Posted by: Laurence J. Socha, Consular Officer
Printed on every Illinois license plate is the phrase: Land of Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, the United States’ 16th president and the leader of the nation during the country’s civil war, lived most of his life in Illinois and personifies the earnest and hardworking state. You can find his image everywhere: on the pennies people throw into Buckingham Fountain in Chicago for good luck, on monuments in countless public parks, and on the license plates of trucks carrying farmers across their fields or cars transporting commuters to work. Illinois belongs to Lincoln and to the nearly 13 million residents who live in the diverse state.
Even Superman lives in Illinois – or so the Illinois House of Representatives declared in 1972. You can find a 15 foot statue of him in the town of Metropolis, IL. As in the comic books that made Superman famous, even the town’s newspaper is named the Planet. Roadside curiosities and cafes dot the state. The famous U.S. highway, Route 66, began in Chicago and ran all the way to Los Angeles before it was replaced by the modern interstate system. Along this route, small restaurants pioneered the idea of curbside service for the passing traveler. The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop in Springfield, Illinois, was one of the first U.S. drive-thru windows, and it is still open today. Many family-run diners have been replaced by fast-food restaurants along contemporary modern highways, but McDonald’s too calls Illinois home. The fast-food chain has restaurants in over 100 countries, but its headquarters is located in the suburbs of Chicago.
“The city of big shoulders” was one title poet Carl Sandburg used to describe Chicago. The third largest city in the United States, Chicago is known for its hard work ethic and its rich immigrant history. It remains a city of neighborhoods. The summer is a great time to enjoy street festivals. Old Town on the city’s north side has been hosting art lovers for the Old Town Art Fair in June for over 60 years. In July, the Taste of Chicago brings all of Chicago’s best restaurants to Grant Park along the city’s lakeshore for what organizers call the “world’s largest food festival.” The Chicago Jazz Festival fills the park with the music of local and internationally known artists in August. Finally, in September, the Ukrainian Village Festival opens for a two day celebration. Visitors can enjoy vereniki and the music of Ukrainian bands in the shadow of the golden domed churches off Superior Street on the city’s near north side.
While food and music festivals draw large crowds in the summer, Illinois’ strong sports tradition gathers fans throughout the year. Chicago is home to champion professional sports teams including the Chicago Bulls (basketball), Chicago Bears (football), and Chicago Blackhawks (ice hockey). Like New York, the city also boasts two professional baseball teams: the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. And while both teams have won the World Series several times in their history, the Cubs haven’t won the championship for 103 years. However, you wouldn’t know it from the way the fans fill Wrigley Field to capacity for every game.
Since Lincoln’s time, Illinois has been a place of interest and excitement. So whether you’re drawn to the Superman statue or the Wrigley Field stands, the residents of Illinois will be proud to welcome you to their home state.