It was onward and upward for the Allerton Park and Retreat Center in 2019, which continues to implement improvements outlined when its master plan was adopted in 2015.

During a June update to the public, Director Derek Peterson said the next decade will focus on transforming the Visitor’s Center area into something that will be more engaging to the public. It could even include the remodeling of some current storage and maintenance spaces into artist-in-residence lofts.

Music once again dominated the summer scene, with the annual Irish Fest drawing about 1,200 spectators to an outdoor gathering in August, followed by the Prairie Sky Concert a month later featuring country star Deana Carter.

Meanwhile, gifts from benefactors are also helping the 1,500-acre facility, including ones that helped upgrade the Brick Wall Garden, the Greenhouse Cafe and to improve accessibility at the park.

Jan. 30 – A geodesic dome purchased by Allerton Park and Retreat can be rented for winter gatherings at the park. It includes seating and a space heater within the dome, as well as catering prospects with the park’s Greenhouse Cafe.

April 10 – John Sullivan, the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, was a keynote speaker March 4 at a conference in the Allerton mansion/retreat center.

April 17 – Allerton Park and Retreat Center announced its summer concert series, which included scaling back the Prairie Sky concert from two days to one. Returning were the Reds, Whites and the Blues; Irish Fest; and Music Barn Festival.

May 15 – Upgrades to the Greenhouse Cafe at the Allerton Park and Retreat Center were dedicated at a Patio Party on May 9. They were made possible by a donation from Michael and Deborah Westjohn.

June 12 – The historic Brick Wall Garden was restored, also thanks to a gift from Deborah and Michael Westjohn of rural Monticello.

June 19 – Grammy-nominated country singer and songwriter Deana Carter was announced as the headliner for the Allerton Park and Retreat Center Prairie Sky Concert.

Allerton Park and Retreat Center officials delivered an update on work being done currently and what lies on its plate for the future at a public session in the Allerton mansion. Director Derek Peterson said the projects are outlined in the master plan approved in 2015. For the next 10 years, the focus will be on transforming the visitor center area into a site that will be more engaging to the public. That includes current conversion of the seldom noticed ice house into an artist-in-residence site.

Aug. 7 – Allerton Park’s Irish Fest drew an estimated 1,200 for its summer concert on Aug. 2.

Aug. 14 – A gift from Sandy Haas of Champaign will help get the ball rolling on an Allerton Park and Retreat Center initiative to make the park more accessible to more people.

Sept. 4 – Fairy houses, water play, woodland walks, and even miniature versions of Allerton Park and Retreat Center’s walled garden could await children and their families with an addition being considered at the park. A 1.6-acre addition that would let kids play and learn about nature at the same time is at least a couple of years off, since funds have not been raised for it.

Sept. 18 – Grammy nominated and County Music Association award winner Deana Carter talked about her stage presence and rock and roll roots in advance of her Sept. 20 concert at Allerton Park and Retreat Center.

A rare Piatt County sighting of a swallow-tailed kite brought people from across the state to Allerton Park to catch a glimpse of what some websites have called “the coolest bird on earth.”

Sept. 25 – A crowd of about 1,000 people came out to an Allerton Park stage to hear Deanna Carter perform.

Dec. 18 – It was announced that the park would be part of the annual Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird County, which will focus on a 15-mile wide area around Monticello.