February 26, 2020 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

See the stars this weekend

This weekend take the family to see the stars.


On June 1 from 6 p.m. to midnight the Champaign County Forest Preserve will host a Dark Sky Park Celebration at the Activity Center at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve.


At 6 p.m. there will be welcoming remarks, a “Dark Sky Places” presentation and a new sign dedication.


At 7 p.m. there will be crafts and hands-on activities.


A Starwatch Presentation by David Leake, Director of William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College will take place at 8:30 p.m. and night sky viewing will take place from 9 p.m. to midnight.


The Middle Fork River Forest Preserve is Illinois’ first and only international Dark Sky Park.


The designation is the result of a two-year effort between the Champaign County Forest Preserve and the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society.


“As the first International Dark-Sky Park in Illinois, Middle Fork River Forest Preserve’s protected dark-skies are truly a fantastic resource for Midwestern stargazers,” said IDA International Dark Sky Places Program Manager Adam Dalton. “Located immediately adjacent to the Champaign-Urbana metro area and only two hours from Chicago, the park’s dark-skies allow urban and rural residents alike to experience the wonders of the cosmos in a setting close to home.”

Middle Fork River Forest Preserve is a 688-hectare site in eastern Illinois, U.S., one of six public preserves owned and operated by the District. It protects a restored prairie rich in native wildflowers and grasses, and its landscape features a variety of habitats including upland oak forest, restored prairie and river bottom forest. Hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing are popular activities in the Preserve. The Preserve is also a dark nighttime refuge for wildlife in the midst of significant skyglow from nearby cities such as Urbana, Champaign and Rantoul.


“We could not be more grateful to the International Dark-Sky Association and the C-U Astronomical Society for their work in protecting one of our greatest natural assets – the star-filled night sky. Located in the darkest corner of our county, Middle Fork fit all the criteria for Dark Sky Park status. We now have the opportunity for everyone to recognize it too,” stated Mary Ellen Wuellner, Executive Director of the Forest Preserve District.


In 2016-17, the District spent over $20,000 to upgrade the Preserve’s outdoor lighting to meet IDA recommendations, and new interpretive programs educate the public about the benefits of nighttime darkness and interpret the lighting retrofit project to Preserve visitors. The new programs also provide an opportunity to showcase the new dark-sky-compliant light fixtures installed at Middle Fork and offer suggestions to the public on how to limit excessive nighttime light in their home environments.

The importance and benefits of darkness and a star-filled sky now play a role in all of the Preserve’s nighttime programs.


“Our funding partners – the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois – and many private donors made it possible for us to switch out all the exterior lighting at Middle Fork to fully-shielded, dark sky-compliant fixtures. This really was a team effort,” Wuellner explained.

Other weekend events for the family:

June 1
9 a.m.
Sports Complex

Abby and Phillip McDonald are hosting a fundraiser/softball tournament with some of the St. Joseph Summer Softball Recreational teams at the sports complex.


Proceeds benefit the Short Family as Amy Short continue her battle with brain cancer.


Games will start at 9 a.m. and pork chop meals will start being served at 11 a.m. For $6 you can get a sandwich, chips, and a drink. We will have t-shirts, koozies, a silent auction, 50/50 raffles and several other ways that you can support this family.

June 1 and 2
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Jade Fortress Martial Arts Academy
503 S. Dunlap, Savoy

Come “Kick It” with Jade Fortress for the School’s Out Summer Party. Free Gong fu class for the whole week from May 26th-June 1st.

Special KungFu Kids class on party days. In addition to class spend time playing in the bounce house or join the water balloon super soaker war. ALL FOR FREE The celebration will be both Saturday & Sunday from 9-3pm.

Weekend Party Times:
Free class: 9-10 a.m.
Bounce House: 9-3 p.m.
Lunch: 11-12 p.m.
Water WAR 12-3 p.m.

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