Metro-East Living

After 125 years, village of Glen Carbon is ready to party

Students at Lahr-Well Christian Academy in Glen Carbon have been studying Mother Jones, the union organizer who stood barely 5 feet tall but had a big effect on history.

She was fighting for better pay and working conditions for coal miners in the late 1800s, when the coal-mining town of Glen Carbon was founded. The village is celebrating its 125th anniversary at this weekend’s homecoming.

Lahr-Well students recently took a field trip to the Mother Jones Museum in Mount Olive. Now they’re working on a Mother Jones-themed float to enter in the homecoming parade Saturday.

“It’s part of history that kids need to know about, especially in this area, being that coal mining was what got the area going,” said parent volunteer Shelly Marino, whose 11-year-old son, Moses Metheny, attends the school.

Child labor in coal mines was an issue in those days, so both children and adults will pose as strikers on the parade float, holding protest signs borrowed from the museum.

Another float is being built by the Slemer family, whose ancestors worked in local coal mines after immigrating from Czechoslovakia and Poland. They will recreate good times at the old Czech hall at Illinois 159 and Glen Crossing Road.

“It’s basically going to be a beer garden with a gentleman playing accordion, and we’re going to have some polka music,” said Steve Slemer, 57, a village board member.

The Glen Carbon Homecoming will take place from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday in Old Town, along Main Street and in Miners Park and the library parking lot.

Beefed-up activities will include live music, carnival rides, laser tag, a climbing wall, food and drink. The Budweiser Clydesdales will appear at 6 p.m. Friday. A 5K run begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. Fireworks are set for 10 p.m. Saturday.

“Glen Carbon has an excellent reputation for homecomings,” said committee chair Becki Blankenship. “People enjoy the ambiance and the entertainment. It’s fun to hang out by the covered bridge.”

She was speaking of a wooden bridge cover built in 1976 as part of the U.S. bicentennial celebration and rebuilt in 2007, replacing the original 1934 bridge over Judy Creek.

The parade will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday at New Bethel United Methodist Church, 131 N. Main St., and go south on Main and left on School Street, ending at Glen Carbon Heritage Museum.

More than 40 units will include floats, Ainad Shriners three-wheelers, a marching band, antique fire truck, political candidates, walkers and a horse-drawn carriage for the grand marshal.

“Last year, the driver said that of all the parades she had been in, this was the only one that started on time,” said parade coordinator Almeda Lahr-Well.

This year’s grand marshal is Walter Harris, a Glen Carbon man who served 27 years in the Army and became the first Army reservist to receive the Soldier’s Medal for heroism after trying to rescue family members from a carbon-monoxide-filled home in 2006.

The name Glen Carbon means “valley of coal.” Coal mining was the main industry in 1892, when the village was incorporated, but the first white settlers were farmers.

“The railroads weren’t far behind, enabling the farmers to ship their products to St. Louis quickly,” according to a history written by Linda Sinco, coordinator of Glen Carbon Heritage Museum.

“The bluffs of Glen Carbon provided some of the finest quality clay, and the St. Louis Press Brick Company came to be. Seven veins of coal beneath the surface attracted the Madison Coal Corporation. This was truly The Land of Goshen.”

Sinco has created a 125th anniversary timeline with photos and artifacts, such as old homecoming posters, a 1936 baseball signed by a local team and a stone tool used by the area’s original residents, Native Americans.

Sinco’s favorite artifact is an 1884 prayer book that belonged to Lizzie Yanda Burgdorff, a Glen Carbon girl who attended St. Boniface Catholic Church in Edwardsville.

“She was from the Yanda Log Cabin family,” Sinco said. “They had 10 children, and they went to church by horse and wagon, and when I saw that prayer book, I could just imagine that little girl going to church in a horse and wagon.”

The homecoming committee has worked to get a variety of food vendors, including one known for alligator on a stick. People can buy domestic beer from Glen Carbon fire department or craft beer from Global Brew Tap House.

Smash Band (variety) will play Friday night, followed by Silver Creek Bluegrass Band, Today’s Patsy Cline (tribute), Second Gear Band and Dirty Muggs (rock, R&B, soul, country) on Saturday.

“I’ve raised over $18,000 in sponsorships to pay for all this,” Blankenship said. “The committee is all volunteer. We don’t use the village’s money for our events.”

Teri Maddox: 618-239-2473, @BNDwriter

At a glance

  • What: Glen Carbon Homecoming
  • Where: On Main Street in Old Town and in Miners Park and the library parking lot
  • When: 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday; parade at 5 p.m. Saturday and fireworks at 10 p.m. Saturday
  • Admission: Free; charge for carnival rides
  • Information: Visit http://www.glen-carbon.il.us/872/Homecoming or the Facebook page or call village hall at 618-288-1200

Glen Carbon Homecoming schedule

FRIDAY

  • 5 p.m. — Carnival rides, laser tag, climbing wall and food and drink booths open along Main Street in Old Town and around Miners Park and library
  • 6 p.m. — Budweiser Clydesdales make appearance
  • 7 p.m. — Smash Band performs
  • 11 p.m. — Carnival rides close
  • Midnight — Homecoming grounds close

SATURDAY

  • 8 a.m. — Covered Bridge Run on Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail begins, along with carnival rides and other activities
  • 8:30 a.m. — Silver Creek Bluegrass Band performs
  • Noon — Today’s Patsy Cline performs
  • 2 p.m. — Second Gear Band performs; discounted carnival rides begin and run until 4 p.m.
  • 5 p.m. — Homecoming parade starts at New Bethel United Methodist Church, goes south on Main and turns left on School Street, ending at Glen Carbon Heritage Museum
  • 7:30 p.m. — Dirty Muggs performs
  • 10 p.m. — Fireworks
  • 11 p.m. — Carnival rides close
  • Midnight — Homecoming grounds close
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