After publishing the last Culture roundup in April 2020, I decided to give this little column a rest for a while. It looked like our “culture” was going to be happening out in nature or from our living rooms for the foreseeable future, so it seemed a bit futile to continue. But now? It’s August 2021! We have a widely available vaccine that is safe and effective! Things have opened up! I was hoping to just offer up a freewheeling rundown of ways to get out and experience C-U and beyond but alas, because we can’t seem to manage to get this pandemic thing right, even now, there’s going to be a little less free in the wheeling. So. If you are fully vaccinated, hooray! Thank you for doing your part. If you aren’t, and you are an adult who is medically able to get one, please go get one now, before you even consider doing any of the things that I am suggesting. You can actually just walk into C-U Public Health District, or Walgreens, or CVS and get one for free. Like right now. Find out more here.

The rest of you, let’s get out and enjoy this last month of summer!


A man is playing a guitar, surrounded by other band members and equipment on a street. There is a woman kneeling in the foreground taking a photo. Photo by Julie McClure.Photo by Julie McClure.

Listen to music outside

One of the best things to do in the summer in this town is listen to talented musicians in various local settings: parks, beer gardens, and even in the middle of the street.

Friday Night Live 

I love this recurring event, and I am so glad that it’s back after a pandemic pause. Though I do like to pay attention to the bands playing at each location, my spouse and I tend to follow a similar trajectory on FNL evenings. We start at Pour Bros., where we can grab a beer from the wall then wander into the alley, grab a spot on the curb, and listen as the tunes waft through the air. Then, it’s over to Neil and Park to find a spot on a patio to grab another drink and something to eat. Right there you have the juxtaposition of the Hamilton Walker’s, Cowboy Monkey, and Nando patios, or you can head a little further north and find a spot at Guido’s, Watson’s, or Punch. It really is the best. Follow FNL on Facebook to see who is performing each week. 

Urbana Downtown Get Down

This Downtown Urbana focused venue-based event is back on the 4th Saturday of the month. Details for August are not up yet, but you can see the rundown from July and get an idea of what to expect. 

A little park music

Grab a blanket, maybe some refreshments, and try a concert in the park. There are multiple events this month at Allerton Park and Hessel Park. Tonight at Allerton you can catch some Cajun/creole from Dennis Stroughmatt and L’Esprit Creole and have some food from the Greenhouse Cafe or Just Bee Acai. They will also have a cash bar. Maybe head out a little early to stroll through the gardens or go on a hike. See the full list of concert dates here. This Sunday at Hessel Park, Belle Isle and Modern Drugs will be performing, and there are more Sunday concerts ahead

And of course, you can find live music in beer gardens and patios throughout C-U every week. The Overture is back, and it’s a great way to keep track of what’s happening when. 

A close up of a teal colored bike with a basket. It is sitting in the grass along a sidewalk on the Quad. Foellinger Auditorium is in the background. Photo by Julie McClure.Photo by Julie McClure.

Sneak in some Campustown time

A whole bunch of students will be back by the end of this month, so take advantage of the quiet while you can. I’m a fan of a picnic and activities on the Quad, but if you are looking for something a little more structured, I’ve got you covered. 

13 Thursdays

This annual Champaign Center Partnership promotion is a great way to broaden your Campustown horizons, and you have two more Thursdays to try it out. Set up your Campustown passport and hit up the businesses on the list. Each of them will have deals, and the more you frequent the more chances you have to win fabulous prizes. It seems like a fantastic challenge to undertake in these last couple of weeks, especially if it gives you an excuse to go to Paris Super Crepes.

Steam Tunnels

Take this “Marauder’s Map” and see if you can find the secret steam tunnels. 

Just kidding, I didn’t tell you to do that.

Take a Campus BFL tour

A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine is one of Smile Politely’s most revered columns. Writer Tom Ackerman has done a few U of I campus related installments. Why not take a little tour of the buildings and experiences that he has shared? Check out BFL Back to School editions one, two, three, and four, or his offering dedicated to the Quad. I give you permission to not try out the bathrooms. But of course, if you’re feeling adventurous…

A field of sunflowers. In the foreground is a wooden sign with Photo by Julie McClure.

Go see some sunflowers

Last year, the Atkins Group planted a gigantic sunflower field in Stone Creek subdivision and literally every single person in Champaign County went to take photos there. What the heck else were we doing? This year, the field is on North Mattis at Clearview Farms. Sure, everyone is doing it. But sunflowers are beautiful and they spark joy and don’t we all need more of that?

If you crave more sunflowers, and are willing to take a little drive, check out L&A Family Farms in Paris. They also have a little farm store, and you can treat yourself to a corn dog and lemon shakeup. 

Just make sure to get this activity in soon, as peak sunflower time doesn't last very long.

*****

Okay friends. Go out and squeeze the last bits out of summer. Be safe and get vaccinated.

Top photo by Julie McClure.