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Under Rocks

Arts & Culture Podcasts

A community driven journalism project where listeners get to ask the big questions: who, what, when, where and why. Under Rocks host(s) will attempt to get to the bottom of these unexplored oddities, neglected anomalies, and little-known place-makers of our Midwest region.


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A community driven journalism project where listeners get to ask the big questions: who, what, when, where and why. Under Rocks host(s) will attempt to get to the bottom of these unexplored oddities, neglected anomalies, and little-known place-makers of our Midwest region.






Less morels but more lessons | Under Rocks podcast

Hike along with the Under Rocks crew as they slog through woods and fields in search of the jewel of springtime, the morel mushroom. To put it another way, watch them get skunked with Chris Fink. But there are triumphs along the way, lessons to be learned, and even a few consolation prizes.


In cod we trust (and perch and walleye): In search of the perfect fish fry | Under Rocks Podcast

For six Fridays every year, temporary restaurants pop up in churches, clubs, and community buildings across the Midwest. Menus may vary, but they stick with one theme. Fish. Fried fish.


The newest oldest beverage: Give in to the mead | Under Rocks Podcast

What do you think of when you hear the word "mead?" Vikings, Renaissance Faires, a cloying sweet nectar? The Under Rocks team discovers the joy of modern mead during a visit to downtown Elburn.


What's in a cookbook? Culinary sleuths preserve our culture, our history | Under Rocks podcast

The Culinary Historians of Northern Illinois are preserving our stories, recipes, and community cookbooks -– and putting it all into a bigger societal context. Join WNIJ’s Under Rocks team as we take a deep dive into grandma’s recipe box and serve up a big slice of chocolate kraut cake. Your ideas are welcome at rocks@niu.edu!


Flags over Sycamore: the spicy history of Pumpkin Fest and its great grinning logo | Under Rocks podcast

Flags fly over Sycamore, Illinois as it celebrates the world’s favorite orange gourd: The Pumpkin Festival gets underway the last full weekend before Halloween. It’s those orange flags with the grinning jack-o'-lantern that drove a listener to contact WNIJ’s Under Rocks team to get answers to some burning questions. And make sure you listen ‘til the very end of the show for a special appearance by our favorite Illinois Enthusiast!


A boot camp for your mind | Under Rocks podcast

You don't need a passport to get to a world-renowned meditation center. In fact, the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center is just a short hop from Rockford. The Under Rocks team takes you there — but can they go ten days without speaking?


A LARP in the park with Belegarth | Under Rocks podcast

How would you handle yourself in a medieval melee? Do you know what realm you live in? In the latest Under Rocks podcast, our team joins up with Team Belegarth in a Kane County park. When the herald cries "weapons up," these foam fighters really "lay on!"


A Pod of Pelicans | Under Rocks podcast

So you've spotted a flock of huge white birds with comically-large beaks riding the Rock River surf. They couldn't possibly be pelicans, could they? They're far too exotic for the Midwest. Right?WNIJ's Under Rocks team heads out in search of the American White Pelican — and finds a festival devoted to these spring-time visitors along the way.Email us your story ideas at rocks@niu.edu!


A prescription for fire | Under Rocks podcast

Sometimes, the best way to fix something is to burn it down -- especially when it comes to natural areas choked with invasive plants. Things heat up for the Under Rocks crew as they tag along with Jack Pizzo and Associates for a prescribed burn at his house.


The Sappening | Under Rocks Podcast

A splash of real maple syrup can mean the difference between a good waffle and a great waffle. And once you know the amount of work that goes into making that tablespoon of sweet amber liquid, it becomes even more delicious. We tap into our local sapspert to guide us through the magical transformation we're calling The Sappening.


Good Curling! | Under Rocks Podcast

Dry your tears, curling fans! You don't have to wait another four years for the Olympics to roll around to get a fix of your favorite icy sport. There are more than 40 curling clubs in the Midwest, including the Waltham Curling Club, the oldest in Illinois. For the first time, the Under Rocks crew deals with actual rocks as they hit the sheets and aim for the button. Who will come back for the next bonspiel? Good curling, everyone!


The Illinois Enthusiast | Under Rocks Podcast

What's an "Illinois Enthusiast?" Behold county expert and Under Rocks fan John Kokoris. He shares his love for his home state and schools the Under Rocks crew on county seals. Check out his seal rankings on Twitter — @johnjkoko.Send your ideas for future episodes to rocks@niu.edu!


Perspective: What if weapons were turned into food for the hungry?

Dan Kenney says we know how to cut poverty and hunger in our country. So why aren't we doing it?


DeKalb's glorious beer nugget | Under Rocks podcast

DeKalb is known for a lot of things: corn, its university, Cindy Crawford… But one of the hidden gems of the city is the little golden pillow of fried dough known as The Beer Nugget. We explore its origins and try to answer the question, "why aren't these EVERYWHERE?"


In the corn maze, no one can hear you scream | Under Rocks Podcast

Farms across Illinois are serving up their own little slice of horror this time of year — corn mazes. Haunted corn mazes. The Under Rocks teams asks "Why is corn so scary? And how do I get outta here?!?"


The Pawpaw: America's Platonic Banana | Under Rocks Podcast

Some call it yucky, most call it yummy, and we just call it our beloved pawpaw. The Under Rocks team heads to Paw Paw, Illinois in pursuit of the elusive fruit.


Perspective: The Professional

Sometimes a true professional finds us when we are at our lowest. It happened to Katie Andraski.


RAGBRAI Revisited: When The Finish Line Is Not Far Enough | Under Rocks Podcast

RAGBRAI, an annual week-long bike ride across Iowa, returned after a COVID-canceled 2020. In this episode of Under Rocks, we check in with Dan Libman and friends during their pedal across Iowa, then dip into the WNIJ archives for more stories about the ride that brings thousands of people together for friendship, adventure, good causes, and...hamballs?


Perspective: Voting Is The Key

Voting rights are under attack, so Deborah Booth says there might be another way to preserve and protect them.


ODBRAI: Biking Illinois, From The Mississippi To That Great Lake, In One Day | Under Rocks Podcast

From sunrise in Thomson to fireworks in Chicago, Under Rocks host Dan Libman gets a good long taste of Illinois as he and four intrepid friends pedal their way across the Land of Lincoln.