One of our warmest summer memories on this job is that of the sun-dappled morning we spent seven late-Junes ago in Danvers, where a group of townsfolk gathered in the park pavilion to reminisce.
The reflective occasion: the 100th (or thereabouts) anniversary of the Danvers Town Band, Pantagraphland's longest running small-town (pop. 1,000-ish) community orchestra.
One of the orchestra's key eyewitnesses to that century club was then-86-year-old Leo Miller, who first took to the park's bandstand, clarinet in hand, at age 10.
Instrument still in hand 76 summers later, Leo and it were preparing to make sweet music together, just as they had every Sunday of every July of every decade since.
There was something distinctly and reassuringly Midwestern about the sight of the 86-year-old man occupying the same patch of hometown turf he had as a boy, preparing to do what the 10-year-old boy had done.
And, later, the young man ... the married man ... the family man ... the venerable man.
We're happy to report that the band plays on, inching its way well past the century marker to future points unknown.
Meaning: it's Danvers Town Band summer concert time again, a warm-weather rite whose exact date of origin has been lost to the mists of time beyond the one surviving photograph from the early days, dated 1905.
Courtesy of that photo, the claim in 2010 of carrying on "a 100-year-plus-tradition" was no idle boast.
Nor is the claim seven summers later of continuing a "110-year plus tradition."
That proud tradition returned to the park bandstand on Main Street (across from the fire station) last Sunday and is ready to keep the tradition going tonight, and every Sunday thereafter, through July 30.
(For the record, Leo Miller has retired from the band since that summer day in 2010, according to band president Andy Argo.)
Each concert starts promptly at 7 p.m., and is preceded at 5:30 p.m. by a VERY POPULAR (by unanimous consensus) ice cream social.
Oh, and if you'd like to join in on the musical fun in more than passive concertgoer fashion:
"The band welcomes players of all ages and ability levels from any community. Practices are held Monday nights in June and July, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Olympia North Elementary School in Danvers." Call Andy Argo at 309-265-5765 for more information.
The wright stuff: If you loved "Failure: A Love Story" in its puppetry-enhanced Illinois Shakespeare Festival rendering four summers ago, then you'll definitely want to meet the man who authored it: Chicago-based playwright Philip Dawkins.
We are being availed of that opportunity courtesy of Heartland Theatre Company's annual Mike Dobbins New Plays from the Heartland: 2017 Midwest One-Act Play Festival, which returns to the One Normal Plaza stage next weekend (July 13-16).
Dawkins kicks off the festival at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, leading the festival's annual open forum on the art of play-writing, with free admission.
Thereafter come the staged readings of the three winning plays, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
There are: "Golden Land" by John Adams, Richmond Heights, Mo.; "All Sewed Up" by Marty Siegel of Bloomington; and "Annabelle's Last Stand" by Todd Wineburner of Pontiac.
Tickets for the readings are $5.
Raising the Bard: If the Illinois Shakespeare Festival leaves you craving more, not less, Will power, then has ISU's Milner Library got an experience for you.
No, make that "Shakespearience," as the free event, at 2 p.m. July 16 on the library's sixth floor, has been christened.
Featured will be interactive talks, hands-on demonstrations, live Renaissance music and a look at some of Milner's rare related items, including books from Shakespeare’s time from the Special Collections.
Thou swell indeed.
Add a dash of love ... here: A recent subject of this column, B-N kitchen magician extraordinaire Willie Holton Halbert, will be signing copies of her new "Cooking with Love" next weekend.
She'll be at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Bloomington from noon to 2 p.m. July 15, pen (if not spoon) in hand.