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Seneca’s Shipyard Days continues to grow

Village’s four-day festival kicks off on Wednesday

Published: Monday, June 17, 2013 4:30 p.m. CDT

SENECA — For history buffs, World War II veterans and families alike, Seneca Shipyard Days Festival, from June 19-22, offers a glimpse back in America’s history.

The Seneca Shipyard Days Festival is an annual celebration of Seneca role in WW II as the home of the “Shipyard on the Prairie,” manufacturing LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) for the war effort. The shipyard built 157 LSTs, launching the last one in 1945.

Each year, the village of Seneca celebrates with a four-day festival full of education, history, live entertainment, food booths, and so much more.

“With a new, larger location on the west side of Main Street, a new carnival and new exhibits, activities and entertainment, this year’s fest is shaping up to be a destination festival for all ages and interests,” said Michael Ellis, festival chairman.

According to Ellis, spotlighting the region’s role on the international stage during World War II, this year’s event will offer a tremendous combination of history and historians, including Art Carlson, whose life’s work is building a full scale replica of a Landing Ship Tank (LST). Both Art and the replica are expected at the event. Gene Yeager, author of a memoir called Flat Bottom Odyssey, will be available on Friday, June 21, for a book signing.

In addition, the Seneca Historical Guild will house their impactful displays in a “mini-museum” at the new venue, and their “Shipyard Days Guide to Boom-Time Seneca” will also debut at the fest. The Guild will again offer tours on June 22 of the “Hogan Grain Elevator,” which is the only standing grain elevator on the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal, as well as the state of Illinois. The elevator is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A Shipyards display will also be offered daily at the Seneca Public Library during regular library hours.

Other new features during the festival include, among others, stagecoach and pony rides, a karaoke contest and a sneak peek performance of the Morris Theatre Guild’s “Rent The Musical.”

Traditional festival fair such as nightly live entertainment, a food taste for food lovers, beer garden, large carnival midway, flea market, antique fire truck rides, beanbag tournament and raffles are all on the schedule as well.

The festival will conclude on Saturday night with a fireworks show.

Seneca Shipyard Days Festival is coordinated by a volunteer group of local residents, under the direction of Michael Ellis. Ellis is a fifth generation owner of Ellis Ace Hardware in Seneca, the state’s oldest hardware store, now in its 141st year.

He also operates a Radio Shack and rental services from his business, and is proud of the cooperative spirit of all the planners and program participants involved.

Everyone takes great pride in the part they play in bringing a well-deserved spotlight on Seneca during this event,” said Ellis.

“With so many stories and experiences to be shared, we encourage people to come and honor the town and those who played a part in its boom during World War II,” he added.

Ellis is eager to give credit to everyone who has helped him by offering their time and commitment year after year.

Check out the festival website at www.senecashipyardays.com for a schedule of events and background on the history of the Seneca Shipyard during WWII.

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