When the 2016 Illinois State Fair opens its gates tonight, there will be a momentous change in Ethnic Village: for the first time in decades, a food booth will bear the “Lithuanian” name and colors. For those of you who don’t know, Lithuanian immigrant families had a close and longstanding connection to the Fair.
Such families once lived all along the southern and eastern borders of the Fairgrounds in a “Little Lithuania” neighborhood that stretched north, south, east, and west from the intersection of Sangamon Avenue and Peoria Road. As a result, many old-time fair-goers remember buying soda, water and lemonade from Lithuanian-American locals, who also took advantage of their proximity to the Fairgrounds to park cars in their yards.
Turasky Catering Switches Polish Booth to Lithuanian This Year
Growing up, my own family’s first stop early on Children’s Day at the Fair would be 2102 Peoria Road, the home of my Great Aunt (Teta) Mary Yamont, to park our car, visit, and receive our Fair spending money of $5 per child from Teta, her son Joe and daughter Mary.
“Little Tony” Turasky, Lithuanian-American owner of Turasky’s Catering, formerly operated his Ethnic Village booth as “Polish.” Much of his new Lithuanian menu seems interchangeable with the booth’s former Polish offerings–undoubtedly, to encourage a certain continuity in his clientele.
Yet the return of such a visible Lithuanian presence to Springfield’s public square, after such a long absence, is still a major cause for fun and celebration. And if you like high-quality Turasky meats, this booth is for you!
I’m asking everyone to PLEASE stop by the Lithuanian booth in Ethnic Village and sample its meaty offerings, and while you’re there, please also snap a photo with yourselves and the Lithuanian colors/name to be shared on this blog. (Please don’t forget to e-mail the names of those photographed, along with your attached jpeg photo file, to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Please also share with my readers any Fair memories you have with your Lithuanian ancestors.
Tony provided us an advance copy of his menu below::
Grilled Pork Burger Stuffed w/Bacon & Cheddar
Grilled Smoked Sausage
Grilled Kielbasa Sausage
Grilled Marinated Pork Chop
Diane Rutledge said:
Sandy- Thanks for sharing this good news. I will be sure to visit & get Kielbesa!
Elaine Alane said:
Memories: I have never been to the Springfield State Fair but my husband Dick Alane has many fond memories of the fair – he would go every day. At that time the Alane family lived on Marland Avenue and it was a very easy walk to the fairgrounds. His favorite foods were corn dogs and French fries, but only the fries from the stand near the racetrack – he cannot recall the name of the stand but says that they only sold fries.
He loved to play the carnival games and especially liked to shoot nickels for prizes of the now collectible carnival glass. He won lots of it and would often have to take a trip home to drop off his loot. His mother Eva Kasawich Alane saved a lot of the glassware he won and we still have and use some of it.
One night he and two of his friends went to the fair and were shooting baskets for prizes. You had to sink three in a row to win a prize and Dick was able to sink 9 in a row before he was not allowed to shoot anymore. He went back the next day and said he couldn’t hit anything.
Dick’s folks took in boarders during fair time. Dick and his father would often sleep in the basement to free up rooms for the fair goers to use.
Elaine, thanks so much for sharing Dick’s Fair memories. I didn’t realize that he was such a “ringer” with the carnival games and that Lithuanian families also took in boarders during the Fair. That makes living near the Fairgrounds an even more important economic boost than I thought it was.