Frank's Weekend Faves, Oct. 22, 2017

Frank's Weekend Faves, Oct. 22, 2017

Where do you go to enjoy fall colors outdoors?

According to's Fall Foliage Prediction Map, this weekend is supposed to be peak time for autumn colors in most of Illinois. But if you've been out and about at all recently, you already know this year's peak is looking pretty bleak compared to most years' normally vibrant reds, oranges and golds. As News-Gazette Media metereologist Greg Soulje tells me, that's "absolutely a direct result of the lack of mid- to late-summer rainfall."

But if you're OK with that and just want some color (any color!) in your autumn, now's the time. Illinois has plenty of good places for checking out the fall foliage, whether it's upstate in LaSalle County's Starved Rock State Park or downstate in Shawnee National Forest — or even a leisurely drive up the east bank of the Mississippi to Galena in the far northwest corner of the state. One of my family's favorite fall getaways this time of year is across the nearest state line to the Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County, Ind. — home also to a couple of my favorite hiking spots, Turkey Run and Shades state parks. But the festival itself winds up its two-week run today, so if that's your pleasure, you'd better get a wiggle on (although the Shades are still open for another month, and Turkey Run stays open year-round).

Of course, each of the aforementioned options involve a road trip of at least a couple hours. How about closer to home?

For me, living in the southeast corner of Champaign County, that's a no-brainer. My favorite spot hereabouts to go hiking in the woods has long been Allerton Park in Monticello, which makes it my favorite place nearby to take in the fall colors close up. It's one of the few forested locations around here where you can actually escape the sounds of passing traffic and not only see, but HEAR the woodlands and wildlife around you. And the amazing collection of statuary nestled in among the gardens and groves is definitely an added bonus.

For folks east of Champaign, I recommend Kickapoo State Park, near Oakwood. It may not have Allerton's sculptures, but it's still a great place to hike and take in some autumn splendor — such as it is.

That said, allow me to borrow a page from recently retired News-Gazette features reporter Melissa Merli and take a question from a reader — this one from Dave Coffey of Champaign:

With some of your new space, can you please let us know some of the live-music happenings around town (in advance!)? We are blessed with a good supply of local talent and good music venues in our area, but it is downright hard to find out what/when/who is happening on a week-by-week basis ...

Happy to be of help, Dave. We may not have room in our print editions anymore for complete listings of local "live-music happenings," but you can still find our all-access Nightlife Listings online any time at They are published each Thursday morning on our home page and cover a seven-day period. Here's the latest entry, for Oct. 19-26.

It's also my intention to use this space every week to highlight my favorites among upcoming musical performances. For example, my recommendation for best classic-rock concert ticket available this weekend? That would be for hometown fave REO Speedwagon's Feb. 8 concert at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. Those tickets, ranging from $59.50 to $99.50 (or $199 for VIP seating), went on sale Friday.

More into jazz? My favorite local jazz show of the week is the Kevin Hart/Donnie Heitler Quartet performing from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today in the Busey-Mills Reading Room at The Urbana Free Library in partnership with the CU Jazz Festival. Hart on vibraphone, Heitler on piano, Crystal Rebone on bass and Jeff Magby on drums will be playing beloved standards as well as material from Hart's CD "The Road to Everywhere." Admission is free, so you can't beat the price, especially for these talented local jazzologists!

And if you're into larger ensembles, check out next weekend's gala homecoming concert featuring the University of Illinois Bands program's top ensembles — the Marching Illini, UI Wind Symphony and UI Wind Orchestra — at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Krannert Center's Foellinger Great Hall in Urbana. Admission is $10 standard; $7 for seniors; and $4 for students. This event is part of the university's sesquicentennial celebration and definitely qualifies for best big band concert of the week.

Anything going on locally for movie lovers this week?

You mean besides The News-Gazette Film Series' "Five Nights of Hitch" event at the Virginia Theatre (more on that here)?

Actually, yes. Just a few blocks away, the Art Theater, 126 W. Church St., C, is hosting the eighth annual New Art Film Festival next Sunday, Oct. 29. This recurring event, featuring media productions by storytellers living in or near C-U, presents 23 short subjects and two sneak previews in three programs beginning at 6, 7:30 and 9:20 p.m. The whole shindig will be preceded by a meet-and-greet with festival filmmakers and friends from 3 to 5 p.m. at Radio Maria, 119 N. Walnut St. It's all locally produced, and admission is free, which makes it next week's best local film festival.

If our cover story today and that subtle reference to The N-G Film Series don't clue you in to what THIS week's film fest fave is — well, I give up. Until next week, that is ...

Have a question, suggestion or fave nomination for Frank? We'd love to hear from you. Please send an email to

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borderbelle wrote on October 22, 2017 at 8:10 am

I know I have been away from Champaign many years but the last I knew Oakwood and Kickapoo were EAST of Champaign, not west.  I think you need a new compass Frank