Located off of IL Hwy. 100 (Great River Road), Alton, IL, 62002 / Cake artist: Jennifer Hayes
Alton is home to many longtime legends and historical stories, most of them linking to the 1800s and before. Perhaps none other than the legend of the Piasa Bird! The most popular version goes like this: the first non-Indian to see it was Frenchman Father Jacques Marquette, which happened in 1673. At first he and his followers were scared of it (it was believed that the bird was there to scare non-tribespeople), but later were curious of the uniqueness of the painting. He would write about it in his journal or diary, and even draw what he saw.
It would not be called the ‘Piasa bird’ until 1836, by a professor named John Russell. The name ‘Piasa’ is believed to have been from the word ‘Piasua’, which translates to ‘the bird that devours men’ or ‘bird of the evil spirit’. However, these claims have been false according to historians. Another theory is that the bird has been repainted several times during the long period from 1673 to 1836. From 1836 on, it has been restored many times. Within the last 10-20 years, it was taken down temporarily because it was blamed for auto accidents on the Great River Road.
There is even a legend about there being an actual ‘Piasa bird’ that killed Native Americans 500 years ago.
Cake placement date: February 26
Where is the cake now?: The cake was removed in early 2015, and it was one of 3 cakes donated to the Friends of Haskell House in Alton. It was re-painted into a chalkboard-like cake, so kids can draw on it. It is not publicly displayed, with the exception of private and public Haskell House events. See ‘Repainted cakes‘. (October 2017)