It's settled: Reunion is popular in Cissna Park
The village of Cissna Park on Illinois 49 pulls out all the stops for its Old Settlers Reunion, happening this weekend for an amazing 127th year. The event draws former residents who come back to visit with friends, families and former classmates, as well as outsiders who enjoy carnival rides and perhaps hope to get lucky in the drawing tonight for a 2014 Chevy Malibu or $20,000 cash. American Legion Post 527 sponsors Old Settlers and the drawing. Here's the scoop, courtesy staff writer Melissa Merli:
1 Francis Thompsen, the man in charge, said the Old Settlers Reunion fills the village park and shows just how "close-knit we are down here." The American Legion has hosted it since 1946, but the reunion dates back to 1886, when it was organized by community organizations. Always the third weekend in August, the three-day event attracts 4,000 to 6,000 people to the village of 860; once an estimated 10,000 showed up on a Saturday, said Rick Baier, editor of the Cissna Park News, a weekly.
2 So who settled Cissna Park, incorporated as a village in 1882? Bill Cissna. "He was big in cattle, and he owned all the property around here," Baier said. "He was instrumental in getting the railroad to Cissna Park to transport his cattle, and the town is named after him." During the Old Settlers Reunions, politicians would travel to the village to speak, and outside baseball teams would come to play. "It was just one day, and over the years, it's transformed into three days," Baier said.
3 Baier, who grew up and lives in Cissna Park, said the Old Settlers Reunion is good for the community but means a lot of work (today's fun starts at 8 a.m. with 5K walk-run). "I cover it everyday and volunteer with other organizations," he said. "It's a long three days for me and for anybody who helps with it." Besides the Old Settlers Reunion, the village has a K-12 school of 300 kids, with ACT scores "usually way above average," Baier said. Sounds like a town Garrison Keillor would like!