All posts by Keith Beebe

Keith Beebe is the Editor of the Elburn Herald. You can reach him at info@elburnherald.com or (630) 365-6446 x105.
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Celebrate the 85th installment of Elburn Days

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Schedule of Events >>

The 85th installment of the Elburn Days festival will take place this weekend, Aug. 15-17, at Elburn Lions Park, 500 Filmore Ave., Elburn. This year’s event will include entertainment, a 5K run, a car raffle, mud volleyball, a carnival, a beer tent, live entertainment, a parade and so much more. And if it’s anything like previous Elburn Days events (and it will be), Elburn is in for quite a good time this weekend.

Ensuring that said good time goes on without a hitch is pretty tedious work, however. Preparing anything at the scale of Elburn Days, which draws an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 visitors, is a logistical challenge. The festival lasts just three days, but the Lions spend an entire year preparing for it. Elburn Days is their largest fundraiser of the year and raises the majority of the organization’s funds for its charity work with the visually impaired.

More than 50 chairpeople plan various events, from the beer garden to the pie-eating contest to the sanitation, attending monthly meetings and sending regular email updates to Dave Broz, this year’s Elburn Days chairperson. Hundreds of people from the Lions Club and the community also volunteer to work the actual festival.

As for the hot dogs and brats—another popular food item available at Elburn Days—they come from Ream’s Meat Market in Elburn, which is making about 2,800 brats and 3,000 hot dogs for this year’s Elburn Days installment.

Ream’s makes hot dogs and brats in batches of 100 pounds each, he said, and the order for Elburn Days is about 1,000 pounds and takes 10 batches. Just making that many takes a couple of mornings, he said, before they go into the smokehouses to cook.

Mainstage entertainment is a big part of Elburn Days, and this year’s lineup includes Back Country Roads on Friday, Arra on Saturday, and Mike and Joe on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking of Sunday, the Elburn Herald’s mud volleyball tournament will take place at noon, with check-in at 11:30 a.m. The event will feature 48 teams on six courts, battling for mud volleyball supremacy. The event is just as fun to watch as it is to actually do, and that’s a good thing, as the event is sold out in terms of participating teams.

A parade, good music and food, a 5K run, a carnival, mud volleyball and countless other activities. What more could a festival goer ask for? We’ll see you this weekend at Elburn Days 2014. Enjoy the event, everyone.

At the Kaneland Healing Field ceremony, a mother and her son spend some time among the 1,000 flags.

Editorial: Witnessing the power of the Healing Field

Two weeks ago we used editorial space to provide further information to our readers regarding the Healing Field ceremony and display near Kaneland High School, scheduled to take place Memorial Day Weekend.

Well, if you happened to drive past KHS any time between Friday and Monday, you certainly noticed the sprawling display of American flags, neatly lined up in rows, in the field directly east of the high school.

That was, of course, the Healing Field: 1,000 flags representing patriotism and honoring servicemen and servicewomen who fight to defend this country and its freedoms.

The really fun thing about the Healing Field display is that individuals and businesses could purchase flags for it. A single flag cost $35, while a small business sponsorship was five flags for $500, and a corporate sponsorship was 10 flags for $1,000. The flags could also be dedicated to a specific individual and feature a personalized message.

All proceeds went to the American Legions in Maple Park, Elburn and Sugar Grove.

We’ve received a large amount of positive feedback regarding last weekend’s Healing Field, as well as the question of whether the patriotic display will return next year. Unfortunately, the Healing Field is really a traveling exhibit, which means it takes place in a different location every Memorial Day Weekend. The Healing Field in the past has been held in locations such as the West Aurora School District.

But even though the Kaneland community can’t play host every year to something as extraordinary and powerful as the Healing Field, we can all take pride in the fact that this area, for a weekend, put on as moving a patriotic display as we’ve seen. The rows of flags in the Healing Field appeared to be endless, and many featured tags with a personal dedication. In a word, awesome.

If you were unable to witness the Healing Field last weekend, we encourage you to check out this week’s feature story on the event—complete with accompanying photos—found on pages 1A and 6A.

After all, for one weekend, no area took more pride in Memorial Day and this country’s servicemen than the modest field east of Kaneland High School. And we’d hate for our readers to miss out on what was a very special weekend in the Kaneland community.

It was truly a Healing Field.

Editorial: Honoring the veterans through the Healing Field

We ran a story last week detailing the upcoming Healing Field events that will take place at Kaneland High School over Memorial Day Weekend. We’d like to use this space to elaborate a little bit on next weekend’s Healing Field activities.

In the days leading up to Memorial Day Weekend, the field to the east of KHS will become a Healing Field, boasting over a thousand American flags sitting upon 8-foot-tall flagstaffs.

And that’s where the public comes in, as it will have an opportunity to sponsor a flag in the Healing Field. Individuals and businesses can purchase a single flag for $35. A small business sponsorship is five flags for $500. A corporate sponsorship is 10 flags for $1,000. All proceeds will go to local American Legions in Maple Park, Elburn and Sugar Grove.

The flags honor the veterans and military who have sacrificed their time and talents—and even their very lives—in defense of this country’s freedom. Also, each sponsored flag has a story and honors a hero who is identified by an attached name tag. And once the Healing Field display has concluded, the sponsored flags may be taken home and displayed as a continuing reminder of service to this nation.

Flag tagging will take place during the Healing Field opening ceremony on Saturday, May 24, at 10 a.m. The Memorial Day ceremony will take place Monday, May 26, at noon.

The Healing Field itself will take place from Friday, May 23, to Tuesday, May 27.

This Memorial Day Weekend, consider becoming a sponsor for the greatest of causes. If you’re interested in sponsoring a Healing Field flag or helping with next weekend’s ceremonies, contact rudy.keller@kaneland.org or visit healingfield.org/kaneland14/. Remember, when it comes to honoring those who have served this country, every little contribution counts.

Editorial: Don’t forget the flowers this weekend

Looking to buy some flowers for Mother’s Day this Sunday? We know of a way in which you can get flowers while also helping out the Friends of the Town and Country Public Library. Hey, we’re all about multi-tasking here.

The Friends will host their annual plant fundraiser from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, May 9, and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 10. If you’re interested in finding some fresh geraniums, gerbera daisies and tuberous begonias, you’re in luck—they’ll be available for a donation of $3.75 each, or three for $11.

The plant sale will take place indoors at the library, 320 E. North St., Elburn. If you want to pre-order your flowers, you can do so by stopping by the library or calling Joan Hansen at (630) 365-9217.

The fun won’t end there, either. The Friends of the Library will also hold a Gardener’s “Green Thumb” raffle through May 10. The featured deluxe garden cart was donated by Vicki McGuire of Elburn. The Friends also donated raffle items such as a combo pack of garden tools, large planter pots, rainbow straw hat, garden pad for potting plants indoors/outdoors, garden note cards, selected gardening books and much more. So not only will you be able to buy flowers from the Friends, but you might also come away with new tools to tend your garden.

Gardener’s Green Thumb raffle tickets are $1 each, or six for $5. The drawing will be held at noon at the library.

So there you have it. You can satisfy your Mother’s Day to-do list, support the Friends of the Library and possibly score some nifty gardening instruments, as well. Not a bad haul, if you ask us.

Good luck, and happy gardening.

Editorial: Elburn Herald content places in multiple IPA categories

Last June we talked at length (OK, we bragged) about the awards we received from the Illinois Press Association, including top marks for Best Sports Photo and Enterprise/Feature Writing, a second-place nod in General Excellence, a third-place award for Newspaper Design and an honorable mention for Local Editorial.

We had an impressive showing in IPA’s Advertising category, as well, taking second place in General Advertising Excellence, and first place and third place in Best Full Color Ad. Our Kaneland Guide took first in Best Annual Special Section, and our Summer Guide took fourth place in Best Community Focus Special Section. We also placed as runner-up in the category of Best Ad Designer.

Last year wasn’t a bad haul for us in the hardware department, and we’re pleased to say that the Elburn Herald is again poised to take home some awards from this year’s IPA awards. We’re nominated in the categories of General Excellence, Sports News (Mike Slodki), Enterprise/Feature Writing (Susan O’Neill, Cheryl Borrowdale), Spot News Photo (Kimberly Anderson), Feature Photo (Mary Paulson) and Sports Section. We won’t know our place in the above-mentioned categories until June 13, but we’re nonetheless proud of the Elburn Herald writers and staff who were nominated in this year’s competition.

As always, we view IPA nominations as a reflection of our ability to provide our readers with the best news and photos possible. And because we earned two additional editorial category nominations this year, we’d like to think we’re improving our ability to serve everyone in the community.

Congratulations again to the nominees. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for good news come mid-June.

Editorial: A thank you to local candidates

It was three weeks ago when we concluded our coverage of the 2014 General Election Primary, and we’d like to use this space to thank all of the local candidates who took time out to complete an Elburn Herald questionnaire.

It was a privilege to interact with candidates in the races for U.S. Senate, Kane County Clerk, Kane County Sheriff, Kane County Board District 5 and 50th District Representative, and we look forward to furthering communication with the nominated representatives in the weeks leading up to this fall’s election. It’s sure to be an exciting time for Kane County and nearby districts.

We’d also like to extend a thanks to the candidates for 16th Judicial Circuit 3rd Subcircuit, as they also took time out of their schedule to complete our questionnaire. Unfortunately, we were unable to feature their entries in the paper due to space constraints. Still, it was a pleasure to get to know the four candidates who ran for their respective Republican nomination earlier this month, and we look forward to seeing them in action in November.

Lastly, we want to thank you, the reader, for allowing the Elburn Herald to bring you comprehensive coverage of this spring’s election. Our goal was to leave no stone unturned while researching the field and gathering information from each featured candidate, and we’d like to think we succeeded in that regard. And if not, we hope to do better next time around.

After all, you deserve the best election content available. And the Elburn Herald feels honored to have an opportunity to further introduce local candidates to the Kaneland community and additional portions of Kane County.

So thank you to this March’s election candidates, and thank you to those who took time out to visit the polls and vote on March 18.

Editorial: Don’t ask us about our bracket

“How’s your bracket?”

It’s a question that serves as a popular conversation starter this time of year, for both sports nuts and the casual observer. And it’s something very few of us want to hear or discuss.

The “bracket” in question refers to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (aka March Madness), cultivating in April’s Final Four weekend. And every spring, our friends, relatives and co-workers put forth countless tournament pools for us to join. It takes no more than 10-15 minutes to complete a standard NCAA tournament bracket, and it takes even less time for it to be demolished by upsets, buzzer beaters, bizarre gaffes and just about anything else that can possibly affect a college basketball game.

And so questions about one’s bracket typically are answered with something along the lines of “don’t ask” or “I hate (insert name of eliminated national powerhouse).” Seriously. You could venture out to a Buffalo Wild Wings or any sports bar right now and actually hear those exact responses. Rarely will you meet someone who can brag about their bracket once the tournament’s opening weekend has concluded. And if you do find that person, give it a week. Chances are they’ll be singing a much sadder tune. Misery indeed loves company.

That’s why billionaire Warren Buffett recently offered a $1 billion reward to the person who could predict every game within the tournament. That’s right—$1 billion dollars to the bracket correctly calling all 63 games. Seems a little lopsided until, of course, you factor in the odds of authoring a perfect bracket: 1:9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s a lot of commas. And now Buffett’s offer seems plenty lopsided, just in the other direction.

Fortunately, it only takes a halfway decent bracket to win a pool. If you can pick a few early upsets and correctly call at least three of the teams that will land in the Final Four come April, you’re in business. And if you can prognosticate just how those final three games turnout, you might be in the driver’s seat, depending on how many people are in said pool—if it’s over 50 people, you’ll need to be much more accurate with your picks; that means you’ll have to embrace both logic and risk while filling out your bracket.

Oddly, the emotion teams exhibit on the court during March Madness (players screaming their heads off after draining a game-winning shot; players crying inconsolably while curled into the fetal position on the hardwood) is often matched by those who’ve placed the fate of their bracket on those teams. It’s kind of sad to watch someone’s bracket go down in flames, but it’s kind of comforting, as well, especially if our bracket has long since bitten the dust. Again, misery loves company.

Here’s a deal: don’t ask us about our bracket and we won’t ask about yours. And when Florida, Michigan State, Arizona and Louisville (the popular Final Four picks this year) eventually lose to schools with vastly inferior rosters, we can share a glance that means only one thing.

“Bracket? What bracket?”

Editorial: Clarifying the Sugar Grove Public Library limited rate increase referendum

It came to our attention recently that there was a bit of confusion regarding our recent coverage of the Sugar Grove Public Library limited rate increase referendum. Because it’s our mission to bring you the clearest and most accurate information possible—especially the information you use in the voting booth on Election Day—we’d like to take an opportunity here to revisit and clearly define the limited rate increase item.

The Sugar Grove Public Library hopes to increase its limiting rate an additional $2.14 per month, or $25 more per year (for a home valued at $100,000), through a referendum on the March 18 ballot. The library needs additional funds to maintain the facility and grounds, support a number of current programs, departments and new programs it would like to add. The additional money would help the library afford the purchase of more materials in physical and downloadable formats, as well as the purchase of new computers to replace aging ones.

The library has attempted to raise the limiting rate in the past to no avail. The one-time increase would provide adequate funding to operate and maintain the library in its larger facility now and into the future.

“If the limiting rate passed during the referendum, we could have the library open every day with consistent hours,” said Library Director Carol Dolin. “We want to avoid being open some mornings and some evenings so people can remember when we are open more easily.”

The library staff is concerned with the library’s current budget.

“We need more funding to be open more hours, to provide more physical and downloadable materials, and to care for the building,” Dolin said. “We will survey the public to get input on how to prioritize those areas of the budget. Finally, with adequate funding, we may be able to refinance the building bonds to save tax payers money as we pay off the debt.”

The Sugar Grove library currently has the lowest limiting rate in the area, with Kaneville, Oswego, Elburn, Aurora and Batavia all possessing higher rates. With a vast amount of services offered, the library staff hopes that the public will vote to pass the referendum to ensure that the library can continue to offer a large variety of programs and materials.

Should the referendum pass, the library staff will survey the public to understand their needs and expectations for library hours, programs and materials.

Editorial: It’s that time of year once again

Believe it or not, it’s actually early March right now. And we can confirm as much in this week’s issue of the Elburn Herald, as it features the first part of our coverage regarding the spring General Primary Election. Of course, this is a spring election season in name only. We still have icicles on our vehicles, and we’re certainly not fans of Punxsutawney Phil right about now. Maybe we’ll eventually refer to this time of year as “Polar Vortex election season.”

This week’s Elburn Herald issue will give you a closer look at the Republican nomination candidates for Kane County Sheriff, 50th District Representative and the County Board District 5 seat. We had a great time working with said candidates to create the content found in this week’s election section, and we hope you’ll have just as good of a time learning more about them.

We’re also featuring a closer look at the three referenda available this spring: the “Show You Care Kane” public question; the county’s authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program; and a proposition to increase the Sugar Grove Public Library’s limiting rate. You can find out more about all three ballot items in this week’s issue of the Elburn Herald.

As always, we seek to bring you the best election coverage possible, and we’re honored to bring you more information about the candidates you’ll find on the ballot this March. It might not feel like spring election season right now, but we’re less than two weeks away from voting day. So allow us to introduce you to the players in Kane County’s contested races later this month. And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, March 18.

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Webpoll/Editorial: What is your favorite Olympic Sport?

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The 22nd Winter Olympics are upon us
An even-numbered year indicates at least one of two things:
• It’s potentially a Leap Year
• It’s definitely an Olympic year

We’re two years away from the next 29-day February, so we’re left with the latter option. But that’s a great thing for those of us who enjoy the Olympics and all of the gala, pride, thrills and emotion that comes with each installment of the games.

This year, we’re celebrating the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia—a city that has achieved notoriety as of late, thanks to the dire condition of its hotel accomodations, and the abominable quality of its water (really, it looks like apple juice). Believe it or not, Sochi is the largest resort city in Russia, and it actually boasts a subtropical climate (difficult to come by in a country world-renowned for its unbearably frigid weather conditions). It’s also a fairly impressive destination compared to some prior Winter Olympics (Sarajevo in 1984 immediately comes to mind).

With the beginning of the 22nd winter games late last week, it appears the Olympic host city has finally taken a back seat to something more relevant: the actual Olympics. And the United States has plenty to be excited about in terms of events at this year’s games, including snowboarding, alpine and freestyle skiing, speed and figure skating, luge, women’s ice hockey, and arguably the most compelling Winter Olympic sport for the United States: men’s ice hockey.

As some of you might remember, four years ago the United States men’s ice hockey team was on the doorstep of winning gold when it lost to Canada in overtime of the Gold Medal Game. Not satisfied to take the silver medal at those games in Vancouver, the United States team could find redemption in Sochi, but it’ll have to overcome international ice dimensions to do so (rinks outside North America are 15 feet wider than a traditional NHL set-up—doesn’t sound like much, but that increased ice size equates to an extra 3,000 square feet).

Of course, outside of world-class competition on grandest of stages, the Olympics provide us with a glimpse into the cultures and scenery of its host city. Twenty years ago, we were captivated by the sights and sounds of Lillehammer, Norway, during the 1994 games. Four years later, we experienced the chillingly majestic scenery of Nagano, Japan, while the next host, Salt Lake City, impressed the world with an incredible opening ceremony. Granted, Sochi didn’t make a great first impression with its accomodations and amenities, but we must not forget that this is a European city doing its best to play host to the rest of the world. If anything, it should make us appreciate even more what the United States has to offer. We’ll certainly never look at a four- or five-star hotel the same way after witnessing Sochi’s accomodations. Still, we appreciate the city’s attempt to take on the Herculean task of hosting the Winter Olympics.

Good luck to all United State athletes competing in the 22nd Winter Olympics. And for those of you watching from home, enjoy the games, especially the events with which you’re not overly familiar. Soon, the 22nd installment of the winter games will conclude, and then we’ll have to wait another four years for the games to renew, this time in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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Editorial: School’s out … for winter?

The month of January is when students are supposed to return to school and begin their second semester, not enjoy multiple four-day weekends almost immediately following the conclusion of Christmas break. Yet that’s exactly what has happened this winter, thanks to two separate cold fronts that have turned the Kaneland community, its surrounding areas and much of the country into one giant ice cube.

Yeah, this winter has been a doozy. According to Channel 9 meteorologist Tom Skilling, winter 2014 ranks as the 12th-coldest (and fifth-snowiest) of the 143 examples on record. It has produced the second-most number of days with 0-degree-or-below temperatures (18). Of course, winter 2014 doesn’t have anything on some of the devastatingly cold winters that occurred during the 1970s, but it’s been bad enough to force four school cancellations this month. And there might be more on the way.

We recently spoke with Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler about the process that goes into cancelling school, and unsurprisingly, temperature and road conditions are the two main factors that determine whether or not school will be in session. According to Schuler, there isn’t a set temperature that forces the School District into closure for the day. Rather, the district looks at a combination of temperature and wind chill to determine whether it’s safe to open school. Road conditions are trickier to gauge, as the the Kaneland School District covers about 140 square miles.

“Clearly during snow events, we look at the conditions of the roads,” Schuler said. “If we determine that we can’t get students to school safely, then we make a decision. It is important to remember that we have about 140 square miles in our district. Weather and road conditions may not be exactly the same in all areas. When we make a decision, is is based on the safety of all students and areas.”

For those of you wondering what happens to cancelled school sessions, five emergency days (to make up for potential cancellations) are identified whenever a school year’s calendar is approved. According to Schuler, the only time Kaneland students might actually miss a day of school is if the School District uses all five of its emergency days.

“In that case, there is some language in the school code that allows you to only make up the first five days,” Schuler said.

When cancelling school, District 302 makes the decision no later than 5:30 a.m. the day of the school session. However, for the four school cancellations this month, Kaneland made the call the day prior to the school session, thanks to a weather forecast dominated by sub-zero temperatures. Ultimately, Kaneland’s goal is to give parents as much notice as possible while also helping the School District ensure that it has the accurate information necessary to make the best decision.

Still, four school cancellations in a month indicates the severity of the arctic fronts that have swept through a good portion of this country. It’s certainly unlike anything we’ve experienced, and we’re not alone in that assessment.

“This has been an interesting month. I think the weather patterns have been very unusual—something I have not experienced in my time as a superintendent,” Schuler said. “The decision to close school is not an easy one, as I understand that it impacts lots of families. However, our goal is to keep students safe, and that is always the basis for every decision we make to cancel school.”

It can’t be an easy decision to cancel an entire school day, but given the unbelievably harsh weather we’ve experienced this winter, Kaneland was right to shelve four January school sessions.

Besides, with emergency days available, why take the risk?

Editorial: Kindness Campaign events continue in 2014

We used editorial space last fall to preview Kindness in Kaneland (KIK) Week, as well as Kindness Campaign 2013 activities. And now that 2014 has officially arrived, we’d like to shed some light on the Kindness Campaign’s upcoming fundraisers and activities.

First off is the revival of Friday Knightlife, which began last week and will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. every Friday through March 21.

The newly reborn program will take place at the Elburn and Countryside Community Center, 525 N. Main St., and Sugar Grove Public Library, 125 S. Municipal Drive, and is intended for Kaneland-area students, grades fourth through eighth. The Community Center will feature activities such as basketball, floor hockey, dodgeball, Wii, air hockey and more, while the library will feature a movie, computer gaming, board games, crafts, music and more.

Java Plus Cafe at Sugar Grove Public Library will also be open during Friday Knightlife, and will offer 15 percent off coffee and live music by some of your favorite Kaneland area musicians.

Registration for Friday Knightlife is now open at www.peakforkids.org. Registration forms also available on the Kaneland School District virtual backpack system. Each student will get a free Friday Knightlife T-shirt. Cost is $75 per student; $50 for one sibling, and no charge for all additional siblings.

Later this month, The Kindness Campaign and Kaneland Arts Initiative (KAI) will lead a group discussion following performances of KAI’s Winter Theatre Production, “The Laramie Project,” which will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24-26, in the Black Box Theatre portion of Kaneland High School, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park. Performances will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“The Laramie Project” depicts the account of residents of Laramie, Wyo., following the death of Matthew Shepherd in October 1998.

Tickets are available for purchase by calling (630) 365-5100, ext. 180, or emailing 10911@kaneland.org. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens.

On the lighter side, local residents will have an opportunity to bowl against bullying during the Bowling Against Bullying event on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Parkside Lanes, 34W185 Montgomery Road, Aurora.

The event is for people age 21 and older. Pizza, drinks and a raffle will be available at 7:30 p.m. Bowling will begin at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $40 each, and include bowling, shoe rental, pizza and soft drinks. Tickets for groups of 10 (two teams, two lanes) are $350 and include bowling, shoe rental, pizza, soft drinks, and a free T-shirt for each of the 10 players.

The event will also feature trivia, 50/50 games, a DJ and dancing, bowling game and raffle prizes, a speak on cyber-bullying, gutter games, a disco ball and music bowling, and a cash bar.

So there you go—a handful of great events in store for the Kaneland community, and that’s just within the first three months of 2014. The Kindess Campaign will certainly add more events throughout the year. And when they do, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, feel free to get out there and experience what the Kindness Campaign has to offer.

Editorial: Here’s to a healthy, happy 2014

We used much of last week’s issue of the Elburn Herald to allow local elected officials to reflect on what their respective municipality achieved in the year 2013. This week, we’re featuring the same elected officials as they project what’s in store for their respective municipality in the upcoming year, as well as any and all of their projects, goals, concerns, expectations, etc.

We’re featuring year previews this week as a way to kick off 2014, and we’re incredibly excited by the prospect of spending another year with you, our reader, and the Kaneland community as a whole. It’s hard to believe that 2013 is already over, but if the new year is anything like the previous one, we’re in for an intriguing election season, as well as forward strides for all local municipalities. Unfortunately, if 2014 is anything like the previous year, we’re in for a crummy spring, a miserably hot summer and a non-existent autumn.

On second thought, here’s to hoping that 2014 improves upon the previous year.

Happy New Year from everyone at the Elburn Herald.

The most wonderful time of the year

Christmastime. It’s the season when we celebrate friends and family, gifts and tasty desserts, freezing weather and ugly holiday sweaters.

It’s the season where we take a moment to reflect on the year as it comes to an end, and begin to make plans so that we can better ourselves in the new year.

It’s the season of tree decorations, classic holiday music and the inexplicable need to dress up pets like elves and reindeer.

For us, Christmastime is the perfect time to say thank you to our readers for helping make our holiday season such a joyous one. We enjoyed meeting with residents who visited the Elburn and Countryside Community Center during the Elburn Christmas Stroll, and we had so much fun entertaining the parents and children who participated in this year’s Kandyland. For us, 2013 was a fantastic year, and we look forward to better serving the Kaneland community in 2014.

Merry Christmas from the Elburn Herald.

Editorial: Thank you for supporting local Christmas events

No one does a Christmas celebration quite like the Kaneland community, and last weekend gave us a chance to experience holiday excitement and cheer via Elburn’s Christmas Stroll, Sugar Grove’s Holiday in the Grove, Kaneville’s Christmas in Kaneville and Maple Park’s Make and Take event.

All four events were spectacular (as usual), but what really continues to impress us is the Kaneland community’s high level of support and turnout in regard to local Christmas events. Friday’s Elburn Christmas Stroll was a well-attended event throughout the village, despite frigid temperatures. And Saturday’s Christmas in Kaneville and Holiday in the Grove festivities brought out local residents of all ages for some holiday fun, including breakfast with Santa Claus, and the opportunity to shop for Christmas gifts.

Just another successful year for local Christmas events we’ve come to know and love.

Each of the four Christmas-themed events represent local groups putting in countless hours of planning and development in order to pull off a one-of-a-kind Christmas spectacle that appeals to everyone while embodying the uniqueness of the village it calls home. The work that goes into putting on Elburn Christmas Stroll, Holiday in the Grove, Christmas in Kaneville and Maple Park Make and Take, is staggering, and that’s why it’s so important to get out there and show support by attending these local events. We want to give out a big thank you to everyone who took time out this weekend to attend at least one or two of our local Christmas spectacles. And if you managed to attend all of them, give yourself a pat on the back—you represent your community well.

On our end, it’s truly a joy to cover and photograph each event every year. And we’re already looking forward to next year’s festivities. For us, it isn’t officially Christmas season until the local Christmas spectacles are underway. And with that, we’re now on the fast track to Christmas and the end of the year.

Thank you again for making this year’s local Christmas events so memorable.

MP Village Board approves 2013 tax levy

MAPLE PARK—The Maple Park Village Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve the village’s tax levy for the fiscal year commencing May 1, 2013, and ending April 30, 2014.

The total extension of the 2013 levy is $203,518, with a tax rate of 0.8096. Last year’s levy was $199,696, with a tax rate of 0.7131. According to a village document, the largest factor of the increase in rate is the decrease in Equalized Assessed Value (EAV).

The document states that the assessed valuations last year decreased from $31 million to $28 million (a decrease of 10.4 percent). This year, assessed valuations decreased from $28 million to $25 million, or a decrease of 10.23 percent.

“The village of Maple Park’s budget is frugal; the village relies on property taxes,” said Maple Park Village President Kathy Curtis. “The annual tax levy provides the revenue needed to provide services. The tax levy is formula based on assessed values. The village is only requesting of residents what it needs to operate.”

Per the village document, a home with an assessed value of $64,500 (EAV of $193,500) last year would pay approximately $9 more in village property taxes this year.

What we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving

It’s officially that time of year again.

Thanksgiving. It’s a time when we cut the work week short (or nix it entirely), load up on mass doses of turkey, football and shopping (preferably in that order), and then conclude festivities by breaking out the Christmas decorations and erecting a freshly-cut Christmas tree (or a fake one, if you’re into that).

All of this is, of course, in the name of the pilgrims who dined in Plymouth 392 years ago. And with Thanksgiving this Thursday, the Elburn Herald has much to be thankful for this holiday season, including …

• We’re thankful for upcoming local holiday events, including Elburn Christmas Stroll, Holiday in the Grove and Christmas in Kaneville. And we’re excited to roll out our life-sized “Kandyland” at the Elburn and Countryside Community Center during the Stroll on Friday, Dec. 6. Kandyland is a game that takes kids and adults alike through a winding path of yuletide decorations, and we never get tired of seeing the enthusiasm exhibited by its participants. Plus, candy awaits at the end of the game path. Not a bad way to conclude your trip to Kandyland, if you ask us.

• We’re thankful for the generosity of our readers and the local community as a whole. We reported last September about Maple Park native Becky Nelson and her journey back from the severe brain trauma and broken pelvis that she suffered when she was struck by a vehicle in the Cayman Islands on July 1. Becky didn’t have medical insurance at the time of her accident, and with the extent of her Medicaid coverage in question, the Nelson family and local resident Audry Buchanan got together and planned a “Help Becky Bounce Back” fundraiser to help defray some of Becky’s medical costs. Nearly 400 people attended the event, which raised $24,000. If that’s not a sign of community goodwill and “togetherness,” we don’t know what is.

• We’re thankful for the endless run of ‘80s and ‘90s films that will air all day on Thanksgiving (we’re less thankful for the fact that each movie will be four hours long as a result of commercials).

• We’re thankful for our friends and family, and for the opportunity we have to spend time with them this holiday season.

• We’re thankful for you, the reader, and the many subscribers who await our paper each and every week. It’s our belief that we’re based in the greatest community around, and it’s truly a pleasure to feature news from Elburn, Sugar Grove, Maple Park, Kaneville and beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at the Elburn Herald and Kaneland Publications, Inc.

Editorial: Local municipalities dive headfirst into holiday season

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, local municipalities are getting ready to put their respective holiday-themed events on display for the entire Kaneland community to enjoy.

Each local holiday event is unique—no question about it. However, all of the events boast familiar themes: the spirit of Christmas, the joy of giving and the celebration of friends and family.

Kicking off the holiday festivities is Maple Park’s “Make and Take” event, which will take place Wednesday, Dec. 4, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Maple Park American Legion, 203 Main St.

The Make and Take is a crafting night meant for children ages 3 and up. However, everyone is welcome to participate. There will be seven different craft stations set up so that participants can walk around and visit at their own pace. Some items participants can make this year include: ornaments, letters to Santa, gift bags and gift boxes. Cookies and lemonade will be served during the event, and festive holiday music will be played. This is a free event, but monetary donation tubs will be available, if anyone would like to support the Fun Fest Committee’s efforts. Any donations received will help to fund all the activities the Fun Fest puts on throughout the year.

Next up will be the Elburn Christmas Stroll on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. around Elburn. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will arrive at the Town and Country Public Library (via transport provided by the Elburn Fire Department) and have their picture taken with children in attendance. Elburn firefighters will host a tree-burning demonstration at the Fire Station. At the Elburn and Countryside Community Center will be a Holiday Crafters Bazaar, wreath silent auction and the Elburn Herald’s life-sized “Kandyland” game.

Remember our veterans as you view the decorated Christmas tree in front of the American Legion Hall, and be sure to visit the many beautiful nativity displays from around the world at St. Gall’s Church. You can also observe Conley’s annual manger dedication on Route 47 and Pierce.

Amazing Grace Antiques and Ream’s Elburn Market will also participate in the Stroll, as will Main Street eateries, including Paisano’s Pizza and Grill, Schmidt’s Towne Tap, Alice’s and Eddie Gaedel’s.

The Christmas fun will continue on Saturday, Dec. 7, with the Christmas in Kaneville event, which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and include an inaugural tree lighting, Cookie Walk, craft show and bake sale, and a Customer Appreciation promotion at both Hill’s Country Store and Old Second Bank’s Kaneville location.

In addition, the Kaneville Public Library will host kids crafts, story, basket raffles and free drawing. Local musical students will put on a musical performance.

Last but not least is Sugar Grove’s Holiday in the Grove event, which will take place on Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Sugar Grove Community House, John Shields Elementary School and Sugar Grove Public Library.

Breakfast with Santa can be found at the Community House from 8 to 10 a.m. Cost of the meal is $6 per person.

Baking and decorating cookies will also be part of the event. Mrs. Santa Claus will have a Sweet Shoppe set up at the Sugar Grove United Methodist Church. The church will sponsor wagon rides this year as a way to transport people from the church to John Shields Elementary School, 85 S. Main St., Sugar Grove.

At the school, there will be a Kids Holiday Shop, where participants will be able to buy Christmas gifts for their families and friends. Various holiday crafters and vendors will offer a section of their display for kids to buy items priced between $1 and $6. Gift wrapping will also be offered free of charge, separate from the vendors.

The Sugar Grove Public Library, 125 Municipal Drive, Sugar Grove, will also host several activities such as crafts, stories, games and movies. The Kaneland Madrigals will also be on hand to perform at the library during the event. Refreshments will be included.

As you can see, there are many Christmas-themed events to partake in early next month. And because each event is special in its own right, we recommended experiencing all four of them and taking a moment to appreciate the long hours and hard work each municipality has put into its event.

Editorial: Thank you, veterans

It’s an age-old question: what would you do for your country? How far would you be willing to go to ensure the United States’ safety and prosperity? How much is your freedom worth to you?

Honestly, those are questions many of us won’t ever have to seriously consider—as non-military, it’s unlikely we’ll be asked to be put in a position where we may have to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

We’re afforded the luxury of not having to put our lives on the lines for our country, and that’s because of the brave men and women who have actively sought out the opportunity to serve in the United States’ armed forces. For these men and women, the question of “what would you do to protect your country?” needs only a simple response.

“Whatever it takes.”

Veterans Day was Monday, and we had the privilege of being in attendance for the flag-raising cremony at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary. We also had the privilege of sharing in the moment with several men and women who have committed to do what is necessary to protect the United States of America, and we couldn’t have been prouder to share the same space with such heroes. What an honor.

To the veterans in the Kaneland Community and beyond, we thank you for everything you’ve done for this country. Your courage is immeasurable; your strength and committment infallible. And it’s safe to suggest that this country, as well as the rest of the world, would be a very different place without your respective contribution.

Happy Veterans Day from the Elburn Herald.

Editorial: ‘Tis the season to give back to the Elburn Food Pantry

For many, the holiday season begins the moment Halloween ends (the fact that local stores are already carrying holiday lights and decorations confirms this). And now that Oct. 31 is in the rear-view mirror, the Elburn Fire Department is kicking off the holiday season offering the Kaneland community a chance to give back in a subtle-yet-awesome way.

The Fire Department this holiday season will collect food and additional household items for donation to the Elburn Food Pantry. Any local residents who are able to help the Fire Department stock the Food Pantry are encouraged to make some sort of item donation at either the pantry’s location in the Elburn and Countryside Community Center, 525 N. Main St., Elburn Fire Station No. 1, 210 E. North St., or Fire Station No. 2, 39W950 Hughes Road, Elburn.

What items are needed for donation? Great question. The Food Pantry is in need of items including macaroni and cheese, stuffing mix, canned vegetables, canned pasta meals, bar soap, boxed potatoes, toilet paper, etc. And if you’re unable to swing by the designated donation locations, give the Fire Department a call, and they’ll have a representative swing by your home and pick up the donated items. Simple, right?

Members of the Fire Department will also set up shop in front of the Elburn Jewel on Sunday, Nov. 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, to collect donations. And during the Elburn Christmas Stroll on Friday, Dec. 6, the Fire Department will host its annual Open House event at Fire Station No. 1. Attendees are encouraged to bring a canned good for donation.

So there you have it. It may be early November, but we’re already approaching the season of giving back. And with so many opportunities to donate an item or two to the Food Pantry during the holidays, we’re confident that the Fire Department’s donation effort this year will be a successful one. You, of course, can help make that a reality by contributing to the Food Pantry’s cause.

MP board approves Waste Management contract

MAPLE PARK—The Maple Park Village Board on Tuesday voted 6-0 to approve a contract with Waste Management of Illinois, Inc., for the purpose of waste collection and disposal.

The board’s authorization extends the current contract with Waste Management, initiated in February 2001, for an additional five years. The rate for refuse, recycling and yard waste services will be $19.91 between the dates of Feb. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015. The rate will then increase by 2.9 percent each year.

Residents covered under the agreement will receive a 65-gallon recycling cart; those who prefer a smaller container can choose a 35-gallon cart. Also, senior citizens ages 65 and older will receive a 10 percent discount on refuse, recycling and yard waste services.

“The board is pleased with the extension of the Waste Management contract,” Village President Kathy Curtis said. “I feel the residents will like the larger recycling bins that will now be an amenity included in the monthly fee. The annual increase in the contract is a reasonable operating expense to cover fuel cost increases.”

Waste Management will sponsor Maple Park Fun Fest, and will supply 15 Port-O-Lets, five hand-washing stations, 10 96-gallon toters, a 30-yard roll-off box and 35 special event cardboard boxes.

Waste Management will provide a new refuse and recycling brochure for the village of Maple Park, and will be responsible production and distribution of the document to all residential homes covered under the Waste Management agreement.

Editorial: Is this a great community or what?

In September and October, we used this editorial space to remind residents about the then-upcoming Becky Nelson fundraiser event in Kaneville, urging them to participate and get in on the fundraising effort regarding Becky’s mammoth hospital bills.

Nearly two weeks removed from the “Help Becky Bounce Back” event, we can look back and safely say that the event was an absolute success, with over $24,000 raised.

Becky isn’t the only winner here, though. Rather, that distinction can be applied to the countless local residents who took time out of their usual Sunday routine and headed over to Kaneville to help make a difference in the life of a young woman who spent last summer clinging to dear life, and is now taking it one day at a time as she rehabilitates from the brain trauma and broken pelvis she suffered as a result of being struck by a car in the Cayman Islands on July 1.

Seriously, we couldn’t be more proud to call the Kaneland area home, and the public showing, output and support demonstrated during Becky’s fundraiser only served to further confirm something we already knew: when it comes to sticking together, doing what is right and making a difference, the Kaneland community is second to none. It’s not even close.

We’ll continue to keep tabs on Becky’s recovery and update our readers on her rehab status. In the meantime, an additional fundraiser will take place Sunday, Nov. 10, at Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill at 117 N. Main St. in Elburn. The restaurant—a new eatery from Dick and Annette Theobald, the owners of Paisano’s—will donate 10 percent of the day’s sales to the fundraising effort and will host a 50/50 raffle.

Those who are interested in following the continuing fundraising effort and receiving updates on Becky’s progress should “Like” the Help Becky Bounce Back page on Facebook.

Editorial: Make time this Sunday for a great cause

We at the Elburn Herald try out best to avoid repeating ourselves when it comes to the editorial section. But in a month best known for ghosts and goblins, jack-o’-lanterns and scary treats, it’s kindness and compassion that have been the most prominent themes found on our pages this October, partly due to Kindness in Kaneland Week (Oct. 13-19). So we can’t think of a better time than now to bring attention back to the story of Becky Nelson, the Maple Park native who suffered severe brain trauma and a shattered pelvis after she was struck in a hit-and-run incident in the Cayman Islands on July 1.

Becky’s journey since that fateful day has been a long and tedious one. She was in a coma for several weeks, and had to be flown from the Cayman Islands to a hospital in Miami in order to receive proper treatment. She was eventually flown to Chicago to continue treatment, and she’s currently undergoing physical therapy as she attempts to get her life back on track. Problem is, she didn’t have health insurance at the time of the hit-and-run incident, and her Medicaid application is still in the “processing” stage. Considering the amount of transport and treatment Becky has needed during the past three and a half months, her medical bills are going to be astronomically high.

Enter Becky’s family, and Elburn resident Audry Buchanan, who have come together and planned a fundraiser for Becky as a way to offset and potentially cover her medical costs. The fundraiser will take place this Sunday, Oct. 20, 1 to 5 p.m. at the Kaneville Community Center.
Sundays in the fall is typically reserved for football viewing, apple picking and leaf raking. However, if you have the chance to spare an hour or two this Sunday, consider heading over to the Kaneville Community Center and joining in on the fundraising fun.

Families can purchase $15 wristbands at the door to give their children unlimited access to activities. Families with three or more children can purchase wristbands for $10 each. Tickets for individual activities will be available, as well. Activities that will be offered during the fundraiser include live music for the adults, a bean bag tournament, 50/50 raffle, bucket raffle and silent auction. Teams can register for the bags tournament for $20 a team.

Food from Paisano’s and Hill’s Country Store will also be for sale, and some of the proceeds will go toward the fundraising effort.

This Sunday, set your DVR for the Bears-Redskins game and then make the trip to Kaneville to participate in the Help Becky Bounce Back fundraiser. That way, you can take comfort in knowing that while the Bears spent their afternoon sacking the living daylights out of Robert Griffin III (let’s be honest: the Redskins are terrible this year), you spent your afternoon helping Becky sack her medical expenses. That’s a pretty great way to go about your Sunday, if you ask us.

MP appoints 7 Planning Commission members

MAPLE PARK—The Maple Park Village Board on Tuesday appointed seven members to the village’s Planning Commission.

Village Planning Commission appointees include returning members Art Maercker (chairman, three-year term), George “Nick” Davidson (three-year term), Robert Rowlett (three-year term) and Jeff Ramirez (two-year term), and new additions John-Paul “J.P.” Dries (two-year term), Chuck Miller (two-year term) and Lorenzo Catanag (one-year term). Dries, Millers and Catanag were in attendance at the Village Board meeting and sworn in by Village Attorney Kevin Buick.

“I am very excited about the composite of people who have agreed to serve on the planning commission,” Village President Kathy Curtis said. “The village is going to benefit from the experience of returning members and gain from fresh prespective our newer community and committee members. I am very glad that this committee is formed and will begin meeting in advance of any new development reviews.”

Editorial: Elburn Herald to work with Kindness Campaign 2013

If you’re one of the Elburn Herald’s regular readers, you know that most weeks we feature a Community Corner column authored by a local group, the likes of which include Kaneland Arts Initiative, Performing Arts Boosters, Sports Boosters and Blackberry Creek PTO.

The purpose of the Community Corner column is to provide local groups and causes with a space on Page 2A of the Elburn Herald so that they can get their respective messages out to local residents and the Kaneland community as a whole. So when we were first approached by the Kaneland area’s Knights Against Bullying (KAB), a group focused on solving the issue of bullying in the Kaneland School District and beyond, about the possibility of featuring Kindness Compaign 2013 content in the Elburn Herald, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.

We were there when Kaneland parents, students, faculty, staff and administration gathered at Harter Middle School in September 2012 to participate in a forum to discuss the issue of bullying in the School District. We heard testimonies from concerned parents, including Leigh Ann Reusche and Darlyne Dwyer—both of whom are KAB representatives. We helped report the news last fall that the Kaneland School District would work closely with KAB, a collaboration that resulted in the creation of a task force and district-wide bullying prevention plan. And we were able to check in on the group at its meeting in late July at the Elburn Town and Country Public Library.

And now the Elburn Herald during the next six weeks will feature plenty of material regarding Kindness Campaign 2013, the core of which will take place throughout October.

We look forward to featuring the campaign’s press releases and further information in our issues through the next six weeks and beyond as a way to further get the group’s message out. And as our Community Corner column continues to grow in popularity, we hope to feature commentary on the behalf of additional local groups in an attempt to get their respective messages out to the community, as well.

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Editorial: America’s darkest day, 12 years later

Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of the darkest day in American history. And as hard as it is to believe that it’s actually been more than a decade since we, as a nation, witnessed the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, it’s even harder to believe that a group of people was actually capable of carrying out the crimes that took place that day.

That last detail is something that goes through Sugar Grove Township Board member Mike Fagel’s head each and every day.

Fagel was a responder for the Department of Justice at the time of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and he witnessed firsthand the horror and carnage of Ground Zero when he arrived in New York City on Sept. 13, 2001. Fagel looks at 9-11 as a time to remember what happened back then, and that we must remain ever vigilant in the face of these uncertain times, and he believes it’s a must to recall that we are still at war with the unknown terrorist … be they domestic or international.

Fagel had been a member of the North Aurora Illinois Fire Protection District since 1975, working in Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Planning and disaster preparedness. He also served as a reservist with FEMA beginning in 1995, with his first deployment occurring during another terrorist-conceived American tragedy: the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

At 11 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Fagel’s pager went off to contact, and he was put on standby with travel orders to be forthcoming. He arrived at Ground Zero two days later. As Fagel recalls, “We were in the midst of extreme and utter destruction, the likes of which I have never witnessed before.”

Just about everyone remembers what they were doing that morning upon learning that American Airlines Flight 11 had crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Seventeen minutes later, American Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. The attacks resulted in the deaths of all 137 civilians on the two aircrafts, as well as 2,500 civilians who were in the World Trade Center buildings or near Ground Zero during the plane crashes and subsequent collapse of both towers.

Fagel can picture it: debris piled as high as you could see—the result of collapsed buildings 110 stories tall reduced to piles of twisted steel, cement, billowing smoke. In Fagel’s words, the piles were tombs, final resting places of nearly 3,000 souls that perished in this heinous attack on America, and the free world.

A similar assault on the Pentagon, resulting in the deaths of 179 innocents, as well as the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93, resulting in the deaths of 40 innocents, occurred soon after the initial World Trade Center attacks. In the following days, as America mourned and began to clean up the rubble in an attempt to make sense of all of the terrible things that happened on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, one thing was very clear: no one in this country would ever be the same.

“Every day, the emergency service personnel, the military and government workers sworn to protect the citizenry daily, are still fighting the battle on many fronts. We must be right 100 percent of the time, while the bad guys must only be right once,” Fagel said on Monday. “Look at the Boston Marathon bombing, self-radicalization and the things that are happening daily.”

While we continue to keep alive the memory of all those who perished during the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Fagel and those involved in Homeland Security in this country continue to do everything they can to ensure that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, aren’t repeated.

“We must remain vigilant, but not be vigilantes,” he said. “Support your local emergency response planners and staff, help them help you to be prepared and be safer.”

Words to live by as we look back on America’s darkest day, 12 years later.
As Fagel raised the 9-11 flag on his house yesterday morning, he took pause to think of what happened that fateful day 12 years ago.

“A blue sky, a normal day, that would forever change the destiny of many—change the world as we know it,” he said.

Fagel met many people at Ground Zero—many of whom are now deceased or dying of some illness they received from spending many months on the site.

“I was on site for 100 days, and I, too, have some long-term illness that came from my service,” Fagel said. “I would—and will—do it all over again. For the people we serve—for those that come after we are gone—I say, ‘Let’s do our best, and remember those who came before us.”

Words to live by as we look back on America’s darkest day, 12 years later.

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Editorial: Toilet Bowl Races a staple at Maple Park Fun Fest

A big part of building up your brand is carving out a niche—something that is unique and immediately recognizable; something that defines your product.

A great example of “branding” can be found in the Kaneland community’s four local summer festivals, as they each possess a niche that compels members of the community and outside public to return to the festivities year after year. We associate Sugar Grove Corn Boil with fireworks, main stage entertainment and, well, corn. When we think of Elburn Days, truck pulls, mud volleyball and a maze of food vendors come to mind. Kaneville Fest triggers thoughts of cookouts, horse-drawn carriage rides and ice cream eating contests.

As for Maple Park Fun Fest, it features a little bit of everything: fireworks, craft and food vendors, a spectacular parade and a three-day-long men’s softball tournament. Those are great activities, but the heart and soul of Fun Fest may lie in a simple event that is a creativy tour-de-force and manages to draw a heavy crowd despite lasting only a half hour.

We’re talking about Fun Fest’s annual Toilet Bowl Races.

Yes, the Toilet Bowl Races concept is fairly straightforward: dress up a toilet with as much or as little decorations as you like, affix it to something with wheels, and then pilot it down Main Street in Maple Park with two teammates. Yet, therein lies the true magic of the event: it’s not just about how fast you can race a toilet bowl; it’s about how good (or ridiculous) you look while doing it (the smart teams emphasize the latter).

On Saturday afternoon, four teams took to Main Street, custom toilet bowl racers in tow, with hundreds of residents lined up on the sidewalks, ready to witness the action. One team, the Barbed Wire Betties, was decked out in all pink, while another team was dressed up as the cast of “Duck Dynasty.” A third team, Winning the Pooh, had its toilet bowl done up with Winnie the Pooh and friends, while the rear of the racer was covered up to look like Ashdown Forest.

The fourth team kept it simple: a toilet bowl, crudely emblazoned with “Rigged Up,” mounted to a skateboard.

Well, simplicity was indeed genius on that Saturday afternoon, as the “Rigged Up” racer proved too much for the other three toilet bowl contraptions, edging out Winning the Pooh in the final race to take home the title of Toilet Bowl Races 2013 champion.

The “Duck Dynasty” crew took home the award for most original racer, and rightfully so.

Toilet bowls as a niche? You bet. You’d be hard pressed to find an event that mixes such high levels of competition and creativity, and at different age levels. And it’s a niche that helps put the “fun” in Fun Fest.

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Maple Park says yes to video gaming

MAPLE PARK—John Peloso, owner of HD Rockers in Maple Park, on Tuesday implored the Maple Park Village Board to approve an item allowing for video gaming devices in the village.

Peloso left the meeting a happy man.

The board voted 6-0 to permit video gaming in Maple Park in accordance with the Illinois Video Gaming Act.

“We need (video gaming machines) to remain competitive with the other bars in the area,” Peloso said during the meeting’s public comment portion. “The Winner’s Circle is, what, half a mile or a mile away? They have gaming machines. Blackberry Inn, they have gaming machines. The reason I know this is because the owners of those places come in (to HD Rockers) and they talk to me, and they’ve all suggested that I ask (the Village Board) to let us have (video gaming machines) to remain competitive.”

Per a village document, devices which are authorized in accordance with the Video Gaming Act, 230 ILCS 40/1, are “expressly permitted.” Maple Park’s decision to move forward with video gaming machines comes just five months after Elburn reversed its ban on gaming devices in establishments that serve liquor. Video gaming is also permitted in Sugar Grove, as the topic of electronic gaming machines appeared on the village’s April election ballot. Sugar Grove residents voted 633 to 588 in favor of the video gaming measure.

Now that Maple Park’s video gaming ordinance has been approved, businesses within the village can apply for a state of Illinois video gambling license.

According to Maple Park Village President Kathy Curtis, Peloso appeared before the Village Board on June 4 and asked that it consider allowing video gaming machines in village establishments.

Based on this request, Village Attorney Kevin Buick drafted a sample ordinance for the board’s consideration.,” Curtis said. “At the July 22 Committee of the Whole, the board did carefully consider public comment on the matter and weighed its option.”

As a result, it’s “game on” for Maple Park establishments.

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Elburn stormchaser revisits Moore tornado site

ELBURN—Elburn resident and professional storm chaser Brad Hruza headed down to Moore, Okla., on Wednesday to visit the area that was struck by a deadly tornado on the afternoon of May 20.

Hruza, 37, had previously visited the site last month with his storm chasing team, Midwest Storm Hunters. His tour of Moore included a first-hand look at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which sustained severe damage during the tornado, resulting in the deaths of seven students. Twenty-three people in total were killed by the Moore tornado.

The reason for Hruza’s initial visit to Oklahoma was to help deliver disaster relief donations.

“We started a (donation drive) with two young girls from Blackberry Creek—Payton Micka and Kailey Davison—who started a donation drive that started with just a poster (advertisement),” Hruza said. “After word (about the donation drive) got out on air from ABC 7 Chicago, who ran the story, the donations exploded. We ended up with two car loads, and that didn’t fit even half of it.”

Hruza said he met with the families of the deceased Plaza Tower students during his trip last month, and will do so again on Friday when he hosts a storm seminar for Moore residents.

“The sights were so sad (during my last trip). I was at a loss of words for hours. I stood right where those seven children died,” Hruza said. “I will (again) be meeting with these wonderful families who have accepted me into their hearts and lives. Friday, I am planning a seminar with the children of Moore to help ease fears. These children need to be comforted, and what (an) honor it is for me to go 800 miles and help them.”
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Hruza said the seminar will be the most important thing he’s done during his 18 years of storm chasing.

“For them to accept me with this delicate situation, I am honored and privaliged to do this,” he said. “They have so much love for me. It is going to be hard when we meet, but I can’t wait to just hold these parents and listen and help what I can.”

Hruza, originally from Iowa, moved to Illinois in 1985. He’s been an Elburn resident since 2005. He said his fascination with storms and clouds led him to become a storm chaser. He got his start with just a disposable camera, and has loved it ever since. He said he does (storm chasing) more to save lives than the excitement of chasing storms.

“I have always loved what I do. I put on children and adult seminars for safety every year. Being a storm chaser is an unreal feeling of joy to help save lives—just knowing I am out there on the frontlines to protect people. That gives me the best satisfaction. It also has its scary moments, but safety is No. 1.”

In addition to storm chasing, Hruza is a National Weather Service-trained spotter. He said it’s important to not tread lightly when storm watches and warnings are issued.
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“As far as safety goes, I want everyone to know, especially here, that (tornados) happen, and it’s about a 100 percent guarantee (that they) will happen here at some point,” Hruza said. “I have said to my friends who are complacent, ‘Go down to Moore and stand where I did, then see how you feel.’ (The Moore tornado) is an eye opener of what could happen. We are way overdue for a large tornado here; pay attention to the NWS and TV stations when severe weather threatens.”

Hruza said it makes him sad to see and feel what Moore residents have gone through the past two months.

“It’s so hard to take in. It breaks my heart what these parents tell me about their children. They need love, support and prayers, and that’s why I am going (down there again),” he said. “The devastation is so bad, a whole community is gone. I gave an example of Blackberry Creek subdivision with all the homes plus a school. Imagine being able to see every direction for miles with nothing left.”

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Editorial: Happy Independence Day

The Fourth of July. It’s a holiday that celebrates America’s independence, and it also serves as the ideal time to give in to our pyromaniac tendencies and light off some fireworks (safely, of course). It’s a day to get together with friends and family and suffer through oppressive heat and humidity while enjoying the finer things in life: cookouts, baseball, soccer, swimming, boat rides, etc. The term “summer” encompasses the bulk of three months, but no day within that time frame encompasses “summer” like July 4. It is the most identifiable holiday of the season, and rightfully so.

The Fourth of July is a holiday dressed up in red, white and blue, stars and stripes. But it’s easy to overlook just why America celebrates on July 4 each and every year: It was 237 years ago that America’s founding fathers put forth a statement declaring that the 13 American colonies would cease to be part of the British Empire and instead become actual states. Thus, July 4 is a day that represents the right of freedom in America; a day where we celebrate our independence as a country. And there’s a reason why many rights movements and campaigns have cited the Declaration of Independence as a prime source of inspiration: its signing is the ultimate example of a group taking a unified stand with the conviction that its beliefs were right and deserved to be acknowledged.

So enjoy this Independence Day with the knowledge it’s a holiday meant to celebrate America’s existence and its citizens’ right to enjoy freedom. And whatever activities you choose to partake in this Fourth of July, please make sure that they are of the safe variety. It’s what our founding fathers would’ve wanted.

Sugar Grove Corn Boil Medallion found

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Corn Boil Medallion has been found.

Sugar Grove resident Shirlee Guddendorf found the medallion last week in the prairie patch located behind the Sugar Grove Park District and Volunteer Park pavilion.

Several clues regarding the medallion’s whereabout were printed in the Elburn Herald. According to Guddendorf, the second clue, which featured the word “lace,” helped her identify the location of the medallion.

“I thought that, since it’s hidden outside, they weren’t really talking about lace. And then I figured that they were talking about Queen Anne’s lace (a wildflower/weed),” she said. “The ‘biodiversity’ part of the clue told me it was in a place with a lot of plantlife. The first clue told me that it was near the Corn Boil site.”

Guddendorf took a trip over to the site with her husband, John, and found the medallion sitting on a sign post.

“I was a little surprised. If it hadn’t been on that post, I hadn’t really thought beyond that,” Shirlee said. “And I wasn’t going to go further into that patch.”

This was the sixth annual medallion hunt. As the person who located the medallion, Guddendorf will be recognized during the Sugar Grove Corn Boil 2013 opening ceremonies, scheduled to take place on Friday, July 26. She will also receive a cash prize of $50.

School Board adopts tentative 2013-14 budget

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted 4-0 to approve the tentative 2013-14 budget for District 302.

According to a document from Julie Ann-Fuchs, assistant superintendent for business, revenues in the 2013-14 operating budget are projected to exceed expenditures by $132,646. In addition, revenues in the operating funds are expected to see a general increase of 3.6 percent over last year’s budget, with an increase in the Education Fund of 3.3 percent, for a total operating revenue budget of $50,939,501.

Operating expenditures for 2013-14 are expected to come in at $50,806,855, a bump of $1.8 million from the 2012-13 operating budget. The increase in expenditure budget is due to certified/classified staffing changes, special education transportation, health insurance and salary increases.

Fuchs’ document states that, in terms of revenue, the tax levy has produced an additional $1,661,689 for the operations from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014.

“The administration and staff are very appreciative of the support that the board has provided throughout this past year as we have gone through the budget planning process,” Fuchs stated in the document. “While it has been a great challenge to repurpose some of our staff in an effort to align limited resources with our goals, we continue to make great strides toward our district mission: “The mission of Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 is to graduate all students college, career, and community ready.”

Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said it is important to know that the budget presented on Monday is is the result of several months of collaborative work involving many Kaneland staff members.

“Kaneland School District remains committed to a conservative spending plan aligned with the priorities established by the Board of Education through our Vision 2014 strategic plan,” he said. “We have allocated resources in the budget to key priorities, including math intervention services, instructional coaching and support, technology to support 21st century learning, and the purchase of new buses to ensure that we continue to get students to school safely.”

According to Schuler, the district reduces discretionary expenses whenever possible to support district priorities.

“The budget is balanced, clearly demonstrating our ongoing pledge to operate in a financially responsible way,” he said. “I am proud of the team effort that went into the development of our new budget.”

A public hearing and subsequent adoption of the District 302 budget for 2013-14 is scheduled to take place at the School Board’s meeting on Monday, Sept. 9.