Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: ‘Tis the season for Prairie State gifts and experiences

I’m not the greatest gift giver – nor am I all that good about drafting my own wish list – so over the years I’ve tried to spend a few column inches sharing reader inspirations in hopes of making everyone’s holidays a little brighter.

Over the years in this space, it’s been a pleasure to direct readers to, the state tourism office’s website, which has both a page dedicated to products made in Illinois ( as well as a current holiday gift guide (

As usual, the list includes a lot of food and drink items, but there also are suggestions that might be a bit more shelf-stable (if shipped carefully!) like sugar scrubs from Water Sweets Soap Co. in Edwardsville or a tea set from Woodstock’s Casting Whimsy (perfect for Hanukkah). If you prefer giving experiences over items, the guide has information on candle-making classes at Warm Wick in Brookfield and knife forging at the cleverly named Edge of Normal Workshop.

Highlighted culinary treats include macarons from Montgomery’s Atrévete Confections and the gift basket from Galena Canning Co., which I peered into longingly during a Sunday afternoon downtown stroll in October. There also are natural dog treats from Bear’s Bites in Peoria and sporting goods items like custom golf clubs from Sub 70 Golf in Sycamore and Dinger Bats in Ridgway.

The full website is well worth exploring, but as always reader suggestions are welcome. Especially of interest to my family this year is the many new (to us) destinations linked to our many youth sports opportunities.

Please drop an email with your favorite local gift item and I’ll share select responses in future columns. Many communities have merchant associations that offer gift cards accepted at dozens of member businesses, which is a great way to support a local economy but also could be included as part of a gift encouraging a weekend getaway.

ON THIS DAY: It’s the 95th birthday of former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, the Illinois Democrat whose public service career started with his 1951 U.S. Army enlistment and shifted to politics with his election to the Illinois House in 1954.

There’s much to say about Simon’s life and legacy, but I’m partial to his journalism background. A native of Eugene, Ore., Simon came to Madison County, Illinois, in 1948 to buy the failing Troy Tribune newspaper. He eventually owned more than a dozen mastheads, which he sold in 1966. He later launched Sangamon State University’s public affairs reporting program (it’s not the University of Illinois at Springfield), and after leaving the Senate in 1997 he established the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale; it was renamed in his honor following his death in 2003.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at