There is no question that regional road trips have become extremely popular this year – with many folks focusing on what is right in their own backyard for ‘staycations.’ For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state.
Few places offer such a powerful story of sacrifice and history as the Mound City National Cemetery. Situated on fourteen acres at the junction of two historic roads (Hwys 37 & 51) in southernmost Illinois, the cemetery offers a direct link to the region’s Civil War heritage. Of the more than 8,000 buried here, greater than half – including more than 2700 unknowns – served during the Civil War. Stroll among the white marble headstones and markers in the Mound City National Cemetery and you will find a visual testament to a remarkable Civil War Heritage. Located on the National Register of Historic Places, the Cemetery is a burial place for both Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as soldiers from nearly every war. The walkway through the grounds is lined with markers inscribed with verses from the famous poem “Bivouac of the Dead.” Today the Mound City National Cemetery honors the sacrifice of 9,000 veterans. Every episode of American war and peace since the Mexican-American War (1846-1847) is represented among those at rest here. There is a Memorial Day program every year at the cemetery, on the Saturday before Memorial Day. There is also a “Wreaths Across America” program in December of each year. The Mound City National Cemetery is open to the public daily.
Enjoy Mt. Vernon
Mt. Vernon and the surrounding area boast a plethora of Veteran’s Memorials dedicated to those who have served in all branches of service in wartimes and peace. Veteran’s Memorial Park on South 27th Street in Mt. Vernon has a stunning memorial lined with bricks of names, ranks and dates of service purchased by loved ones in honor or memory of their vets. Stone benches grace each corner to give visitors a place to sit and reflect. After visiting Veteran’s Memorial Park, be sure to visit the Mt. Vernon Outland Airport (MVN) where you will find a veteran’s display with memorabilia from various branches and time periods. While there, check out the Mt. Vernon Veteran’s Hall of Honor which boasts pictures and statistics of more than 700 veterans, primarily from Jefferson County. Also, at MVN, is the Jefferson County Heroes Memorial that lists 268 local family members, friends and neighbors who sacrificed their tomorrows for our today. Next, be sure to stop by the Bluford Veterans Memorial at the Village Hall and the Woodlawn Veterans Memorial at the entrance to the Chapman Sports Complex before coming back to Mt. Vernon to enjoy a nice meal and reflect on your day.
In dozens of communities big and small throughout ILLINOISouth, visitors can find truly amazing tributes to Veterans. The great thing is, each Veterans Memorial is different and unique in its own special way – making for a great collection of photos and memories from each community. Neoga Veterans Memorial Park in Cumberland County features several different sculptures from eagles to the Earth with all of the branches of the military included; as well as a cannon, and of course displays that feature all of the names of veterans who called Cumberland County and the surrounding area home. In Fairfield, their Veterans Memorial is located right downtown – and features plenty of seating for folks to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the outdoors. This memorial features benches that are dedicated to each branch of the military, and it’s placed directly in front of a beautiful Americana themed mural that was recently finished in the last year. Salem is home to another fantastic memorial, located right along Highway 50 on the east part of town. The Salem Veterans Memorial is huge in size, featuring a plethora of 11 displays and seven flags to honor those who have served. Arguably one of the most impressive memorials in ILLINOISouth is the O’Fallon Veterans Monument, located just north of the police station in O’Fallon. The display here is in the shape of a star, and includes an electronic touch screen for you to learn more about everything the Veterans Monument stands for.
The Effingham County Veteran’s Memorial wall is dedicated to all the men and women of Effingham County, who served in any of the five branches of the armed forces. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1991, the first three stones of the memorial were dedicated in honor of all Effingham County veterans. Later, on May 19, 2012 – Armed Forces Day – the “Memorial Names Stone” was dedicated. This memorial features close to 3,700 names of men and women who have served our country and our community. The stones have been designed with the past, present and future in mind. Each year, more names are added to the wall, in remembrance, and there is room for more than 9,000 names total. The memorial is not only a tribute to our service members, but it is our history: a standing memorial to the living and the dead, our neighbors, family members and friends, and all those who have dedicated their lives to preserve, protect and secure peace for our nation.
“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude”. -Jeff Miller
Williamson County has many memorials and statues commemorating the veterans of wars throughout history, beginning with the Civil War. A statue of General John A. Logan can be found on the college campus that also shares his namesake. The Carterville Veterans Memorial is dedicated to those who fought for freedom in World Wars I and II. In Marion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial honors the men and women that served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. This memorial features a wall of duplicated dog tags as well as an actual military tank! There are also other statues and memorials that can be found throughout the county paying tribute to heroes like our local veterans. On Veterans Day and every other day, these monuments stand tall to remind us of the great sacrifices that were made to pave the way for all of us.
This week we’re focusing on the best desserts, as October is National Dessert Month. So pack up the family, bring your masks and get ready for a road trip!
Southernmost Illinois - Flamm's Apple Dumpling
Take a scenic drive through the rolling hills of Shawnee Forest country on Old Highway 51 north of Cobden and you will find Flamm Orchards. The sights and sounds of a wholesale packing house will buzz in the background while you shop for fresh produce at a farm that spans through 6 generations of the Flamm family. While there, treat yourself to desserts that follow Flamm family recipes and are made from scratch in their own bakery. At the Flamm Orchards Fruits and Cream stand, you can enjoy in-season treats such as strawberry shortcake, peach cobbler, apple pie and apple dumplings. From September thru October, the homemade apple dumpling is a favorite of local customers and visitors alike. And of course, all their desserts can include soft-served ice cream if you prefer. If an individual serving is not enough, you can take some home! Made ready to go, you can take home whole pies, dumplings, and cobblers. Do yourself a favor and stop by Flamm Orchards in Cobden and take advantage of the Southern Illinois fruit season while it lasts. Flamm Orchards is open daily from May thru November.
ENJOY MT. VERNON
Decadent desserts abound in Mt. Vernon! Whether pies, cakes, or cookies are your jam, we have your sweet tooth covered! The Grille makes pies and cakes fresh in house. Try a multi-layer red velvet with cream cheese icing or your favorite cream pie, but hurry! Once they sell out, you will have to choose something else or come back another day! Whole pies and cakes are available for sale as well, so give them a call and reserve yours today!
After a great meal, topping it off with a sweet treat is quite literally “icing on the cake” at Double Overtime Bar & Grill! The luxuriously rich Chocolate Galaxy Cake satisfies even the most serious chocolate craving! You might want to get a to-go box for the entrée to save some room for this magnificent creation! The Mennonite-run Farmhouse Bakery & Café offers a case full of choices to take home or order a single slice off the menu. Make sure you grab a donut as big as your head, ginormous cookies, and a cinnamon roll to enjoy later too! They accept special orders in advance for your favorite cake, pie, or other sweet treat and also offer some sugar-free or reduced sugar dessert options.
In our experience, it’s hard to pick just one dessert…right? With 22 counties full of dessert options in ILLINOISouth, it’s hard to go wrong! For some of the tastiest pie you’ll have – we highly recommend a visit to Urban Farmhouse in Highland. The ‘grandaddy’ of their entire pie selection is the Snickers Pie – if you get a slice, make sure you have a glass of milk handy. If it’s sheer size you’re going for, look no further than a piece of carrot cake from Urban Farmhouse – it can EASILY be shared between a couple people. For a wide variety of desserts from cookies and cakes to donuts and more, stop by Marks’ Bakery in Du Quoin! Marks’ has the best seasonally designed sugar cookies, and their Skunk Tail donut is some sort of cream-filled legend (no seriously, ask about it). For those who are in Casey to check out all of the World’s Largest things, you should definitely make a stop at Wildflour Bakery – right next to the World’s Largest Mailbox. It’s cliche, but there really is something for everyone at Wildflour. They offer everything from croissants and pie to cheesecake and candy apples – they also have limited time ‘pop-up’ desserts that don’t stick around long. Happy eating!
There’s nothing sweeter than treating yourself… or someone you love! With the holidays quickly approaching, we’ve gathered a list of Effingham’s must-try dessert destinations. After all… tis’ the season to indulge, right? If you’re craving something truly decadent, stop by Firefly Grill and share a tiramisu for two (or for one… we’re not judging)! Enjoy their cozy outdoor seating, fireside, or an intimate table for two in their rustic dining area. Maybe you’re in charge of dessert for this year’s Friendsgiving or your family’s annual Christmas Eve party? Nothing screams holiday traditions like a seasonal pie from Niemerg’s Steakhouse. Pumpkin, apple, coconut cream… This iconic restaurant’s made-from-scratch desserts will wow your friends and family, so much so, that you might want to pick up two (or three)! For a completely STACKED bakery, look no further than Joe Sippers Café in Downtown Effingham. Delight in one of their infamous Sips Chips cookies (made with chocolate, toffee, sea salt and browned butter), split a slice of pumpkin cheesecake with the friend you’re meeting for coffee, or take a few of their freshly-baked caramel apple crisp muffins to-go and surprise your family with a heavenly breakfast. Nothing satisfies a sweet tooth like Effingham.
“Dessert makes everything better”. Let’s make your stay in Southern Illinois even sweeter! Granny Puckett’s Cupcakes in Herrin is a bakery unlike any other. This local shop isn’t afraid to think outside the box when it comes to their specialty treats! Whether it be candy corn peanut macaroons or apple bacon cupcakes, they aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of flavor and find a delicious new combination! Cozy Cakes Café in Cambria is another local bakery that doesn’t shy away from a challenge! The talented team at Cozy Cakes creates cakes and cookies that look too good to eat but taste too good not to! If you’re a fan of sweets and street eats, our new food trucks will be right up your alley! Spread S’more Love is serving up their tasty twist on this campfire favorite all over Southern Illinois! Treat yourself to a traditional s’more or try out one of their other delectable marshmallow creations! Drizzle Donuts is a tempting truck offering mini donuts topped to perfection! Try out the puppy chow or the tutti frutti donuts and wash them down with a local flavored milk! Whatever your sweet tooth is craving, our Williamson County businesses always bring the flavor!
*Disclaimer – Due to mitigation orders that may be put on businesses, please make sure to call ahead to any of these establishments if there’s a possibility that they may not be offering a full menu – including dessert.