June 30, 2007. The good Lord smiled upon us once again, as any worries or anxieties over potentially rainy weather proved to be ill-founded. We were in for another gorgeous summer evening in Peoria.

After spending some time with Peoria firefighters and a worker on his vending route, the rest of the evening was devoted to leisure and recreation—it was a Saturday evening, a weekend, after all.

We took in a wide cross-section of area activities—from the races at the Peoria Speedway to drama at Corn Stock Theatre—and caught a beautiful sunset over the Illinois River at the IVY Club before ending the evening at two locations along the Peoria riverfront.

And that closes the book on our 24 Hours in Peoria series. We hope that you enjoyed it and caught a glimpse of life in our quintessential Midwestern town that you don’t see everyday. If you missed a segment, you can check out part one and part two in the May/June and July/August issues of art & society.

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Peoria Fire Department

We made our first stop at the Department’s “central house” on NE Monroe Street, their biggest and busiest station. The guys had seen some action earlier that morning, when a stolen pickup truck struck a van and sent it crashing into two houses in the 500 block of Morton Street. When we got there, dinner preparations were in full swing—about 10 men were eating this evening. Above all, we were most struck by the unmistakable spirit of camaraderie among them—they take care of each other, and they take their responsibilities very seriously.

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HOI Vending & Amusements

Shortly after 5:00, we caught up with Matt Wright of HOI Vending & Amusements, who was making one in a series of routine stops on his vending route. At the Ramada, HOI maintains 20 videogames and pool tables, 10 soda machines, seven snack machines, a coffee machine, an ATM and a bill changer, and Wright knows the quirks of each one inside and out. In less than 15 minutes, he fixed three broken machines and filled up a number of others, letting us in on a few trade secrets while he was at it.

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Peoria Speedway

Celebrating 60 years of stock car racing in 2007, the Peoria Speedway on Farmington Road was our next stop. Every Saturday night from April to October, the Speedway hosts races on its quarter-mile, high-banked dirt oval. Tonight were the Pepsi Mid-Season Championships, featuring NASCAR Late Model, NASCAR Modified, Sportsman, Street Stock and Hornets classes. We arrived a little before six o’clock, as the maintenance crew was “packing the track” for the evening’s races.

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Corn Stock Theatre

Though only a mile-and-a-half away, the green tent in upper Bradley Park, better known as Corn Stock Theatre, might as well be worlds away from the roar of the racetrack. More than anything, the peaceful serenity pulls you in—it’s difficult to imagine a more ideal location for a theatre-in-the-round. Tonight marked the last evening of the second show of the 2007 summer season, The Nerd, a Larry Shue comedy directed by Lisa Stout. The final night of a show is bittersweet, as the cast and crew bid an emotional farewell to the current show, leaving a written message for those working the next production

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The IVY Club

Across town, the festivities were just getting underway at The Illinois Valley Yacht & Canoe Club, more commonly known as The IVY Club. Founded in 1907, the Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, tonight with a Hawaiian-style luau. We arrived to a warm welcome, just as the colorfully clad club members were finishing their dinners. Outside on the deck, the band played hit after summer hit, even honoring my request for a Buddy Holly tune! As the sun set over the Illinois River, painting the sky a transcendent pinkorange hue, we longed for more time to take it all in…but instead, we were off to our next stop.

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Wee Tee Golf Center

Tucked cozily away in a neighborhood setting just north of Glen and east of War Memorial, Wee Tee Golf Center has been an area favorite for years. It is best known for its two beautifully landscaped, 18-hole miniature golf courses, one of which was closed on this evening due to renovation work. If mini-golf isn’t your thing, polish your hitting stroke in the nearby batting cages, or buy a bucket of balls and shoot for the moon on the Center’s expansive driving range. Whether you’re looking for a distinctive place to take the kids on a weekend or a unique spot for a date, you’ll be in for a fun-filled evening of leisure.

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CEFCU Center Stage at The Landing

Where better to wind down our 24 hours in Peoria than on the riverfront? With all of the improvements made in recent years, it’s really a treat to spend a summer evening down here. Nestled right up against the river, the CEFCU Center Stage is one of the best places in town to watch a band. Tonight we were treated to the sounds and antics of the Champaign-based Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets, whose wacky stage show and repertoire of classic ’50s and ’60s numbers had the crowd fired up and dancing the night away.

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Martini’s on Water Street

Located in the historic railroad depot known as the River Station, Martini’s offers an extensive selection of its signature drink—more than 100 martinis from which to choose—to go with live entertainment six days a week and a fabulous beer garden. Classy and elegant, it’s a favorite spot for the area’s young professionals to let their hair down, and tonight, the place was absolutely jam-packed, inside and out. It was the perfect place to end the evening and our tour of the city.

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