For my wife and I, visiting displays of artwork is not high on our list of possible family activities at this stage in our lives. After all, a quiet space that holds breakable objects is not an ideal environment for our rambunctious nearly 3-year-old son.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, though, Beckie and I were able to stroll by approximately two dozen works of art while our children burned off their excess energy. We spent this enjoyable afternoon at the Wandell Sculpture Garden in Meadowbrook Park in Urbana.
This park is located along Windsor Road between U.S. Route 45 and Illinois Route 130.
I had wanted to go to the garden ever since I saw JG-TC Staff Photographer Ken Trevarthan’s photo essay on this site at wintertime, when the colorful sculptures there were trimmed by snow. I opted to take a road trip to the garden in the fall, my favorite time of year to be outdoors.
We started our visit at Meadowbrook Park’s Prairie Play, which is reported to be the Urbana Park District’s largest play structure. Our 2-year-old son, Owen, and 8-year-old daughter, Hannah both had fun climbing all over this wood-framed playground, which has castle-like turrets at the top of its slides. Owen also tried out almost every swing in the area for young children.
Meadowbrook Park’s playground is located next to a sculpture, “Minimal Response III” by Ed Benevente, that depicts two towering, red hammer-headed figures facing each other.
From there, we headed out to look at more sculptures along the 3-mile paved trail that loops around 130-acre Meadowbrook Park. We shared the trail that day with several dog walkers and joggers.
The trail took us across a foot bridge over McCullough Creek and then under the shade of trees to a flower and vegetable garden area along Race Street. We were amused to see the giant bug sculptures mounted on the side of an old-fashioned barn next to the Champaign-Urbana Herb Society Garden.
Another giant animal, the “El-Arairah” rabbit sculpture by Todd Frahm, greeted us after we hiked by the Timpone Family Tree Grove. This sculpture is located near the foot bridge at the fork of McCullough and Douglas creeks. On the other side of the bridge, the shade trees along the trail gave way to prairie grass that softly rustled in the wind.
We then walked along the edge of the native Illinois Tallgrass Prairie. A solitary female figure, the “Marker” sculpture by Peter Fagan, gazed north across the prairie from her pedestal. Up the trail a ways, we found that the Freyfogle Overlook offers hikers an elevated vantage point for looking west over the tall grass and watching the sunset.
Our children’s energy had started to ebb by this point but suddenly revived as they saw that we had made it back to the Prairie Play area.
They both ran at top speed across a large meadow to reach the playground. It took some convincing to get them out of the playground and back in the family car as the sun set on our day at the Sculpture Garden.
Jeni’s ice cream for dessert
After visiting the park, we headed to downtown Urbana to pick up dessert at Strawberry Fields Natural Food Market. This shop now carries one of my favorite brands of ice cream, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, founded in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio.
My wife and I discovered Jeni’s a few years ago at their Scoop Shop in Columbus’ Short North Arts District and got hooked. The Jeni’s website reports that Jeni Britton Bauer and her kitchen team make “every ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt from the ground up with grass-grazed Ohio cream, local produce, and carefully sourced ingredients including rare, fair-trade vanilla and bean-to-bar chocolate.”
At Strawberry Fields, we picked up a pint of peanut butter and dark chocolate Buckeye State ice cream. We also tried an Orchid Vanilla ice cream sandwich, which included black currant jam filling between almond macaroons. Both ice creams were delicious, providing a sweet end to a fun day.
This column, previous entries in the series, and posts about other road trips can be found online at www.facebook.com/RobStroud.DayTripper.
Rob Stroud is a staff writer for the JG-TC. Contact him at email@example.com or 238-6861.