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Celebrate the pie plant and art

Laura McElroyMay 17, 2019

The Kankakee County Museum presents the 29th annual Rhubarb Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Kankakee County Museum, 801 S. Eighth Ave., Kankakee.

This year, there will be 75 vendors in the Civic Auditorium and along the museum walkways offering art and craft items, food and more.

“The Rhubarb Fest is the first festival of the year. And it continues to grow each year,” said Connie Licon, executive director of the museum. “Festivals and family events have become something people look forward to on the weekends.”

“Jellies, jams and pie. What could be better?” she added.

Local nonprofit organizations will share information, and the Kankakee Kultivators will host a flower and plant show and sale. There will be a dime toss with proceeds going to support the museum. Inside the museum, rhubarb and strawberry-rhubarb whole pies and slices will be available for purchase.

Why a Rhubarb Fest? The museum grounds was once rhubarb fields, something physician and horticulturist Dr. Abram L. Small, believed had medicinal properties.

Small once operated year-round greenhouses growing rhubarb. That land is now Small Memorial Park and the Kankakee County Museum. The Dr. Small Memorial Home, as well as the Taylor One Room Schoolhouse, will be open for tours.

What can people expect while touring the schoolhouse and Small Memorial Home?

“History and education of the area,” Licon said. “The museum collects local history for others to learn and enjoy, and that’s an important job.”

Rhubarb baking contest

Another highlight of the fest is the rhubarb baking contest. Drop-off rhubarb goods between 9 and 11 a.m. at the Civic Auditorium the day of the festival. Use rhubarb anywhere in the recipe and include a recipe card with your name and phone number.

The Laureate Beta Omega chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority will judge entries based on presentation, color, aroma, texture, flavor and aftertaste. Winners will be posted at 1 p.m. First place prize is $50; second, $25; and third, $20.

Dahl Exhibit

“Each year the museum features a new exhibit that opens on the day of the Rhubarb Fest,” said Veronica Featherston, museum curator. “The public is invited to come and appreciate all the talent of artists throughout the community.”

The works of art are from the collection of local businessman Robert “Bob” Dahl, founder and president of Key Outdoor Inc. The family-owned outdoor advertising business began in Kankakee County more than 40 years ago. Dahl, who died in 2017, loved working with local artists and the community.

The collection includes 45 pieces created by a variety of local artists that were donated to the museum by Dahl’s son, Andrew Dahl.

“Dahl’s office was full of wall space,” Licon said. “He started collecting local art and continued to collect local art. He framed each piece, so it’s all beautiful and uniform.”

The Dahl Art Exhibit will be on display through December.

Kankakee Art League

The Kankakee County Historical Society, founded in 1906, found a permanent home when the Historic and Arts Building was constructed on Governor Small Memorial Park. Initially, the Historical and Arts Building was jointly occupied by the Historical Society and the Kankakee Art League.

The first museum exhibit also featured a number of works by members of the Kankakee Art League. That tradition continues today.

The Kankakee Art League annual art show in the George Grey Barnard Gallery opens the day of the Rhubarb Fest. The 37 paintings, all by members of the Art League, will be on display through Aug. 27.

“Every year the Kankakee Art League show makes spring blossom in here,” said Licon while viewing the art work in the Barnard Gallery. “I’m so glad they share their work with us.”

And many pieces of the work are for sale.

“We have such great volunteers,” Licon said. “We are so fortunate. Without volunteers, we couldn’t do events like this.”

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