July 4: Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre, Gibson City IL

It’s Day 185 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Happy birthday, America! And the only thing more all-American than visiting a drive-in (for my 33rd consecutive night) is some highway driving to get there. It took less than two hours to go from Springfield IL to the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre in Gibson City.

The Harvest Moon opened in 1954. For the rest of its history, I’ve just got to quote Cinema Treasures directly. “In 1965, the theater was heavily damaged by a tornado, but was repaired and reopened the next year. Due to declining attendance, the Harvest Moon Drive-In was closed in 1978, but reopened by a new owner two years later. A storm in 1981 once again inflicted heavy damage to the drive-in, but this time, it wasn’t reopened for nearly eight more years, again by new owners. In 1996, the screen from the Clinton Drive-In was moved to the Harvest Moon, after that nearby drive-in was closed, and the Harvest Moon became a twin.”

That most recent owner is Mike Harroun and family. In a 2012 article in The News-Gazette of Central Illinois, Harroun was raising money for digital projectors, and promised, “We will throw a big party if we make it, and all of those (donors) will be invited.” That party, held in April 2013, was documented in a nice short video by the Chicago Tribune.

In fact, there are several nice videos of the Harvest Moon out there. The most recent is the one I embedded above, from WCIA, Champaign IL’s News Leader. The featured image for this post is from a Harvest Moon TV ad produced by WCIA. (Hmm.) And there are a couple of videos mentioning the drive-in’s wind turbine, installed in 2009.

The Harvest Moon offers frozen bananas in the concession stand. I love frozen bananas – a healthier alternative to ice cream – and I wish more places would stock them. Just as the night before, my choice in early movies was the latest Transformers installment or Despicable Me 3. Just to mix it up, I switched back to DM3 for what was my fourth viewing.

Miles Today / Total:  101 / 23665 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Despicable Me 3 / 101

Nearby Restaurant: Reviews and my love of German cuisine pointed me to the Bayern Stube Restaurant, but I was so sad to learn it was closed for the Fourth. Burgers and Beer took care of my basic needs for a welcoming atmosphere, a fine mushroom Swiss burger, and enough beer to mask my disappointment. It even offered a spectacular soft pretzel, which was just German enough.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Some unflattering reviews of nearby places put me on the road, 15 miles to the Holiday Inn Express in Rantoul. This is a nice, new hotel with the standard really nice HIE breakfast in the morning. My room had the full set of amenities. Sometimes, as its cousin used to say, the best surprise is no surprise.

Only in Gibson City: Every year, the town holds its Gibson City Harvest Festival. It includes live music, face painting, vendor tents, and a beer garden. This year, they’re moving it up to September. I wonder what gets harvested that month?

Next stop: Lake Shore Drive In, Monticello IN.