MORRIS – Saturday afternoon was a great day for sitting on the courthouse lawn in Morris and listening to President Abraham Lincoln recite the Gettysburg Address.
Earlier in the day, Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, played by Max and Donna Daniels, were on the stage for the Emancipation Proclamation.
A visit by Lincoln was just one of the many activities during the annual Liberty Days in downtown Morris over the weekend and it was just as enjoyable for the listeners as for the performers.
“This is a wonderful event. It’s a real celebration of America,” said Donna Daniels, still in character as Mary Todd, as she cooled herself in the shade after her husband’s speech.
The Daniels portray the Lincolns at many festivals and events, but small-town ones like Liberty Days are their favorite kind.
“The town [people] come out and enjoy each other’s company, and we get to enjoy things such as the art festival and the food,” Donna Daniels said. “We do a lot of festivals, and this is the best.”
The arts festival was new this year and something the Morris Downtown Development Partnership plans to grow in the future, Executive Director Julie Applegate said.
College student Kate Limbach had her hand-made pottery on display, and items were going fast. She has been working with pottery since grade school and each piece she makes is unique.
“I like to try new techniques with glaze,” Limbach said. “This is my first time doing something like this [a festival]. This is the second time I filled the table [today].”
Sue Morse of Morris, along with her three daughters, had arts items in their booth called “haPPineSS” – the capital letters are for the first letters in each of their names, Morse said.
Having an art festival added to the enjoyment of Liberty Days, she said.
“When this came up, we decided to be part of it,” Morse said. “[Morris] is a wonderful town to live in. There’s so much to do for a small town.”
Musician Chris Vallilio took the stage after the Lincolns and performed “Abraham Lincoln in Song.”
Young cousins, Mason Tuskery and Nathan Zivic, of Joliet, entertained themselves by dancing in the grass to Vallilio’s music, while their moms sat and enjoyed hot dogs and pork chops-on-a-stick under a tree.
It was the lure of the touch-a-truck display that brought the families out, Brandi Odam said.
“[The boys] loved it. We got about 1,000 pictures,” she said.
Adults and kids both loved watching Shaun Hays, “The Chicago Chalk Champ,” as he worked on a four-sided canvas of patriotic drawings.
Hays is famous for his three dimensional chalk art on Navy Pier and convention centers in Chicago. His finished piece will be the backdrop for the festival’s Liberty 5K run later in the week.
There were other fun things to do, like mulling through the art tents, taking a horse drawn carriage or miniature train ride or rummaging through the Junk-in-the-Trunk displays to find a special treasure.
Members of Patriots4Heroes had a kids’ boot camp set up to give children an idea of what military men and women go through when they join the service. Drill Sergeant Nancy Rumler was in charge of swearing in each of the children, as they signed up for their mock military service.
Seven-year-old Julia Borgstrom walked along a rope for balance, wiggled a hula-hoop for agility, marched through inner tubes and crawled under patriotic noodles.
Her family had been to Julia’s brother Danny’s two baseball games in Pontiac and the Morris Mavericks won both, said dad and team coach Chris Borgstrom.
“We stopped here for a corn dog on the way home,” said mom, Karen Borgstrom.
Liberty Days is all about bringing families out for a family-oriented weekend, Applegate said.
“And to further recognize and celebrate American independence.”