Park of the month: Cache River State Natural Area

This month, we are featuring a unique conservation area in Illinois’ “Little Egypt” region called Cache River State Natural Area. The park exists to preserve unique wetlands that are home to a wide variety of protected flora and fauna.

The Cache River wetlands sit within a floodplain carved thousands of years ago by glacial floodwater from the Ohio River. Growing throughout the wetlands of the Cache River State Natural Area are large cypress trees, many of which are over 1,000 years old and more than 40 feet in diameter. The Cache River wetlands are home to Illinois’ state champion bald cypress tree, which is noted for its height, trunk girth and thick canopy of branches and leaves.

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Farmers' Market

Now that spring is officially here and flowers are in full bloom, it is time to start thinking about where you can find and purchase local produce and goods. Illinois is known across the country for our agriculture, mainly corn, soybeans and wheat, but this state is also full of oats, fruits, vegetables and meats.

Luckily for Illinoisans, farmers’ markets can be found all across the state. Illinois is home to over 300 registered farmers’ markets and is a national leader in community-supported agriculture. Illinois ranked 3rd in the country for its number of farmers’ markets. In the past 20 years, the number of farmers’ markets jumped from 1,775 to over 8,000.

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March AOM Head ShotHow long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?

I have been an artist for a long time. It’s always been personal to me. I didn’t start selling my work until last year. When I started to paint, the response I got was positive, and people started asking, “How much?” That was a question I never asked myself. But I have never created anything with profit in mind. The passion for me is the freedom I have when I create. It’s always been about freedom.

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

Chicago. Walking its streets offers poetry. I was amazed my first time in that city. I am from Rockford, which has a good art scene, but Chicago is a living canvas. The people, colors, language and movement imprinted on me. The state has history. It’s produced leaders and musical geniuses. I gather pieces of what I learn and try to apply it to my work.

What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?March AOM Pic 4

The opportunity for an artist is only limited by what can be produced I think. The more I learn and better my skills, not just in paint but in other aspects of art, more opportunities become available. I was not expecting the doors to open the way they did, but I am very grateful.

What do you like about Illinois?

Illinois will always be home, although I could probably do without so much snow. If we could somehow blow some of it towards Wisconsin, that’d be great.

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I’m not sure yet. I have yet to crave something. So far, acrylic painting is what I prefer.

March AOM Pic 1Where can people view or purchase your work?


I have a website at www.mcneelyshaumar.com, or you can always follow me on Facebook.

What artist inspires you and why?


My father is an artist. He has always made me challenge myself. He can do it all too, which makes me want to see how far I can take myself.

eggWith nicer weather on its way, many museums and park districts are preparing for larger crowds. Kids in Illinois will be able to choose from a variety of different indoor and outdoor activities this coming spring.

At the SciTech Museum in Aurora, there will be plenty of opportunities to explore and learn about science. The museum is partnering up with the Aurora Green Fest to celebrate Earth Hour on March 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. This event gives families a chance to explore exhibits, participate in yoga, meditation, craft projects and more – all for free.

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GlessnerHouseexteriorNestled in the Near South Side of Chicago, the Prairie Avenue Historic District contains one of the American architectural gems of the 19th century.

The John J. Glessner House was designed in 1885 by architect Henry Hobson Robinson and served as inspiration for renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In October 1970, the site was named a historic landmark, and on Jan. 7, 1976, it became a National Historic Landmark.

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