Elgin is a medium sized town in northern Illinois, about an hour northwest of Chicago. The city is really two separate halves, split by the Fox River. Because of this, many Elginites claim to live either on the "East Side" or the "West Side," refering to which side of the river they live on. The East Side has the historical district, and is where the old downtown is. The West Side is much newer, and only a few short years ago was mostly farmland. These days, the West Side is where you will find many new businesses opening, new subdivisions and the new state of the art hospital. In addition, Elgin is home to two highschools, Elgin Highschool (on the east side) and Larkin Highschool (on the west side). Rivalry between the two schools' sports teams runs very deep!
Who's ever heard of Elgin?
Elgin has one major claim to fame, the Elgin National Watch Company opened right in the heart of downtown in 1866. The same building housed the company until they closed in 1964, and the original building is still used. More recently, Elgin is known for the Grand Victoria Riverboat Casino. Sadly, the riverboat no longer makes trips up and down the river, but you can still go and walk around the deck and get a good view of downtown. Because of the travelers coming to the riverboat, there has been a surge in businesses and restaurants opening up downtown. It has brought new life to the city!
Elgin is very supportive of local artisans. The Hemmens Auditorium provides a wonderful venue for all manner of theatrical works. Anyone in Elgin who has ever sang, danced, played an instrument or acted has performed at "the Hemmens" at least once. There is also the Harvest Market, and many art fairs and independent businesses around town that exhibit art work. One place for this is The Martini Room, a cocktail lounge that hosts a monthly "Art Appreciation Night" where local artists and art appreciators get together. They also host fundraisers, and offer industrial, salsa and bellydance nights. Be sure to check out the bellydance teacher and students from Eastern Groove studio! They also have some of the most comfortable couches in the area! If djs are more your thing, Medusa, a recent addition to the old downtown area, is just the ticket. They offer a variety of music, and a chance for local djs to show their stuff. If you attend an Industrial night, look for DJ Instant Cash, you can't miss him, he's the one in the kilt!
Summers in Elgin are filled with sun and many community events. On the weekends, there is the Harvest Market, which runs every weekend from May until October. In addition to produce, there are baked goods and local artisans. Also during the summer is the "Fox Trot." This is a 5 or 10k run and a walk that raises money for local charities, and also challenges the residents to come and get healthy as a family. The highlights of the summer would be the 4th of July parade and the Elgin Fox Fire Fest. The 4th of July parade is a yearly tradition, and occurs in the heart of downtown, many local schools participate, as well as local businesses and civic organizations. The festivities culminate with a huge fireworks show at night. The FoxFireFest is by far the most unique experience an Elginite can have each summer! During the fest, festival park in down town Elgin becomes home to musical stages offering both local up and coming bands, as well as big ticket acts, two smaller stages featuring only local performers, artisans vending their wears, fire spinners, family activities and of course food from local restaurants. This is Elgin's answer to the larger "Taste of Chicago" festival that occurs in Grant Park every year.
Elgin is famous for its annual "Duck Pluck." The Duck Pluck is actually a city wide fundraiser for the local Boys & Girls Club, where residents can purchase a rubber duck, and travel to Festival Park, and place them in the fountain. Then, the selectors wait while the ducks circulate, and will pick ducks at random, to win prizes, just like the duck pond game at the carnival. The 2010 Duck Pluck had 10,000 ducks enter.