The Joliet Park District sprawls across more than 1,000 acres, engaging visitors with everything from sports to nature. Guests can wander through the foliaged paths of the Pilcher Park Nature Center and the organic community garden, or treat their senses to the floral colors and aromas that fill the bird-haven greenhouse. The 10,000-seat Joliet Memorial Stadium hosts high-school and college sporting events, while a dozen athletic fields fill with recreational players hitting baseballs, catching softballs, and spiking soccer balls when the referee isn't looking. During the summer, inner tubes transport patrons down Joliet Splash Station's high-speed water slides and 865-foot lazy river, and the glittery strands of Fourth of July fireworks color the skies above the stadium.
As the reigning Midwest Collegiate League champions, the CrackerJacks pour onto the diamond at Brennan Field set to defend their title while showcasing some of the country's top collegiate ballplayers. A year ago—during the inaugural season for both the team and the league—the CrackerJacks established themselves as a spring of talent, sending nine recruits to the league's first-ever all-star game. During 23 home games this season, including five Sunday matchups, fans can scout the club's refreshed roster of up-and-comers, who will remain with the 'Jacks until they head back to their university programs or until they grow too big to fit into Brennan Field's dugouts.
Boy-band juggernaut and Nickelodeon sensation Big Time Rush shines like the sun’s sons as its hotly anticipated Big Time Summer Tour enraptures flocks of fans with pop bliss. The fab foursome, known as BTR to fans and preteen stenographers, first snatched the hearts of millions with its eponymous TV show, recognized as the most-watched live-action series in Nickelodeon’s history. On the group's choreographed carnival of a tour, expert hoofer and crooner Kendall Schmidt leads the affable cast of personalities, which includes James (the ladies' man), Carlos (the joker), and Logan (the smarty warty), through hits from its gold debut, BTR. Their chart-topping sophomore album, Elevate, will also see its hooky anthems represented, such as “Music Sounds Better With U” and “All Over Again.” Expect elastic dance moves from the dapper quadratic and possible numbers from the just-released Big Time Movie, in which BTR covers tunes by obscure boy band The Beatles. Wunderkind Rachel Crow of The X-Factor fame and Australian heartthrob Cody Simpson start the show with peppy rallies and aural morality plays about how love can be tough and why stealing your dad’s head to sneak into R-rated movies isn’t cool.
The Grammy-winning outfit Switchfoot launches crowds into a layered rock soundscape that the band's three guitarists build during energetic live shows. At North Central College, the San Diego fivesome tours in the wake of last year's release, Vice Verses, continuing the new chapter the group began with Hello Hurricane, 2010's Grammy winner for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. "On this record," says frontman Jon Foreman, "we let a little bit more out." Some soul grooves and Motown flavors infuse several new tracks, including "Selling the News," in which Jon's spoken-word rap hopscotches over hip-hop beats. But the band doesn't stray too far from its SoCal rock roots. In "Dark Horse" it cranks out the tight riffs and poignant lyrics of a single destined to brew over time into a rock anthem that unites generations of people and centaurs. Downstate rockers Bottle of Justus open up the show, steering their melodies into the party-rock atmosphere in which they thrive.
Downers Grove Choral Society’s accomplished singers present classic choral works and contemporary masterpieces during concerts in Chicago’s western suburbs. Helmed by new music director Dr. Amy Weller, the choir will explore Rossini’s 149-year old Petite Messe Solennelle, a whimsical mass more playful than a beagle puppy wearing a propeller beanie. An award-winning lineup of guest artists, including soprano Christine Steyer and alto Laura Sauer, will fill each performance with pitch-perfect notes and rich vocal textures. A pair of vintage reed organs also joins the Society's lineup, with an 1884 Mason and Hamlin accompanying the performance in LaGrange and a Story and Clark organ backing the performance in Naperville. The Sunday matinee unfolds in a 13,000-square-foot concert hall designed by the Talaske Group, which perfected the acoustics at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Here, sound ricochets off of two massive chambers and motorized curtains designed to help tune concerts, filling up to 1,210 ears and 650 trick-or-treat baskets with crisp, delicious melodies.
Premeditated comedy is the same thing as premeditated crime—both would be more hilarious if spontaneous. Seat yourself before a scene of utter unpredictability with today's delightfully inconsistent deal: for $9, you get one ticket to an improv show at Manhattan's National Comedy Theatre (a $15 value), plus free popcorn (a $2 value) to satisfy your late-night, comedy-induced cravings. Watch as NCT's talented players face off in a hilarious improvised competition at 9:45 p.m. on Friday or Saturday nights. NCT's show is completely different every time and funny for all ages, so grab your 2.5 children and 8.7 grandnieces. You haven't had a family laugh this good since that time the dog fell down the stairs and was basically fine.