Citizens Report American Irish Culture

McHenry County Misadventures with Danahey on the Loose

Woodstock Ale Fest
Slainte from Woodstock

So I spent a good portion of the two prior weekends up in McHenry County. (See the footnote for the initial weekend’s adventure.)

Mick Henry sounds like a good name for a TV detective.

The county, though, is named after William McHenry. Back in the 1800s, McHenry fought quite a bit against indigenous tribes. He also served in Illinois’ first legislature.

With that last name, he was probably Irish. Or a Scot. These days, McHenry County is like Ireland in that most of its people are of the pale sort. Plus, there’s a bog in Volo.

The Irish I encountered last weekend in McHenry County was in the form of drink. See, Best Fest Buddy Tom and I attended a beer fest up in Woodstock.

Woodstock, the McHenry County seat, is named after a place in Vermont from where white folks came. It has nothing to do with the hippie-infested 1969 rock festival or its sequels. Nor does Snoopy’s bird buddy come into the picture.

It is known for unleashing Orson Welles on the world. Welles got his start in show biz at the Woodstock Opera House.  Paul Newman invented salad dressing there. Or acted. Tom Bosley had some happy days in Woodstock, too.

Either way, the Opera House stands along the town square, where they filmed Groundhog Day. That happened more than 30 years ago. Chicago TV doesn’t let people forget that. Every Feb. 2  they still send crews to Woodstock to see if a sleepy rodent sees its shadow.

Tom and I spotted pierogies, but no groundhogs.  However, there was a nice, good sized farmers market.

I learned that some varieties of mushrooms sell for $24 a pound. And they don’t even make you see things. Perhaps, like  strong cannabis, you don’t need a lot of it for the resultant effect.

Tom bought some white turnips with which he would make a delicious soup. (The White Turnip was the working title of a popular HBO show, by the way.)

He saw them being used in a dish on Pati’s Mexican Table. Tom enjoys cooking shows the way straight teenage boys of my generation enjoyed Playboy Magazine. For the recipes.

I almost bought a pressure cooker for sale at an indoor flea market inside the Woodstock Moose Lodge. I thought about taking an old time Christmas cookie tin on the free table not far from a Moose member in a biker jacket.

Then I remembered. I don’t cook all that often, particularly under pressure. And I’ve cut way back on sweets.

And yeah, I’m meandering again. Wandering even. But that would put this story in Indiana, circa 1982.

Back to our ale tale.

Craft beer beard
Tom sporting a craft beer beard.

Tom and I thought about donning our craft beer beards for the fest.

Lack of facial hair aside, in early October, on a brisk but sunny day, people aren’t quite sure what to wear anywhere.

Some fest goers sported winter coats. I worry what they will do when the snow eventually falls. Other guests wore short pants with sandals. Maybe they were still mourning the death of Jimmy Buffett.

Wardrobe aside, we had fun sampling beverages.

Who needs to go grocery shopping when the flavors available included:

Passion fruit. Various melons and berries. Sour apples. Gummy Bears. Taffy apples. Beef. Pineapple. Vanilla. Coffee. Pumpkin spice coffee. Lavender. Mango. Peach. Guava. Garrett’s Popcorn. And even beer!

While sampling, we even wound up talking to three jovial women. I know! Can you believe it?

We were sitting in the sun at an aluminum picnic table set up on concrete, warming like turtles do on logs. So were they.

Turns out one was a teacher, one a  librarian and the other I’m not sure. They claimed they took an Uber from a town 20 miles away, if we heard right. Or else they were staying at one of their mom’s homes in Woodstock.

The trio confused us. So it was like being back in school.

They were having fun and funny. Somewhere between Abbott Elementary and a Cameron Diaz movie.

Toward the end of the event, we all wound up trying the Irish concoction mentioned earlier in this lecture.

The drink involved mixing one of the beers with one of the spirits available from another vendor. People were claiming it tasted a bit like the mix of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Guinness.

You know that shot. The shot with the problematic name.

Tom suggested they change the name of the shot to the Titanic. That makes about as much sense as what it’s called.

Just call it an Irish milkshake, for feck’s sake. Or a Bono.

The day waned. The women went their way.  Tom and I headed to Crystal Lake, because we’re big Friday the 13th fans.

Actually, Crystal Lake is on the way home. We wound up eating at a restaurant there called 1776. We changed into our puffy shirts, powdered wigs and pantaloons.  Or not.

The restaurant is so named as it started as a place that served dishes from the Declaration of Independence era. It used to host a dinner around 4th of July based on menus served over the centuries at the White House.

Now they stress farm to table. Which means there was hay all over the place. Or not.

I had the duck. Tom had lamb. According to this website, that made me Millard Fillmore and Tom, Chester Arthur.

Tom broke a wine glass and they didn’t even make him pay to replace it. Talk about being treated like a POTUS!

Our bellies full, we left McHenry County. Tom drove us back to our respective residential libraries – another weekend adventure under our belts.

Fattoria Rodano
Our wine selection at 1776, from 2021



On what very well may have been the last really warm weekend of 2023, I spent a Saturday morning in Marengo providing color commentary for two youth football games.

A friend asked me to help. He does the stadium booth announcing for Marengo High.

Once a year, he works the youth games, too. For that, he has friends cover the game on the very local radio station.

It was a good time. Plus, this experience gave me an appreciation of the craft of killing time between plays.

Which is to say, for once, I was at a loss for words.

If I had known more about the kids I could have come up with stuff like:

  • Little Liam eked out a first down there, much like he eked out a C on his math test last Tuesday.
  • You can tell. They really studied their playbook. No surprise, since their school consistently performs well on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness.
  • Rumor is the opponent’s tight end, Lucas Kayce, is dating his town’s Taylor Swift. Kayce looks like he might have been hurt on that play. I’m sure he’ll shake it off.

But hey. I did the best I could, with help from one of my buddy’s friends, even.

We did eat some pretty good local pizza live on the air. StoneBakers.

I also learned some stuff about youth football.

For instance, they still call a division heavyweights. Last century, when I was a lad, that meant you were chubby. These days the heavyweights mostly seemed to be kids who were tall and who hit Lifetime Fitness everyday.

Based on youth league rules I thought of some things that could make the woeful Chicago Bears season more enjoyable. For instance:

  • Coaches should be allowed to be on the field with the team to guide them through plays.
  • In games where both teams suck, it should be two points for kicking the ball between the posts after a touchdown, but just one point for getting the ball past the goal line.
  • Use the play I invented. I’m calling it the roundabout. Those are becoming more prevalent out my way. We’re so damn European. Anyway, with the roundabout, the receiver would hook to the right, then take the second exit toward the end zone. Something like that.

Now get back to the main story!

3 Responses to McHenry County Misadventures with Danahey on the Loose

  1. Full of interesting perspectives, facts, and fun, as usual! Thanks for sharing. Full speed ahead with your next one.

    • Thanks. It looks like it will be too soggy for an adventure this weekend. But I will have a piece about Louis Armstrong and his ties to Chicago in the next week or so.

  2. Can’t wait for that one, being a trumpet player for years myself, although not in the past 3 decades. He and Doc Severinsen were my favorites growing up! Loved both styles.

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