Barrington Town-Warming : White-Hot Topics on an Ice-Cold Day

Inspired by winter gatherings in the 1930s, this gathering of great minds focuses on big ideas of the day, with some help from a few high-profile speakers.

(Julie Linnekin photo)

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will make a livestream appearance with Motorola President and CEO Greg Brown during the latest Barrington Town-Warming.

The annual event happens Feb. 5 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Barrington’s White House, 145 W. Main St.

Guests can purchase in-person tickets, which include breakfast, lunch and a reception. Or, for anyone looking to enjoy the event from home, virtual passes are also available.

Last year, Barrington Town-Warming was all-virtual, but this year, it’ll feature in-person panelists from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Commerce Commission and presenting sponsor Northern Trust, a bank in Barrington.

Corey McPherrin, an evening news anchor for FOX32 in Chicago, will also moderate a panel on the “Security of Our Well-Being” with Dr. Allison Arwady from the Chicago Department of Public Health, Karen Lambert from Advocate Aurora Healthcare, and Mark Pfister from the Lake County Health Department.

There will be a common theme this year, as all the speakers plan to put a spotlight on security in a post-pandemic world.

“This topic is important because, over the past several years and especially with COVID-19, we’ve seen our security threatened in numerous ways,” says Patty Dowd Schmitz, spokesperson for the Village of Barrington, which hosts the event. “Our well-being has been threatened by a global pandemic and our increasingly interconnected world continues to be threatened by outside forces who may want to infiltrate our technological systems and infrastructure.”

The Town-Warming includes a lunch break between the various panels and speakers, which gives in-person guests a chance to visit with other guests and the presenters.

After lunch, Ron Keaton, a historical character actor, will provide an enlightening portrayal of Winston Churchill.

“He’ll touch on the themes of security as Prime Minister Churchill would’ve experienced them during the World War II era,” Schmitz says.

The format for this year’s day-long speaker series is the same as it was in previous years, when guests included the likes of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Commerce Secretary William M. Daley, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

“It’s been very rewarding to see how many of our citizens have attended this event during the past four years,” Village President Karen Darch says. “We couldn’t be more grateful to Greg Brown of Motorola Solutions, who continues to bring us wonderful keynote speakers each year. The topics that are discussed among our speakers and panels make for a wonderful day of listening and learning about the most important topics of the day in our world.”

Barrington’s Town-Warming is a revival of the intellectual discussions held in town during the Depression era. It originally started in the late 1930s as a way for the community to come together during the cold months while listening to nationally renowned speakers discuss various topics of interest to the community and the country.

People came out in droves, as the speakers covered topics including religion, business, academics and everything in between. People had to get their tickets early, because events constantly sold out.

“Back then, it was a week-long event that took place at Barrington High School, and more than 1,000 community members would attend,” Schmitz says. “During those times, there was no TV and no internet, so this was the highlight of many residents’ winters.”

The event stopped during the 1940s because World War II was on everyone’s mind. It wasn’t until 2018 that the event returned, after Darch resurrected the concept with the Barrington Cultural Commission, a 12-member organization that coordinates and cross-promotes various activities in Barrington. She wanted to see this time-honored tradition re-created for the community.

“Back in the 1930s, during the original Town-Warming, several book volumes were produced that captured the speeches of many of the keynote speakers from those early Town-Warmings,” Schmitz says. “Darch read those books at one point during the past number of years, and she felt it would be a significant endeavor to bring these robust lectures back to the Village of Barrington in these modern times.”

The event happens during a bleak time in the calendar where the holiday season is in the rearview mirror and the warm spring weather is still a few weeks away. It’s designed to give residents a chance to “warm-up” during the cold, winter months and turn their attention to something new.

“The event occurs annually in late January or early February as a way for our community to come together during a normally quiet time of the year event-wise,” Schmitz says.

In-person tickets for the event are extremely limited and proof of vaccination is required for entry. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Check out what else is happening at Barrington’s White House

Ron Hawking
Feb. 11-12, 7:30 p.m. Join Grammy nominee and award-winning performer Ron Hawking for a fun night of music as he portrays the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., among others. Ladies in attendance receive a red rose.

Second Thursdays Jazz Cabaret Series
March 10, April 14 & May 12, 7 p.m. Local jazz musicians perform in an open-mic setting. Available in-person or virtual.

Katherine Beck
March 13, 3 p.m. With the help of pianist Chris Reynolds, mezzo-soprano Katherine Beck performs classic American songs.

Victor Goines
April 30, 7:30 p.m. The jazz saxophonist shares the stage with fellow jazz performers and students from area high schools.

Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner
May 22, 3 p.m. Classical pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner performs Rachmaninoff’s B-flat Minor Sonata and Schumann’s Humoreske, in addition to preludes from the American songbook by George Gershwin.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit or call (224) 512-4066.