1. You’ve been asked if you’re from Chicago or Illinois.
The most common line of them all: “Oh, you’re from Illinois? What part of Chicago are you from?” Well, for us downstate folks, this perception is about as accurate as 3 + 3 = 7. Believe it or not, there IS more to Illinois than Chicago. 80% of the state’s total land area is encompassed by farmland. Covering 28 million acres, more than 76,000 farms cover the state, pumping 9 billion dollars into the economy every year.
2. You’ve been to a barn crawl.
The American Cancer Society fundraising event is not only for a great cause, but it’s yet another great excuse to get your biggest and best drink on for the summer. Basically a redneck bar crawl, registration starts at the first barn of the night and attendees are safely transported from one barn to another via livestock trailers. At each barn you know there’ll be endless amounts of activities, drinking games, food, live music, and, of course, tanks full of beer.
3. Your family vacations mean Wisconsin Dells or Six Flags.
When you live in downstate Illinois, let’s be honest, options don’t run in abundance for family entertainment. Chances are, your family has visited one if not both these popular attractions. I’m sure you remember that first road trip to “The Waterpark Capital of the World.”
I’m also sure you remember the first time your heart skipped a beat while watching your kids freefall down the world’s tallest drop ride — Six Flags’ Drop of Doom. You’re also proud to be from Illinois when you’ve stood by the Metropolis 15-foot bronze statue of America’s Super Hero.
4. You get the ‘Farmer Wave’.
When passing through one small town to the next, you pay attention as you might be graciously welcomed by the ‘Farmer Wave’. This is where the right pointer finger comes up off the steering wheel — a polite gesture to welcome those passing by on the road. There are several other ways to be welcomed in a small town, such as pulling into Casey’s gas station or the local watering hole.
In small towns such as Roseville, you’re sure to meet a new friend at Homer’s House over a beer…or two…or three. Just tell them Mandy sent you. Hoopeston is a one-of-a-kind rural community so proud of their agricultural heritage that they decided to name their high school mascot Cornjerkers (the name for the harvesting process before modern machinery changed everything). Now that is what you call farming dedication.
Another small town not to bypass is Pittsfield, recently named one of the top 5 hunting towns in America. Grab a brew at Lindsay’s Tavern and then head across the street to Old Boys Pizza, where you’ll find central Illinois hospitality at its finest.
5. You’re used to traffic jams being created by tractors and combines.
We’ve all been late to work or stuck behind a 13’ tall, 15’ wide, 35,000 combine for miles, causing backups and frustration. For those of us who live around Illinois Route 116, US Route 34, or IL Route 1 — you know the feeling. You know he wants to avoid these highways during the harvest months of September and October. Look out, because this is the most stressful time of year for farmers — they only have a couple months to get their fields picked before the season ends or the next cold snap comes through. Imagine only having two months out of the whole year to rely on for your entire income.
6. You cringe at people who pronounce the ‘s’ in Illinois.
The word origin derives from the modern spelling for the early French Catholic missionaries and explorers’ name for the Illinois Native Americans. It had several different names prior to the 1670s — the French just couldn’t figure out which way they wanted to spell it, so here we are today still dealing with this common misconception in pronunciation.
7. Weather is always a topic of conversation.
Every morning the rooster crows, the cows need fed, horse stalls need cleaned…the list goes on and on for the farmers of Illinois. First things first though — many farmers beat the sunrise and head down to the local coffee shop, such as Cindy Lou’s Café, to discuss how the weather is going to affect their crops.
Farmer Bill: Mornin’ Dave
Farmer Dave: Mornin’…did you see the radar is calling for 5 inches of rain next week?
Farmer Bill: Oh hell yes, I can’t decide what to do, if I should plant before the storm comes through or after. If it does rain 5 inches, it’ll be several days before we get out of the field…and you know how I feel about that.
Farmer Dave: Not sure what to tell ya…that’s your call.
Farmer Bill: If I plant before the storm and we do get that much rain, it could seal the ground over and my crop won’t come up anyway. And if I don’t plant, it’ll be too muddy and I won’t be able to get out in the field for the next week or so.
Farmer Dave: I dunno…that’s a tough call.
Farmer Bill: Thanks for the help asshole, that’s why I get the big bucks.
This is a real conversation from real farmers that reside in Roseville. It is actually quite amazing to hear how long people from Illinois can talk about the weather, and that’s just the beginning. I myself find the weather is one of my top conversation starters. After all, in Illinois the weather is unpredictable. It could be a high of 70 degrees with the sun shining bright in the morning, but 30 degrees by late afternoon. Since 80% of Illinois is farmland, the weather can have a huge impact on the profitability of the land.
8. 4 out of your last 7 governors have been in prison.
Yup, this statistic may well speak volumes about our political system. As you can imagine, politics are a sore subject for anyone living in Illinois.
Rod Blagojevich: Governor from 2002 through 2009 — the first Illinois governor in history to be impeached. Convicted of numerous corruption charges in 2011, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
George Ryan: Governor from 1999 through 2003 — after leaving office, was convicted of racketeering for actions as governor and secretary of state. In November 2007, began serving a 6.5-year sentence in federal prison.
Dan Walker: Governor from 1973-1977 — in 1987, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and other charges related to his business activities after leaving office. Spent about a year and a half in federal prison.
Otto Kerner: Governor from 1961-1968 — resigned to become judge, then was convicted of bribery related to his tenure as governor. Sentenced to three years in prison.
9. You still call it the Sears Tower, not Willis Tower.
In July of 2009, Willis Group Holdings, a London-based insurance company, thought it would be a great idea to buy out naming rights to Chicago Sears Tower. Shortly after, they realized how much this iconic name meant to the Windy City. To this day, we’re still not happy about the name change, and we still call it the Sears Tower.
10. You leave your car and house unlocked most of the time.
We are very trusting, I must say. People in small towns, such as the one I live in, couldn’t care less whether the doors are locked or unlocked. It’s not like anything is going to happen anyway. Your neighbors are peeping out their windows and keeping a close watch at all times of the day.
11. You look forward to seeing the Butter Cow and having Dippin’ Dots at the state fair.
The butter cow takes two days to hand sculpt for the annual Illinois State Fair. And how can you not be in awe of 500 lbs of salted butter? Pair the experience with a large cup of Dippin’ Dots ice cream, and you’ve got it made.