Eat your heart out ladies: I married a Harvard man.
That’s right: he was born and raised in Harvard, Illinois — a small town near the border of Wisconsin.
Every first weekend in June, we return to his hometown for the ultimate reunion of family, friends, neighbors and classmates. It’s Harvard Milk Days, the longest running festival in the state of Illinois. The week-long event boasts bed races, cow chip lotto, a kiddie parade, carnies and the best parade in McHenry County.
According to their website, it all began in the spring of 1942 when people got together to honor the area farmers for their War Effort of increasing milk and food production for the servicemen. At that time there were seven dairy companies within a 15-mile radius of Harvard and more milk was being produced than anywhere in the United States. Harvard became the self-proclaimed “Milk Capitol of the World.”
The fiberglass cow in the center of town is named Harmilda from the words Harvard Milk Days.
However, a lot more beer than milk gets consumed over Milk Day weekend.
Over the years, I have learned to give my husband a hall pass for Friday so he could live up his glory days without the old ball and chain. The kids and I arrive on Saturday to mixed reviews of his performance. I always know it was a successful night if he ends up eating donuts in Swiss Maid Bakery at 2 a.m.
Tom’s parents’ house is right on the Milky Way parade route so we have the best seats in town. The kids hoard parade candy and have a blast with their cousins. You won’t find a closer knit community, friendlier faces or more nicknames than the great people of Harvard. (Shout out to UT, Dude, Frog, Cluck, Big Daddy, Chief, Bull, LWJB, Bear, Boney, Billy Pete, Buffy, Buckwheat, Jimbo, Cricket, Hot Rod, Hodge, Squirrelly Earl, Beeters, Rustic Man, Kenny J, Sod Buster and all the folks at the Pound Bakery.)
I am so fortunate that my kids have this wholesome family tradition that is as close to a Norman Rockwell painting as you can get.
And it sure beats the summer rituals I grew up with on Chicago’s Northwest side. We’d make our own parade riding through alleys in abandoned shopping carts while blowing off M-8s in garbage cans. Our neighbors always called out our nicknames: Stupid Punks, Little A-holes and I’m-Calling-the-Cops!
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