Family Picks: Calm before the storm

Family Picks: Calm before the storm

Yes, Family Picks are back! After all the hubub of the holidays it's a relatively quiet weekend in Champaign-Urbana, but that's a good thing in my opinion - one more chance for unscheduled time before the semester gears up!

Still, there's plenty to do, and you can some spend time outdoors while temps are still relatively warm. Here are a few suggestions:

Illini Farm Toy Show: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.Sunday, Holiday Inn, 1001 W. Killarney St., U. Admission charge.

More than 40 exhibitors displaying and selling farm toys, with a consignment auction at 10:30 a.m. and a kiddie tractor pull at noon Saturday. Blog PhotoThis event is sponsored by Illinois Farm Bureau District 12 Young Leaders and Young Farmers Committees from Vermilion, Douglas, Edgar and Champaign counties.

Admission on Friday and Saturday is $2 to $3, or free for children under 6; on Sunday admission is free but donations for the Ag in the Classroom program will be accepted.

For information: Visit the event's website


Family Nature Exploration Day: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sugar Grove Nature Center, 4532 N 725 East Road, McLean. Free.

Bring the family out for a day of fun at the Nature Center! A winter guided hike will begin at 11 a.m. to look for tracks in the snow and enjoy the brisk weather. Stop inside to create a make-and-take craft at any time, and don't miss animal feeding time at 1 p.m. No registration required.

Sugar Grove Nature Center is located in historic Funks Grove, just south of Bloomington-Normal off of Old Route 66.

For information/directions: Call 309-874-2174, email or visit


Take a hike: Allerton Park, off Interstate 72 Exits 164 or 166 in Monticello. Free.

Continuing our outdoor theme, explore the trails, gardens and sculpture at Allerton Park. See the authentic Fu dogs and the Sunken Garden or Blog Photohike out to the Sunsinger statue. You might even spot a deer or two among the wildlife.

The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset, and an unstaffed visitor's center with maps and restrooms is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For information: Visit


Slavic Storytime: 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Megan's Reading Room (children's services), Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St. U. Free.

Families can enjoy a story time co-sponsored by the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois. A Russian New Year’s Celebration is also scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the library's Lewis Auditorium.

For information: Call 367-4069 or visit


Anyone for chess? Chess Club for Kids New Year’s Party, 5 to 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Lewis Auditorium, Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St., U. Free.

Elementary-age kids who would like to learn to play chess or improve their skills can join the club and enjoy some treats to mark the start of 2012.

For information: Call 367-4069 or visit


Singin' the Blues: The Sugar Prophets in concert, 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Champaign Public LIbrary, 200 W. Green St., C. Free.

This relatively new blues band mixes talented newcomers and seasoned musicians for a high-energy sound. The group was a 2011 International Blues Challenge Finalist.

While you're there, check otu the older issues of popular magazines for 10 cents each at the FriendShop used book store's annual magazine clearance sale, which starts Saturday. Here' s a list of titles.

For information: Call 403-2070 or visit


Open Gym: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Brookens Gym, Urbana. Admission charge.

Kids feeling cooped up? Children ages 5 to 14 can enjoy pickup games, one-on-one or H-O-R-S-E. Parents must attend with kids under age 11. Admission is $1 at the door.

For information: Visit

Blog Photo

Feeling crafty? Here are a couple of Saturday morning clinics you and your creative child can enjoy:

DIY Weekend Wizard: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, 346 N. Neil Street, C. Free with museum admission.
Kids can collaborate each week with friends and family on art projects and science experiments, creating useful projects such as recycled wind chimes, homemade dog treats, non-toxic cleaning solutions and unique toys.
Admission is $2 to $3, with children under 2 and members free.
For information: Call 352-5895 or visit
Kids Workshop: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Home Depot, 820 Bloomington Road, C. Free.
Kids ages 9 to 12 can make a small shed that’s really a bank, to help them learn how to save. In addition to their project kit, each child receives a Home Depot-style orange apron and an achievement pin.
For information: Call 356-2629



Check the Are We There Yet? blog every Friday for weekend family-friendly events. To submit an item, e-mail me at, or use the calendar on the News-Gazette home page, For more local events, exhibits and things to do, check out Thursday’s e3 magazine!
Top: Dallas Toohill of Clifton checks out the toys at the 2011Illini Farm Toy Show in Urbana. Robert O'Daniell/The News-Gazette
Middle: Leslie Taylor, right, of Monticello, searches for deer tracks in the snow with Hayes Murray, far left, and Megan Ziegler-Miller during a winter 2003 visit to Allerton Park in Monticello. Heather Coit/The News-Gazette
Bottom: Sophia Goebel plays at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum during a 2011 Weekend Wizard program. Vanda Bidwell/The News-Gazette


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