wish I were in love again” from Babes in Arms to “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel.

The program is presented live in the Center’s rear parking lot, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie and then online from October 2-11. For tickets and more information visit MusicTheaterWorks/summerconcertencore.

 

Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Goodman Theatre

The Goodman show, “Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak on It! featuring E. Faye Butler, is being performed in some Chicago parks. Directed by Henry Godinez and adapted from Cheryl L. West’s play “Fannie,” the show brings back famed civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer through storytelling and music.

Currently, it is scheduled for the front of Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St.,  for 6 p.m. Oct. 1, Homan Square in North Lawndale at 3559 W. Arthington St. at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 and  in Ellis Park at 3520 Cottage Grove Ave. in Bronzeville at  3 p.m. Oct. 3. The Ellis Park performance is sold out.

Please check GoodmanTheatre/SpeakOnIt for more details.