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Earlville: 150 Years And Counting

This is an important year for the farming community of Earlville, Illinois.  Residents are preparing for the town’s Sesquicentennial. 

Think there's nothing to do in Earlville on a Friday night? Think again.

Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ
Route 34 Drive-in concession stand

Route 34 Drive-in owner Ron Magnoni Jr. runs his projector for a showing of the latest "Die Hard" flick.

He’s been the guy running the show for decades -- which always begins with "The Star-Spangled Banner" and cartoons. He worked here for several years before buying the theater in 1994.

Dan and Diane Nelson come out every weekend during the summer. They watch the double features in comfort

“Right now we are using a Honda Civic because the windshield is tall. We can put the seats into full flat recline and almost fall asleep watching it,” said Dan Nelson

He admits on a few occasions they have fallen asleep only to be woken by a bright flashlight and tap on the window.

Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Diane Nelson likes to grab a tenderloin sandwich at the concession stand. Dan likes to get aGreen River soda.

"It’s the atmosphere. It’s kind of like going back in time. " - Diane Nelson

Owner Ron Magnoni is pretty good at making old things seem new.  Equipment is expensive to replace, so keeping it as pristine as possible is a must.

Keeping Memories Alive

The Drive-in is just one place that Earlville residents point to when they describe what makes their town unique. It’s businesses like this that longtime residents like to see stay around since they have seen more than a few leave over the years. Earlville used to have a hemp plant during World War II.

A bank is letting local residents store historical items in a downtown space until someone leases it. The museum of sorts contains old dresses, sports uniforms, and farming equipment. Longtime Earlville physician O.H. Fischer was nearly seven feet tall. His cane was taller than most of his patients. It’s part of the display too. Dottie Cox helped organize the items.

Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ
LaVerle Carter poses with the cane of longtime Earlville physician O.H Fischer

“We don’t turn anything down. What one thing means to one person, might not mean anything to me. But it’s been especially wonderful to learn about people that I knew a long time ago," Cox said.

The 150th committee will have the headquarters open for viewing every Saturday from 9am to 3 pm and Sunday 11am to 2pm.

Always Come Home

Bruce and LaVerle Carter have been married for 67 years and never thought about living anywhere else. Earlville has a rich history, and fertile ground for farming. That’s why Bruce never felt the need to leave:

“As far as farming goes, it’s the garden spot of the world. We don’t get the storms or tornados and everything like they do in other places” -Bruce Carter, Earlville resident

LaVerle says the family’s roots go as deep.

“Our great-grandchildren go here to school, and we went here to school, and our parents went here to school, and our children went here to school,” LaVerle Carter said.

The Times: The Carters: Earlville Is Our Hometown And Special To Us

She says they like to travel, but home is Earlville. They remember fondly when the town celebrated its 100th and 125th years.

Changing Town

Rich Goodbred is another longtime resident and part of this year’s sesquicentennial planning committee.

“It’s harder now because a lot of the people are moving in. A lot of the old-time people, we don’t know the new people. If they tell us whose house they bought, we can locate it. We are starting to get a lot of people from the suburbs and that moving out here, which we are happy to have,” Goodbred said.

Even if Earlville is changing and the downtown isn’t as vibrant as it used to be, the memories sure seem to be. And Goodbred says there’s still a desire to keep them intact:

“It’s like putting a puzzle together. There’s all kinds of history, we just have to pursue it and find it.” -Rich Goodbred, Earlville resident

Sesquicentennial Events:

Thursday June 27th
3 0n 3 basketball tournament. Registration at 8:30am
5:30pm Opening Ceremonies
6:00 Pony Express and stagecoach arrive
6:30 Little Miss Earlville contest
Introduction of former Little Miss/Mister winners
6:00 to 8:00 Kids games and activities
7:00 to 8:30 Billie the Clown Magic show and face painting
8:00 to 10:00 Street dance with DJ for kids

Friday June 28th
Horse and Carriage rides
4 to 5 Bill Myers Storytelling
4 to 7 Youth Group Grilled Steak and Chicken dinner
5 to 8 Cruise Night
6 to 8 Magic by Cory
6:30 Introduction of former Miss Earlville winners
7:15 Singing by Terri Whittaker
8pm to 12am Street dance and Beer Garden featuring Abbynormal

Saturday June 29th
Quilt show at Library all day
Horse and Carriage rides
9 to 5 Flea Market and Craft Show at school
11am to 2pm Bouncy House, Laser Tag, and Video Truck
in park - Wristband Day for kids
11pm to 2pm Lions Club Pedal Pull
2pm Stacy Grey face painting
3pm to 4pm Bill Myers Story telling
4pm to 6pm Performance by Mary Beth Norton
10:30am to 12:30pm Youth Water Fights
12:00pm to 4:00pm Water Fights
4:30 to 7pm Lions Club Pork Chop Dinner
8:00 to 12:00 Street Dance and Beer Garden

Sunday June 30th
8am to 10am Breakfast at the Lutheran Church
10:30am Church Service in Park
Community Choir and White Horse Band to perform at
1:00 pm Parade
3:00pm Birthday Cake in Park
3pm Diane and Tom Haggert Music
2:00 to 4:00 Performance by "Pots and Pans Steel Drum Band"


Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
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