In honor of the shortest month of the year, February’s park of the month is William G. Stratton State Park in Morris. At only 618 acres, the spot on the Illinois River is the smallest in the state park system.

While it may be small, the Northeastern Illinois state park is enjoyed by many people each year. It was initially constructed in 1959 to give boaters and anglers access to the Illinois River near Morris. While February generally feels more like winter than spring in Illinois, the park is also a great destination for warm-weather recreation.

The relatively small size and recent establishment of William G. Stratton State Park does not decrease its popularity. The park includes a large parking lot that can fit over 100 vehicles with boat trailers. Boaters have access to four public launching ramps for fishing, water-skiing or simply passing an afternoon on the water. There is also a jet ski launching area on the east side of the park. On shore, there are picnic facilities along the banks of the river as well as restrooms and access to drinking water.

During the summer and fall, Stratton State Park is a popular staging location for fishing and waterfowl hunting on the Illinois River. The area is heavily populated with ducks and geese and the river teems with sauger, striper, bass and crappie.

The park is bounded on the north by the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail, making it accessible to hikers, bicyclists, runners and snowmobilers via the 61-mile limestone path. Because it is a launching area for motorized watercraft, swimming and wading are prohibited in the area of the Illinois River adjacent to William G. Stratton State Park.

Small but with plenty to offer fishermen, hunters, boaters, jet skiers and water skiers in Northeastern Illinois, William G. Stratton State Park will soon be crowded with people enjoying the Illinois River. Call 815-942-0796 for more information to plan your excursion today.

PrattWoodworks12 17 1133How 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 built my first piece of furniture when I was 10, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I opened my woodworking business. There isn’t one single moment that made me realize woodworking was my passion, but as I was building all of the furniture for my first apartment, I realized building and creating were something I’d always wanted to do. 

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

One thing about building furniture in Illinois is that there is a lot of great hardwood to choose from. Many woodworkers choose to import exotic wood, but IllinoisIMG 0041 has so many beautiful options that I like to use what’s in my own backyard (not literally). I’ve been able to work with several great local woodcutters to supply the resources I use for my pieces. 

What opportunities does Illinois present to local artists?

The maker’s movement has really taken off in the past few years it seems, and there are lots of great artisan markets that give artists a chance to get their work out there. It seems people in Illinois have really bought into the concept of buying local and supporting the economy right here at home. 

What do you like about Illinois?

Illinois has always been home to me. I grew up on a pig farm in rural Illinois, spent my undergrad years at IMG 4737the University of Illinois, and am now enjoying life in the capital. No matter where I’ve gone, I’ve always felt at home. 

What is your favorite medium to work in? 

I mostly build with hard wood. I’d have to say walnut is my favorite species—I love the color and grain. I try to avoid painting or staining wood when I can, because to me, clear finished natural wood is so beautiful on its own. And, I love collaborating with other artists to incorporate steel into some of my bigger pieces. 

Where can people view or purchase your work?

People can check out my work on Prattwoodworks.com. There are smaller, ready-made items like cutting boards and butcher blocks available for immediate purchase,IMG 3601 and my custom furniture portfolio is also available. If they’re coming through Springfield, they can feel free to stop by the shop located at 1315 Ottis St. Springfield, IL, 62703.

What artist inspires you and why?

I love the ability to follow the woodworking community through social platforms like Instagram. It’s amazing to see the different designs people come up with. Greg Klassen is one of my favorites. I love the look of his live slabs and how he combines wood, steel, and glass. 

gettyimages 916107108 slide 944d5bcc4549c5fa00c922a806a2f68a0ef616cc s900 c85The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang South Korea start today and a dozen athletes from Illinois will be competing.

Representing Illinois are:

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Abraham Lincoln O 77 matte collodion printAbraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809 in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. He came to be the 16th president of the United States and is regarded for his preservation of the Union during the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

Before becoming president, Lincoln worked to support his family, which limited his ability to go to school. After settling in New Salem, Illinois, Lincoln worked as both a shopkeeper and postmaster while teaching himself law. He passed the bar examination in 1836 and moved to Springfield to begin his career as a lawyer and later a politician.

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RadonPosterContestMaddie Kogelis, a Washington Community High School student won first place in a national video contest spreading awareness about the dangers of radon.

The contest is sponsored each year by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the American Lung Association in Illinois.

Kogelis, a Washington, Illinois resident, finished first in the state contest and her 60-second video was then entered into the national contest, where she took home the prize. Her video shows creativity and demonstrates the importance of testing your home for radioactive gases like radon that are known to cause lung cancer.

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