Although there are several theories regarding the origin of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, its roots can be traced back to the ancient Celts of Ireland and Northern England. The Celtic New Year begins on November 1st and the festival of Samhain (pronounced “sow-win”) is celebrated on October 31st to mark the end of harvest and the beginning of winter.
A Depression-era tradition in Bloomington was the annual Halloween Mardi Gras parade and street dance. Seen here from the parade of October 31, 1938, is Little Bo Peep played by Joe Raycraft.
The Kickapoo Creek Rock Festival was held outside of the McLean County community of Heyworth on L. David Lewis’ 320-acre farm over Memorial Day weekend 1970. Seen here are two aerials during the festival’s second day, May 31. The festival drew something like 60,000 young folk.
The Illinois State University homecoming parade has passed through Uptown Normal since the 1920s. Pictured here from the 1958 parade are members of the visiting Northern Illinois University marching band heading east on North Street. In the football game later that afternoon, the #Redbirds dispatched the NIU Huskies 33-18. Illinois Wesleyan University also held its homecoming on this day.
Back in the spring of 1957, Bloomington teenagers Nancy Defenbaugh and her older brother Jim were vacationing in Memphis, TN, with their family. Nancy and Jim kept pestering their parents Ted and Thelma to take them to Elvis Presley’s new residence, and their perseverance paid off. They visited what would be later known as Graceland (then outside Memphis city limits) and Elvis emerged from his house, got on a lawn tractor, and proceeded to motor on over and say hello.
There aren’t too many known photographs of the Esquire Theatre, 108 N. Madison St., Bloomington. This one was taken by longtime Bloomington-Normal projectionist Karl Blakney, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 91. Karl was also an accomplished amateur photographer, and the Museum Archives holds a collection of his photographs.
Fifty-seven years ago, Saturday, October 25, 1958, Wesleyan easily dispatched visiting Elmhurst College 47-7 in the homecoming football game. Seen here are two photographs from the 1958 homecoming parade in downtown Bloomington, held the morning of the Elmhurst game.
It was arguably the single largest event ever staged in McLean County history. Despite the cancellation of the first day due to muddy field conditions, the 1994 Farm Progress Show attracted an estimated 150,000 folks to the G.J. Mecherle Trust Farm off Illinois Route 9 several miles east of Bloomington.