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Historic Cantigny Park offers top entertainment and golf

Are you making plans for a fulfilled summer and one with class, entertainment, golf and a military museum? Look no further because just 40 miles West of Chicago sits the historic and one of natures most breathtaking Cantigny Park located at 1 S, 151 Winfield Rd, in Wheaton, IL.

And if you’re thinking why would this trip be worth your time, Jeff Reiter, senior manager of Communications for the 58-year-old Cantigny Park, laid out his case. “We have a lot to do here for all ages and to satisfy a wide range of interests. Our gardens are spectacular and so is our military history museum, the First Division Museum. “The gardens and museum are our top two attractions,” said Reiter.

In describing the adjacent Cantigny Golf course, Reiter said, “It is a highly ranked public golf course, and it’s very popular, too.

Besides the Park’s permanent attractions, Reiter said there are many special events ranging from concerts, lectures, garden tours to festivals…a peaceful site for family gatherings.

Asked how and why the Park is being labeled as “user friendly,” Reiter explained that Cantigny Park recently underwent a six-year, $60 million renovation funded by the Chicago-based Robert R. McCormick Foundation which is Cantigny’s parent organization. The project is called the  “Project New Leaf.”

The renovation included additional parking, new pathways, new (way-finding) signage, a new restroom building, more benches throughout the park and added lighting he said was needed to offer outdoor evening events.

“These enhancements are why we are able to expand our public programming this summer,” Reiter explained.

The park’s newest event is the Jazz/Wine Fest which will be held on Sunday, June 18th, 12 noon to 6 p.m., at 1s151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton, IL.

Two bands will be performing at two sections of the park but not simultaneously; however, no matter where you are, you’ll be able to hear them play, according to Reiter.

The featured headliner band will be the Basie Orchestra. Still performing sold-out concerts around the world was and still is William James “Count” Basie. The Count Basie Orchestra is directed by Scotty Barnhart. Reiter said the band has won 18 Grammy Awards and has played at every major jazz festival and concert in the world.

As an added treat, the band’s guest vocalist will be jazz legend Vanessa Rubin a Cleveland native who has a Bachelors Degree in journalism but she held fast to her love of music and became a great jazz singer. The Count Basie Band and Rubin will close out the Jazz and Wine Fest with a performance beginning at 4:45 p.m.

Tickets are $60 for for Jazz/Wine event and $40 for the Jazz-only event but no wine samples will be offered. Youth tickets (under 21) are $20.

You can save 20 percent on tickets through May 26th by using the code JAZZE when you checkout at

Four other notable acts will precede them. They are the Thaddeus Tukes Quartet, performing at 12 p.m. He is a graduate from Northwestern University.

Victor Garcia’s Latin Jazz Septet will perform at 1:30 p.m. He is a trumpeter from Chicago who in 2018 released his debut album, “The Grind/The Grove.” He has recorded on dozens of other albums with three of them Grammy-nominated.

The Frank Catalano Quartet will perform at 3 p.m. He is a world-class tenor saxophonist and a native Chicagoan who holds three Grammys. He has played with some of the greatest jazz greats like Miles Davis, Randy Brecker, David Sanborn and Jimmy Chamberlin.

The NewOrleans-style Big Shoulders Brass Band will perform at 4:15 p.m. promising to delight the audience with a Chicago form of jazzy Dixieland funk.

During the Jazz/Wine Fest, you will be able to sample both white and red wines sponsored by the Romano Beverage, Elmhurst, IL, and Regal Wine Company, from Santa Rosa, California at the park’s ten tasting stations featuring international and domestic selections.

Voyage en France, is another new event and will be held on Sunday, July 16th, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for a special connection of the Park to France.

The park gates open at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 18th. Because seating is on the lawn, park officials recommend that you bring blankets and/or folding chairs. If you plan on eating, there will be a variety of food trucks on the park campus offering meal and snacks including beer and soft drinks. However, no outside alcohol or coolers will be allowed.

According to Reiter, Bertie’s Cafe is inside the Visitors Center offering sandwiches, hot dogs, snacks, ice cream, coffee and other drinks.

“Many people order their food to go and take it to the nearby picnic grounds,” said Reiter. The picnic area is shady and spacious and features the Red Oaks Farm playground which is another Project New Lead enhancement.

But, the park offers more than just entertainment. It includes a piece of history like the First Division Museum. “The exhibit is meant to be nostalgic for all the families and guests who have come to the park for generations, as well as a chance to share our deep connection to the First Division and its members,” said Jessica Waszak, assistant curator.

That connection begins with Colonel Robert R. McCormick, Cantigny’s benefactor, who served in the First Division during World War I. The museum honors his legacy and the service and sacrifice of all military veterans, telling their stories and the story of America’s military experience through the lens of the 1st Infantry Division or “Big Red One.”

The items in the “65 Years” exhibit, which opens Saturday, May 27th through Labor Day, represent the mundane and the momentous, from boots, helmets and cigarette lighters to heroic patches, medals, and flags. They depict  the everyday lives of soldiers while commemorating the exceptional lives of service and sacrifice for our country, according to Waszak.

Some of the nearly 500 artifacts will be on public display for the first time. The objects are organized in 17 categories, with emphasis on soldiers’ personal stories. Underlying the exhibit is the trust that artifact donors extend to the First Division Museum as a repository of precious family memorabilia and narratives.

Cantigny Park will honor America, its veterans and those currently serving in the military. Armed Forces Day will be held on Saturday, May 20th, (free admission), Battle of Cantigny 105th anniversary, Sunday, May 28th, 1st Infantry Division birthday, Thursday, June 8th, “Stars and Stripes Family Night,” Wednesday, June 14th.

The Cantigny Park is adjacent to the 300 acre Cantigny 27 holes championship golf course that is surrounded by natures beautiful picturesque backdrop. The golf course is owned why the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and managed by KemperSports.

“Cantigny Golf has Fareways Grill which is a full-service restaurant with a full bar and a nice view of the golf course, said Reiter. “The park and golf course have separate entrances so it is necessary to drive from one to the other.”

However, Reiter made it clear that many people go to Fareways for lunch and dinner and not just a place for golfers. “Food trucks love to come to Cantigny, and we welcome them,” he said explaining there are usually two or three food trucks on site but on big days they range from nine or ten.

Other events include: Thursday, June 15th, “Summer Nights: Bark in the Park,” 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Thursday, June 29th, “Summer Nights: A Magical Night in the Garden,” 6-9 p.m., Thursday, July 20th, “Summer Nights: Cocktails & Karaoke,” 6-9 p.m., Thursday, July 27th, “Summer Nights: Camp Cantigny Adult Summer Camp,” 6-9 p.m., Saturday, August 12th, “Glow in the Park,” a night of glow in the dark games, attractions and drinks, 7 p.m.-11:59 p.m., and Wednesday, August 16th, “Family Game Night,” 5:30-8 p.m.

Admission on every first Wednesday is free and onsite limited parking is $15 and offsite parking is $5.

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