Central Illinois Strawberry Festival
by Cindy Ladage and Janna Seiz
Every year the coming of summer is highlighted by different
events for different people. For some, it is heralded with the end of
school, tilling the garden, or completion of the planting season. To
us, connoisseurs of find food, antique tractors, farm toys, crafts, and
downright fun, the annual Strawberry Festival means summer is here.
Every year, in Carlinville, Illinois, the Macoupin County
Historical Society and the Macoupin Agricultural Antique Association
team up to fill the grounds of the Anderson Mansion with the sights and
sounds of the festival. The large parcel of land that accompanies the
Anderson Mansion is teeming with crafters such as candle makers, rug
makers, wood workers, and of course a few tractor parts.
The air is filled with the delectable smell of chicken and
noodles that are served up by the historical society members with
homemade biscuits and coleslaw. They are always accompanied by fresh
strawberry shortcake. On the other ends of the grounds, the smell of
grilled pork chops draws a crowd. If visitors don't have a drink in
their hand, most likely it is filled with a brimming sack full of fresh
Although we of course refrain from eating absolutely everything,
there are some members of our immediate families that feel that without
sampling every edible item, the Strawberry festival is well, not the
Strawberry Festival. Needless to say, there is something for everyone.
We have been attending the event for several years for the food,
and the antique tractor show. This year, almost every make and model
was represented from a John Deere B, to a Minneapolis R, and a Massey
Harris 30. The tractors are in all states of restoration from those in
"original" condition, to show quality. Everyone can recognize the
exhibitors by their buttons, and ribbons. They congregate around each
others tractors trading restoration stories and comparing notes about
trailers and upcoming shows. Visitors bought raffle tickets for a
tractor a a child's pedal tractor that will raise funds for the
Off to one side of the tractors in a space all his own, Roy Lee
Baker's son was demonstrating Roy Lee's miniature John Deere B. This
two-foot long metal framed toy was made from scratch by Roy Lee in his
toy shop near Shipman, Illinois. The toy is fascinating because all the
parts move just like the real thing sitting over in the show area. The
tractor actually pulled a Ryder wagon behind it at the 16th annual
Gateway Mid-America Farm toy show.
In a large red shed, not too far from the Black smith shop where
demonstrations were taking place, a toy show was in full swing. Kids
(both large and small!) walked by pointing out their favorite brands and
counted their cash to see what fit into their budget. Besides the toys
and tractors, the one room school house was the sight of bell ringing
and story telling by retired school teachers about the "good ole days."
One little girls eyes got very big and round as the teacher explained
the former use of the ruler as a measure of discipline rather than
Another large building serves as a museum, giving an insight
into farm life over the last century thorough the various small machines
used everyday. Antique tractors and farm machinery are also displayed
providing a sample of what farming used to be like. When Andrew Seiz
saw a beautiful horse drawn sled, he said, "I want one of those." We
laughed and agreed.
The Mansion itself is a draw that pulls us like a magnet every
year when we come. Whether it is the fall festival, or the Strawberry
festival, the Anderson mansion always has something inside the beautiful
two story home that we had not seen or noticed before. The youngest of
our children are both nine and they insist on touring the home. Of
course their rapid fire focus is much quicker than our lingering eyes
like, but they enjoy the old fashion music room, the exhibit of old
Macoupin County one-room school houses, and of course the military
museum housed in the attic. When Allison Ladage was asked what she
liked best, she replied, "Everything in the house." Our feelings
The kid's favorite place though is the tower where they can
stand three stories plus high and turn in every direction for a clear
view of the grounds. The house is a combination of Italiante, Queen
Anne, and Stick style. The reason for the variety may be because it
started out as a one story home built by John C. and Luciel Anderson.
With the addition of eight children, four girls, and four boys, a little
more room seemed prudent, so they expanded the home in 1892. Along
with a beautiful stained glass window, beveled leaded glass front doors,
and an array of antiques, the home is well worth the time and few
dollars required for a tour. This year, the house was filled with the
smell of honeysuckle. The candles came from a vendor at the festival.
The smell was so sweet that the candles found their way home with us
after the show!
Hand carved baskets created by Orville Ladage also found their
way into our clutches before we drove away. Orville, a retired farmer
and carpenter put his skills to use and creates a combination of scroll
work wood carvings, and toys. His work is intricate and fascinating.
With this year's deluge of rain in central Illinois, the muddy
fields demanded a reprieve from the rolling of the planters, and our
farmer husbands took a much needed rest. Although truly frustrated with
being unable to finish their task, a little extra good food and fun go a
long way to ease the tension. One of the husbands even managed to haul
a tractor to the show and taste each and every item available.
With the tractor and trailer back home, and the last take home
sample of chicken noodle soup devoured by a daughter that couldn't
attend, the festival has come to an end. However for us, the Strawberry
Festival's end just signals that summer has begun.
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