Things to do in the Winter

Things to do in the winter in the Starved Rock Area.

Sharon has Challenged me to come up with at least 10 things to do in our area during the Winter time. Well, I hear the call and I will answer it! Challenge accepted! So I will scour the area looking for inside and outside activities for our area, hoping to find something for everyone.

  1. Ice Falls at Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks – With the freezing temperatures, the waterfalls at the parks turn even more magical when they freeze over. Different hues of Blue abound inside these falls, that you will see when you get right up to them. Bring your camera, they’re very photogenic! Also you may see trained ice climbers inching their way to the top, but be careful not to get to close if you see them as chunks of ice may fall while they’re doing it. 
  2. Eagle watching at Starved Rock – As the smaller creeks, ponds and other tributaries freeze over, the eagles will flock around the Illinois river in search of food. By the lock and dam across from Starved Rock is one of their favorite hunting grounds. In the trees surrounding the area, you will see the white heads of these majestic birds throughout. Bring your binoculars to get a really good look at them!
  3. Stay at the Brightwood Inn – Yes! Stay at the Brightwood Inn! We have fireplaces, hot tubs, fluffy robes, Hot Coa Coa, books, board games, DVD players. All that is perfect after a nice invigorating hike looking at Frozen Waterfalls and counting Eagles! After all we are “a better way to stay”!! 😉 
  4. Illinois Waterway Visitor’s center – Get up close and personal with the Impressively large tow boats and see how the locks work that are along the Illinois river. They also have a viewing platform with a telescope for viewing the Bald Eagles.  
  5. LaSalle County Historical Museum – The museum complex is located on the banks of the Illinois & Michigan Canal a few miles south of I-80 on Route 178 in historical Utica, Illinois. The two-story stone museum was built during the presidency of Zachary Taylor in 1848. Originally it was a general store serving the needs of early pioneers and the traffic along the canal. Steeped in tradition, all its natural charm has been preserved by the Society.  
  6. Cross Country Skiing – There are 6 miles of cross-country ski trails with ski rental available weekends from December through March. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails. Call 815-667-4726 to check conditions and status before coming to use these facilities. 
  7. Wine Tasting – Utica has two wineries, each with it’s own tasting room, August Hill winery and Illinois River Winery. Stop buy and sample their hand crafted wines, they are both very good! Also, Utica has a tasting room called Clark’s Run Creek Gifts and Wine Tasting, where you can sample a variety of different vintners, and they also have craft beer. 
  8. Beer Tasting – Ottawa has a micro brew pub called Tangled Roots where they have a plethora of different beers for you to sample at their tasting room. Brewed on site and sometimes in conjunction with neighboring Radium city Brewery (they do not have a tasting room unfortunately) in beautiful copper kettles that you can see through glass walls. You can also go next door to their sister restaurant Lone Buffalo and try the beers with delicious, seasonal and locally sourced food. 
  9. Shopping – Downtown LaSalle, Downtown Utica and Downtown Ottawa all have lovely shops with various interesting wares for you to meander through. There are also antique stores in Utica and Ottawa. Peru has an Antique Mall with LARGE assortment of various antiques. Last time we were there, we spent hours looking at things, it felt like being in a museum! 
  10. Dining – Once again, Downtown LaSalle, Downtown Utica and Downtown Ottawa have great local restaurants for you to choose from. Look them up yourself on-line or ask us for suggestions when you get here. There are too many to list in this little article! 
  11. Mansion tours – LaSalle has the Hegler Carus Mansion where Visitors today experience the grandeur of a bygone era and the heritage of a fascinating family whose history is woven tightly with that of the Illinois Valley. Then Ottawa has the Reddick Mansion. Historically important and architecturally unique, the Reddick Mansion anchors  Washington Square, the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  Built in 1855, this lovely 22-room Italianate mansion was possibly the most expensive and ornate private home built in Illinois before the Civil War. 
  12. Horseback Riding – Yes! Horseback riding in the winter! Cedar Creek Ranch is open year round and has many miles of scenic trails for you to ride through. They even have a restaurant called the Gun Smoke Grill for you to warm up afterwards with some good hot food! 
  13. Day Spa – Indulge yourself at one our local day spas. There are many in the area and a wide variety of services. One in particular is called Salt Tree Yoga spa. They have a Himalayan salt cave where you can sit and relax and breath in the salty air, which is suppose to be great for your lungs! 

Well looky there! I came up with 13 different things to do in the area! So there is no reason to sit at home bored when there’s all this stuff to do. So come out! Hike, shop, eat, taste, it’s all here waiting for you! And of course, stay at the Brightwood Inn, where there’s a comfy bed and a fireplace waiting for you! 😀

Week days in the Starved Rock area

Well, it was a busy Memorial Day weekend here at the Brightwood Inn and the Starved Rock area in general. Once again they had to halt traffic to the parks because they were too full. The trails were choked with people, trash was over flowing the garbage cans and our guests reported they saw people were carving into the trees off the trails. People were wandering off the trails and one guy fell 40 feet in one of the canyons. It’s reported that he’s in good condition now. Conservation officers handed out 76 tickets. Things were pretty chaotic in the Village of North Utica. It was estimated that there were 96,000 people here over the weekend!! I gotta say, all the good press Starved Rock has been getting has it’s down side. I’ll be honest with you, I try not to leave the property on the weekends so that I don’t have to deal with the chaos.

But, when the week days come, things slow down quite nicely. There is a little more solitude to hiking the trails and it’s so much quieter. You can actually hear the birds, not other peoples conversations. Restaurants are less crowded, traffic is a breeze. The only thing is, once in a great while, you might get stuck behind one of the local farmers tractors, but don’t worry, it’s not for long. Everything is so much more relaxing here on the weekdays.  

So if that isn’t enough encouragement to get to come to the Starved Rock area (and preferably the Brightwood Inn) on the weekdays, we have our “Save Big Bucks” deal. Do you have the ability to stay two nights?  If you answered yes then we have a deal for you.   Stay 2 nights in Door County or Turkey Run and we’ll give you $15 off per night.  Stay 2 nights in Mackinac or Sequoia and get $25 off per night.  Stay 2 nights in Vieux Carre, Tortola or Mallory Square and get $35 off per night.  Stay in the Aspen Suite and get $40 off per night. Now this is only valid for check in Sunday thru Wednesday.

So if you really want to relax AND save money, take a couple of days off and come to the Brightwood Inn during the week.

There is a reason that our motto is “Relax and enjoy”. 🙂


Ottawa River Fest, 8-1 through 8-7


Well it’s that time of year once again! Starting Monday August first and going through Sunday August seventh, Ottawa is having their River fest in Downtown Ottawa Illinois. Besides the usual carnival, music and beer gardens, this year they are also having a “Taste of Ottawa” fair.  Admission is only $2.00 per person and children are free! As always, please check out there web site for a full list of all the activities.  There is A LOT of things going on and they have a great calendar of events, list of vendors and and all the live entertainment that will be going on!  The Brightwood Inn is only 12 minutes from downtown Ottawa, so we are a quiet place to stay in the country when you want to get away form all the noise.  A full hot breakfast always awaits you every morning as well.

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Oglesby Fun Fest

Schedule of Events

2016 Oglesby Summer Fun Fest

the largest free festival in North Central Illinois

Schedule of Events

July 7-10, 2016

Oglesby Municipal Pool Grounds unless otherwise noted

No gate or entry fee required.

Bring lawn chairs and blankets from which to enjoy our many free entertainment acts.

For more information, call 815-883-3389 or 815-488-3599

50/50 Ticket Sales

Our goal is a $30,000 Jackpot.

Early bird monthly drawings for $100.00 each

Last year’s winner took home $10,404!

This is a Chicago Bears weekend.
Wear your Chicago Bear apparel!

Tuesday & Wednesday, July 5th & 6th
6 p.m.
10-11 year old District 20 Baseball Tournament, Bottomley Field
11-12 year old District 20 Softball Tournament, Memorial Park


3 – 6 p.m

Farmer’s Market


5 – 11 p.m.

Carnival & Midway

Unlimited ride wristbands (until 10 p.m.) just $23
Win a free t-shirt!

5 p.m.

Mechanical Bull

Food Booths

Beer Garden

6 p.m.
Boys 10-11 year old District 20 Baseball Tournament, Bottomley Field

Girls 11-12 year old District 20 Softball Tournament, Memorial Park

7 p.m.
Pictures & Autographs with Chicago Blackhawk’s Tommy Hawk

“It’s Finally Hair Again!” Music Night

6 p.m.

Libido Funk Circus

Watch this high energy group perform good ole’ Motown music
to the bass-thumping beats of today’s dance music.

8:45 p.m.

Hairbanger’s Ball

Playing 80’s Hair Rock and Glam Rock


8 a.m.

City-wide garage sales

maps available at City Hall

9 a.m.

Boggio’s Sweet Corn for Sale

across from Washington Junior High

5 – 11 p.m.

Carnival & Midway

Unlimited ride wristbands just $23
Win a free t-shirt!

4 p.m.
Boys 10-11 year old Baseball Tournament, Bottomley Field

Girls 9-10 year old Softball Tournament, Memorial Park

5 p.m.

Mechanical Bull

Food Booths

Beer Garden

Pony Rides


6 – 9 p.m.

Cruise-In at the Root Beer Stand

Hot cars, cool treats, presented by the Stampede Mustang Club

Join us for the “British Invasion”

6 p.m.

The BriTins

A tribute to the Beatles

9 p.m.


2-hour concert of music from the World’s Best Rock & Roll Band


8 a.m.

City-wide garage sales

maps available at City Hall

9 a.m.

Boggio’s Sweet Corn for Sale

across from Washington Junior High

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Craft & Vendor Sale

To become a vendor call Cathy at 815-343-9403

9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Friends of the Library Used Book Sale

111 S. Woodland Ave.

10 a.m.

Heroes Come in All Sizes Kiddie Parade

Children and families may decorate bikes, strollers,
and wagons in a patriotic theme and join the parade.

Prizes for kids of all ages!

12 p.m.

Water Fights

Firefighters’ tug-of-war, hosted by Oglesby Fire Department

1 – 11 p.m.

Carnival & Midway

Unlimited ride wristbands just $23
Win a free t-shirt!

1 p.m.

Mechanical Bull

Food Booths

Beer Garden

Pony Rides

Petting Zoo

1 p.m.


Completely FREE kids activities

Featuring Ralph’s World in concert 

and stilt-walker and juggler Jason Kollum

2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

The GreatLakes Timber Show

Chainsaw carving, axe throwing, wood chopping, crosscut sawing, log rolling,
audience participation, and loads of clean family humor.

3 p.m.

Paddy’s Favorite Sons

the Illinois Valley’s only Celtic Folk band
4 p.m.
Boys 10-11 year old Baseball Tournament, Bottomley Field

Girls 9-10 year old Softball Tournament, Memorial Park

4 – 6 p.m.

Chicago Bear’s Staley da Bear

meet & greet with the mascot; wear your Bears colors!

Super Star Saturday Night

Celebrating the music of “The Boss” and “The Killer”

5 p.m.

Glory Days

Bruce Springsteen tribute

9 p.m.

Lance Lipinsky

Jerry Lee Lewis tribute,
performed by a member of the Chicago cast of “Million Dollar Quartet”

Sunday, July 10th

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Craft & Vendor Sale

To become a vendor call Cathy at 815-343-9403

12 p.m.
Illinois Valley Community Hospital’s

“Hometown Heroes” Parade

Join us for one of the finest parades in our area.

Call 815-488-3599 to sign up to participate.

1 – 9:30 p.m.

Carnival & Midway

Unlimited ride wristbands just $23
Win a free t-shirt!

1 p.m.

Mechanical Bull

Food Booths

Beer Garden

Pony Rides

Petting Zoo

Oompah Music
by Jimmy’s Bavarians

2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

The Great Lakes Timber Show

 Chainsaw carving, axe throwing, wood chopping, crosscut sawing, log rolling,
audience participation, and loads of clean family humor.

3 p.m.

Keith Allynn

A Neil Diamond Tribute


4:30 p.m.

Zumba Demonstration

Led by the Oglesby Rec Department’s Diane and Cindy

6 p.m.


The Chicago Six

Featuring former Chicago Bear stars Dave Hampton, Otis Wilson & Steve McMichael

9 p.m.

50/50 Drawing Winner Announced

Someone is going to win thousands of dollars.

Need not be present to win.

9:30 p.m.

Gigantic Fireworks Finale

Going out with a band. See you next year!

Frozen Waterfalls

winter 2015 004

With some good rains and freezing temperatures, the frozen waterfalls at Starved Rock are looking very nice this year!

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Each Canyon having it’s own different look and feel.  It’s really quite something to see up close.

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If Cabin fever has got the best of you, this sure is a good remedy for that.

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Come and take your own pictures, create your own memories.

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And then come back to the Brightwood Inn and warm up next to your own fireplace, relax after a long day of hiking in your hot tub and most of all, re connect with your loved ones.  Make your reservations today!

BBQ n’ Blues

blues and bbq

In its 2nd YEAR! The 1st Annual BBQ-n-Blues was such a success- we’re doing it again! On September 11, 2015, we’ll be celebrating with Bands, BBQ & a Rib Cook-Off Contest. Held on 1st Street between Marquette & Gooding in historic LaSalle, bands will begin at 4:00 pm with the Rib Cook-Off turn in around 6:00 pm with winner announced at 8pm. Enjoy blues sounds through 11:00 or so- and don’t forget to grab some legendary BBQ from one of our vendors!



BBQ-n-Blues Bands

Crossroads – 4:00 PMcrossroads

Steve Cerqua and his band Crossroads have been keeping the blues tradition alive in the Illinois Valley for the past 20 years. Covering music by such artists as Robert Johnson, Muddy Water, Bonamassa and many more!

Written Warning – 5:30 PMWrittenWarningCourtHouse1117s

Screaming guitar and whaling harmonica amplifies this modern day soulful blues band to an impressive sonic level. Whether playing for a small crowd or a packed concert hall, Written Warning delivers and connects with every member of the audience.

The Lizzi Neal Band – 7:00 PMlizziNealBand

The Lizzi Neal Band from Northern Illinois is blues with a kick of TNT.
They have won the Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) award for …Blues Band Artist of the Year two years straight.

Morry Sochat – 8:30 PMmorrysochat

Morry Sochat and The Special 20’s are bringing a fresh sound to the Chicago Blues scene. They mix classic Chicago Blues with Swing and Rock N’ Roll from the 1950’s. The band is influenced by the best in blues history. Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Louis Jordan, Junior Wells, and all of the Chicago greats.

Back Pack Jones – 10:00 PM


 Back Pack Jones is an Illinois-based rhythm and blues band that has hit the international blues scene in just over two years after the band’s formation in 2012.  The band’s success skyrocketed after performing at the prestigious International Blues Challenge in 2013, recognized in the top third of blues bands from across the globe. – See more at:
Back Pack Jones brings a high-energy show led by the charismatic and extremely talented front man “Big Mike Wallace” and a show chock-full of Back Pack Jones original blues.

– See more at:

Sky Dive Chicago Summerfest

This Saturday kicks off the SDC Summerfest.  It’s a week long skydiving party! And the Brightwood Inn is only 19 miles away!!

Skydive Chicago’s annual Summerfest continues to grow with each passing year and this summer is without a doubt going to be U-N-R-E-A-L. Summerfest 2015 will celebrate its 14th year of bringing jumpers from all over the world together and is set to pave the way for the future of all that is boogie awesomeness.

As a proud host to the 2015 Vertical World Record Attempts, Skydive Chicago invites you to join us this July to celebrate blue skies, great friends, and history in the making. As always, there will be plenty of aircraft to choose from, world class organizers for all levels and disciplines, industry leading vendors, and mega parties to keep you moving all day and night. Your only disappointment would be missing this year’s event!


Skydive Chicago is built on a dedication to the sport of skydiving unseen anywhere else. It is located on 220 acres of private land with amenities like cabins, camping, swimming pond, Tiki Bar, Eat Up Cafe, RV hookups, shower house, disc golf course, Sky Lounge, student training programs (AFP), gear shop, rigging loft and more. It is also the home of several World Records, multiple local and national competitions and the largest skydiving festival of the year.

We here at SDC want to encourage everyone to make a first jump, and we only hope it’s with us. We want you to experience the thrill of flight, which you will never forget. Our instructors take the time to make your first skydive not just a ride, but hopefully your first of many. Want to pull your own parachute? Want to steer your own canopy? We want you to be as big of a part of your experience as possible. (If you just want the thrill ride, we can do that too) We give real instruction and strive for safety above all else, so if you have any questions just ask!

Ottawa Two Rivers Wine Fest

June 5th 6th and 7th – Ottawa Two Rivers Wine Fest is more than just a wine fest.  Not only will there be lot’s of Illinois wineries to sample from, but there will be craft beer, Jazz and Lobster!!

Here’s a little blurb from the Ottawa Mayor to better describe it.  And we’d like to add that everyone who ever stayed with us and went to this had a GREAT time!!! Also get more info here  and here

wine fest

Welcome to the 5th Annual Ottawa 2 Rivers Wine Fest!

For 5 years now, we have enjoyed working with our principle partners – the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Ottawa Visitors Center – to once again bring you the best of Illinois wine and outstanding jazz. And, again this year, we are pleased to offer fresh grilled lobster in conjunction with Ottawa’s Noon Rotarians. The success of the past FOUR years has been overwhelming!

It’s because of Ottawa’s setting – comprised of the 2 Rivers and beautiful historic architecture, and the friendly faces, exceptional shopping and dining options – that so many people pick us for a perfect place to visit and conduct business.

While you are here we hope you get a chance to explore all of Ottawa’s history, including a stroll through beautiful Washington Park – the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate – as well as the nearby Reddick Mansion. You are sure to appreciate the beauty of our streetscapes, and are certain to find a number of unique, quality stores to browse, as well as a lovely selection of dining options throughout Ottawa. Spend some time exploring our Antique District on West Main Street, the specialty booths of our Botanical Fair on Court Street and everything Old Town has to offer during the festival.

We hope you enjoy your time spent in Ottawa and plan to return soon. Cheers! And, Pick Us for shopping, dining, history, and so much more!

Robert M. Eschbach, Mayor


I rarely sit down long enough to watch the weather, but in an unusual moment last night I saw Jerry Taft talking about the weather for this weekend.  I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Temperatures in the mid to upper 30’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Mostly sunny to partly cloudy.  This is going to make for a great 4 days.

Yesterday we took a 2 hour hike at Starved Rock State Park.  Our guests have been telling us about how beautiful the frozen waterfalls are.  We decided to chuck all the work we needed to do, get some fresh air, and see for ourselves what everybody is talking about. It was well worth the 4 minutes it took us to get from Brightwood Inn to Starved Rock.  We wanted to go to Wildcat Canyon so we parked in the parking lot by the lodge and took off.

I had boots with good traction so hiking was not a problem. The trails are snow packed and can be slippery so bring your YakTrax, walking stick, and whatever else you use to make it easier to get around. Be sure to dress warmly and layer up.   As long as you keep your extremities warm hiking is a pleasure!   The important thing is to get out there and see the sights you will never see in the summer.

The great thing about hiking in winter is that all of the leaves are off the trees and bushes so you can see the rock formations that are hidden in summer.  Staved Rock definitely deserves the title of 7th Wonder of Illinois as there is no other place like it, that I know of, in Illinois.

In a short time we reached our destination, Wildcat Canyon.  The ice-fall was magnificent.  There were some men that had been ice climbing so there was an orange rope off to one side of the fall.  If you look hard you can see it in the picture, but it did not deter from the beauty of the fall.  Standing at the bottom of this fall looking all around I realized that in the summer you don’t see these beautiful formations.  I have hiked Starved Rock hundreds of times, but I was seeing it for the first time!!

We then decided to head towards the dam to spot some eagles.  They were there in abundance.  The river is frozen, but the dam keeps the water open. Eagles and gulls were circling around searching for prey.  There were at least 8 eagles circling around.  You could see many many more white heads perched in the trees around the Illinois Waterway Visitors center.  Be sure to bring your binoculars so you can get a better look at them.   Some of our guests recently said that they were standing on one of the bluffs and and an eagle flew very close to them.  The eagle banked and they were able to see it’s entire wingspan.  They both said they gasped at the same time because it was so big and awesome to behold!

Heading back to the lodge we stopped by French Canyon.  We got as close as possible, but without YakTrax could not get all the way up to the ice-fall.  It looked very nice even though we were only partway up.   Since no one knows what card Mother Nature is going to deal us on any given day, I hope I have stimulated the desire in you to take a hike!  You won’t be disappointed.

Before you leave to go hiking we’ll treat you to a yummy, fresh, home made breakfast with delicious hot coffee.  Once you’ve hiked a while you can go to the Starved Rock Lodge, warm up a bit, have a hearty lunch and then get back on those trails.  After your hike you can come back to the Inn and sip some hot chocolate by your fireplace, or in your hot tub.  Sounds like a great day.  HAPPY HIKING!

Eagle Watch Weekend

Bald Eagle watch weekend is January 24th and 25th.  We hear that Starved Rock Lodge is sold out but we still have a few rooms and Starved Rock is only a few minutes away.  Here are the activities for that weekend.


Bald Eagle Watch Weekend is set  for Saturday & Sunday,  January 24 & 25, 2015! 

Starved Rock Trolleys will be running all weekend. Unlimited ride wristbands are just $1 per person and may be purchased upon boarding. 

Raptor Programs plus Falcon and  Osprey Programs have been planned! A variety of  events will take place at Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock Visitor Center and the IL Waterway Visitor Center. On the day of the show, tickets for raptor shows will be available (at no charge) beginning at 8:00 am at Starved Rock Lodge and 9:00 am at the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center.  Advanced tickets will be available for purchase, on-line for $3 each starting January 1 at Click here for advanced tickets.

Children’s Activities, Educational Exhibits and Eagle Viewing available at all facilities throughout the weekend. The Starved Rock Trolley Shuttles will run both days with stops at Starved Rock Lodge, the Starved Rock Visitor Center and the IL Waterway Visitor Center. Wristband are $1 per person per day.


2015 Bald Eagle Watch Program Schedule
(Saturday, January 24 & Sunday, January 25)

8am Starved Rock Lodge Tickets for day of show available
9am Illinois Waterway Visitor Center Tickets for day of show available
10am Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock Room “Birds of Prey” presented by  Illinois Raptor Center
10am Illinois Waterway Visitor Center John James Audubon presents “The Washington Eagle –and other raptors I have known” as portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis
10am Illinois Waterway Visitor Center Native American Dancer
11am Starved Rock Lodge, LaSalle Room Illinois Department of Natural Resources Osprey Release Project
11am Illinois Waterway Visitor Center Wildlife Photography — Eagles by Chris Young
Noon Illinois Waterway Visitor Center Native American Dancer
1pm Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock Room “Birds of Prey” presented by  Illinois Raptor Center
1 pm Illinois Waterway Visitor Center John James Audubon presents “The Washington Eagle –and other raptors I have known” as portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis
1pm Starved Rock Lodge, LaSalle Room Stories from the River Valley, special guest storyteller Steve Seaborn
2pm Illinois Department of Natural Resources Visitor Center, Kaskaskia Room The Art & History of Falconry with Rich Escutia
2pm Illinois Waterway Visitor Center Native American Dancer
3 pm Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock Room “Birds of Prey” presented by  Illinois Raptor Center
3pm Illinois Waterway Visitor Center John James Audubon presents “The Washington Eagle –and other raptors I have known” as portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis
4:30pm Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock Room (note: Saturday only) Youth Owl Calling Contest (note: Saturday only)