In a lot of ways, Illinois (my home state) is like a miniature version of the entire country. We have a little bit of everything: a massive urban area, sprawling suburbs, mid-sized cities, and tiny rural towns. There are prairies, forests, rivers, wetlands, state parks with sandstone canyons, and miles of pristine beaches along Lake Michigan. We have agriculture, tech hubs, industrial areas, cultural centers, and top universities.
1. You Know How To Pronounce “Illinois” Correctly
An alarming number of people, mostly from
outside the Midwest, don’t know how to pronounce the name of our state.
Illinois residents cringe every time someone says “Illi-NOISE” instead of
“Illi-NOY.” Another insider tip: True Illinois residents don't say “Chi-Town” or “The Chi.” We just call it like it is: Chicago.
2. You Know Everything About Abraham Lincoln
Anyone who grew up in Illinois has become
intimately acquainted with our nation’s 16th president, since he spent the majority of his life in our fine state. Just how much does Illinois love Honest Abe? Well, I went to Lincoln Elementary School, and our mascot was the Lincoln Penny. Almost all schoolchildren in the
state of Illinois take a field trip to Springfield at some point to visit Lincoln’s former home. There are lots of other states that lay claim to Abe, but Illinois, the "Land of Lincoln," has to be the most serious about our dibs.
3. Winter Gear Is A Key Investment
Last winter, I promised myself I’d ditch
puffy jackets and snow pants and only wear sleek, chic jackets all winter. That
lasted about a week before I shelled out for the warmest coat I could find.
Winters in Illinois are brutal, and usually marked by some kind of terrifying
name like “snowpocalypse” or “polar vortex.” Most residents know this is not
the time to skimp on gear, and stock their closets with long down coats,
fur-lined boots, and enough hats, scarves and gloves for a small army.
4. We'll Say We're From Chicago When We're Really Not
Whenever you go out of state, it’s just easier to say you’re “from
Chicago” than it is to name a town that most people won’t know. In college I
would shamelessly claim to be from Chicago, even though I really grew up 35
miles from downtown.
5. If You Grew Up Here, There's A Good Chance You Went To College Here
If you grew up here, you probably spent a
few weeks in high school making the rounds to visit colleges around the state, which is probably where at least half of your graduating class ended up. And if you
happened to go to school out of state, you definitely spent a weekend visiting
friends at in-state schools to tailgate for a homecoming game. Now that we’re out of college, some of my friends even visit their favorite Illinois school more often than their own alma mater.
6. Weird Local Festivals Are The Best
Almost every town in Illinois has some
kind of annual festival, and most of them are pretty quirky. My town hosts the
Scarecrow Festival each fall, where we fill the downtown square with more than
100 homemade scarecrows. Is it kind of creepy? Yes. Is it a blast? Also yes.
Mattoon has BagelFest, Harvard has Milk Days, Collinsville has the
International Horseradish Festival. It seems normal to anyone who grew up here,
but people from out of state may question why we dedicate a whole weekend to
celebrate fairies (looking at you, South Elgin).
7. Unpredictable Weather Means You're Always Prepared
The weather in Illinois can change drastically and very quickly, even in a single day. Sometimes you're rocking a sweater in June, or you're wearing shorts in November. This means you probably keep both your warm- and cold-weather clothes handy most of the year – and always bring along that extra sweater or jacket, just in case.