Festival of the Bluffs ~~ Hikes, Displays, Music, Food…FUN!

May 1, 2009 clifftop CliffNotes

Big Prairie, Fults NP, M. Kemper

Martin Kemper, Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Monroe County boasts the greatest contiguous swath of hill prairies in the Midwest.  The largest complex, at Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve, has been designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Park Service.  One of only 600 such Landmarks in the U.S., Fults Hill Prairie’s recognition is testimony to its enduring value in the nation’s natural treasure chest.

Our hill prairie corridor, however, frames only the spine of our region’s distinctly unique natural heritage.  Monroe County also boasts a large karst area, with 50,000 acres of steep-slope forests, sinkholes, and caves that hold the greatest biodiversity in the state.  And, at the foot of our beautiful bluff’s cliff face lie several ancient wetlands, once-dependant upon watercourses from the uplands creeks.

bald eagle, T. Rollins

Tom Rollins, Thomas Rollins Photography

Taken together, the hill prairies, karst and wetlands constitute Illinois’ Ozarks, a one-of-a-kind landscape and viewscape, right here in Monroe County.

Celebrate Illinois’ Ozarks at Festival of the Bluffs on Saturday May 16th at Cedar Bluff Park in the Village of Fults from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The nature festival, co-hosted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Clifftop, a local blufflands conservation organization of landholders, will focus on the natural history and stewardship of the area.

Cedar Bluff Park will host a variety of displays and presentations on improving land

turtle, T. Rollins

Tom Rollins, Thomas Rollins Photography

and wildlife management practices.  There will be a wealth of information and presentations on identifying and controlling invasive plant species, growing native plants, pest management, and groundwater quality.  Close up introductions to the varieties of wildlife in our area include live demonstrations featuring native raptors, snakes, turtles and frogs.

IDNR professionals will lead interpretive hikes at Kidd Lake Marsh State Natural Area and at Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve throughout the day.  Hikers can save their energy for the hikes by riding a bus between the main festival grounds in Fults and the hiking areas.

ratibida & monarda, D. FitzWilliam

Dennis FitzWilliam, Clifftop

A diverse variety of nature-oriented arts and crafts will be offered for sale at the park.  Many local artisans are participating and their selections include: wood carving, glassware, jewelry, photography, painting, ironwork, weaving and bone art.  Purchasers of native plants or bedding plants will be able to grow a bit of the festival at home.  Nature books and field guides, offered through the Illinois Natural History Survey, can help grow new awareness.

The many threads that create the human cultural tapestry of Southwestern Illinois can be explored throughout the day in performances by a number of area musicians.

monarch, T. Rollins

Tom Rollins, Thomas Rollins Photography

Illness first led John MacEnulty to explore the spiritual dimensions of music, culminating in his discovery of the Native American Flute.  Mr. MacEnulty, formerly of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and former executive director of the Belleville Philharmonic, will share selections of his music for this instrument and for Native American hand drums.


The four young musicians who formed The String Connection in 2007 are dedicated both to enjoying music and to keeping alive our local area’s musical history.  While their selections of traditional folk songs and ballads bring an echo of early French settlers, the group’s fiddle music, waltzes and bluegrass offer a musical tour from past to present.

red-winged blackbird, female, T. Rollins

Tom Rollins, Thomas Rollins Photography

Nationally known dobro player Bob Breidenbach and Friends will offer their “untraditional” bluegrass music along with some western swing and country tunes.  And, rounding out the day, the Bandroom Brass will offer some easy listening.  The “Brass” players are members of the Bud Light Brigade, a Monroe County music group now celebrating 25 years of music making.

And, just so everybody doesn’t run out of energy for all the listening, seeing, hiking and doing, several local church and social service groups, and others are cooking and serving food and drinks from a menu nearly as vast as our hill prairies.

So, please, come stretch your legs – there will be plenty to see and do – to celebrate Illinois’ Stretch of the Ozarks, at Festival of the Bluffs.

Clifftop, a local nonprofit organization, is focused on preserving and protecting area bluff lands.

Versions of this article appeared in the May 1 2009 edition of the Monroe County Independent and in the May 6 2009 edition of the Suburban Journals Clarion Enterprise.

© 2009 all content rights reserved, Clifftop NFP.


Festival of the BluffsFults Hill Prairie Nature PreserveIllinois OzarksKidd Lake Marsh Natural AreaMonroe County

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