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Magic Returns to Monmouth

April 16, 2018

Nizie took a lumbering and cautious step forward while moving down the New York City sidewalk. The hustle and bustle of New York was new and foreign to Nizie; she was from a different place half-way around the world. Of course, this experience was also foreign because Nizie was a dwarf elephant.

Nizie did trust the man leading her, he called himself the Great Nicola. He walked briskly and with the confidence of a seasoned showman. Nicola raised his arm and suddenly a bright yellow vehicle screeched to a halt in front of Nicola and Nizie. Nicola loaded Nizie into the backseat, got in himself, and then handed the driver an impressive stack of bills and said, “Take me to Monmouth, IL.”

The Great Nicola was one of the great magicians and mystifiers of the 20th century. From humble beginnings in Monmouth, Will Nicol made himself into the Great Nicola and became an international sensation touring worldwide. Nicola was known for tailoring his acts to the culture within which he was performing to best showcase his skills.

Of all his acts, the “Elephant” was the most renowned. During a trip to India, the Great Nicola received an elephant from Hindu prince. The elephant, named Nizie, was incorporated into the Great Nicola’s magic act as he made the elephant disappear. Unfortunately, Nizie passed away shortly after her journey to Monmouth and, rumor has it, that Nizie is buried somewhere in Monmouth.

Last year, Kellen Hinrichsen of the Warren County History Museum worked with a group of students and faculty from Monmouth College to search for the elephant in Monmouth. The group brought in an archeologist and they used ground penetrating radar to find the likely location where Nizie is buried.

This year, the Warren County History Museum is holding the first annual Great Nicola Magic Festival to celebrate this mystical local’s life and career. The Great Nicola Magic Festival will be held at the Warren County History Museum, at 238 S. Sunny Lane in Monmouth, on April 21st, from 11am to 9pm. The festival will include local food vendors, professional magician performances, and activities for children including a magic workshop and face painting. Day (11am-6pm) and night (6pm-9pm) pass tickets are available for $20/family, $10/adult, and $5/children (children under age 5 are free). Families can also purchase both day and night tickets for $30.

Hinrichsen is actively recruiting college students and organizations to help run this event. Volunteers are needed to keep exhibits free from touches, direct crowds, act as guides, sell tickets, and the more artistically inclined may help with face painting. Volunteering at this event will not only serve the community, but also benefit a student’s future, by providing experience that could be added to their resume. This volunteer opportunity could also work great for student groups seeking volunteer hours.

If a student enjoys their time spent working with the museum at the festival, they could continue volunteering. Hinrichsen is looking for regular student involvement to gain more public engagement with the museum. If you’re thinking you must be a history major to chip in your time, you are wrong. There are many required jobs around the museum. For example, biology majors could offer suggestions to manage about bug issues, business majors could work on bettering the gift shop, and communication majors could help with the marketing and public relations. The Warren County History Museum is a flexible volunteer opportunity, willing to work around schedules, and looks forward to hearing from those interested in volunteering at this unique local organization.

For further information on volunteering email Kellen Hinrichsen at or call the museum at 309-734-8433. Follow this link for more information regarding the magic festival

Brooke Decker and Tate Heiple
Contributing Writers

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