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A community driven journalism project where listeners get to ask the big questions: who, what, when, where and why. Under Rocks host(s) will attempt to get to the bottom of these unexplored oddities, neglected anomalies, and little-known place-makers of our region.

America's Back! From Bed To Outhouse To Band Shell | Under Rocks Podcast

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Claire Buchanan
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Remember July 4, 2020?

Me neither.

But it’s 2021, the sun is shining, and America is ready to make some memories. You can count on your Under Rocks crew to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of the most unusual Independence Day celebrations our region has to offer.

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Durand Fourth of July Festival Facebook page
Durand, 2019

Dan Libman had long heard rumors about how the Village of Durand celebrates The Fourth…and he was shocked. Shocked! Yes, he can now confirm Durand is the Home of the Outhouse Races. Oh, they do the all the traditional holiday stuff as well – fireworks, a patriotic concert, an antique tractor pull – but thanks to “pusher” Andrew McCartney for confirming that Outhouse Racing is a real sport. Dan wants to be on his team.

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https://www.facebook.com/LetFreedomRing0704
Mt. Morris bed racers, 2019

If Outhouse Racing is too much of a strain, Claire Buchanan would like to suggest a more relaxing competition about 40 minutes south of Durand: Mt. Morris’ annual 4th of July bed races. Well, one person gets to relax while the rest of the team grabs a bedpost and surges for the finish line. Larry Ubben tells Claire that’s not the only excitement in town. It’s all part of the Let Freedom Ring Festival, a tradition for nearly 60 years with roots reaching back to the city’s founding in 1848.

bandshell
Susan Stephens
Kirk Lundbeck directs the DeKalb Municipal Band, as seen from behind the band shell.

And if you’re looking for a straight-up traditional Fourth of July celebration this year, feast your eyes and ears on DeKalb. That’s where the Municipal Band has been putting on a show for the last 167 years. Conductor Kirk Lundbeck lets Susan Stephens in on the secret of why the Star-Spangled Banner is always the last song in the set.

Andrew Benisek
Susan Stephens
Andrew Benisek, his baton, and the statue of Dee Palmer at Hopkins Park, DeKalb

Is your town planning a fun Fourth? Tell us about it at rocks@niu.edu. That’s where you are always invited to share your ideas for future episodes of Under Rocks. While you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe to the Under Rocks podcast.

Under Rocks is produced by WNIJ at Northern Illinois University.