Listen to this article

Star Party

Amateur astronomers are invited to bring their telescopes to the next Star Party at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at the education center building at Kennekuk County Park in Vermilion County. You can also dress up as your favorite science-fiction character or alien and enjoy Halloween treats, candied apples and prizes for the best children’s costumes.

There will be presentations on the effect of light pollution on plants, insects, animals and humans. The special guest speaker will be Erik Johnson, the new director of the Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College. After the presentations, the program will move outdoors to telescopes and look at the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and stars.

Kickapoo Rail Trail fundraiser

GO Kickapoo Rail Trail

The newly built section of the Kickapoo Rail Trail — east of Oakwood — is ready to open soon.

As construction on the first Vermilion County segment of the Kickapoo Rail Trail winds down, the next fundraiser for the eventual 25-mile rails-to-trails path from Urbana to Kickapoo State Park west of Danville is coming up on Nov. 15 at Sleepy Creek vineyard’s Dragonfly Event Center near Oakwood.

Featuring a silent auction and live entertainment — The Live Jukebox Show with David Howie — proceeds from this second annual event go toward continued construction of the trail. Tickets are $50 per person, which includes one drink and hors d’oeuvres. You can sponsor of table of 10 for $450. For tickets, call 217-586-3360 or 217-442-1691.

Some of the highlights of items in the silent auction, according to Lara Darling with the Vermilion County Conservation District, which is leading the Vermilion County side of the project, are Illini basketball tickets, featuring special seats and other perks; season passes to the film series at the Virginia Theater; a membership to the Urbana Indoor Aquatic center; season tickets to the Danville Symphony Orchestra; a wine and dinner gift card basket to a downtown Champaign business; and many other items.

Darling said Cross Construction is very close to finishing the roughly two-mile segment of the rail trail that stretches from just west of Oakwood to Grays Siding Road east of Oakwood. She said they’re expecting the work to be done by the end of this month, and a small grand opening of the trail will come soon. That will leave roughly 9 miles of the trail still to be completed between the Oakwood section and the section already functioning between Urbana and St. Joseph.

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District is currently working toward getting construction started on the section from St. Joseph to the Champaign County line. And Darling said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has awarded a bid to Halverson Construction for the short section of trail that will continue from Grays Siding Road over the trestle bridge carrying the trail over the Middle Fork River and nearly to the back side of Kickapoo State Park.

For more information about all aspects of the rail trail, including trailheads, maps, how to donate and much more, go to

Trout season starts Saturday

The 2019 Illinois Fall Trout Fishing Season opens Saturday at 57 ponds, lakes and streams throughout the state, including Kaufman Lake in Champaign, Clear Lake at Kickapoo State Recreation Area, Villa Grove West Lake in Douglas County and Weldon Springs State Park Lake in DeWitt County.

IDNR officials added Kaufman Lake for the first time this fall season, putting it on the list of lakes across the state that they stock with 67,000 rainbow trout. The Illinois catchable trout program is funded by those who use the program through the sale of Inland Trout Stamps and through the Illinois Fish Management Fund.

No trout may be taken from any of the stocked sites from until the season opens at 5 a.m. Saturday. Anyone attempting to take trout before then will be ticketed.

To fish the site, all anglers must have a valid fishing license and an Inland Trout Stamp, unless they are under the age of 16, blind or disabled, or are an Illinois resident on leave from active duty in the Armed Forces. The daily catch limit for each angler is five trout.

Illinois fishing licenses and Inland Trout Stamps are available at DNR Direct license and permit locations, including many bait shops, sporting-goods stores and other retail outlets. Check the IDNR website for a list of vendors near you.


Tracy Crane is a Danville-based reporter for The News-Gazette. Her email is