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Friday, 18 August 2017 00:00

South Beloit turns 100

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One of the displays of South Beloit's rich history at the Bushnell-Wheeler House & Museum focuses on the history of the local police and fire departments. Also included is an early city clerk’s desk, left. One of the displays of South Beloit's rich history at the Bushnell-Wheeler House & Museum focuses on the history of the local police and fire departments. Also included is an early city clerk’s desk, left. Terry Mayer/staff

STATELINE NEWS--The city of South Beloit is having a birthday party, and everyone is invited.

A centennial celebration will be held Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 24 through Aug. 27. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday with a kick-off ceremony, followed by a future football program scrimmage, flag football alumni game and park dedication at South Beloit City Park.

“They’re going to kick off the centennial and dedicate the field and the park,” John Patrick of the South Beloit Historical Society said. “(The park) has never had a name other than South Beloit City Park, but we’re going to put up a dedication sign.”


Activities for Friday include a softball tournament, open house at the South Beloit Public Library and a time capsule ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at South Beloit High School. The time capsule ceremony will be followed by South Beloit’s football game against Midland High School, followed by fireworks.

A centennial celebration would not be complete without a parade, which is being hosted by the South Beloit Businessman’s Association and South Beloit Lions Club. It begins at 10 a.m. Saturday on Gardner Street, continues to Blackhawk Boulevard and concludes at the park. Bleachers will be installed along Blackhawk Boulevard to serve as a seating area for spectators.

The parade will feature military units, marching bands, motorcycle groups, entertainment acts and floats decorated by local businesses and organizations.

“(The parade), more or less, is to help promote the businesses and how long they have been in South Beloit,” said Jerry Miller, member of the South Beloit Businessman’s Association and Lions club. “We have people coming from as far as Chicago and Minnesota to participate in the parade. We will have unicycles and old-fashioned bicycles. The main goal is for families to come out and have a good time. We’re going to have a lot of acts.”

Floats will be judged with cash prizes being awarded to the top three teams. The winning teams will then have an opportunity to donate their prize money to a nonprofit business or organization of their choice. Nonprofit groups also can create a float, with the top three teams receiving $300 each.

The deadline to register is 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21. For more information, contact Miller at 815-978-5548 or Tim McMahon at 608-289-2123.

“We’re giving away prize money for businesses and organizations to create a float,” Miller said. “We want to help local churches, schools and organizations by giving them some prize money. We encourage people to come out and make a float. We have three judges; they’re high-ranking members of the community. They’ve been involved for many years, so they’re flattered to do it.”

Several activities will be held at the Nature at the Confluence on Saturday, including a paddle trip, guided tours of the learning center and community cleanup to remove invasive plant species.

The South Beloit Fireman’s Club will host a corn boil and street dance from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at City Park. The corn boil will feature live music, food vendors, children’s activities, flea market, raffle drawings and fireworks display.

“We’ve been told that it’s probably going to be the biggest fireworks display we’ve had around here, so it’s going to be a good one,” Patrick said.

The festivities conclude on Sunday with a community worship service at The Confluence, community brunch at South Beloit Businessmen’s Hall, 525 Washington St., and open houses at the South Beloit fire and police departments.

The historical society will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bushnell-Wheeler Home & Museum, 542 Wheeler St., which will include tours of the home and museum, antique vehicles, craft show and quilts. The Beloit Memorial jazz band will perform from noon to 3 p.m.

“Most of the history of the town is in this building,” Patrick said. “Especially if people don’t know a lot about the town, it would be a good time to come and learn about the history. Since it’s our 100th birthday, you can get a free piece of cake.”

Patrick said local groups have been planning the centennial celebration for about a year.

“It’s evolved. We’ve asked, ‘why can’t we do this or why can’t we do that?’” Patrick said. “The firemen have the corn boil this time of year anyway. Obviously, you have to have a parade. People in the schools wanted to be a part of it, and that’s a big part of the town. Anybody who had anything they wanted to add, we took it on.”

Patrick said the centennial also gives people an opportunity to learn more about the community’s history.

“It’s like if you had a nice house or a nice yard or some talented kid you wanted to show off, it gives us a chance to show off the town,” Patrick said. “It’s a nice town.”

Several types of merchandise are being sold to honor South Beloit’s 100th anniversary, including bumper stickers, hats, T-shirts and hoodies. Patrick and fellow society member Diana Lukich wrote a book about South Beloit’s history. Items can be purchased at city hall, Bushnell-Wheeler Home and the library.

Patrick, 76, has lived in South Beloit his entire life. He said he still remembers the city’s 50th anniversary.

“Back then, people grew beards and dressed up in old costumes. That was big back then,” Patrick said. “The ladies got dressed up in old gowns. We’re not doing that. This is a different era.”

Patrick said he has noticed several changes in the city over the years, including more business, industry and more modern school buildings.

“(South Beloit) has kind of been reborn,” Patrick said. “It all coincided with the new high school when it was completed in 2002. The week that happened, the football team won the state tournament. So, it really woke the town up.

“There’s still some old industry, but there’s not the big factories like there used to be. The city is trying to promote business and give the town a better image.”

Patrick said the Bushnell-Wheeler Home & Museum has helped to promote the history of South Beloit.

“Until we opened (the Bushnell-Wheeler House) in 1992, there was no historical society, there was no museum,” Patrick said. “It’s amazing, in 25 years, what we’ve accumulated. People come through this house, and they say, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of history in this town.’ When a town doesn’t have a historical society, then there’s no history because there’s nothing for people to look at. I think this house and this museum have aroused a lot of interest. It was good timing that we had this here for a few years before (the 100-year anniversary) came along or else we would’ve had to cover a lot more ground in a shorter period of time.”

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Centennial highlights

• Thursday, Aug. 24: 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., opening celebration at City Park

7 p.m., football field dedication and flag football alumni game at City Park

•Friday, Aug. 25: Softball tournament at City Park

9 a.m. to 5 p.m., South Beloit Public Library open house

6:30 p.m., time capsule ceremony at South Beloit High School

7 p.m., South Beloit High School football game with fireworks at high school

• Saturday, Aug. 26: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., paddle trip at The Confluence

9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Guided tours at The Confluence

10 a.m., centennial parade begins on Gardner Street, then to Blackhawk Boulevard and ends at City Park

11 a.m. to 11 p.m., corn boil and street dance at City Park

8:30 p.m., Fireworks show at City Park

• Sunday, Aug. 27: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., worship service at The Confluence

10 a.m. to 2 p.m., community brunch at South Beloit Businessman’s Hall, 525 Washington St.

11 a.m., Bushnell-Wheeler House & Museum open house and car show

2 p.m. to 4 p.m., South Beloit fire and police department open houses



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