Blue Sky Vineyard in Makanda, just one of the festival participants
Memorial Day Merlot
A loaf of bread and a jug of wine? Why go small? Memorial Day weekend means 12 wineries, 20 artists, four bands, and a restaurant row’s worth of food vendors gathered over two days in Jackson County for the annual Shawnee Hills Wine Trail Art & Wine Festival. Bonus: This wine festival features a vintage baseball competition. Here, how to lift a glass to the boys of summer in downstate Illinois:
- The wine
The Shawnee Hill Wine Trail, which has roots going back nearly 25 years, when the owner of Alto Vineyards owner, Guy Renzaglia, planted a few acres of Chancellor, Chambourcin, Vidal, and Villard Blanc grapes. Today, there are a dozen wineries on the trail, which winds through Murphysboro County, and they’ll all be in one place—Murphysboro’s Riverside Park—from noon until 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 28th, and Sunday, May 29th.
- The art
In addition to all those vintners, the festival will feature Illinois artisans, including the jewelry designer Heather LaFoon, the folk art sculptor Tom Lawless, the photographers Michael Czerwonka and Thomas Casey, and the brass and copper sculptor Dave Dardis. A roster of four bands, ranging from one-woman acoustic singer/songwriter Wil Maring to the Kevin Lucas Orchestra, will provide ongoing entertainment.
- The boys of summer
Finally: The Murphysboro Clarkes Vintage Base Ball team is named for one of two townsmen named Clarke, but nobody knows for certain whether it’s Horace W. Clarke (who was named superintendent of the Mobile and Ohio Rail Line in 1890) or James C. Clarke (who became president of the M&O in 1889). The team dresses as one would have in the late 1800s, meaning there’s no protective gear; they also play by vintage rules. Held at Riverside Park, the first game is slated for noon on Saturday, May 28th, with another on Sunday, May 29th.
GO Shawnee Hills Wine Trail Art & Wine Festival, Riverside Park, Murphysboro; 800-336-5883, shawneewinetrail.com.
Where to eat: Annie Mae’s (1602 Elm St.; 618-684-5599, anniemaesrestaurant.com) isn’t fancy, but it has a reputation for good pizza and Italian beef, and serves local wines on the menu. Owned by Elizabeth and Rebel Pinkston, The Cajun Cowboy Grill (1308 Walnut St.; 618-565-4766, cajuncowboygrill.com) serves gumbo, oyster soup, and alligator.
Where to stay: The Apple Tree Inn (200 N. 2nd St.; 800-626-4356, appletreeinnmurphysboro.com) has 29 rooms within a short drive of Kinkaid Lake, where fisherpeoples try to hook bass and muskie; rates range from $40 to $60