The Prairie Land Dancers kicked-off the event at 5:30 p.m. and
squared danced in the rain to a variety of songs from country
classics to swing music.
In the background, the luring aroma of Hilltop Catering's grilled
brats and hotdogs filled the air.
Meanwhile folks meandered around from tent to tent checking out the
food and drinks available. The city of Mount Pulaski served pulled
pork BBQ sandwiches, while the American Legion served alcoholic and
As the rain began to fall a little harder following the performance
by the square dancers, street festival organizer Renee Martin
announced there would be a 30 minute rain delay to allow for the
weather to pass.
At 6:30 p.m. Courthouse Foundation president, Tom Martin, addressed
the crowd with opening remarks. He began by thanking the 2013-2014
Mount Pulaski Grade School third graders who raised $610 toward the
continued restoration of the courthouse. Martin also mentioned a
Christmas tree project that several of the businesses around town
supported had also brought in between $3000-$4000 in donations. On
behalf of the committee Martin expressed his appreciation for the
community support and urged visitors to visit the courthouse and not
only sign in as guests, but also vote for the art show finalists
which included first and third graders of MPGS.
Martin mentioned that $70,000 had been raised in the community in
recent years and this money goes toward the ongoing courthouse
projects such as cleaning, painting and repairing windows. He noted
that the state cannot do much these days and it's been left up to
the residents of Mount Pulaski to take over.
Martin also said a $250,000 donation has been bequeathed from the
Waldo Bertoni family. In closing, Martin thanked everyone who had
helped with the courthouse and said, "It's kinda up to the Mount
Pulaski folks to take care of it."
Following Martin's remarks, Abraham Lincoln impersonator Randy
Duncan addressed the crowd with stories of the past. He spoke as Mr.
Lincoln and talked of meeting Mary Todd at a dance back in the day
in Springfield. He explained how the men would stand in one corner
of the room and the women in the other corner and eventually a man
would work up the courage to ask a woman to dance. He finally did
just that, asking Mary Todd, "Ma'am, I should like to dance with you
in the worst way." She obliged and eventually returned to her
friends saying, "He danced with me in the worst way."
Mr. Lincoln also mentioned traveling the courthouse circuit and
meeting Judge Davis in Mount Pulaski . He noted how he would go on
to appoint Judge Davis, a good man, to the Supreme Court. He also
spoke of a court case he took on for five dollars in nearby
The crowd truly enjoyed hearing Abraham Lincoln speak, as the folks
of Mount Pulaski are very proud of the connection to him and to
their historic courthouse where Lincoln once practiced his
profession as a circuit rider lawyer.
Next up on the entertainment stage was a man who also has a more
recent historic connection to Mount Pulaski as well. And boy, did
the crowd ever enjoy this performer. John Schlitt, a native of Mount
Pulaski, former lead singer of the '70s rock group Head East, and
lead singer of the Christian rock group Petra, took the stage with a
lively introduction of himself and immediately launched into the
Head East classic "Since You've Been Gone." The crowd loved it! And
this was just the beginning of a night of mutual admiration between
John and his hometown friends and fans. Schlitt quickly noted that
even though he's been away from Mount Pulaski for a long time, "I am
always here in Mount Pulaski in spirit."
John also sang "The Grafting" from his solo release of the same
name. He also mixed things up a bit by performing "Take Me Home,"
"Faith and Freedom," "Hope That Saves The World" and "Trading My
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Much to the delight of the crowd, John even performed the
Petra hit, "Beyond Belief." But it was this next song from the
1974 album "Flat As a Pancake" that had the crowd on it's feet
and singing to every word.
When the music began for "Never Been Any Reason," the hometown
folks knew they were in for a rare treat, and John delighted in
the experience as much as his fans. He even invited a young man
from the crowd by the name of Stephen Biker of Milan, MO to join
him on stage and sing this classic hit. What a priceless moment
that was for all who were on the Mount Pulaski square Friday
John Schlitt, the man whose career has spanned decades and taken
him to all 50 states and 35 countries performing in front of
millions of fans, was back in the community where it all began.
He was among friends and family. And he wasn't done yet.
Following "Never Been Any Reason" he asked the crowd if they
wanted one more. People were dancing in the street as John
closed his set appropriately with "Get Up and Enjoy Yourself."
Yes, John, the folks of Mount Pulaski did just that thanks to
Immediately after getting off stage, John was greeted with a
line of people who wished to express their sincere gratitude for
his wonderful performance and also share memories with him from
the good 'ole days. It was also a nice feeling to witness local
high school musicians Brady Walsh and Andrew Moody of the band
"Haircut Actual" standing in line to meet John, and of course,
John has influenced a whole new generation here in Mount
Pulaski. And as evidenced by the enthusiasm of the crowd, John
re-ignited a spark in that crowd that grew up with him and his
music 'back in the day.' What a treat for all the folks of Mount
The final musical performance of the evening was the band
"Rosetta Stone." Rosetta Stone performed a variety of country
and rock hits that kept the lively crowd going even a little
later than anticipated. Not to take anything away from Rosetta
Stone because they, too, were wonderful, but hometown boy John
Schlitt was a tough act to follow. Rosetta Stone however, rose
to the occasion and John Schlitt himself commented what a
"fantastic band they are" and he even told Renee Martin that "it
was a pleasure to share the stage with them." Renee Martin also
noted that "it is definitely a good possibility that we may
bring John back in the future. He is such a humble and down to
earth man. He enjoyed visiting the old friends, family and
When asked about plans for next year's street festival, Renee
Martin commented, "Next year I look forward to concentrating on
the things people liked the best and improving upon them. This
festival is based on the simplicity of things. We just try to
provide a simple, but fun night where folks can gather and
socialize. We like to bring awareness to the courthouse and
thank the volunteers and community for all they do throughout
Judging by the enthusiastic crowd Friday night, the evening
could truly be deemed a success. Kudos to all who put together a
such a nice event.
[By TEENA LOWERY]
Note: John Schlitt will be returning to Illinois in August.
He will be appearing with Petra at the Illinois State Fair on August