Monday, June 15, 2009

Heavenly Galena

GALENA, Ill. -- For 20,000 years, things have been, shall we say, looking "up" around here.

The shearing glaciers of the last ice age plowed their way across much of the Midwest -- but missed northwestern Illinois. The result: hills and valleys and bluffs that challenge our notion of the Prairie State.

Much later, those high hills were mined for metals -- in 1826 Galena was named for the technical term for lead sulfide. The little village's economy has ebbed and flowed over the years but these days, the sky's the limit as a tourist destination.

UP, UP AND AWAY: This coming weekend, the main attraction here will be the Great Galena Balloon Race, a gathering of 20 or so afficionados of those giant flying vessels that evoke Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days.

Started eight years ago as a benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the balloon events are staged at the upscale Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, a 6,800-acre golf-focused spread centered by a 225-acre fishing lake.

During most of the year, the Galena On The Fly company offers individual hot air balloon flights, launched from the Eagle Ridge grounds. Aboard the piloted flights, couples have become engaged, been married or renewed their vows.

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