Jul 20, 2011

Getting a Taste of Downtown

I may be a commoner, but I have a traveling spirit, and if I don’t get out of town every so often I feel like I missing an important element of living.  However, for being “stuck” in Springfield, Ill., you’re never really lacking for something to do every weekend, especially during the summer when one festival after another fills the calendar.  Let’s face it, sometimes we tend to take for granted what’s right in our backyard to enjoy …    

… which brings us to the long overdue blog I alluded to last time, our annual Taste of Downtown Springfield, held July 8 and 9.  The event showcased live music both nights, ranging from popular local acts to regional acts like “The Handcuffs” from Chicago and “The Detroit Handcuffs” from (you guessed it) Detroit.  I made sure to catch some of my favorite acts who call Springfield home, including the all-original rock band “The Damwell Betters,” who played Friday evening …

Damwell Betters begin their set
… and the “Moonlite Rhythm Rangers,” who opened Saturday afternoon. (Yes, they play both kinds of music – country and western – and sprinkle in a little punk influence while you’re at it.)

Moonlite Rhythm Rangers
But the real stars of the festival are always the samples of food you purchase from the variety of vendors representing restaurants located primarily in downtown Springfield, although a few others from outlying areas joined in this year.       

One of my perennial favorites at the festival is the barbecue pork horseshoe with pepper jack cheese sauce from Caitie Girls.  For five tickets ($5), this is a steal, will fill you up and is a great tribute to the Springfield original.

Augie’s Frontburner is another spot I always try to hit.  The mojo slaw roast pork was delicious, as was the cedar salmon with fennel chutney (pictured above).  I also though Z Bistro’s Thai chicken and raspberry chicken wraps were excellent and a great value for five tickets each.  

To wash down all this great food, they offer a good selection of craft beers at the festival.  I always take this opportunity to try something I’ve never had before (which isn’t easy to find), but this year’s choice was Shiner’s Ruby Redbird, their summer seasonal made with red grapefruit and ginger – full-flavored yet not to overwhelming for a summer brew.   

At times, the crowds were nearly impassable between all the lines for food, a definite sign of success.  And as luck would have it, I encountered an exotic Gypsy to enjoy the festival with.
It's like she knew exactly where to find me!
Festivals like these are always great opportunities to run into old friends, make new ones and just people watch.  And just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see some guy who looks like Richard Belzer in a Beatles suit “air drumming” at the front of the stage for , oh, two hours! 
My first encounter with regionally famous "personality" Beatle Bob.
So, that pretty much sums up this year’s Taste of Downtown.  I actually skipped another one of my favorites this year – the Sweetcorn Festival in nearby Chatham.  One of the toughest lessons in life that I’m still learning is I can’t do it all.  But state fair season is coming up, and when it comes to crazy people watching, that’s the World Series.


Jon said...


John Watts said...

Who knew Beatle Bob was such an influential figure?? Not me ... You learn something new every day, I guess.

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...