Santa Says

Sharing a laugh with Jolly Old St. Nick this morning at the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Sharing a laugh with Jolly Old St. Nick this morning at the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Feeling virtuous after surviving my morning strength training session, I stopped by downtown Long Grove to reward myself with an eggnog latte (I know…not as nutritious as a smoothie…but ’tis the season!) and what to my wondering eyes did appear–Santa! Seizing the opportunity for an interview, I spent a few minutes basking in his holiday glow and finding out what was up for the day.

Santa gave his reindeer this sunny Saturday off as he claimed to have driven himself to Long Grove, cruising down our newly resurfaced Old McHenry Road in his convertible, with the top down! I guess our 30 degree temps might feel tropical to someone acclimated to the North Pole. I asked him what kind of cookies he would like us to leave out this year on Christmas Eve, and get this–he is cutting back on the calories this holiday season and working out five times a week! Kudos to Santa for being a role model for healthy living, even though I still could not resist the temptation of the eggnog.

Visitors to Long Grove will get numerous chances to see Santa as he is spending the entire day in town, greeting families and listening to children’s wish lists at various shops and restaurants. The top of my wish list? Seeing our covered bridge restored. Tonight Santa is paying a special visit to the Historical Society farmhouse, to lead the start of holiday carols at 6:00 pm for our annual Yuletide Sing. This family friendly event is free and will feature complimentary hot chocolate and fire pits for warmth. I invited Santa to be our guest later tonight at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio’s Holiday Ball, “Dance your way to Fred’s Chalet.” Alas, even though Santa loves to dance he has plans to thank the local volunteers who make up the CERT team of first-responders, at their Christmas party. No doubt about it, Santa is a busy man these days spreading hope, happiness and holiday cheer throughout the village.

Small Business Saturday

Horse-drawn carriage rides are a special treat on weekends this holiday season in Long Grove.

Horse-drawn carriage rides are a special treat on weekends this holiday season in Long Grove.

Yesterday was Small Business Saturday. My family participated by patronizing a few of the shops in our favorite small business shopping district–downtown Long Grove. Roving carolers helped set a festive mood and fellow shoppers were enjoying the annual carriage rides around the crossroads, showcasing two great reasons to celebrate the season in the unique ambiance of our historic village. Check out below some of the many smiling faces that I encountered:

Judy, at the Long Grove Confectionery, who cheerfully wrapped my grab bag gift for the Bunco Party.

Judy, at the Long Grove Confectionery, who cheerfully wrapped my grab bag gift for the upcoming bunco party.

Matt, at Scout and Forge, who showed me some vintage treasures and recently became a new Dad!

Matt, at Scout and Forge, who showed me some vintage treasures and recently became a new Dad!

Rachel at Epilogue, who helped me pick out the perfect hostess gift to bring to the Holiday Party that evening.

Rachel, at Epilogue, who helped me pick out the perfect hostess gift to bring to the cocktail party that evening.

Marian, at Within Reach (on the left), who helped me select something adorable for my newborn grandson!

Marian, at Within Reach (on the left), who helped me select something adorable for my newborn grandson!

Mary, at the Long Grove Coffee Company, caught in a random act of kindness delivering Small Business Saturday balloons and a hot beverage to a fellow merchant.

Mary, at the Long Grove Coffee Company, caught in a random act of kindness delivering Small Business Saturday balloons and a hot beverage to a fellow merchant.

During this holiday season it’s easy to find reasons to support our local merchants. I’ll be back in the weeks ahead to dine and dance and shop with my Christmas list in hand. I encourage you to do the same!

The Mayor Stick

Village President of Kildeer, Nandia Black (on the left) and former Village President of Long Grove Angie Underwood on October 24, 2018, holding a Mayor Stick from Peru.

Village President of Kildeer Nandia Black (on the left) and former Village President of Long Grove Angie Underwood on October 24, 2018, holding a Mayor Stick from Peru.

While I was serving as Village President of Long Grove a friend humorously told me, “What you really need, Angie, is a magic wand.” Whichever issue of the moment I was expected to fix (the roads, the budget, the downtown, the bridge, the Rt. 53 extension, the flooding, the rogue trustee, the dead deer on the side of the road, etc…) could be so much more easily resolved if I only had the ability to flick my wrist, point my staff and make it so. Of course the reality is that the key to solving most problems in government involves a mixture of time, money, collaboration, compromise, and a process that must be followed. It does sometimes take a bit of magic to make this happen.

But to my surprise, I have discovered through my travels that there is at least one place in this world where the mayor of a village IS given a special stick. Peru, to be exact. While spending a few days in the town of Cusco, acclimating to the altitude before starting a trek to Macchu Pichu, my husband and I toured several historical sites and art galleries and I learned of the custom of the mayor stick. In ancient culture, the small mountain villages in the region surrounding Cusco depended on one another for trade and economic survival, as well as support in times of hardship. The Alcalde (mayor) of each village had a custom Palito (stick) which was handmade from chonta wood, a type of palm. These sticks were often traded or given to the mayors of neighboring villages during an annual celebration to encourage goodwill and prosperity. I absolutely loved this idea, and our tour guide was kind enough to find a store for me that sold these traditional mayor sticks.

Recently, I was able to gift a Peruvian palito to my friend and former colleague Nandia Black, who is serving as the mayor of our neighboring Village of Kildeer. Our towns have collaborated and supported each other in the past and we hope this continues for many more years to come. The exchange of mayor sticks took place over Mexican cuisine at the new Uncle Julio’s in Kildeer, and not on a mountain top in the Andes, but the sentiment of peacefulness and kindness remains the same. Maybe it’s not really a magic wand, but I’d like to think so.

Power of the Purse 2018

A table full of powerful and philanthropic women from Long Grove, Kildeer and Buffalo Grove  helped raise funds recently for early childhood literacy in Lake County.

A table full of powerful and philanthropic women from Long Grove, Kildeer and Buffalo Grove helped raise funds recently for early childhood literacy in Lake County.

On November 4th, Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove was the location once again for Power of the Purse, the major fundraiser of Women United. As a member of this women’s affinity group of United Way of Lake County, I was pleased to participate by donating a gift basket of items showcasing downtown Long Grove, and sponsoring a table of twelve local ladies of influence. Two of these ladies even happened to be the mayors of neighboring Kildeer and Buffalo Grove–talk about harnessing some female strength! Long Grove played another major role in this fundraiser, as the Primrose School of Long Grove partnered with Women United to be the Platinum sponsor of the event. Owner Jennifer Wierzchon is a member of Women United, and together with families from the school helped teach the students the value of philanthropy and helping others by raising over $3,000. towards early childhood literacy at a spring school fundraiser. Long Grove businesses, families and ladies all came together today to rally around a worthy cause: to ensure that children living in Lake County’s most vulnerable communities are prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed.

Besides the important work of philanthropy and support, we did manage to enjoy some fun and friendship along the way. New purses were acquired, games played, prizes awarded, bling bestowed, and raffle winners announced. New books and educational toys were donated and a silent auction rounded out the day. The sold out crowd of 216 women raised a net total of $59,800 which will go directly to support early childhood literacy programs in North Chicago, Round Lake Beach, Waukegan and Zion. It was gratifying to play a small part in making this event successful again this year, and I was proud to see our community of Long Grove becoming even more involved this time around. Kudos, ladies, to a job well-done!

Julie Burger-Branham (on the left) and I show off our new purses that we won, and "bling rings" that glowed, but unfortunately did not win us any real bling!

Julie Burger-Branham (on the left) and I, having fun and showing off our winning new purses and “bling rings” that glowed, but unfortunately did not win us any real bling!

 

Wanted: Your Vote Today

Since I happen to be out of town on election day, I made sure to participate in early voting.

Since I happen to be gone from Long Grove on election day, I made sure to participate in early voting. Here is my sticker to prove it!

Regardless of how you feel about the various candidates and issues of the moment, I hope you will make some time to go to the polls today and cast your vote, if you haven’t already. I was flabbergasted to learn recently that someone I know well who is educated, hard-working, smart and sensible, is not planning to vote. This fellow citizen isn’t even registered. Knowing how hard the women who came generations before me fought to simply get the right to vote, I can’t imagine not exercising it. I read a quote yesterday from Captain “Sully” Sullenberger:

“This Election Day is a crucial opportunity to again demonstrate the best in each of us by doing our duty and voting for leaders who are committed to the values that will unite and protect us. Years from now, when our grandchildren learn about this critical time in our nation’s history, they may ask if we got involved, if we made our voices heard. I know what my answer will be. I hope yours will be a “yes.”

Wise words, indeed. Please vote!

 

 

A Scary Night in Long Grove

John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood and Jessie Visocnik (L to R) work to set the scene for "A Scary Night at the Farmhouse."

John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood and Jessie Visocnik (L to R) doing some pre-haunting of the Historical Society lawn for “A Scary Night at the Farmhouse.”

This past Friday, October 26th, things were feeling very “Halloweenish” in downtown Long Grove. Merchants hosted kids in costumes for trick-or-treating in the late afternoon, and the streets were alive with mini ghouls and ghosts sprinkled amidst the princesses and superheroes. I happened to be taking a dance lesson at Fred Astaire during this time, and it was a delight to see so many young families stopping in for candy. And hats off to the enthusiastic Dad who dressed as a purple and rainbow accessorized unicorn

A cute and scary trick-or-treater is greeted at the Long Grove Visitor's Center by our official Halloween host, Mortimer Coffin.

A scary but cute trick-or-treater is greeted at the Long Grove Visitor’s Center by our official Halloween host, Mortimer Coffin.

Later in the evening, the Historical Society Farmhouse became haunted with singing witches and warlocks, under the direction of crypt-keeper for the evening, Mike Dvorak. Families enjoyed relaxing on the patio with fire pits for warmth and spooky atmosphere. The Ghost of Cuba Road was even spotted in the back yard among the treeline, forever searching for directions. My personal favorite musical number of the evening was a custom version of “Werewolves of Long Grove.”

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Setting the scene for scary songs and stories!

Another sighting of the Ghost occurred at Buffalo Creek Brewing following the show. Apparently, all that haunting works up a powerful appetite!

Amy Gayton (L) and John Kopecky (R) join the Ghost of Cuba Road for a post-show pizza party. Hey, all that haunting works up a powerful appetite!

Amy Gayton (L) and John Kopecky (R) join the Ghost of Cuba Road for a post-show pizza party.

No place in Long Grove was safe, as Frankenstein was even spotted at the Dance Studio, menacing the local villagers.

Happy Halloween!

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Warm Wishes to the Wittigs

Jane and Ken Wittig are shown here on October 22, 2018 at Reed Turner Nature Center with the award they were given for 20-plus years of volunteer service to the Long Grove community.

Jane and Ken Wittig are shown here on October 22, 2018 at Reed Turner Nature Center with the award they were given for 20-plus years of volunteer service to the Long Grove community.

Recently, a couple of beloved and long-time residents were honored for giving over 20 years of service to the Long Grove Community. Jane and Ken Wittig are permanently retiring to their winter home in North Carolina, and a celebration was hosted by the Long Grove Park District to recognize their contributions and to give community members a chance to thank them and wish them well in their new location. Jane and Ken have been true public servants over the years and have made many lasting improvements to our Long Grove open spaces. I have been fortunate to work with them and learn from them on many occasions, and to call them friends. Below is part of an article written on the Wittigs by Gail Petersdorff, volunteer and commissioner with the Long Grove Park District, listing some of their many contributions:

“Long Grove has a long history of volunteer involvement as part of its success. Jane and Ken are important parts of that commitment of support for the community. By maintaining, improving, and publicizing the Reed-Turner Woodland Preserve, they have added to the reasons why people from other area towns come to Long Grove.

Jane’s involvement began as a volunteer helping to restore a sedge meadow ecosystem at Reed-Turner. After joining the Board of Commissioners, she eventually served as President of the Long Grove Park District, where she initiated and expanded many programs. She established sport activities, educational programs, family fun activities, as well as overseeing numerous Eagle Scout and Girl Scout Gold Award service projects along with her husband Ken. Projects ranged from creation of a butterfly garden to construction of bridges and trails. Jane served on the Village of Long Grove Pathways Committee and was a long time board member and President of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club. Most recently, she spearheaded teasel removal in the Village by encouraging municipal and community support to assist with this massive effort.

After retirement, Ken brought his professional skills in support of both the Park District and the Garden Club. He installed and supported computer systems, created numerous program announcements, press releases, and wrote the “Our Outdoors” monthly column for Long Grove Living magazine. Ken has always responded to “fix it” requests from the Park District and often managed contractors if the problem escalated. Ken assumed management of the summer intern program, and with chainsaw in hand he made a significant contribution to the removal of more than 300 dead ash trees. He developed an educational program on invasive teasel and how to control it, and used this to train interns and to stimulate interest in the community through workshops and presentations to local civic groups.”

 

Ashuelot Doppelgänger

Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.

Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.

In the early 1970’s Robert Parker Coffin looked for some inspiration when designing a cover for Long Grove’s 1906 metal truss bridge over Buffalo Creek. According to the story, the covered bridge spanning the Ashuelot river in New Hampshire provided some ideas to Mr. Coffin (an architect and former Village President) who oversaw the building of what later became the iconic village symbol in Long Grove, Illinois.

This week, finding myself in New England on a vacation to enjoy the fall colors, I had to satisfy my curiosity by paying a visit to Ashuelot to view the original bridge. In addition to the beautiful autumn foliage, we spotted many wild turkeys as we made our way into the tiny town, spread along the riverside. The bridge itself is quite long, painted white with a red roof and a covered walkway on both sides. I did notice a striking similarity in the appearance of the entrance, and in the way that the posts and arches over the openings felt familiar.

Another bit of nostalgia was the warm feeling of goosebumps that I got driving underneath the wooden covering from one side to another. I can’t wait until we are able to experience that once again in Long Grove. As we concluded our visit several cars of tourists arrived with cameras in hand, verifying the attraction feature this bridge also shares with our hometown symbol back in Illinois. There is no doubt that covered bridges evoke a special kind of charm appreciated across the country.

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Witches Night Out

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Now that Fall is in full swing and Halloween is fast approaching, downtown Long Grove has several special events planned to help get you in the holiday “spirit.” My favorite fun and creative new idea this year is Witches Night Out, being held next Thursday evening, October 18th from 5 to 8 pm. Stores in the historic downtown will be staying open late and the restaurants in town will be offering special themed menu items to taste and sip. Wear your favorite pointy hat and you might even have an opportunity to bedazzle it! I have also heard tales that fortune tellers, tarot card readers, and even an enchanted D.J. may be conjured up to add to the evening’s excitement. The spell has been cast–don’t miss this girls and ghouls gathering!

Other Spooktacular Downtown Long Grove Events in the next few weeks include:

Scarecrow Day:  Saturday, October 13th from 11-4 outside Country House on Robert Parker Coffin Road. Bring your own clothes and props and for a $5 donation you will receive the supplies and help to create an original scarecrow masterpiece.

Trick or Treating:  Friday, October 26th from 2-5. Dress your little ones in costume and trick or treat at the downtown Long Grove stores and businesses. Parents can register for a prize drawing at the Information Center.

A Scary Night at the Farmhouse:  Friday, October 26th from 7-7:45 pm at the Historical Society Farmhouse. Enjoy a family friendly Halloween themed variety show and sing-a-long outdoors on the back porch patio. Fire pits will provide some warmth and be sure to bring your folding chairs. Spooky stories and songs to delight all ages.

Halloween Pet Parade:  Sunday, October 28th from 12-4:30. Dress your furry friend in their most adorable costume–prizes will be awarded!

Pardon Our Dust

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Anyone who has dared to venture into the Long Grove historic downtown in the past several weeks can tell you that it’s been a challenge navigating around all the various construction obstacles. Storm sewers are being installed, pavement dug out, building foundations reinforced, utilities relocated, roads temporarily closed–you name it–everything is converging into one giant mess of inconvenience. While there has been a fair amount of road work going on since April of this year, crews have recently ramped up the pace in an effort to complete as much as possible before winter sets in and puts an end to the road paving season. The Old McHenry Road reconstruction and intersection improvements project is being undertaken by Lake County DOT. Starting this coming Tuesday, October 9th, at 6 a.m. a portion of Old McHenry Road will be closed to all through traffic with reopening anticipated in November. Click here for more details and to view a map of the detour.

All stores in downtown Long Grove have remained open during the construction, but as you can imagine, with torn up streets and sidewalks it has made getting from place to place an adventure. Shopkeepers that I spoke to this week are drawing on reserves of patience and optimism, and looking forward to brighter days ahead with freshly paved roads and sidewalks, new lighting and streetscaping, and a refreshed look to our historic crossroads. One big change on the horizon is the traffic signal soon to be installed on the corner of Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Road.

The construction this summer has been a hardship on not just the Long Grove businesses, but for all those who need to commute through the area en route to jobs and schools. In addition, the local non-profit community groups have had to alter or cancel activities and fundraisers due to the disruption. The Arts & Music Council held an abbreviated concert series this summer due to work scheduled near Towner Green. The Rotary Club was unable to hold their annual Heritage Run this September and have replaced it with an Octoberfest fundraiser at Buffalo Creek Brewing this coming Saturday, October 6th. The Historical Society has unfortunately had to cancel their popular Ghost Walk this year due to safety concerns with walking groups of families in the construction zone amidst the Halloween darkness, detours, and pedestrian restricted areas. A much smaller (but still spooky) family event is being planned at the farmhouse on the evening of October 26th.

So what can we all do to help our village during the next couple of difficult months? Make it a point to patronize the downtown restaurants, shop for gifts in the local stores, pick up your morning latte at one of our downtown coffee shops instead of cruising the drive thru just because it is more convenient. Continue to contribute to our local non-profits, even if their signature fundraisers have been temporarily sidelined. By supporting each other our community can sustain through the construction disruption. In the meantime, pardon our dust, because one day soon this construction will all be in the past and the improvements will be well worth the wait!