June 23: Midway Drive In Theatre, Sterling IL

It’s Day 174 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took only about an hour and a half to drive east from Delmar IA to the Midway Drive In Theatre northeast of Sterling IL.

I could be wrong about this, but I believe that every Midway drive-in was named for being about halfway between two cities. For this one, those cities are Sterling and Dixon IL. It opened in 1950, probably by John Kontos and L. G. Rorer, and claims to have the oldest standing screen in the state.

Mike and Mia Kerz, founders of the Flashback Weekend Movie Conventions in Rosemont, have owned the Midway since 2007, and they’re proud of their restoration work. As the Midway’s About page put it, “From the classic retro ‘spaceship’ ticket booth, to the full service concession stand, a trip to the Midway is like entering a time capsule to the 1950’s.” You can see the playground equipment in front of the screen in the YouTube drone video I’ve embedded above.

During Honda’s Project Drive-In voting in 2013, a string of horror film luminaries encouraged voters to choose the Midway to win a digital projector. Svengoolie, host of a weekly movie series on MeTV, posted the request on his web site. Robert Englund, George Romero and others added their support in a YouTube video for the Midway. In the end, Honda awarded the projectors to other drive-ins, but the Kerzs were able to switch to digital by the end of the 2014 season.

With all the single-screen drive-ins out there, I should have expected this would happen at some point. I’m really happy that my planning, combined with the onset of summer, has given me 22 consecutive active nights this month, but this is the fifth straight night watching Cars 3. It occurs to me that it’s an odd movie in that there’s no true antagonist. There are a few complaining jerks, but no character ever tries to prevent Lightning McQueen from reaching his goals.

Miles Today / Total:  71 / 22329 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 90

Nearby Restaurant: Over in Dixon, the home of comfort food is Flynnie’s Diner. I had a healthy breakfast here, honest, with an egg white omelette with spinach, green peppers, mushrooms and onions. The potato cakes that came with it were probably healthy too. And I had to try a fresh cinnamon roll.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Since Sterling didn’t really have any hotels, I went in the other direction from the Midway to Dixon, where there’s a Comfort Inn. My room had the now-usual set of microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker, and wifi. The indoor pool had a small slide and a mural of the beach. Breakfast had the usual waffle iron and Comfort Inn standards plus some scrambled eggs and fruit. Pretty good deal!

Only in Sterling Dixon: There’s a replica of the Berlin Wall, complete with graffiti and a statue of an East German armed guard, at the Reagan Peace Park here. Dixon is Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home, and a Bulgarian immigrant donated the Wings of Peace and Freedom sculpture to the City of Dixon.

Next stop: Blue Moonlight Drive-In Theater, Galesburg IL.

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