Our second installment of Neutral’s Guide to Spring lets you know the top events to attend in the Champaign-Urbana area this Spring.  If you didn’t catch the first post, check it out to see the Top 5 Places to Go in CU this Spring.

1. EbertfestApril 15-19

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Ebertfest is a perennially popular festival with locals and visitors alike and 2015 marks its 17th year in CU.  As the name might suggest, it was begun by Roger Ebert, the famed Chicago Sun Times film critic and Urbana native.  Its aim is to show movies that are of high quality but that did not receive the degree of recognition that they deserved upon their release.  Over time this has shifted somewhat to also include classic films and, really, just a varied selection of good films in general.  Movies are shown at the Virginia Theater, a historic cinema operated by the Champaign Park District, located in downtown Champaign one block west of West Side Park.

Although Ebert passed away in 2013, Ebertfest has remained a popular and relevant film festival, with last year’s installment bringing such well-known names as Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, and Patton Oswalt to CU.  This year’s guests include Jason Segel, John Klik, and Chaz Palminteri.

The collection of films is always quite varied – from silent films to documentaries to art films to major releases.  Screenings are followed by discussion, often with panelists who were involved in the making of the film.  It’s really a great opportunity to see some interesting movies in the setting of a gorgeous theater and learn a bit about film.  Few cities the size of Champaign can boast anything comparable.  Movies to be shown this year include:

For a complete listing of the dates and times these films are to be shown, see their schedule.  Tickets are available through the Virginia Theater.  A festival pass, allowing you entry to all of the films screened costs $145, while admission to an individual movie is $14/$12 students-seniors.

2. Boneyard Arts FestivalApril 9-12


The Boneyard Arts Festival has already begun!  Run by the Champaign County Arts Council, its aim is to provide a venue for local artists to exhibit their work to the community, connecting together area artists, residents, businesses, and organizations.  It offers events in Champaign, Urbana, and the UIUC campus, helping to fulfill the Art Council’s mission to bring the arts to everyone in the community.

Boneyard Arts Festival offers you a great opportunity to get a look at some work done by local artists in a massive variety of media.  There’s painting, photography, sculpture, music, theater, poetry, and performance – among other types.

There’s so much to see.  Really.  So.  Many.  Interesting.  Events.  And all over CU.  And for people of all ages and with all sorts of interests.  They even have some events on Sunday in Homer, Rantoul, and Mahomet.

Check out their schedule and make the best of this sunny weekend.

3. Urbana’s Market at the SquareEvery Saturday, May 2 – November 7


Unlike the previous two events, the farmer’s market is held every Saturday from 7-12, so there’s no excuse to miss this all Spring.  We’ve written a little about this before.  Suffice it to say, Neutral’s a big fan.

One of the largest farmer’s markets in Illinois, Urbana’s Market at the Square has been going on since 1979 and offers a weekly point of convergence for everyone in the area.  Townies, students, kids, performers, local businesses, organizations, area farmers.  It is about getting great, local veggies, but that’s only one part of the experience.  Everyone comes out to the farmer’s market, and that’s precisely the reason that everyone comes.

Neutral will have its own tent at the entrance on May 9th, so be sure to come that Saturday to check us out!

4. Bike to Work DayMay 15


Tim at last year’s Bike to Work Day repair station.

So maybe we’re biased here, but we think this is important.  May is National Bike Month and the CU cycling community will be taking part.

One of the centerpieces of this month is Bike to Work Day.  This day isn’t meant to just put the focus on bikes and biking, but rather to celebrate and promote integrating biking into our quotidian existence.  Not only is biking a more environmentally conscious way of getting around, it’s also healthy and fun.  Loads of cities in the US have events on this day and as Silver and Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Communities, Champaign and Urbana are no different.

Neutral Cycle will be celebrating Bike to Work Day by hosting a mobile repair station on the Engineering Quad.  As we get closer to the date, there should be more information on the different activities and events that will be planned on this day.  We’ll try and keep you updated!

For more information on National Bike Month in CU, check out Champaign County Bikes’ website and Facebook page.  If you want to know about events related to National Bike Month all over the US, look to the League of American Cyclists’ page.

5. Japan House Open HouseApril 11


Japan House and the Arboretum made it on the first part of our guide as well and with good reason.  They’ve got gardens, events, and cherry blossoms!  This Saturday they’ll be holding an Open House which means that not only can you see the grounds on a beautiful, sunny day, but you can also go to some great activities:

  • Tea ceremonies
  • A garden tour given by the gardens’ designer, Jim Bier
  • Speaking events by Japanese fashion designer Anri Sato and textile artist Misao Tsubaki.

I should add, at this point, that save for the tea ceremony which is being offered at the reduced rate of $5, all events will be free.  For more information about the timing of events, see the event listing on their calendar or on their Facebook page.

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