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Bridget Frerichs

Bridget Frerichs, middle right, with her husband Kevin, son Henry and daughter Rose. 

Name: Bridget Frerichs

Age: 33

Occupation: Associate director of advancement, Allerton Park & Retreat Center, Monticello

City of residency: Champaign

For those who haven't visited Allerton Park recently, what's new there?

We often say there is always something new to discover at Allerton — and there is! — but I’ll focus on a couple more noticeable recent additions.

The David and Debra Rathje Allerton Mansion Grand Entrance Drive is now complete and open for public use. This much-needed improvement runs along the Carriage Lane, where Robert Allerton’s guests would have historically approached the mansion.

It creates a more prominent, accessible vehicular entry to the mansion, in addition to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible walkways and parking, and improved lighting.

In addition, the Greenhouse Café, located in the visitor center, opened this April, and serves classic café refreshments — coffee, sandwiches, soups, salads and baked goods — six days a week.

It’s a great excuse to pair lunch and a garden stroll with friends, or stop by for a treat after a long hike. We’re in the process of updating the outdoor patio area, which will be complemented by the recent installment of our latest Public Art League sculpture, "Chicago Peace Tree."

For those who haven't visited the park at all, why should they consider stopping by someday?

Allerton is such a unique destination. Each component could be a draw on its own: the natural areas (with 14 miles of trails, the Sangamon River, a 30-acre demonstration prairie and the diversity of plants and wildlife); formal gardens (beautifully manicured and filled with sculptures from around the world, each with a story behind it); or the century-old mansion (with meticulously detailed architectural elements, wood floors, marble fireplaces, and breathtaking views). Not to mention the story of the Allerton family and the history of the estate itself.

But all of these things combined make for a truly one-of-a-kind experience, and it’s an experience that can be different throughout many visits and many stages of life.

Allerton inspires visitors in many different ways. It is worth pointing out the extensive research on the benefits of being in nature — for both children and adults. It’s important to continue to make Allerton accessible and sustainable so that it’s easy to experience these benefits — for us and for generations to come. So please do stop by! I think it’s best to come without too much of an agenda. Just wander and enjoy.

Do you have any favorite places on the grounds that you like to visit often?

The "Death of the Last Centaur" is definitely a favorite. The dramatic sculpture and setting in the middle of the woods never gets old.

I recommend approaching it the way Robert Allerton intended — from the bottomlands (and) climbing the 60 stairs to the "altar." The recently renovated bulb garden has an amazing view of the vast, open meadow, and the unique plants in bloom seem to change constantly.

The mansion is certainly one of the highlights, especially when staying overnight. I live only 25 minutes away, but the experience of Allerton at night, spending extended time in one of the historic guestrooms and drinking morning coffee in the solarium is not to be missed!

What do you think is the best time of year to experience Allerton?

I don’t think I can choose! It’s hard to beat the beautiful fall colors, especially over on the McDonald Family Trails, or early spring when the leaves are budding and the green color is so intense it looks fake.

Summer can be hot, but I love spending a warm summer night under the stars listening to live music. And winter might just be my personal favorite. There’s something extra rewarding about bundling up for a brisk run or hike and experiencing the long clear views of the forest, or the pristine gardens after a snowfall. It’s serene.

Outside of work, how do you like to spend your free time?

I have two young children, 5-year-old Henry and 2-year-old Rose, so most of my free time is spent enjoying their company, along with my husband, Kevin.

We make a purposeful effort to try not to be too "busy" and enjoy taking bike rides, going to the farmers' market and playing outside. I like to run, and we all like traveling to far-off places. 

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR


Government Reporter

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