When the first settlers came to what's now the Chicago suburbs, every day was a prairie day.
Tall grasses and wildflowers were common coverings for the vast, flat landscape. And living among birds and native plants was a way of life.
If you goWhat: Lombard Prairie Days
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18
Where: Terrace View Park, Greenfield Avenue two blocks west of Main Street
Cost: Free, food for sale
Info: (630) 620-9920 or lombardgardenclub.org
The suburban landscape has changed, but Lombard still hearkens back to its prairie heritage each fall with the annual Prairie Days celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.
The free event includes sights such as a bird show with hawks, eagles and owls, as well as a reptile show and a nature exhibit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"I like the idea of Prairie Days," Lombard resident Don Easterbrook said. "It gives the opportunity for a lot of people to come over and see different things."
And he recommends the reptile show, at 1 p.m., because it lets onlookers see and touch animals, including snakes, from the everyday to the exotic.
The festival's location -- Terrace View Park on Greenfield Avenue two blocks west of Main Street -- allows visitors to learn about prairie restoration the Lombard Garden Club will conduct on the park's south side, said Barbara Muzzey, a garden club member who organized Prairie Days.
"The focus on the Prairie Days is celebrating the prairie with what we've done, what we've restored," Muzzey said.
Since the 1990s, garden club members have volunteered to remove undesired plants from a marshy prairie area just south of Greenfield Avenue, Muzzey said. They're replacing the invasive plants with native ones like compass plant, yellow coneflower and black-eyed susans with the assistance of the Lombard Park District, said garden club member Lonnie Morris.
"One of our goals is to increase the biodiversity of existing areas," Morris said.
Live music, a dance show by Aspirations Dance Company, food from local restaurants and a bird house contest also will take place at Prairie Days.
Lombard Town Centre representatives will judge bird houses, offering prizes from downtown Lombard businesses.
Bird house builders of any age can make their creations before the festival and are encouraged to "incorporate natural or recycled materials, as judging is based on appearance, originality and sustainability," Muzzey said in a news release.
With its focus on a prairie's natural ecosystem, Prairie Days is an educational event, yet it remains fun and appropriate for children, Muzzey said.
"One of our goals is to educate people about native plants, and that's how Prairie Days came about," Morris said. "Most people don't know about native plants and we wanted to get the message out and encourage native plants as much as feasible into residential landscaping."