Feature Stories

“Swing!” Hits the Stage at a Furious Pace

Photo by Keith Stewart Pictured are Jordan Cyphert and Megan Farley in the Little Theatre’s latest production, “Swing!”

Photo by Keith Stewart
Pictured are Jordan Cyphert and Megan Farley in the Little Theatre’s latest production, “Swing!”

July 1, 2015

By Dan Hagen
NP Theatre Critic

The scene: an urban night club during World War II, and if the atmosphere is particularly realistic, that’s because the bricks and the loading dock are the actual back wall of the Little Theatre, cunningly incorporated into the scenery.
More than Jen Price-Fick’s set is cunningly done in this musical, Swing!, directed and choreographed by Amber Mak and Todd Rhoades.
Unencumbered by plot in any but the most abstract sense, Swing! swings from bebop to scat singing to torch songs at a brisk pace that never flags.
Sound problems lost us Brady Miller’s Boogie Woogie Country during the dress rehearsal, but those ought to be fixed when the show opens today.
Colorfully costumed by Jeannine La Bate (orange shirts, blue fringed cowboy jackets, the works), this show is all song and — particularly — dance, and as my friend Bart Rettberg pointed out, a great deal could have gone wrong with the show that didn’t. The dancing is furious yet fairly flawless.
When this show opened on Broadway in 1999, the people who could remember these song and dance numbers first-hand were already in their 60s. Many are now gone, a fact that has to shift the reception of the show somewhat. We’re looking at a lost world being evoked. Read More

Sullivan Native Earns Artists’ Residency in Ireland

Photo submitted Pictured is Sullivan native Patrick Blythe seen behind his  eight foot tall bronze sculpture titled, “Harvest” which has been installed in the median of El Paseo, between Sage and Ocotilla in Palm Desert, Calif.

Photo submitted
Pictured is Sullivan native Patrick Blythe seen behind his eight foot tall bronze sculpture titled, “Harvest” which has been installed in the median of El Paseo, between Sage and Ocotilla in Palm Desert, Calif.

In retirement Patrick Blythe realizes passion

June 24, 2015

by Joash Tiarks
Reporting in Sullivan

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke”

-Vincent van Gogh

To live with such an internal fire of passion would indeed be difficult, especially if it had to remain dormant for many years. The venting of van Gogh’s passion came later in his life and many appreciate the works of art it birthed.
A similar circumstance surrounds one of Sullivan’s own sons in the person of Patrick Blythe, now of Palm Desert, Calif.
Much like Van Gogh, Blythe started in a business career, suppressing a deep creative passion in favor of a more stable career and home life. It was not until his retirement in 2002 that Blythe was able to give vent to the obsession that had been smoldering in his soul for 50 years.
“I spent years just going to art museums and enjoying the work of other artists,” he explained, “I was so obsessed with art that I really just had to stop doing it(myself). It was like a drug almost.”
Blythe explained that once he started a painting or project, he found himself wanting to do nothing else until it was done, brushing family and work aside to perfectly impart his impressions. So, he had to quit for a while, cold turkey. Read More

One Flower at a Time

Photo by RR Best Pictured is Kim Warren with her newly planted display at Wyman Park in the background. The display serves as a memorial for Warren’s father, mother, and brother-in-law, all of whom lost their battles with cancer. The memorial was completed just in time for this past weekend’s Relay for Life.

Photo by RR Best
Pictured is Kim Warren with her newly planted display at Wyman Park in the background. The display serves as a memorial for Warren’s father, mother, and brother-in-law, all of whom lost their battles with cancer. The memorial was completed just in time for this past weekend’s Relay for Life.

New Wyman park display arrives in time for Relay for Life

June 17, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Close to five years ago, Kay Aldridge arranged for a memorial in Wyman Park for her late husband Harris after his fight with cancer. The memorial, three crabapple trees and a stone plaque in the middle, was placed just south of Wyman Lake near the north parking lot pavilion.
Kay herself passed away last August, she too after battling cancer, but her memory was commemorated and the chance seized to raise awareness about the awful disease that took her life when her daughter Kim Warren decided to expand on the memorial just in time to debut for this past weekend’s Relay for Life.
“When we knew they were going to move the Relay for Life out here, I decided I was going to plant it,” said Warren. “Anything with flowers, wildlife, animals, she was all about that–in fact when I went to go do this Kory (Wiley, parks superintendent) said, ‘This is the perfect place Kim because she always came out here. She always parked here. She always picked persimmons over here.’ She chose the site for my dad’s memorial so I worked furiously all week last week and did it all in the pinks, purples, and fuchsias like the American Cancer Society colors.” Read More

Pedal and Garden Tractor Pull July 11 at Tabor Park

Free family event from the Christian County Tractor Puller Association

June 17, 2015

by Ariana Cherry
Arthur/Sullivan Reporter

The Christian County Tractor Pullers Association is pulling in some family entertainment for everyone to enjoy come Saturday, July 11, at Tabor Park in Sullivan where the association will be putting on a free pedal and garden tractor pull.
“We are a family-based group from kids to 88-plus year-old guys and gals,” explained Ed Righter, a member of the association. “It is family-based club. We even have some ‘groupies’ that follow us.”
The association actually began 30 years ago and was started by the Jackson family of Taylorville, Ill. Christian County Tractor Pullers are a pulling garden tractor club that consists of 50 members from mostly central Illinois who pull competitively. They have classes that range from Stock 10 horse-power to NQS (National Quarter Scale) 50.5 cid alcohol burning tractors. Not long ago, they added stock twin classes and a pro-twin class to their options of tractors to compete. Read More

Sullivan Kiwanis, Back in the Business of Serving

Photo by Keith Stewart Sullivan Kiwanis Club President Cindi Reed (right) is presented the club’s gavel by Jim Dooley as part of the charter ceremony Monday night.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Sullivan Kiwanis Club President Cindi Reed (right) is presented the club’s gavel by Jim Dooley as part of the charter ceremony Monday night.

June 17, 2015

Local chapter receives charter Monday

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Nearly nine months of meetings, soliciting, and discussing came down to Monday evening’s charter celebration as the local Kiwanis group officially reemerged in Sullivan after shuttering several years ago.
Held in a packed side room of the Red Apple Family Restaurant, the charter presentation not only included the installation of 16 members, but also three officers, and saw a show of support from various neighboring Kiwanis groups from Mattoon, Charleston, Decatur and Tuscola.
And two of those groups–the Decatur Golden K Club and the Tuscola club, were instrumental in reviving the Sullivan branch, that, according to member and local historian Paul Stone, was originally founded in 1929.
Dave Butler, who is not only from the Tuscola club, but also the current Kiwanis lieutenant governor for district 27, along with Jim Dooley, the 2014-2015 Kiwanis Governor for the Illinois and eastern Iowa district, and others began by going door to door, soliciting membership late last fall. Read More

Bringing the Boats Back to the Lake

Photo by Keith Stewart Pictured is Jeff Gibbs, the owner of Clinton Marine who recently opened a location in Sullivan just in time for the busy boating season.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Pictured is Jeff Gibbs, the owner of Clinton Marine who recently opened a location in Sullivan just in time for the busy boating season.

New boat dealer/repair facility opens in Sullivan

June 10, 2015

by Joash Tiarks
Reporting in Sullivan

As summer approaches and things heat up at the lake, many boaters will recognize a familiar name in town, especially those with runabouts and the larger cruisers. Clinton Marine, out of Weldon, Ill. is expanding and has opened up shop in the former D & M Sporting Good storefront on S. Hamilton Street in Sullivan.
“We felt it was a good idea to get down there, not only for service but also for sales,” owner Jeff Gibbs explained. “There really has not been anyone down there selling boats for years, and it’s really a great body of water.”
Clinton Marine was originally started by Gibbs’ father in the late 70s and the primary location in Weldon on Clinton Lake was built in 1985. Gibbs took over the business when his father retired in 2010, having returned from establishing and running a boating business at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri for 16 years. Read More

A Look Back at Sullivan’s John Eden Who Ran For Governor In 1868

Served Five Terms in Congress

June 10, 2015

By Tom Emery
Contributing Historian

Among the leading figures of Sullivan history is John R. Eden, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Illinois in 1868. It was just one highlight in a long career in public service that included a total of five terms in the U.S. House.

From “John R. Eden 1826-1909 A Compendium of Materials” by R. Eden Martin. John Eden

From “John R. Eden 1826-1909 A Compendium of Materials” by R. Eden Martin.
John Eden

Eden was born in Bath County in east-central Kentucky Feb. 1, 1826 and moved with his family by prairie schooner to Rush County, east of Indianapolis, at age five. Young John worked on the farm and attended his first school in a cabin of round logs. The students sat on benches that had wooden pins for legs. The “desks” were actually puncheon boards mounted on pegs set in holes on the wall.
The window of the building was simply a space left by the removal of one log, stretching nearly the length of the wall. It had no glass, and greased paper was used in cold weather to keep out the elements. John, however, embraced his schooling and at age 18 became a teacher himself, for $20 a month and room and board. Read More

Running the Extra Mile for Childhood Cancer

St. Jude Dash and Bash set for June 20

June 10, 2015

by Ariana Cherry
Arthur/Sullivan Reporter

Each year thousands of children battle in the fight for their lives at St. Jude Research Hospital. In fact, according to their website, nearly 7,800 active patients are treated annually. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude so they can put their soul focus on recovery. But in order to provide that financial relief, hundreds if not thousands of people, set out to run.
Stephanie Helmuth is one of those who are serious about helping contribute to the fight of childhood cancer.
“Many of us runners are very passionate about St. Jude and without their help, we would not be able to do this event,” she said. Read More

2015 Graduate Future Plans

Below is the information graduates from the class of 2015 voluntarily submitted regarding their future plans. Graduates from Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond, Okaw Valley, Sullivan, and Windsor are included:

Sixty-four Graduate in First Ever ALAH Class

Christy Eileen Allen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dave Allen, plans on attending the University of Illinois to study agricultural communications. She then hopes to have a career in advertising or public relations.
Toby Wayne Ball, son of Elizabeth Irene Ball and Robert Douglas Ball Sr., plans on attending Lake Land College to study either agriculture business or radio broadcast. He is currently employed with the Arthur IGA.
Tristan Barrett, son of Chris Stilwell, plans to study paleontology.
Tyler Benedict, son of Jerod Benedict and Christy Benedict, has no immediate plans.
Jonathan Bialeschki, son of Ed and Paula Bialeschki, plans on attending Lake Land College.
Dylan Ray Black, son of Rick and Dee Black, plans to attend South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to obtain a mechanical engineering degree. He also plans to participate in football.
Courtney Bontrager, daughter of LaMar and Barbara Bontrager, plans on earning a full time job once out of high school while also beginning to practice photography. She also wishes to start her own charity to put together gifts for children in the hospital with cancer.
J. Tanner Brewer, son of Tod Brewer and Krystal Lester, plans to attend the University of Illinois through the Pathways Program at Parkland College to major in sport management.
Mary Ann Budnick, daughter of the late Paul Richard Budnick and grand-daughter of Valerie Turnbow and Walter Turnbow plans to start work at a facility that deals with long-term health care including the Arthur Home and the Moultrie County Beacon. Read More

Called to Reading, One Word at a Time

Photo by Florence Hallford Pictured, left to right, are Lovington Grade School librarian Karen Smith-Cox, Joshua Zander holding his prize, fifth grade first-runner up Alyssa Thompson, and fourth grade, third place Emma Edwards.

Photo by Florence Hallford
Pictured, left to right, are Lovington Grade School librarian Karen Smith-Cox, Joshua Zander holding his prize, fifth grade first-runner up Alyssa Thompson, and fourth grade, third place Emma Edwards.

School reads more than 67 million words during contest

June 3, 2015

by Florence Hallford
& Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

As Amazon’s great text stats have calculated, the average length of a book is around 64,000 words. But for Lovington seventh grader Joshua Zander, that’s hardly a big deal.
And he would know.
Zander recently won a reading contest at the grade school after totaling 5,148,507 words read throughout the school year.
That came to 75 books, but even that was an easy feat after learning what the prize was.
“Once Josh found out the “Call of Duty” was involved, it was easy for him to take the tests in AR to document his accomplishments,” said Karen Smith-Cox, the grade school’s librarian for the past 12 years. “I noticed Josh was a reader last year when discussing books with him. I was impressed with his reading level and types of books. I would order through Illinois Heartland Library System books we did not have in our library for him. He also goes to the public library a lot to order even more books.”
Word count was verified through a test system called AR (accelerated reading). The student would enter the book he or she read and the AR system would test them on the book to assure they read it. Read More