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.
Joe Montalto was riding high after his first-place finish in the Illinois state wakeboarding championship. It was one step away from national recognition and sponsorship, and he hit the water hard to prepare. Joe was mastering a front flip 180 when he missed the wake and landed in the flat water, tearing his ACL and ending any chance he had at competing professionally. After such a career-altering accident, no one would have blamed him for leaving the sport, but he defied expectation. After years of rehabilitation with his wakeboard, Joe still rides the water regularly and spends each summer inducting new riders into the sport he loves with his company, Ride Lab Wakeboard School. He and his cousin, Cody Jarosch, lead groups onto the water to catch their first jump inside the wake. He also coaches competitive boarders for more serious competition, hosts summer camps, coaches collegiate clubs in between private lessons, and demos Ronix gear for anyone. In addition to his wakeboard lessons, Joe designs clothing bearing Ride Lab's insignia and shoots and edits film for his riders.
The Quad City Symphony Orchestra tickles ears with beautiful melodies and spectacular performances during its annual "Holiday Pops" concerts. Guest conductor Michael Butterman takes charge of an all-star cast that features six-time U.S. figure-skating champion Todd Eldredge as he shows off his moves and carves his version of a perfect tumbleweed into the ice. Actor and Quad Cities native John Getz lends his vocal talents to festive proceedings, and internationally acclaimed trumpeter Jon Faddis jazzes up orchestral pieces with fiery improvisation. The show takes place at the i wireless Center, with guests choosing from lower-bowl seats for straight-ahead sightlines or upper-bowl perches for enviable views of conductor stage dives.
The Kankakee County Speedway, roaring into its 62nd season, rouses racing fans with a full schedule of upcoming supersonic events, such as the 3rd Annual Northfield Square Mall Show. Competitors from a wide range of divisions—including Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Modifieds, Stock Cars, I-Mods, and Sport Compacts—descend upon the course determined to etch their name into the track's storied history and rack up cash and points, which are needed to win championships. The speedway boasts a long list of legends, such as Jim O' Connor, who collected six titles and 84 checkered flags during his career, and "Cocktail" Tommy Kroll, who has won six track championships in four different decades. Additionally, autograph sessions after select events soup up memorabilia collections, and children 10 years of age and younger can ride the "Kids Club" bus and gain free admission upon stating their birthday.
The Chicagoland Speedway hosts the NASCAR Nationwide Series' STP 300 and the ARCA Racing Series' Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 150 events on June 4. The NASCAR Nationwide race features the engine-revving of racers Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne, tearing up the asphalt track. Free parking is available beginning at 8 a.m., and gates open at noon. Seats are in section G, the preferred-seating area, and pit passes get attendants close enough to the cars to lend a wrench to a crewmember in need. The speedway also features 18-degree banked turns, ensuring an exhilarating race that will even impress instructors at a cliff-jumping academy. Following the races, alternative-rock band Puddle of Mudd entertains concert-goers with impassioned vocals, tight rhythms, and a tri-fold board to promote erosion awareness.
In 2011, the Slammers capped their inaugural season by rising from the ashes of the now-defunct Joliet JackHammers to claim the Frontier League championship. This year, the team begins its quest for a second title by playing their rivals, the Traverse City Beach Bums. 2011 All-Star Game MVP Erik Lis swings for the fences in hopes of topping last season's 20 home runs and 77 RBI. Similarly trustworthy at the plate, infielder Hector Pellot led the team last year with a .319 batting average. Before the opening day game, the team will take to the field for a ring ceremony commemorating last season's championship. The celebration provides a perfectly good excuse for the post-game fireworks display, which is intended to entertain fans and trick a local parliament of owls into thinking the sky wars have begun. In addition, attendees receive a magnet schedule to stay apprised of the Slammers' upcoming games as well as Slammers loot, which can be used as cash inside Silver Cross Field or aboard any pirate vessels docked in the parking lot.