Celebrate Spring

Above A courtyard in Maeystown decorated with spring blooms.

Below: The Corner George Bed and Breakfast Inn was originally constructed as a hotel and saloon in 1884. Joan Braswell photos

Before You Go
For additional information about Fruehlingsfest call the Corner George Inn at 1-800-458-6020 or visit the Web site www.maeystown.com.

The Web site for the Corner George Inn is www.cornergeorgeinn.com.

For a list of other activities and calendar of events in southwestern Illinois, call The Tourism Bureau of Southwestern Illinois at 1-800-442-1488 or visit the Web site www.thetourismbureau.org.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information about Missouri through the Reader Service Card online and click on reader resources.

B Y   J U L I E   F A I L L A   E A R H A R T
s April showers give way to May flowers, it’s time to revel in the warm breezes and see the beauty Mother Nature has hidden all winter. As nature’s vibrant palette awakens from dormancy, venture into southwestern Illinois and the historic village of Maeystown, 35 miles south of St. Louis, for Fruehlingsfest, an antique and garden show. Crossing the one-lane, arched limestone bridge is like entering a time tunnel that whirls you back to the 1800s.

Maeystown was established in 1852 by Jacob Maeys and settled by German immigrants. Today, the quaint village, nestled among the bluffs along the Mississippi River about eight miles southwest of Waterloo, has some 60 limestone, wood and brick structures that date to the 19th century.

The Fruehlingsfest, in its second year, will be held on Sunday, May 2, from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. The antique and garden show is the brainchild of part-time village residents John and Pam Rehling, who love country and primitive antiques.

“We have traveled all over in our quest for antiques,” John Rehling said. “In particular, we love outdoor shows, so decided to host our own.”

The 2004 show will feature more than 35 of the best dealers from Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and Missouri specializing in country, primitive and cottage antiques. The festival also will feature plant vendors whose forte is annual and perennial baskets and herbs of various types and styles. “There will also be garden-related antiques,” Rehling said.

In addition to the antiques, blossoms and herbs, there will be a Wine Garden near the spring-fed stream featuring wines from local wineries. Other highlights will include historic tours of the village’s restored structures, a variety of German food and a Duck Derby, which will begin promptly at 2 p.m. The Duck Derby will start at the stone bridge and will end at a spot near the Wine Garden and the 100-year-old Eschy’s Bar and Restaurant. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.

There is no admission fee to Fruehlingsfest, which will be held rain or shine.

Stay a while

Those who linger too long at the fair may want to spend the night at the restored Corner George Bed and Breakfast Inn, originally constructed as a hotel and saloon in 1884. The inn offers seven restored rooms, ranging from $79 to $159. It is located at Main and Mill, in the heart of the village and the festival’s activities. Besides the regular amenities, Corner George offers two special packages.

The German Experience package, which costs $133–$166, includes an overnight stay at the inn, a bottle of wine, a wine tasting and a German dinner for two. And the Dine and Roses Experience offers a room, a German dinner and fresh flowers.

Travelers will find many other fun places in southwestern Illinois. In nearby Waterloo, attractions include the Waterloo Winery, Schorr Lake Winery, a variety of antique shops and the Peterstown House, a 150-year-old house that was once used as a stagecoach stop.

Further north is Cahokia, where you can find the Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site, where the first U.S. court sessions and elections in Illinois were held, and the nearby Jarrot Mansion, one of the state’s first brick buildings. And don’t miss Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which preserves the remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico.

In nearby Belleville, wayfarers can find the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows just west of town. And in Belleville’s historic district, visitors can tour the 1830 Emma Kunz House Museum, a classic example of a German “street house,” and the Victorian House Museum, which was built in 1866 and features 19th-century furnishings.

Other attractions in the region include: the Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve; Fort de Chartres State Historic Site; Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site; the Popeye Statue in Chester; and the Pierre Menard State Historic Site. Bed and breakfast accommodations also can be found in Belleville, Cahokia, Prairie du Rocher, Red Bud and Waterloo.

Southwestern Illinois is rich with European traditions and historic attractions. When the flowers begin blooming, experience Maeystown and its neighboring communities to enjoy the heritage and springtime hues

Julie Failla Earhart is a contributor from the St. Louis area.

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