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Museum May: Nature Never Fails to Entertain

May 22, 2019

As May continues, we are going to keep taking a look at the incredible Museums in our area. As spring blends into summer, new exhibits, events, and opportunities spring up, and the Champaign County Museum Network has been kind enough to share with us some sneak peeks at what to expect from now through August.

In this blog series, which we’re calling Museum May, we turn our second entry to the various ways the CCMN is offering opportunities to interact and learn from the outdoors. In the greater Champaign County area, nature never fails to entertain residents and visitors of all ages, and these CMNN summer programs and events are sure to be a hit!

Celebrating the Stars and Historical Nature at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve

Celebrate the wondrous night sky at Illinois’ FIRST and ONLY International Dark Sky Park! Learn about the night sky & lighting pollution, participate in hands-on activities, create & take home special crafts, and speak with astronomy & astrophotography experts! Beginning at 9 p.m. join the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society for one of the popular Starwatch programs where attendees will view the stars, planets, and more! Weather-permitting, the program will go until midnight, but you may leave when you wish. This event will take place from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., and is scheduled for Saturday June 1st.

On June 29th at Middle Fork, make sure to return for the Bison Birthday Celebration. Last year, a nearly 400 year old bison skull was discovered on CCFPD property and that’s cause for celebration! Join CCFPD for an interactive bison birthday celebration and learn all about these amazing creatures. The day will kick off with a short presentation on bison zooarchaeology by Steven Kuehn, Zooarchaeologist with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey. Then, participate in engaging activities where you can see the bison skull in person, learn what makes these animals so special, retrace the path of bison on a walk to the Middle Fork River, speak with experts about recent discoveries, and much more! At 2:15 p.m., be sure to join in with the singing of happy birthday to our new, but very old, friend! The event will run from 1-3 p.m. on June 29th.

Take Me Fishing and Meet the Monarchs at the Homer Lake Forest Preserve

Bring your family and friends out to the Homer Lake Forest Preserve for some free fishing fun! Kids will have the chance to win awards for the Most Fish, the Biggest Fish, and the Good Sport Award! Basic fishing instruction will be available to beginners. Cane poles and bait will be available to use, but you are welcome to bring your own. All event fishing is catch-and-release, and adult supervision of children 15 and under is required. For more info: (217) 896-2455 or jwick@ccfpd.org. This event will take place June 22nd from 9-11 a.m.

Come back on July 18th and again on August 14th to check up on Homer Lake’s resident monarch caterpillars. Learn more about the monarch life cycle, see caterpillars and chrysalises up close, and maybe even witness the release of some butterflies! Stations will be set up for participants to view specimens through microscopes. You can also pick up some free milkweed seeds.

On August 2nd, Homer Lake Interpretive Center will be hosting Nature’s Treasures, a Nature Play Pre-K event. This program is for preschoolers ages 3-6 to learn as we play in nature! We will search the area around us for treasures to add to a collection and play with forest putty. At the end of the program, the forest putty will be yours to keep! This is a chance for parents/grandparents to actively engage with children as they experience the natural world. Dress for the weather, as we will be outdoors for the entire program. The free event runs from 10-11 a.m. on August 2nd and is free with registration due by August 1st.

CCFPD Summer Concert Series

Lastly, if nature exploration is not your thing, how about enjoying some music in the county’s beautiful forest preserves? Each concert will run from 5-7 p.m. Refreshments will be available for purchase from vendors. For more info: (217) 586-2612 or pcain@ccfpd.org.


History is all over the greater Champaign County area, so take advantage of these events, or pop into the museums for a regular visit! When you have an itch for history or learning, here are the summer hours for Champaign County Museum Network attractions:



May through Aug:

Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat 10–4


Tue-Fri, 10 am to 4 pm, Sat-Sun 1 pm to 5 pm; CLOSED Jul 4, Aug 19-23


Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 9am-4pm {CLOSED: May 27, July 4}


Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 1-5pm


June-August: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-4pm (CLOSED: May 27, July 4)


Wed--Fri 1pm-5pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 1pm-5pm


Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 12:00 pm–5:00 pm

Wed-Fri: 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Saturday: 10:00 am–4:00 pm

Sunday: 12:00 pm–4:00 pm


Show Hours:

Friday–Saturday, 7 pm and 8 pm

(June/July: No shows on Saturdays; Kids’ Matinees on Tuesdays, 1 and 2 pm and Thursdays, 10 and 11 am)


Saturday 1:30- 4:30 pm

Weekdays (Tuesday through Friday): By Appointment

Closed Sundays and Mondays


Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat: 10am-6pm

Wed: 10am-9pm

Sun: 1-5pm


Monday – Tuesday: 8:30am – 12pm & 1 – 5pm

Wednesday: 10am – 12pm & 1 – 5pm

Thursday – Friday: 8:30am – 12pm & 1 – 5pm

CLOSED weekends and some Federal Holidays, but can be opened for special tours with advanced request.

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