Event: Forgottonia, An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois with Chris Vallillo, an Illinois Road Scholar


Forgottonia, An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois with Chris Vallillo, an Illinois Road Scholar

In this presentation, Chris Vallillo performs his new one-man show, “Forgottonia” featuring music he wrote over the last 35 years about Western Illinois based on his experiences as a folklorist and songwriter in rural Illinois. Vallillo has spent the past 35 years documenting and preserving the heritage of Western Illinois: the land lovingly called Forgottonia.

The show combines music, storytelling, and historically accurate narratives in a solo performance. Along with the performance, Vallillo will speak to the history and backstories of songs that document, reflect, and validate rural lives, reinforcing these communities’ sense of commitment and worth.

Chris Vallillo is an award-winning rural singer/songwriter, folk musician and folklorist with a natural affinity for American roots music. A master of bottleneck slide guitar, he weaves original, contemporary, and traditional songs into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyle of the Midwest. In the mid 1980s he was involved in documenting the last of the “pre-radio” generation of rural musicians in Illinois.

Vallillo’s songwriting has often been compared to the poems of Edgar Lee Masters, who’s famous “Spoon River Anthology” depicted the complex struggles of Midwestern life in simple verse. Perhaps the archaeology degree Vallillo earned at Beloit College helped him see the important little details of life which imbue his songs with a sense of history.


Archivisit Nancy Webster offered information about Forgottonia: Boundaries of Forgottonia can be traced to the Military Tract of 1812, also known as the Illinois Military Tract. Bounty-land warrants were issued both to encourage military enlistment and reward military service. The Continental Congress codified this practice with a resolution, September 16, 1776. The seeds of the 20th century movement can be found in the largest American public works act in history, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This project by-passed western Illinois. The national attention impelled Amtrak service and additional infrastructure in the 1970s.”

This program is supported by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Road Scholars of Illinois Humanities and partial grant of the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Illinois Humanities is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy Demands Wisdom and the Illinois General Assembly [through the Illinois Arts Council Agency], as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations.

Admission is free.

Live at the Stupey Cabin, St. Johns Avenue between Laurel and Hazel Avenues, Highland Park, IL

If there is inclement weather:
Highland Park Public Library,
494 Laurel Avenue, Highland Park, IL 60035

Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 2:30 PM Central Time

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About the Highland Park Historical Society: The mission of the Highland Park Historical Society is to preserve our community’s past, to inspire an appreciation of its history and culture, and to share them with the community and scholars. The Society is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is administered by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Archives and Research Collections are housed in the Highland Park Public Library. For more information about the Highland Park Historical Society, visit

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