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Published 3 years ago
Last updated 2 years ago
An event locals have known as something special for the past 17 years is being recognized throughout the state this year.
As Illinois celebrates its 200th birthday, Drivin’ the Dixie has been named an official Illinois Bicentennial event. It’s also received four awards from the Illinois State Historical Society and an award of merit from the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Now that we’re having the state’s bicentennial, I thought it was important to get recognition that the highway was the first legal road in Illinois,” said Elaine Egdorf, an event organizer. “That’s important, but the whole purpose, to me, is to have people recognize the historic aspects of the road and the communities, having a good day and an enjoyable experience.”
Egdorf chairs the Homewood Heritage Committee, is founder of the Homewood Historical Society and is president of the South Suburban Heritage Association. She helps organize the drive each year.
The history of Dixie Highway dates back to the early 19th century, when trapper Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard established trading posts from Chicago to Vincennes, Indiana. The road between them was called Hubbard’s Trail.
It became Dixie Highway in 1914 and was designated Illinois Route 1 in 1835.
“It was the best-traveled, best-marked road in the state when Illinois became a state (in 1818),” Egdorf said. “That’s why it is Route 1.”
Drivin’ the Dixie started in 2002 as a vintage car road rally but is now a 45-mile tour of the highway starting in Blue Island and ending on the Kankakee River in Momence. It stops in both Homewood and Flossmoor.
Each town hosts stops along the way, from a free hot dog lunch in Steger to a car show at Flossmoor Family Automotive in Flossmoor to coffee and rolls in Blue Island.
In Homewood, the cars will stop at the St. Paul Community Church parking lot at 18200 Dixie Highway. Participants can take selfies in front of the Dixie Highway mural on the east side of the road, view the Dixie Highway interpretive sign at Independence Park on the corner of Hickory Road and Dixie Highway.
“The cooperation from some of these towns is just incredible,” Egdorf said. “I’ve met some of the nicest people, the best who love their towns.”
This year’s drive will be on June 16. It begins at 9 a.m. in Blue Island and should be in Flossmoor and Homewood about an hour later, Egdorf said. In the past, as many as 200 cars have registered for the event, she said.
Drivin’ the Dixie was once open to only vintage cars. Today it is an all-ages event and any car can make the trip. Registration is $15 per car if pre-registered at drivinthedixie.combefore June 11 or $20 on the day of the event.
Registered cars get a map to follow and a “passport” that will be stamped at each designated site. There’s a raffle at the end of the tour and each person in each car is given a ticket for each stamp.
Every town donates two raffle prizes.
“It’s not a race, it’s a tour. I think those words are very important,” Egdorf said. “Some people think it’s as fast as you can get down to Momence. But the idea is to have a nice, leisurely day.”