Stuff That Only Happens in Illinois
To the rest of the United States, much of Illinois probably seems like the bastion of normalcy, particularly when compared to, say, Florida. However, something sinister lurks underneath our Roseanne and Dan Connor-esque Middle-American facade: corruption! Porn addiction! Uhhh… cow tipping! To our fellow Illinoisans: Take heart. Although our state may seem pretty ass-backwards at times, at least our antics haven’t inspired any cringeworthy Twitter accounts lately. (Yup, that was another dig at you, Florida!)
You can expect to get ticketed for something utterly ridiculousIf you thought having to pay $100 for not making it through an intersection in three seconds or less was bad, it actually does get worse (this IS Illinois after all). Case in point: In Joliet, you can get charged with a misdemeanor for mispronouncing the town’s name as “Jolly-ette.” Downstate in Collinsville, you can be slapped with a $100 fine if your pants fall more than 3in below your hips, and both Cicero and Evanston have laws prohibiting whistling at certain times. Suddenly, getting a ticket for a burned-out license plate light doesn’t seem so bad.
A new sport was created thanks to those jerky jumping fishThe town of Havana, Illinois has become home to the largest population of Asian carp on earth, much to the chagrin of residents who wish they could still boat on the Illinois River without having hundreds of asshole fish fly out of the water and smack them in the face. The solution? “Redneck fishing tournaments," where participants try to catch the damned devil fish as they fly through the air. The freakish flying carp weigh around 40lbs, grow as large as 5ft, can jump as high as 10ft in the air, and have been known to cause plenty of broken bones.
The lovely town of Elmhurst, Illinois became the porn-seeking capital of the USIn 2010, a study found that the small, pleasant, safe, and (seemingly) ultra-normal suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois was, in fact, the porn-seeking capital of the US. The town ranked No. 1 in the country for not one, not two, but three search terms: “porn,” “xxx,” and “sex." No one was more baffled by these findings than Elmhurst itself, with a spokesman for the city manager’s office quoted as saying, “Are you sure it’s Elmhurst, Illinois and not Elmhurst, New York?” We’ll never look at you the same way, Elmhurst.
Political corruption is beyond expectedIt’s slightly ironic that the state that spawned the political career of “Honest Abe” has since become one of the most politically corrupt states in the US. Six Illinois governors have been charged with crimes, four of which were convicted. Of course, that doesn’t include the scores of other corrupt Illinois politicians. Perhaps it’s time to change our motto from “Land of Lincoln” to “Land of Corruption?" In the words of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, that would be “fucking golden."
A portion of the state tried to secede… from itselfIn 2011, people in Central and Southern Illinois got so sick and tired of being overshadowed by Chicago -- which, they’d like to remind you, is not the capital of Illinois. They decided they weren’t going to take it anymore, damn it. The solution? Downstate politicians actually proposed making Cook County a separate state. Needless to say, that idea fell flat pretty fast. Given that roughly three-quarters of all Illinois residents live in the Chicagoland area, that probably would’ve been a pretty crappy deal for the remaining Illinoisans.
But "Southern Illinois" may as well be another country to most ChicagoansChicagoans have a really bad habit of referring to everything south of I-80 as “Southern Illinois,” even though it’s barely central Illinois. If you’re from the Chicagoland area, there’s a very, very good chance that you’ve probably never been further south than Springfield -- which you probably visited only because you were dragged there on a class field trip.
“Cheap Trick Day” is a state holidayIn 2007, the Illinois General Assembly declared April 1st “Cheap Trick Day” to honor the band, which originated in Rockford. While that’s definitely not an April Fool’s Day joke, those silly Illinois lawmakers do get an A+ for picking the punniest day of the year. Sadly, unlike Casimir Pulaski Day -- one of Illinois’ more obscure holidays -- you won’t be getting Cheap Trick Day off any time soon.
Life-sized cows are carved out of 500lbs of butterFor nearly 100 years, the fine folks at the Illinois State Fair have showcased a life-sized Butter Cow has been one of the most popular attractions at the Illinois State Fair. In 2009, someone decided to make the whole thing even weirder by adding a buttery Abe Lincoln alongside the butter cow. Rumor has it that after the fair is over, all 500lbs are shipped off to Texas so they can fry the entire damn thing and serve it at their state fair. (OK, kidding. We totally made that last part up.)
Peak baggers make the, uh, grueling trek up to Illinois' highest peakAlaska has Mount McKinley, Washington has Mount Rainier, and Oregon has Mount Hood. Here in Illinois, we have something far grander: the driveway of Jean and Wayne Wuebbels -- more commonly known as Charles Mound. Given that Illinois is the flattest state in the US, it should come as no surprise that Charles Mound is basically just a small hill. Four times per year, the Wuebbels open their land up to visitors who wish to make the treacherous stroll up to Illinois’ highest natural peak.
Pumpkin overkill (sorry, America)The pumpkin-flavor craze may be the best thing that’s ever happened to Illinois farmers and the worst thing that’s ever happened to the rest of America. Illinois is actually the top producer of pumpkins in the country (who knew?!). Now you can totally justify every single #pumpkin-flavored #selfie you post to Instagram this fall as support for Illinois farmers.
Barn raves are an actual thingWhat do Illinoisans do when they graduate from cow tipping? They have barn raves, which are basically weird parties hosted by some random farmer who probably had a bad crop year and decided to earn some extra cash by hosting hundreds of sloshed teenagers and a few subpar DJs. If you attended college at any state university outside of Chicago, there’s a very good chance you attended a barn rave at least once.
Someone built a 170ft-tall bottle of catsup, because why not?Collinsville -- the same town that’ll fine you $100 for not wearing a belt -- is home to both the world’s largest catsup bottle and an annual festival celebrating the bottle’s existence. Of course, that’s not necessarily the weirdest roadside attraction in Illinois: The state is also home to the Leaning Tower of Niles and a 64ft statue of Ramses situated next to a 24-karat gold pyramid, and a two-story outhouse. Nope, that wasn’t a typo.
Sign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.