Illinois went big on screenings for “Travels with Darley’s” two Illinois episodes by holding three screenings in early April. Locals and travelers alike turned out from as close to home as Joliet and as far away as Canada and Scotland to attend the special preview events, two of which I was able to attend.
Here are some highlights of the events and a behind the scenes look in case you missed them.
Wilmington, Illinois at the historic Mar Theatre on April 1st
Over 100 people attended the special Wilmington, Illinois screening and Q&A on April 1st, kicking off the preview event series. The event was organized by Veronica Hinke from Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other locals helped out to showcase both episodes on the big screen.
The original stage, ceiling, lobby and ticket booth remain intact at this 1937 movie theater just off of Route 66. Midewin Archaeologist Joe Wheeler moderated a lively stand-up Q&A panel featuring locals involved in the production.
Ottawa, Illinois at the Roxy Theater on April 9th
Organized by Curt Bedei and the Ottawa Convention & Visitors Bureau and Heritage Corridor CVB, the second screening took place in downtown Ottawa at the Roxy Theater with both episodes on the big screen.
Our Q&A session had a special guest, who is featured in the Ottawa episode, Mayor Robert Eschbach, who grew up in Ottawa and bikes through the city to showcase some of the top eats and architecture. Robert Navarro of the Heritage Corridor CVB narrated the panel, which focused on many production logistics, ranging from how we got to Ottawa to how we filmed canoeing along the Illinois River. It wasn’t easy!
Curt Bedei talked further about upcoming events in the Ottawa area, of which there are many! Once the screening was over, I went over with fellow film participants and organizers to have a local craft beer at The Lone Buffalo, which is featured in the episode.
Joliet, Illinois at the Joliet Area Historical Museum on April 11th
We were able to film in Joliet, too, for our “Illinois Route 66 & Midewin” episode, including at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Guests descended upon this Route 66 stop to experience our episodes amid the lively, 1950s rock-themed décor. Route 66 beverages added to the fun vibes in the museum’s beautifully refurbished auditorium. Even the Mayor Bob O’Dekirk of Joliet made an appearance and Mary Mitsos, National Forest Foundation Executive Vice President, flew in for the event from Montana.
Following the screening, Greg Peerbolte, Executive Director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, moderated a panel with many of us who were involved in the production. While the volunteer coordinator from The Nature Conservancy talked about volunteer opportunities at Midewin, including one featured in our episode, Midewin ecologist Bill Glass recited from Eliza Steele’s journal about the once great majesty of the Illinois Prairie and what Midewin and volunteers are doing to bring that back.
Wade Spang, Midewin Prairie Supervisor, also helped explain how bison are assisting in that effort, and even Andrea Pletzke of the Will County Trail Riders and DebyJo Ericksen of the Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor helped the audience find out how they can enjoy Midewin. Lynne Lichtenauer, Former Executive Director of the Rialto Square Theatre and member of the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation Board of Directors, talked about her beautiful and significant historic theatre. I was there to answer some of those behind the scenes questions about filming along Route 66 and how were able to film those bison!
Visit to WYCC, Chicago PBS
While attending these cool events, I also had the opportunity to tour WYCC, Chicago PBS. This PBS station has our series in primetime on Wednesday nights at 8:30pm and also has amazing production facilities in Chicago. Thanks to all I met on my tour and for supporting Travels with Darley!
These episodes broadcast on WYCC PBS Chicago on May 3rd with “Illinois Route 66 & Midewin” and May 10th with “Illinois Ottawa & Beyond” and nationwide through Create TV on Thursday May 25th at 11pm ET/ 8pm PT and Tuesday, May 30th at 11pm ET/ 8pm PT.