Smile Politely

Get your Culture here: Four experiences to have in June

There’s nothing like summer in the city — sorry, a little Hamilton reference there — or “cities” I should say. There’s an ebb and flow to the calendar year here in C-U that is heavily influenced by the presence of students, or lack thereof. Of course there are still classes going on during the summer, but in general our cities shrink a bit in population, and there’s an overall vibe shift that descends upon our community. It’s not necessarily something that I can put into a coherent description, it just feels different.

While we lose some (just some though…our campuses do not die during the summer) of the breadth of cultural opportunities that Parkland and U of I offer us during the regular academic year, there are multitudes of experiences to be had during the summer in C-U and beyond. Here are a few things to consider this month. 

Photo by Sam Logan

Celebrate Bonus Pride Month

C-U typically observes Pride during the month of September, rather than alongside nationwide celebrations in June, because it allows our twin cities to be at full student capacity (see above), therefore giving the LGBTQ+ communities and friends at U of I and Parkland the opportunity to participate. A bit of background: Pride is celebrated nationally in June in recognition of the Stonewall Riots, a several day protest which began June 28th, 1969. The riots are recognized as a pivotal moment in the gay liberation movement. If you’ve done your quick math, you’ll notice that this year is the 50th anniversary of the riots, so Pride celebrations have added meaning. The UP Center, C-U’s LGBTQ+ resource center, is taking this opportunity to add on to their well established September Pride events by launching some new June traditions, and I think this is an awesome idea. Why have just one Pride month? They’ve got three events on the calendar for June, all family-friendly.

Queering “UP” the Park: 1st Annual Pride Picnic
June 8th, 5 to 9 p.m., Hessel Park

Drag Queen Story Hour: Kitty Cat Edition
June 9th, 3 to 4 p.m., Urbana Free Library

Love Wins Crafting: DIY for Pride Month
June 13th, 7 to 8:30 p.m., Urbana Free Library

A note for us cishet folks desiring to be allies, as we celebrate Pride this month and beyond, keep in mind that while it’s super fun to don rainbow attire and party it up, Pride events are not about us. Yes, show up and support and cheer and celebrate with those in the LGBTQ+ community, but remember we are not the focus. Recognize all that our friends have endured, and know that while it’s great that we can go buy rainbow gear at Target now, they are still facing discrimination in various ways, and that the celebration is born out of struggle.

Photo from Staerkel Planetarium Facebook page

See the stars at Parkland with David Leake one last time

If you grew up in Champaign-Urbana, or even one of the towns surrounding, chances are you took a field trip to the Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College. And if you did, you encountered David Leake, director of the planetarium. He began his career there as a part-time employee in 1989, giving talks and leading regular shows in the dome. For 19 years now, he’s been the director, translating a hobby he was passionate about into a career. Now after 30 years of teaching community members from preschoolers to college students to adults, he’s decided to retire. So, if you want the opportunity to hear him translate the skies (at least in this setting) be sure to catch a show at Staerkel between now and June 21st, when he will do his last show. You can find the show listings here. Of course the wonderful programming will continue under the leadership of incoming director Erik Johnson, Associate Professor of Astronomy at Parkland. 

Photo from Illini Union Facebook page

Go back to college

I feel like it’s become a bit cliché to tell people they should “experience Campustown during the summer,” but I don’t really care, I’m going to keep saying it. I love going to Campustown in the summer. Champaign Center Partnership is encouraging you to experience it as well through their 13 Thursdays promotion. It’s a fun way to get yourself over there to see what there is to do and see and eat, and get some discounts along the way. Bonus fun: You get a “passport” you can get stamped along the way. It’s like living your best elementary school incentive life (it gives me all the Book-It feels). You can learn more about it here.

We are soccer people in my household, so I’m excited that the Illini Union will once again be hosting watch parties for the World Cup. There’s just something about watching sports on T.V.  (or livestream in this case) in a crowd of people who are all interested and invested. This summer it’s the women who are playing, and the U.S. National Team will be defending their title from four years ago, so it’s sure to be an exciting tournament. Plus there will be snacks! Games start this Friday, and you can find the full schedule here.

I think my favorite U of I campus place to be, however, is the Main Quad, and June is a great time to venture over there as we haven’t yet settled into the oppressiveness of July and August. I grew up just a stone’s throw from Illinois State University (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) and spent many a summer riding my bike through the criss-crossing pathways of their quad, and we’re set up well for that here too. The quad is also a great space for playing frisbee, tossing a ball, or just plopping down on a blanket to eat some froyo (Cocomero is right across the street) and read a book. You can even catch a movie, as the Union is doing their free outdoor summer movies every Thursday night at 9 p.m. Find the schedule here.

Photo from Jettie Rhodes Day Facebook page

Build community

Back in January, I spoke with Karen Simms, from the CU Trauma and Resiliency Initiative, about her quest to create a more interconnected community. She referenced the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying that her group was “Committing ourselves to (the idea of) I am my neighbor’s keeper, and I want my neighbor to be well and I see myself as a part of a larger family. It sounds idealistic, but that’s the community that we all want to live in.” Those same words inspired Jettie Rhodes, an Urbana resident, to start cooking up hot dogs in the park to encourage her neighbors to come out and greet each other. She has since passed, but Jettie Rhodes Day is in its 19th year, and now has the support of the Urbana Park District. It’s still a free, family friendly neighborhood event that encourages anyone in the community to come out and get to know their “neighbors” whether they live next door or across town. This year’s event takes place June 22nd at King Park in Urbana from 12 to 4 p.m. Can’t make that event? Here are a couple of other options:

Wear Orange: A family friendly cookout honoring those who have been victims and survivors of gun violence. 
June 8th, 2 to 5 p.m., Douglass Park

Juneteenth: Celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas and freeing the last enslaved people
June 15th, 12 to 3 p.m., Douglass Park


Of course, in this marvelous community of ours, this is by no means an exhaustive list. So please, keep an eye on the Splog and The Weekender to catch some great cultural opportunities as they arise!

Top photo by Julie McClure

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