Citizens of Morris describe their town as a community Norman Rockwell would have loved, and you can easily see why. Situated along the Illinois River just an hour’s drive southwest of Chicago, the inviting little town of Morris has nearly 14,000 residents and reflects many aspects of the American culture of yesteryear. Locals and visitors enjoy strolling the streets of the picturesque downtown, outdoor recreation along the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and attending the community’s highly anticipated annual events.
The county seat of Grundy County, Morris’ agricultural roots run deep. The Grundy County Farm Bureau celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, and every July, Morris hosts the Grundy County Agricultural District Fair, a tradition of good, clean family fun for more than a century.
Racing fans gather every Friday night from April through Labor Day at the Grundy County Speedway, a one-third-mile high bank, paved oval track featuring super late-model racing.
Summertime in Morris
Discover a treasure trove of antiques, handcrafted items, flowers, baked goods and fresh produce at 3 French Hens French Country Market, which happens the second Saturday of each month, May through October. Held at Canal Port in Morris, the French Country Market combines a farmers’ market with boutique-style shopping and has more than 130 vendors. Stop by for some old-fashioned kettle corn, Amish breads and butters, Good Humor ice cream and other treats. Upcoming dates include June 11, July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8.
Automobile fans, start your engines and make plans to attend the hugely popular Morris Cruise Night car show, held on the same Saturdays as the French Country Market from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Hundreds of car enthusiasts of all ages flood downtown Morris, while music from the 1960s and ’70s transports them to a simpler era. The entry fee costs $10 per vehicle, and proceeds benefit a different charitable organization each year.
Love the outdoors? Then you’ll enjoy hiking or biking the Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail, which provides 61.5 miles of scenic views. If you’d rather play on the water, William G. Stratton State Park provides public boat access to the Illinois River for boating or water-skiing. Visitors can also fish and picnic at the state park.
Downtown Eats & Events
Historic downtown Morris draws shoppers and sightseers because of its interesting and unusual shops in a tranquil setting. Charming boutiques sell clothing and accessories, while consignment shops give new life to previously owned items. Among a few of the treasures you’ll find in the downtown district are gifts, jewelry, antiques, books, flowers, spa services and sewing supplies.
Good Eats in Morris
If all that shopping makes you hungry, take advantage of the many locally owned restaurants within walking distance downtown. Letty Mae’s Tearoom, a favorite spot among locals, reminds one of Grandma’s kitchen with its vintage, mismatched dishes and teacups. The menu offers delicious sandwiches, salads and soups made from scratch daily. Try their signature Cold Strawberry Soup, and save room for dessert. Baked goods include muffins, scones, cupcakes and three-layer cakes.
Art lovers shouldn’t miss downtown Morris’ second Liberty Arts Festival, slated for July 14-16. It features musicians, vocalists, dancers, artists and theater.
Morris’ largest annual event pays tribute to the county’s agricultural heritage and practically doubles the town’s population. Now in its 68th year, the Grundy County Corn Festival takes place Sept. 28 through Oct. 2. Corn festival events happen at various locations downtown, including baby, art and photography shows, a parade, train rides, chili supper, water fights, talent show, petting zoo, live entertainment, karaoke, ham–and-beans dinner, pie eating contest and fireworks. Food booths tempt festival-goers with funnel cakes, cotton candy, corn dogs and, of course, sweet corn.