I will be headed toward Springfield and the Illinois State Fair and Conservation World by the time this Wild Weekend Wandering around Chicago outdoors posts.

Few things illustrate the great divide in Illinois quite like the State Fair. It is satirized as cowboy hats, boots, Daisy Dukes and fried food by Chicago-area folks and embraced for just that by much of the Downstate.

To be honest, some of the fried food is downright innovative in a sort of stayed-up-too-late-drinking-and-thinking-too-much sort of way.

I enjoy the State Fair and both our younger kids qualified for state in 4-H, so I am hitting the road at 5 a.m. with them.

For me, the highlight of the day, other than seeing how well the kids do will be Conservation World. More on Conservation World is below.

Otherwise, there is the Humboldt Park Fishing Society picnic, squirrel hunting, wading of rivers and streams, hitting local ponds or lakes and waiting on some of the warm water to blow out of southern Lake Michigan.

With that, to the Wild Weekend Wandering around Chicago outdoors.

CONSERVATION WORLD: The 30-acre park with all sorts of outdoors and IDNR-related activities is on the north end of the State Fairgrounds and  open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. today through Aug. 19.

On Thursday, @IllinoisDNR tweeted:

Today is Smokey Bear’s 74th birthday. Smokey will be on hand Friday morning at 10:00 to officially open the gate at Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Always remember: Be safe! Only you can prevent wildfires!

OK, noted, even if I am not a big fan of Smokey Bear. I am a big fan of big fish and they will be there.

Resized/Sun-Times

Hawg Trough.
Provided/Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Just-retired fisheries chief Dan Stephenson emailed the photo above and this note:

The IDNR Division of Fisheries purchased a “hawg” trough for displaying fish at the fair.  We have had swimming pools for 35+ years that were hard for kids (our young anglers) to look down into, so with the IL Fish Management Fund we were able to purchase this mobile aquarium.  We are excited about its use at the fair.  Come to Conservation World to see it!  And of course the huge fish that are in it.  We also have casts of several state record fish (muskie, bluegill, hybrid crappie, an alligator gar and an 82 pound bighead carp mounting).

I have plenty of photos of big fish in those swimming pools.

HUMBOLDT PICNIC: Larry Green posted that the Humboldt Park Fishing Society Picnic Event is 1-11 p..m. Saturday. That may be the most eclectic fishing society I know of and probably has a good bit to do with Green’s nature. Some year I would like to do it just to get the full sense of it.

FREE UPLAND GAME PERMITS: The coolest hunting program in Illinois is the free upland game permit program, where hunters can be king for a day. The application period runs through Aug. 31. And I need to get my application in. Click here for information.

OTHER ILLINOIS PERMITS: Hunting draws closer and closer, well, squirrel season is already open, and time to focus on permits. Here are some notes: through Aug. 17, application are accepted for the third lottery for firearm and muzzleloader deer permits. Click here for information. . . . Aug. 25 is the deadline to apply for remaining free dove hunting permits, first come, first served. Click here for information. . . . Through Aug. 20, hunters may apply for the second lottery for fall wild turkey shotgun season (Oct. 20-28). Click here for information.

BEARS TRAINING CAMP: Click here for my annual list of suggestions for side trips before or after Bears training camp.

RIVER FISHING: Rivers to the south and west all over are pretty much low and clear as they have been all year. If you’re a wader, now is the time to get out. Click here for a story of my doing it Monday on the Kankakee and a couple tribs.

Ken Gortowski sent this suggestion on Monday, before the little blip of water came through the Fox River, but it is coming down again as of Thursday afternoon:

If I were still fishing, I’d go anywhere from about a 1/4 mile upstream of the Route 30 bridge all the way down to and beyond the Saw Wee Kee canoe launch. I’d also only go from sunrise to about 9 AM and on the other side, the last 3 hours of the day.

SQUIRREL HUNTING: Squirrel hunting in Illinois opened Aug. 1. The one nearby public spot open during early season is Iroquois County State Wild Area. Other sites open in September, usually after the first few days of dove hunting.

THE DRUM ALTERNATIVE: All I need to say is that when the wind is from the north and Lake Michigan at its dammest, fishing for freshwater drum is at its best. Keep that in mind as an option. It might be the most exciting thing going on the lakefront.

NOTEBAERT NOTE: Just a reminder, for those looking to save and still see a cool place, Thursday is suggested donation day at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

FROG SEASON:  Still haven’t gotten out with our son. That needs to change. Frog season, bullfrogs only, is open in Illinois. Daily bag is eight. A fishing license is required and legal means of taking them are “hook and line, gig, pitchfork, spear, bow and arrow, hand, or landing net.”

MIDEWIN: To give an idea of what you might experience at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, click here for my column about a visit earlier this month.

The seasonal guided tours at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie run weekends through October. The Ranger Trailer is open weekends, weather permitting, at the Iron Bridge Trailhead. Trails are open daily 4 a.m.-10 p.m.

For a complete list of events and programming go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd535052.pdf.

JAZZIN’AT THE SHEDD: “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” runs Wednesday nights through Oct. 10. Click here for more info.