Festival celebrates Kankakee River history
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 24, 2013 5:12PM
Nicholas Nichols, 11, of Lowell gets ready to throw a tomahawk with help from Kyle Egener, 12, of Burns Harbor on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, during the annual Aukiki River Festival south of Kouts, Ind. | Sun-Times Media
If you go
The sixth annual Aukiki River Festival continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 1097 Baum’s Bridge Road, Kouts. Admission is free. For information and directions, go to www.kankakevalleyhistoricalsociety.org or call 766-2302.
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:55AM
KOUTS — Ed Randolph easily struck up a conversation Saturday with John Hodson, founder and president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.
Randolph, of Hebron, is familiar with Native American sites along the Kankakee River, and Hodson has long worked to educate the region about the valley’s history, from its earliest settlers on.
Randolph came to the historical society’s Aukiki River Festival, on Baum’s Bridge Road along the Kankakee River, for the first time. He’s been collecting Native American relics since he was a kid.
“It’s just a hobby. I like the history of it, and that’s why I came here today,” Randolph said, shortly before Hodson jotted down Randolph’s contact information so the two could chat more later.
The sixth annual festival, which continues Sunday, attracted about 50 re-enactor encampments representing several points in the region’s history, including Native American, pioneer, French voyageur and Civil War times.
The festival expanded to two days a few years ago, Hodson said, and has been able to capitalize on the crowd from Pork Fest in downtown Kouts. He expected 4,000 to 4,500 people for this year’s festival.
Money raised by the festival will support the historical society’s three main projects: restoration of Collier Lodge; the rebuilding of the recently acquired Linden Cabin; and moving a Lake County bridge from the Grand Kankakee Marsh to the Baum’s Bridge site.
The festival, Hodson said, focuses on history and authentic re-enactments, and is meant to be educational and raise public awareness about the river valley’s rich history.
That was fine with Ken Lewellen of Bourbonnais, Ill., who played a French marine sent to the area by King Louis to protect his interests in the mid-1700s.
Lewellen played the part with a blue jacket, three-pointed hat and bayonet, all of which he let festivalgoers check out while he talked about living off dried food and hard tack.
“I love teaching about the history,” he said.