Feature Stories

A Fun Filled Windsor Harvest Picnic

Photo by RR Best Patti Woods of Shelbyville provided Windsor Picnic crowds with some of Paddi’s Air Filled Fun on Saturday. She  shaped balloons into a variety of animals and flowers for an appreciative group.

Photo by RR Best
Patti Woods of Shelbyville provided Windsor Picnic crowds with some of Paddi’s Air Filled Fun on Saturday. She shaped balloons into a variety of animals and flowers for an appreciative group.

•August 19, 2015•

By Nick Fiala
Reporting in Windsor

The Saturday afternoon events for this year’s annual Windsor Harvest Picnic kicked off under a blazing summer sun that would make anyone think twice about sitting outside for an hour.

But that didn’t stop shop owners from setting up extra seating outside their Main Street storefronts. By the 2 p.m. parade starting time, sidewalks were lined with kids and adults alike cheering as the fire and police departments, the American Legion, local churches, beauty pageant winners, and more all blared their horns and threw candy to smiling parade goers.

A half hour before the parade even began, a rectangular patch of empty lawn chairs was set up to reserve a good seat for that night’s music entertainment.

By 6:30, there was a solid line of guests that was almost as long as the park itself, each of them standing there just to get a part of the main dinner course. Some of the vendors, serving funnel cakes and corn dogs and ice cream cones, tried to meet demand by serving two lines at a time.

An auction was also going on about that time, selling off two gooseberry pies from the stage..

“Just bid like your husband was bidding on a piece of farm equipment, Ma’am.” That was the advice that the energetic auctioneer gave to one bidder, earning laughs from the crowd.

And it seemed to work. Prices on the pies skyrocketed as dozens of bids came in from everywhere in a crowd . The first pie finally peaked at $150 and the second one got up to $405.  Read More

A Fitting End to the LTOTS Season with Miss Daisy

Photo by Keith Stewart Chauffeur Hoke Colburn (played by Equity actor Bryant Bentley, left), returns a can of salmon, unaware that Miss Daisy (played by Glory Kissel, middle) had just moments before accused him of stealing in a conversation with her son Boolie (played by Jesse Sharp, right).

Photo by Keith Stewart
Chauffeur Hoke Colburn (played by Equity actor Bryant Bentley, left), returns a can of salmon, unaware that Miss Daisy (played by Glory Kissel, middle) had just moments before accused him of stealing in a conversation with her son Boolie (played by Jesse Sharp, right).

•August 12, 2015•

By Dan Hagen
NP Theatre Critic

How appropriate that the play “Driving Miss Daisy” should cap the 2015 summer season here, because the venerable Little Theatre is the venue that integrated the town of Sullivan.

“The first African American actor Guy Little hired was an Equity actor from New York, Michael Wright, who, ironically, was from Shelbyville, a somewhat larger town 20 miles southeast of Sullivan,” wrote Beth Conway Shervey in her book, “The Little Theatre on the Square: Four Decades of a Small-Town Equity Theatre.”

“Collective memories of people in Sullivan in 1961 recalled either a sunset law on the books or an unspoken rule that no black man would be caught in Sullivan after the sun went down, much less spend the night,” Shervey wrote. Wright did, of course, staying with a local couple. “Rumor also had select area residents threatening to blow up the theatre or close it down for good. Not only did nothing like this happen, it never rose above gossip.”

Jibby Florini — the owner of Jibby’s restaurant, once the “Sardi’s of Sullivan” — headed off any racial confrontations. “(Wright) came in here, and I had to stop a couple guys from going over and challenging him,” Florini said. “They wanted him thrown out and so on.”

Read More

Scotty B.s’ Food for Travel

findlay Scotty Bs Waffles

Photo by R.R. Best WAFFLES ON THE MOVE - Scott Buxton serves up one of many specialties with a little help from son Matthew at a recent festival.

•August 12, 2015•

By Nick Fiala
Reporting from Bethany

At 214 West North Street, just off the main road in the small town of Bethany, a large red trailer sits in the driveway. It’s next to a plain white yard sign advertising Scotty B’s, a concession business founded by Sullivan native and former Navy cook Scott Buxton.

“It definitely did not look like that when I got it,” said Buxton, laughing and pointing at the trailer.

As the president of Sullivan’s own Junior Football League, Buxton has always valued his connection to his neighbors.

“We’re trying to just offer something for our community,” Buxton said. “I like making people happy when I cook… I’m just trying to offer something a little bit different...another slice of life out there for folks.”

That other slice is a Monday-Friday menu that includes pulled pork (on Fridays), burgers, a tenderloin measuring ten-and-a-half inches, French and sweet potato fries, chicken tenders, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and funnel cakes (on Wednesdays).

There’s also a special challenge meal with a 30-minute time limit. It’s called the boss hog, and it’s a sandwich weighing more than four pounds, consisting of two pieces of Texas toast, one giant tenderloin, a pound of pulled pork, a pound of fries, a pound of bake beans, a pound of coleslaw, plus cheese and jalapeños. Read More

Findlay Hosts Walleye Festival and Farmer Market

Photo by RR Best Pictured are Lisa Jackson (left) and Bonnie Scott (right), who are both vendor’s at the farmer’s market. Jackson sells Young Living essential oils while Scott offers kitchen products by the company Wildtree.

Photo by RR Best
Pictured are Lisa Jackson (left) and Bonnie Scott (right), who are both vendor’s at the farmer’s market. Jackson sells Young Living essential oils while Scott offers kitchen products by the company Wildtree.

•August 5, 2015•

By Nick Fiala
Reporting in Findlay

Walking into the 2015 Findlay Walleye Festival and Farmer’s Market last weekend was like walking into an old corner of Americana, mostly-forgotten and yet somehow still brimming with joy and life.

That’s an especially fitting description considering the circumstances surrounding this particular year, the 27th in the festival’s history and the fifth for the farmer’s market.

Located at the park across the street from the festival sight, the farmer’s market boasts corn, collard greens, lettuce, and herbs in its produce this year.

Activities include a very popular basketball tournament, with countless teams standing in packs to wait for their chance to play. Festival-goers and locals passed the time with an all-American cheeseburger or hot dog lunch at park benches. Younger families went to enjoy their Saturday morning with modern music blaring from speakers, while the walleye festival, which peaks at night, boasted a gospel band that played out a healthy old-time ambience.  Read More

Windsor Harvest Picnic Begins Next Week

Annual community tradition starts Thursday

•August 5, 2015•

by Nick Fiala
Reporting in Windsor

Central Illinois is a land of rich history and deep traditions. One such tradition is taking place in the town of Windsor next weekend. Virtually every year since 1896, the town has held an annual Harvest Picnic on its park grounds with music, entertainment, and plenty of good food for the large crowds regularly in attendance. This year it will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, August 13 and run through 9 p.m. Saturday.

Of course, keeping a 119 year-old tradition going strong is no small feat. And few know this better than Betsy Stilabower, the treasurer of the Harvest Picnic Committee.

“[Originally] It was only held one day, the last Thursday in August,” said Stilabower. “People would come to town and pack a picnic lunch, and they’d have band concerts and visit. It was a time to get together before harvest or after harvest.” Read More

“Addams Family”, the Best Showing at Little Theatre Yet

Photo by Keith Stewart Pictured in “The Addams Family” are, from left to right, Lexie Dorsett Sharp as Grandma, Gideon Johnson as Pugsley, Jesse Sharp as Gomez, Josh Houghton as Lurch, Emmy Burns as Wednesday, Colleen Johnson as Morticia and Tommy Lucas as Uncle Fester.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Pictured in “The Addams Family” are, from left to right, Lexie Dorsett Sharp as Grandma, Gideon Johnson as Pugsley, Jesse Sharp as Gomez, Josh Houghton as Lurch, Emmy Burns as Wednesday, Colleen Johnson as Morticia and Tommy Lucas as Uncle Fester.

•July 29, 2015•

By Dan Hagen
NP Theatre Critic

Truth is not only stranger than fiction, but stranger even than the Addams Family.

The New Yorker magazine cartoonist Charles Addams once dated a widow named Jacqueline Kennedy, and even proposed marriage to her.

“No,” Jackie replied, adding drily, “What would we talk about? CARTOONS?”

Broadway has never shared Jackie’s condescending attitude on that subject. Both comic strips and Broadway musicals are American inventions, and both display the brash energy and optimism that are part of the national spirit.

L’il Abner, Little Orphan Annie, Peanuts, Doonesbury, Superman and Spider-Man all went from four colors to footlights, and so did Addams’ series of humorously macabre New Yorker cartoons collectively referred to as the Addams family. Read More

Simple and in Abundance

Photo by Keith Stewart Pictured is Brandi Novak, the owner of the newly opened primative/antique store Simpler Thymes, located at 110 E Harrison next door to the Sullivan Bakery.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Pictured is Brandi Novak, the owner of the newly opened primative/antique store Simpler Thymes, located at 110 E Harrison next door to the Sullivan Bakery.

New antique store opens in Sullivan

•July 29, 2015•

By Nick Fiala
Reporting in Sullivan

It is often said that every success story starts with a dream. In this case, it is a dream and an enormous collection of beautifully-aged odds and ends that Brandi Novak is using to start her own antique store, Simpler Thymes, located on Harrison Street, just east of the Little Theatre.

“I taught second-grade here.” said Novak, who is a former sales director and held her grand opening for the store over this last weekend. “I really enjoy the town; I think it’s a great area [and] they’re really doing a lot with it. New business is coming in, and that was a big factor in my decision to open here.”

A love for auctions and sales led Novak to start her own collections and open booths in places such as B&J Antiques and Copper Eagle in Charleston. But she said this opening, arranged since June, is an opportunity for her to realize a long-time goal and combine it with a deep personal interest.

“I’ve always been interested in being self-employed.” Novak said. “It still can be flexible when I need it to be...I’ve had antique booths for about seven years [and] I thought ‘it’s now or never’.”  Read More

Sheri Randall Benefit August 1

Sheri_Randall_obitProceeds to go to Randall’s family and son

•July 29, 2015•

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

An all-day benefit is set for this coming Saturday in Sullivan that will also, in many ways, serve to celebrate the life of Sheri Randall, who died tragically earlier this year.

The benefit will be held at the Sullivan VFW with doors opening at 11 a.m. when a children’s festival will commence outside including carnival games, a dunk tank, and a DJ.

At noon, a lunch will be served at $5 a plate.

A long list of entertainment will then begin at 3:15 p.m. with solo acoustic act Josh Holland. A live auction will run from 4:30-6 p.m.

Entertainment will continue until midnight and feature acts including Wesley Davis, Van Waylon, LTH, Darkness Inside, Grays Divide, and War Nerve.

A silent auction will run throughout most of the day. Read More

Enjoying the Summer, Outdoors

Summer recreation program sees largest number of participants this year

•July 22, 2015•

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Since June 1, chances are if you’ve gone by Wyman Park during the morning or afternoon, you’ve witnessed a large circus of children playing a variety of games from flag football to kickball, soccer, Frisbee, table tennis, and even interacting on the park’s many slides and swings.
But what may appear to be just a large rag-tag group of children running about is actually the long-standing summer park recreation group, which for decades has kept Sullivan youth busy playing and having fun outside.
“I think it’s a good thing for kids in the community to have some structured event to go,” said Sullivan mayor Ann Short. “It keeps them out of trouble.”

Photo submitted by Melissa Haegen Children enjoy the waterworks provided by the Sullivan Fire Department last Wednesday as part of the popular park recreation program at Wyman.

Photo submitted by Melissa Haegen
Children enjoy the waterworks provided by the Sullivan Fire Department last Wednesday as part of the popular park recreation program at Wyman.

For more than 50 years, the summer rec program has been open to Sullivan’s youth. Paid volunteers run it on a daily basis for eight weeks, typically beginning the first Monday of summer break. The program is funded through property tax revenue, a small portion of which is set aside in a recreation fund to help pay not only for the volunteer staff, but also supplies. For the last four years, the program has been manned by husband and wife Jake and Melissa Haegen.
“I came out here when I was a kid,” said Jake. “My dad said he came out here when he was a kid, too, so it’s been going on for at least 50 years.”
“For the kids I think it gives them something that keeps them occupied, and they’re not getting into trouble,” said Melissa. “They’re being active. They’re not sitting in front of video games all summer long. We’re encouraging them to participate in sports that they may not have thought they were good at. It builds their confidence, their social skills. It’s just a positive thing for them to be out here. It’s a little less structured than the school environment so they enjoy that.”
One key element in the program’s success more recently is the implementation of the summer food service program, an initiative that is funded by the USDA and aims to provide meals to low-income students. Read More

Bringing the Pulls to Tabor

Photo by RR Best Asher Hendry pedals excitedly during the pedal pulls.

Photo by RR Best
Asher Hendry pedals excitedly during the pedal pulls.

First of many pedal/garden tractor pulls held in Sullivan

•July 22, 2015•

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Two weeks ago Sullivan’s Tabor Park was home to a pedal and garden tractor pull that organizers hope will be the first of many in years to come.
“For the first time, it went really well,” said Ed Righter, a Sullivan resident and member of the Christian County Tractor Pulling Association, which sponsored the event. Along with the association, the day was further helped along by Cory Wiley and Clint Thompson of the city’s park department and numerous volunteers.
The day began with the tot rod pedal pulls, which were enjoyed by 40 children taking their shot at the unique feat.
“There were lots of smiles and cheering that took place as each child was showing off their pedal power at Tabor Park,” said Paul Callan, who was hired by the city to bring in and set up the pedal pulls. “Approximately 40 took their turn pulling the “Tormentor” sled on the John Deere tractors  “Crankinstein “ and “Gotta Go Green” in attempts of a “full pull” or as far as their legs would take them, competing for trophies and fun along the way.”
Following the pedal pulls, the garden tractor competition began with some traveling more than an hour to participate. Read More