McHenry County lecture series explores beer, supper clubs

The McHenry County Historical Society & Museum's 30th annual Sampler Lecture Series, kicking off March 7, spans a myriad topics, from beer to boxcars, waterways to where you can find some of the best fish frys across the Wisconsin border.

All programs will be held at the historical society museum, 6422 Main St. in Union.

Series tickets are $35, $30 for society members. A $10 donation is requested for individual programs. The river and boxcar programs are made possible through a grant from Illinois Humanities Council. For information or to buy tickets, call (815) 923-2267 or visit

• "My Kind Of Booze Town" presented by Liz Garibay at 7 p.m. Monday, March 7. Chicago is a city built on alcohol. From foundation to fires and fairs, beer and booze have played pivotal roles in the development of our town. Beer and tavern historian Liz Garibay will discuss how alcohol helped shape Chicago. She is the founder of History On Tap, a project that connects drinking history to global history. While heading up the education department at the Chicago History Museum, she created and led History Pub Crawls, the most successful public program to date. She is the only American to ever have been invited to join the prestigious and boozy organization knows as the Pub History Society of the United Kingdom.

• "The River As Time Machine" presented by Fox River laureate and ecologist Brian Ellis of Bishop Hill at 3 p.m. Monday, March 21. Travel through geological history to witness the origins of Illinois' great rivers. Paddle along with Père Jacques Marquette and the French explorers as they contact Native Americans, and meet keelboat captain Mike Fink and steamboat captain Henry Detweiller. This musical ramble through history will explore how we humans have shaped the rivers, how the rivers have changed through time, and the importance of rivers in the layers of human history.

• "Wisconsin Supper Clubs - An Old-Fashioned Experience" presented by author/filmmaker Ron Faiola at 7 p.m. Monday, April 4. Discover why supper clubs are such a big part of Wisconsin's food culture and what the full experience of supper club dining entails: a brandy old fashioned sweet at the bar, relish trays at the table, huge portions of steaks seafood and game, and the friendly, loyal customers who have been dining at their favorite places for so many years. Wisconsin's original supper clubs may have begun in the 1920s as gangster hangouts, but following the repeal of Prohibition these same roadhouse restaurants - located outside city limits - were the first to receive liquor licenses. In "Wisconsin Supper Clubs - Another Round," slated for release in June, Faiola will highlight 50 more of the finest establishments, including Fitzgerald's in Genoa City and the Colony House Restaurant in Trevor.

• "The History of Mexican Railroad Boxcar Communities in the Chicago Area & the Midwest" presented by Antonio Delgado at 3 p.m. Monday, April 18. Between 1910 and 1950s in the United States, particularly the Midwest, railroads employed a large number of Mexican immigrants to lay track. These immigrant railroad workers and their families literally lived on railroad property, in railroad boxcars and "section houses," year-round. The program not only underscores the important contributions these laborers made to the area - with the use of photos, maps, political cartoon and other period images. It also will compare anti-immigrant practices employed then with the current climate.

Storyteller Brian Ellis will present "The River As Time Machine" on Monday, March 21, as part of McHenry County Historical Society's 30th annual Sampler Lecture Series. Courtesy of Brian Ellis
Liz Garibay
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