Hot Weather, Giggles, and Education at the DuQuoin State Fair

Hot Weather, Giggles, and Education at the DuQuoin State Fair

by Kimberly Lilly

On the weekend of August 30th –September 1st I had the pleasure of helping the Forest Service with the DuQuoin State Fair to help bring an educational message to the public about the Shawnee. Friday was Kids Day, in which local schools bused their students to the fair for them to attend educational sessions. The classes that showed up all had really good students who were engaged while I taught them about all the different aspects the Forest Service manages for in a Forest. Even the children who attended the fair outside of school were very curious about the different seeds and wood samples I brought. Many of the children, and even some parents, were very engaged as they looked at, felt and discussed the different seed of the forest.

In addition to providing an educational message, I gained an experience of working with my co-workers outside of the office, which was an enjoyable one. I had a blast with them, as we giggled our way through some extremely hot days. They had great ideas and suggestions from helping to make my educational message better to how to make the most of my VISTA experience, which I will value even after my service.

As I continue to serve with the Shawnee National Forest, my enjoyment of working with the agency grows. The programs the Forest Service provides are fun, my co-workers are nice and supportive, and the work I do is meaningful to myself and the public.


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Learning what lies ‘Beneath the Surface’. Shawnee’s new heritage lecture series


Photo above: July Lecture, “Childhood, Ethinicity, and Community Interaction in the Late Prehistoric Central Illinois River Valley” by Dr. Jennifer Bengston, SEMO

By Paige Hawthorne, Americorps VISTA, Heritage

Since May of this year, I (Paige) have been conducting a monthly lecture series featuring talks about Southern Illinois’ rich archaeological history. Each month, a professional in the field of anthropology, archaeology, and/or history are presenting on their current research about sites that are found throughout Southern Illinois and nearby areas. So far, topics that have been included Southern Illinois’ prehistoric rock art, the East St. Louis Mound Group (just on the border of Illinois and Missouri), the archaeology of childhood at a site located in the Central Illinois River Valley, and the prehistoric “stone forts” back down to Southern Illinois. Each of these lectures have been gratefully hosted at the Longbranch Coffeehouse in Carbondale, an extremely fitting atmosphere for public lectures such as these.

Longbranch is not only a place to enjoy all types of caffeniated beverages from beautiful lattes or ginger-green iced teas, but it is also known as being a “vegetarian cafe” where customers can taste a melting pot of flavors in the form of healthy vegetarian paninis, salads, enchiladas, lasagnas and so on. From when you first step inside there is the eating area as well as a “backroom” where events such as mine, poetry readings, bookclubs and etc. meet for intellectual talks over a nice espresso drink or sandwich. Because of the great reputation Longbranch has for their restaurant and events, I felt it was the best place to have customers become engaged in an informative public lecture as well as doing what humans do best– Eat!

Every third Thursday of the month, I will be hosting these lectures along with the featuring speaker of the night at Longbranch’s “backroom” at 7PM. Although my term as VISTA is over in November, I do intend to continue this series for a full year and have it last [at least] until May 2014. Creating and maintaing this lecture series has become a huge success in my career as a VISTA. It has not only acted as a design for effective heritage outreach but it has mended a few of my top interests into one single night– Great food (of course), scholarly discussions between a large group, and learning about something you may of known little or nothing at all about. I’ve had four lectures so far and each night the crowd has gotten bigger and bigger! This was a special thanks to my interview on the local NPR station WSIU about the purpose of this series and publicizing the past July lecture we had. As I mention on the WSIU interview, these events have become a place to experience knowledge that you can relate to through own interests or heritage as well as being a location to meet like-minded people with the same enthusiam for topics such as these. They are also a way for those not conscious in their own area’s history to realize that the land they are living on was a land treasured for thousands of years and especially in terms of preservation of archaeological sites, these topics are something to be aware of.

If you are interested in attending one of these lectures, keep your eye out in “The Southern” newspaper as well as flyers hung around Longbranch or other establishments in Carbondale. As I mentioned before, these talks are every third Thursday of the month making the next talks being September 19th, October 17th, and November 21st at 7PM. Get there about 10 minutes before as the room fills up quite a bit! Any questions email Like to take a gander at my WSIU radio interview with myself and my supervisor? Follow

See you there!

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Shawnee National Forest celebrates Smokey’s 69th birthday!

Everyone who attended Smokey's birthday recieved a hug and had lots of fun.

Everyone who attended Smokey’s birthday recieved a hug and had lots of fun.

August 9th, 2013
By Kimberly Lilly – AmeriCorps VISTA

69 years ago Smokey Bear was rescued from a forest fire in New Mexico. The forest fire was a result of an unattended camp fire. Since that fire, which destroyed his home, Smokey has been promoting fire safety and prevention.

In honor of Smokey’s hard work with fire prevention, the Shawnee National Forest team hosted a birthday celebration. Children and adults of all ages gathered to meet Smokey. Those who attended and walked within reach of Smokey received hugs of gratitude.

This was my first time meeting Smokey, and it was a blast hanging out with him. We ate lots of cake, candy and cookies. The children and I had fun playing with the balloons and watching the video on fire prevention staring Smokey himself. I also noticed that many of the adults couldn’t help but smile when they saw the icon of fire prevention himself. It was even funny to see this big bear hold a little baby. This was a celebration worth being at!

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Prescribed Fires Program at RosiClare Library

AmeriCorps VISTA member Kimberly Lilly and Shawnee Forest Service member Anne Townsend turned the RosiClare Memorial Library into a camp site on Wednesday, August 7th during a program about prescribed forest fires. The program was designed to teach children and teenagers about the positive uses of fire as a forest management tool. The students, ranging in ages from four to fifteen, came away from the program understanding the difference between unsafe forest fires and forest fires created by Forest Service professionals to manage the fuel levels in order to promote a healthy forest and keep communities safe.

During the one hour program, the children compared bad fires with good fires, read Wild Fire! by Mary Ann Fraser, learned about the fire triangle and analyzed how different amounts of fuel create different sized fires. Through hands on activities, literature and discussion the young members of the RosiClare community now understand why prescribed fires, created by forest service professionals, are used to manage a forest.

RosiClare Memorial Library partnered with the Shawnee Forest Service in order to promote education through reading while gaining an understanding of the Shawnee Forest.

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“Only you can p…

“Only you can prevent forest fires!”

Smokey Bear turns 69 this Friday, August 9th! Come help celebrate Smokey’s birthday with Shawnee National Forest team. Smokey will be at the Shawnee National Forest Headquarters in Harrisburg off of 145 South from 11 am to 2 pm. The public is welcome to stop in, have some refreshments, and take a photo with Smokey.  

To learn more about Smokey Bear, visit



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May 25th: Spend a Day Outdoors with Friends and Family


What are you doing on May 25th? If you don’t have an answer, we have one for you: You are taking your friends and family to Touch of Nature at SIUC for a day of hiking, canoeing, eating, learning, and just having fun. We’ve been working for the past several months getting funding, finding partners, writing proposals, and all sorts of other boring stuff to bring you the not-at-all-boring event: Shawnee Family Fun Day. All you need to bring to this entirely cost-free day is yourself, a sturdy pair of shoes or boots, and anyone close to you who wants to play outside too. We have arranged bus transportation to and from the event, and will provide snacks and campfire cooked food for you. You will leave not only with an awesome outdoor experience, but also with some pretty cool SWAG courtesy of CamelBak and other partners. Newbies to the outdoors are welcome and encouraged to attend! We have designed this event to give you the skills and knowledge to confidently return to the woods and the water. We’re sure that when you see just how amazing nature is, you will want to come back.

In addition to canoeing and hiking, you will have the chance to learn about these topics:

  • Orienteering
  • Packing your bags
  • Outdoor cooking
  • Archeaology
  • Water conservation

The event is free, but spots are limited and registration is required. For more information or to register contact Hope to see you there!

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MLK Day of Service: See the outdoors, meet new people, and do some good!

Join the Shawnee Outdoor AmeriCorps for a beautiful winter hike as we remove trash and graffiti from the Cove Hollow Trail in the Shawnee National Forest. The Cove Hollow Trail is just under 4 miles long on the west side of Cedar Lake. This moderately difficult trail meanders between a looming bluff line and serene lake. Located a short drive from Carbondale, Murphysboro, Jonesboro, and Cobden, the trail is a convenient location for hiking, camping, and other outdoor recreation activities. Unfortunately, the high traffic volume on the trail has also led to increased littering and vandalism of the various rock shelters that are located along the route.


In an effort to promote environmental stewardship and Leave No Trace principles, we will be leading a service project and hike along the trail for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Volunteers from the Boy Scouts of America, SIU, and the local community will join together to remove trash and graffiti vandalism from the trail and its surrounding rock formations. We encourage anyone interested in joining us to come out for a beautiful winter hike the day of the event. Participants under 18 must pre-register or have a guardian present at registration on the day of the event.


We will be meeting at the Cedar Lake boat launch parking lot at 10AM on Saturday, January 19th. From Rt. 127 turn east on Boat Dock Road travel approximately 1.25 miles to the gravel pull off and go to the registration area. We anticipate being done with the project around 1PM, but feel free to pack a lunch and a water bottle for the hike. We will have water jugs available for refills. Dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes and work gloves if you have them. In the event of inclement weather, we will reschedule our cleanup date to February 2nd at 10AM. For more information or to pre-register contact or 618-833-8576 x106.



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