DANVILLE – Downstate will get a double dose of the Drivin' the Dixie annual event this year.
Because Drivin' the Dixie is traditionally the third Saturday in June, but the Illiana Pullers Association Tractor Pull is always the Saturday of Father's Day weekend in Rossville, an opportunity arose to offer a choice of drives.
"The Saturday of Father's Day weekend is only the second Saturday, so we encouraged communities along the route to have activities both weekends," explained Sue Richter, director of the Vermilion County Museum. "It's an opportunity to send people north along the Dixie both weekends."
Richter elaborated that there are some townwide sales going on with the three-day Dixie Days in Rossville the first weekend and a full day of activities in Hoopeston's McFerren Park on Saturday as well as the three-day Milford Fun Days event the second weekend.
Participants can drive any car, not just the antiques that initiated the annual event, and travel as much or as little of the route as they want. Check-in begins at 9:45 a.m. both Saturdays at the museum. There is no charge on the south-to-Momence route. However, if drivers begin in Blue Island to drive south, the entry fee is $10 in advance and $15 on June 21.
Richter has already heard from people who plan to drive to Danville on June 20 from the Chicago area, stay overnight and take the trek north the next morning.
Kenneth Broderick of Danville took his 1968 Chevelle on the route last year, but he stopped at the car show in Rossville and never went any farther.
"I started with everyone else, but then just parked and enjoyed the afternoon at the car show in Rossville," Broderick said.
The event began in 2002 as the Dixie Dash. It was limited to driving south on the Dixie Highway from Homewood to Momence and was organized by the A's R Us Model A Ford Car Club of America to promote the history of the area by using the highway. Today, the event begins in Blue Island and still goes south to Momence, but a midstate section from Danville to Momence has been added. Danville marks the end of the Dixie Highway in Illinois; from there, the route turns east into Indiana and then continues south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Communities on both portions are encouraged to get involved. The event has grown to include all makes, models and years of cars. Last year, nearly 200 cars participated from both sections.
Bill and Donnis Culp of Danville have participated the past three years, driving as far north as Watseka in 2005 and 2007 and all the way to Momence in 2006.
"It's an interesting event," Donnis Culp said. "I like stopping at the little churches and shops and eating the home cooking meals they offer along the route. We're both 71, and we enjoy the historical things to see, like we remember from years ago."
Culp and her husband drive a 1949 Ford. They don't belong to a specific car club, but attend a few shows each year.
"We like to do benefit shows to help someone out," she explained. "Car people are just so friendly. You meet new people and see some of the same people from time to time and can catch up."
She just loves the old cars.
"Cars today all look alike, and sometimes you can't even tell what brand they are," she said. "There are so many models within the brands, too. There's not the same excitement there used to be when the new models come out," Culp said. "Seeing all the unique cars in Drivin' the Dixie is a real plus."
The Vermilion County Museum has acted as a clearinghouse/organizer for the local leg of the event in recent years. Participants who register for the event are eligible for dash plaques and door prizes from Advanced Auto Parks, Mr. Tire, NAPA Auto Parts, Danville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Deluxe Restaurant, Fazoli's Italian Restaurant, Monical's Pizza, O'Leary's Pub and Shop around the Corner.
As an added incentive, participants who travel to Momence on June 21 can enter a drawing for $50 and $100 prizes.
"As we pick up more activities in more places along the way, it's really neat," Richter said. "If anyone has an idea for an event next year, they should let us know, because we can promote everything going on on the route that day."
For more information, call the museum at 442-2922.
DRIVIN' THE DIXIE SCHEDULE
6 to 8 p.m. Summer Sounds Concert, Temple Plaza (North and Vermilion streets), rock music by Elsinore.
10 a.m. Gino's Place, Days Inn, 77 N. Gilbert St., Elsinore second show.
6 p.m. Illiana Pullers Association Tractor Pull, Christman Park, Stufflebeam Street. Proceeds benefit the FFA scholarship fund. General admission: $5, children 12 and younger, free.
6:30 a.m. to noon. Downtown Danville Farmer's Market, Temple Plaza.
9 a.m. Vehicle registration for passport, Vermilion County Museum, 116 N. Gilbert St. Dash plaques to first 25 entries. All ages of cars accepted. Have passport stamped along the route to qualify for door prizes.
7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Community rummage sales. Map of sale sites at fire station. Concessions with sandwiches, drinks and chips.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tour of old Pleasant View Church, new home of the Newell Township Historical Society, Holloway Street across from the grade school.
ROSSVILLE (Christmas Park, unless otherwise listed):
7 a.m. Sausage gravy and biscuit breakfast, pavilion.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Downtown shops open.
9 a.m. Gas engine, World War II and antique tractor displays; vendors, Art on the Dixie, dunk tank.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Car, truck and motorcycle show.
10 a.m. Pork burgers, and hot dogs.
2 p.m. Homemade pie and ice cream, park pavilion.
2 to 4 p.m. Gospel music, Cadle Shelter.
5 p.m. Duck Dash, down the North Fork River.
6 p.m. Bongo, park pavilion.
Noon to 4 p.m. Rossville Depot and Rossville Historical Society museums open.
8 a.m. Areawide garage sales. Maps at Shop Around the Corner, 10 E. Lyle Street; homemade pie sale, Illinois 1 in front of Milford Grade School.
8:30 to 10 p.m. Drive-in Movie, Vermilion County Museum. No admission. Watch from your car or bring a lawn chair.
6:30 to noon. Downtown Danville Farmers' Market, Temple Plaza.
9 a.m. Registration for passports, Vermilion County Museum. Dash plaques to the first 25 vehicles. All ages of cars accepted.
10 a.m. Start of Drivin' the Dixie.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rossville Historical Society Museum, 103 W. Attica St.
HOOPESTON (McFerren Park):
9 to 11 a.m. Fishing Derby.
10 a.m. Poochie Pageant, beauty pageant for dogs, Lions Club fish fry begins.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children's face painting.
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pictures with Miss Hoopeston.
11 a.m. Fireman's Water Wars, park annex.
Noon. Dixie Derby Race (pinewood cars).
Also on park grounds dunk tank, food vendors, car and motorcycle show, flea market.
Milford Fun Days:
5 p.m. Beer tent opens.
6 p.m. Softball tournament.
7 p.m. Euchre tournament, beer tent.
5 p.m. Amusements open, beer tent opens, craft and flea markets open, Lions Club fish fry until 8 p.m.
5:30 p.m. Champaign Savers, band shell.
5:45 p.m. Little Miss & Mr. Fun Days, band shell.
6 p.m. Softball tournament.
8:15 p.m. The Avenue, Praise & Worship Band, east end of park.
9 p.m. Back Paiges, beer tent.
8 a.m. Bessie Bingo, east side of pool.
8:30 a.m. Softball tournaments resume; parade registration and line-up at city hall.
10:30 a.m. Parade, Jones Street (city hall to the park).
11 a.m. Pork chop dinner, park pavilion.
11:45 a.m. Adam Shoufler, praise and worship band.
Noon. Beer tent opens.
12:15 p.m. Awarding of parade prizes, band shell.
1 p.m. Face painter and caricaturist until 5 p.m., park; Milford Sugar Creek 4-H bingo, Lions Pavilion.
2 p.m. Kids' Bucks Game Show, band shell.
3 p.m. Kids' games, band shell.
4 p.m. Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull, behind the grade school.
5 p.m. Andy Weathers Blue Grass Band, band shell.
5:45 p.m. Kids Bucks Game Show, band shell.
6:45 p.m. Whose Line Milford Style, band shell.
7:30 p.m. Tim Balastar magic/comedy show, band shell.
8 p.m. Teen dance, the Boyz DJ, Milford High School.
9 p.m. Back Paiges, beer tent.
9 a.m. Softball tournament resumes.