When I first moved to this area and heard about a “Sangamon River Music Festival” I was pretty excited about celebrating a river in song. But I’ve come to discover that “The Sangamon River Music Festival” has little to do with the actual Sangamon River.
So I decided to have my own personal Sangamon River Music Festival. And since my musical talents are limited to trying to master the finer points of kazoo, I’ll just stick to writing and let you pick up the melody.
So I took a drive.
My path took me up the river to the Sangamon River Forest Preserve. After a stroll through the prairies and down past Wildcat Slough, I come to the shade of the park’s spreading elms and oaks. I ponder the fact that some of these can be hundreds of years old as Louis Armstrong starts playing in the music of my mind.
Up a lazy river by the old mill stream,
That lazy, hazy river where we both can dream,
Linger in the shade of an old oak tree
Throw away your troubles, dream a dream with me….
I’ve started many a river trip here at the Sangamon River Forest Preserve. When I’m on the river, the surrounding cornfields and our compass-straight county roads seem a very long way off. What do I hear? Is that JJ Cale and Eric Clapton?
Floatin down that old river boy, All my worries far behind. Floatin down that old river boy, leave old memories way behind.
Heading downriver, I stop off at the historic Hazen Bridge. Unlike the iron pedestrian bridge in Mahomet or the red covered bridge at Lake of the Woods (built in 1965), the Hazen Bridge is a true historic landmark, built as it stands in 1893 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I think of the people that have crossed this bridge for over 100 years. I hear Tina Turner start to sing Proud Mary.
If you come down to the river, bet you gonna find some people who live…
Continuing on to Lake of the Woods, I skip a visit to the popular lake for a walk along the river down the path between the covered bridge and the picturesque red bridge over the lake’s spillway. Dickey Betts starts singing with the Allman Brothers band.
Walk along the river, sweet lullaby. It just keeps on flowin’ it don’t worry about where it’s goin’.
Heading south of the Village on Division Street, I make a right just past a tall Indian and pull into the Sangamon River Greenway. One of the Village’s most beautiful and perhaps best-kept secrets, this forested area runs from the bridge down to the railroad trestle. Here’s where Bruce and others put up bluebird houses as a project of the USRC. Dickey Betts continues:
Don’t fly Mr. Bluebird, I’m just walkin’ down the road. Early morning sun is shinin’, tell me all I need to know.
And I continue on just south of Mahomet, turn right and pass the gravel pit, and hang another right into the Riverbend Forest Preserve. The river makes a gentle bend to the North and West, but stepping out of my truck, I notice a full moon rising to the east over the lake, and I hear the wail of Susan Tedeschi.
There’s a full moon rising out tonight, Might make me crazy, but that’s all right; Long as I find some peace of mind, I’m going back to the river to take my time.
Back at home, I’m glad that my wife Carol, my family and I make our home on the river. Sitting in one of our bright red Adirondack chairs that overlook the river as evening settles in, I think about the river as a metaphor for love, and the sounds of Carlos Santana fill my head.
You are my river, keep on flowing through. Filling my life, with all of you.
I sit and think about the river and this year’s Sangamon River Music Festival. And I also think about the river playing host to the First Annual Sangamon River Duck Race. Now I hear Ernie and still another song.
Rubber Duckie, you’re the one, you make my bath time so much fun…
Appeared as “Notes from the River” in The Mahomet Citizen, August 24, 2011