Drinkin' with Lincoln Ep. 2: "Freeport Lincoln Looms Large" (March 5, 2019)
In this episode, we visit with Lincoln presenter George Buss in his hometown of Freeport, Illinois. George has been portraying Lincoln for more than 30 years and proudly serves as the official Lincoln of Gettysburg. George loves Freeport because it's a town steeped in Lincoln history. It was here, on August 27th, 1858, that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas held the second of their seven debates. This debate is infamous for Douglas's introduction of the Freeport Doctrine, which helped him defeat Lincoln in that race, but propelled Lincoln to the presidency just two years later. We also talk to Nicole Bauer, president of Freeport's Lincoln-Douglas Society, who discusses the debate's 150th anniversary celebration in 2008 and its impact on Freeport.
Then it's off to Lena Brewing Company, where George and I sip some delicious beer and discuss what led him to become Lincoln. We go over his travels, the research involved, and what he loves most about portraying the 16th president.
As a bonus, we also talked with members of the Lena Brewing team: President Ross Vehmeier, Brewery Operations Manager Andy Lamm, and Tap Room Manager Jaime Heddinger. You can find those interviews, along with this episode's show notes, at WNIJ.org/topic/drinkin-lincoln.
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U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger is working on a bill that would expand the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area to portions of the WNIJ listening area.
One of these areas is Freeport. It's well-known as the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, with a statuary park and other exhibits commemorating the event.
Freeport Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Connie Sorn says it’s also where Douglas formed the Freeport Doctrine. This claimed that states could pass laws for or against slavery, regardless of Supreme Court decisions.
For our premiere episode, we are joined in DeKalb, Illinois, by full-time Lincoln presenter Kevin Wood. Kevin is also a running Lincoln. He runs races. In his Lincoln getup. Hat and all. And he is a multilingual Lincoln. He gives presentations in English and Spanish and translates Lincoln documents into French and German. He can recite the Gettysburg Address in all four languages.
For our third episode, we head down to Charleston, Illinois, a city bursting with Lincoln history, where we meet up with Joe Woodard, a veteran Lincoln presenter who also happens to be beardless. A beardless Lincoln? How is that possible? But Lincoln didn't grow his beard until the 1860 election, so anyone portraying Lincoln's career as a prairie lawyer in Illinois should, for authenticity's sake, be clean shaven. Woodard's tonsured chops have defined his Lincoln career, giving him opportunities not available to his bewhiskered colleagues.
For our Season One finale, we celebrate the unveiling of a new Abraham Lincoln statue in Naperville, Illinois. It is the world's only statue depicting young Lincoln laughing.* And it wouldn't be a proper Lincoln statue unveiling without a proper Lincoln presenter: stage actor and 25-year Lincoln veteran Michael Krebs.
Naperville unveiled a statue in Central Park recently to commemorate multiple milestones: the 200th anniversary of Illinois, the 50th public art installation of the city’s Century Walk group, and the world’s first statue to depict a young Abraham Lincoln laughing.
According to Mary Lou Wehrli, “Laughing Lincoln” began as the vision of her father, Don Wehrli, a colorful local salesman, community organizer and city councilman who got his start selling jams and jellies at Disneyland.