Sioux-style teepees as rendered by artists, as part of the Oregon Trail Days Festival
Sioux-style teepees as rendered by artists, as part of the Oregon Trail Days Festival

Hail to the Chief

One hundred years have past since the sculptor Lorado Taft completed his monument to Chief Black Hawk, which stands on the banks of the Rock River. This week, the centennial will be celebrated at Lowden Memorial State Park in Oregon Illinois, as the annual Oregon Trail Days Festival gets underway.

The weekend’s events begin Saturday morning with a Native American blessing ceremony at the statue, which Taft finished in 1911 on a bluff roughly 125 feet above the river. Tours throughout the weekend will allow visitors to go inside the 48-foot-tall, nearly-270-ton monument. The fest continues with dance performances and drum circles, sharp shooting and roping demonstrations, roving banjo players, and storytelling historians enacting the lives of Chief Black Hawk and Taft, who was a professor at both the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Saturday night will feature a beer garden (“outdoor saloon and eatery”) and a three-band roster of country music performers. Sunday events include an 8K run through the park and a canoe rally.

Finally, the festival features the work of some 20 teepee painters, commissioned (in a program inspired by Chicago’s Cows on Parade) to create art inspired by Sioux-style teepees. A handful of the 14-foot teepees will be sold after the event; if you want one, they’ll sell for about $1,500.

GO Oregon Trail Days at Lowden Memorial State Park, 1411 N. River Road, Oregon; 815-732-6828,

Where to stay: For $79 a night, you can camp in some of the painted teepees (they sleep up to four people), which are located in Lowden Memorial State Park; reservations (815-499-4986, must be made by Thursday, July 13. For something a bit more luxurious, try the historic Patchwork Inn (122 N. Third St.; 815-732-4113,, where Lincoln reportedly stayed during the 1850s; rates are $75 to $115 a night.

Where to dine: For a meal with a panoramic river view, board the Pride of Oregon paddle wheeler for a two-hour cruise. The boat is docked adjacent to Maxson Riverside Restaurant (1469 N. Route 2; 815-732-4540, and offers a $24 lunch or $30 dinner cruise. Maxson, meanwhile, is known for its complimentary orange rolls and traditional surf-and-turf entrees.