Another year is quickly coming to a close, and again we ask, “Where did the time go?” Soon, the crisp breeze of autumn will give way to the cold winds of winter… or will it? Last year’s winter was so mild, it felt like we hardly had one at all!

In any case, amidst the hubbub of our daily routines, it can be easy to overlook the familiar things that we hold dear—and that make central Illinois so unique. One of our duties is to remind you of such things, month in and month out.

For 34 years, Wildlife Prairie Park has warmed the hearts of children of all ages, including all three of my own. I have fond memories of riding the park train with my daughter for her birthday one year, as the conductor helped bring to life the characters in stories like The Little Engine That Could and Thomas the Tank Engine, making a memorable experience for both of us.

I don’t know who the conductor was that day, but I imagine he was not unlike Steve Lindstrom, the cheerful fellow waving from the cover of this issue. Having grown up wanting to be a train engineer, now he has gotten his chance. As a park volunteer, he relishes the opportunity to light up the children’s faces while steering them along this scenic loop of railroad track. And Lindstrom’s passion spills over into a small train museum at the depot, which he has generously stocked with items from his own collection.

Hobbies are best when you can share them with others, as Lindstrom has with his train memorabilia, and as the members of the River City Model Railroad Club do at their Pekin headquarters. “I became a model railroader when I was six and my dad gave me a Lionel train set,” recalls Don MacGregor, the club’s current president. Having passed the hobby on to his own son, Mark, both men have shared a lifelong bonding experience. Keep this in mind as you consider Christmas gifts for your little ones. You never know—your gift could inspire a passion that endures for a lifetime!

As you unpack your decorations and ornaments this year, don’t forget the less fortunate among us, and all the worthy organizations that can use your support. Whether you’re driving the train at Wildlife Prairie Park, ringing the bell for The Salvation Army, or collecting items for a food bank, these are the things that truly bring out the holiday spirit in all of us. a&s