Begalka: Richmond has stories worth telling

You are here

Sidewalk Stories

John Shiel has become enamored with a town he worked near for years but never lived in.

But he believes that detachment from Richmond gives him a unique perspective to talk about – and the many treasures a simple walkabout will reveal. Starting April 22 he intends to do just that with a new series he’s calling “Sidewalk Stories.”

Shiel, a retired interpretative naturalist with McHenry County College, will share some of Richmond’s most compelling stores during a 2-mile walk along the village’s sidewalks and roadsides.

“I got yapping with people about the lovely nature of the town, and I just talked myself into doing this. It was pre-organic,” Shiel said. “I’ve been around the town for almost 40 years, even though I lived in Johnsburg and now Wonder Lake. I know that it is dripping with cool, old stuff.”

Sidewalk tours run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on eight Saturdays starting next month. Other walks will be May 13, June 3, July 1, Aug. 26, Sept. 16, Oct. 14 and Nov. 4. In certain cases, stories could be tailored to fit into appropriate themes, such as patriotism on the July 1 walk.

“When I went to Ireland and spent a month touring there, the guides had a different style than I had ever seen,” Shiel said. “It gave me some framework, some techniques, about how I might do it here. It was fascinating. It opened my eyes … and my imagination.”

All of the walking tours will start from the old wooden bridge on George Street behind Anderson’s Candy Shop.

“After a loop around Richmond’s antique downtown, bridges and walkways, we’ll pass through a remarkable gallery of very impressive Victorian homes,” Shiel said. “Add in a couple of old churches, a retired school and the settlement’s original burial ground, and we’ll end up at the old farmhouses on Broadway out in McConnellville, where Richmond truly began.”

Ample parking stretches along the railroad trail from George Street north to Broadway Street. The best access for most drivers will be to turn west off Main Street/Route 12 onto Broadway. A maximum of about two dozen people can attend a particular walk. The cost is $10 in cash, payable before the start of each walk.

To register or for information, contact Shiel at 815-814- 6342 or

“Leading tours is what I used to do for the [McHenry County] Conservation District and on an independent basis,” Shiel said. “After 20 years of not doing walks and programs, this is an itch that came back and needed a scratch.”
Upcoming events

The local chapter of the American Association of University Women and McHenry County College are collaborating to show a film about the status of women in the U.S. “Equal Means Equal” will be shown from 10 a.m. to noon March 18 at Classic Cinema’s Woodstock Theatre, 209 Main St. There is no admission charge, but donations to underwrite the scholarships for women at MCC will be accepted.

As part of Women’s History Month, other programs include a student-led panel discussion at 11:30 a.m. March 13, a March 21 discussion of women’s roles and experiences in America before the Civil War, and a March 22 program during which female veterans discuss their transition back to civilian life after military service. For information, call Kathy Hayhurst at 815-455-8740 or visit

Join musician, author and cultural historian Bucky Halker at 3 p.m. Monday at the McHenry County Historical Society Museum, 6422 Main St. in Union. In “Ain’t Got a Dollar: Illinois Workers and Protest Songs, 1865-1965,” Halker will use a blend of performance, audience participation, commentary and discussion as he reviews a century of songs from Illinois workers. For details about this and other programs in the 31st annual Sampler Lecture Series, visit

• Kurt Begalka is the administrator of the McHenry County Historical Society. He can be reached at


Published Monday, March 6, 2017  in the Northwest Herald

Related News

Recently Added News

Recently Added Exhibits