Cocoa Crawl

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Like most of Long Grove, I’m taking a “snow day” today by staying inside and off the roads so that the snowplows can dig us out before the next predicted wave of snow hits later this evening. And while a herd of deer are obviously having fun cavorting through the snow drifts in my back yard, I’m choosing to stay indoors and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while blogging and reading. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell you about the Cocoa Crawl.

Held last Saturday, February 3rd, the Cocoa Crawl was a new idea initiated by the Historic Long Grove Downtown Business Association. On a typically slow winter weekend, residents and visitors were encouraged to come to our village crossroads and explore all the unique shops, restaurants and businesses with the enticement of free chocolate flavored samples at each location. Who does not love free chocolate? Apparently no one, because the event was a hit and downtown Long Grove was literally crawling with hundreds of families out to enjoy the treats, snacks and hometown ambiance. My friend Pam and I had a great time catching up with friends and neighbors that we haven’t seen for months as we hibernate our way through the winter season.

Here are just a few of the goodies we enjoyed: Chocolate Macroons at Within Reach, Hot Chocolate Popcorn at Signature Popcorn, Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar at The Olive Tap, Chocolate Pudding cups topped with Baileys Irish Cream at Unwined, and Hot Chocolate Bark at the Long Grove Confectionery.  We would have had more but mercifully (for our diets) some of the locations had run out of samples by the time we got there due to the large number of attendees to this inaugural event. At the end of our afternoon we stopped back to register for the raffle prize drawing, with 20 of the local businesses donating gift baskets or gift certificates to the festivities. It was great to see so many people enjoying our downtown and becoming acquainted with the newly renovated and opened shops. A tip of my snowman shaped cocoa mug to you, downtown merchants, for an inspired idea!

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the "chocolate hot tub" outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the “chocolate hot tub” outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Award Winning Excellence

Left to Right: Citizen of the Year John Kopecky celebrates with fellow award winners Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School of Long Grove, Best New Business.

Left to Right: Citizen of the Year John Kopecky celebrates with fellow award winners Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School of Long Grove, Best New Business.

Don’t you just love it on those rare occasions when the stars align and good things happen to truly deserving people? Long Grove was shining bright last night at the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Evening of Excellence event. What a thrill it was to celebrate John Kopecky as he was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award, and to cheer the success of Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School as they were recognized as the Best New Business. In addition to awards, the night was filled with friends, good food, dancing, and pride in our community.

It is a generally held opinion in town that John Kopecky is an amazing volunteer who helps out anyone and anywhere he sees a need. It is impossible to list all the wonderful ways in which John has helped our village over the many years he has owned his downtown business, The Country House, and even prior to that growing up in the Long Grove area. Need a dozen or so creative mini golf holes for the Lions putt-putt fundraiser? John will design and build them. Clever marketing ideas and a giant teddy bear to promote the downtown festivals? Done. How about acquiring a historic tractor (or two) and wagon, then tirelessly driving loads upon loads of visitors throughout the historic downtown for Vintage Days, on your birthday? His pleasure. Emergency repairs to brewery equipment? Just call him MacGuyver. Another truck has hit and damaged the covered bridge? John is getting out the ladder and paint bucket as we speak. Need someone to portray “crazy” Jake Eisler or Mrs. Bigfoot in the annual Ghostwalk? Say no more. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture of just how indispensable John is to the fiber of our village. And beloved. Several of us from the community were moved to nominated John for this award and it is so richly deserved. Congratulations!

Jenny and Rich Wierzchon have parlayed their passion for early childhood education into the creation and establishment of the Primrose School of Long Grove. I was there for the ground breaking in October of 2015, and have been delighted to watch this new business grow into a real asset for our community. See my earlier post here about the Primrose Promise. Here’s to many more years of success!

While it is exciting to be recognized with an award, the real prize for our community is having John, Jenny and Rich giving every day in their own winning ways to make Long Grove such a great place to live. We salute you! Check out a short clip of the awards presentations below:

 

Attendees at the Evening of Excellence (L to R): Angie Underwood, John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood, Amy Gayton, and Vicki Kopecky.

Attendees at the Evening of Excellence (L to R): Angie Underwood, John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood, Amy Gayton, and Vicki Kopecky.

Yuletide Sing

Historical Society Yuletide Sing Songmaster Mike Dvorak was seen recently recruiting Santa to the event.

Historical Society Yuletide Sing Songmaster Mike Dvorak was seen recently attempting to recruit Santa to the event.

One of my favorite holiday memories as a kid was going Christmas caroling door to door in my hometown. The Long Grove Historical Society is looking to revive this tradition with our Yuletide Sing event, being held this Saturday, December 9th. Instead of walking throughout town (which is challenging with most of us living on 2-3 acre lots!) we will congregate on the back porch patio of our historical 1860’s farmhouse and join together in songs of the season from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. We will be accompanied by a special Yuletide Band featuring guitar, keyboard and hand percussion performed by Zack and Josh Langhoff and Mike Dvorak. The sing-a-long set list will include such holiday favorites as: Deck the Hall, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. Don’t worry about remembering all the lyrics because song sheets will be available.

Everyone in the community is invited to this festive, free, family gathering, no RSVP necessary! Girl Scout Troop #40436 will be on hand to help lead the carols and provide some holiday warmth in the form of hot chocolate. There will also be a bonfire to help keep the chill off toes and fingers. Be sure to dress for the winter weather as this event is outdoors.

Come gather this weekend and enjoy an old-fashioned hometown sing with your friends and neighbors, and celebrate the simple pleasures of the season. The beautiful holiday lights in our historic downtown are guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Turkey Trot

turkey

The wild turkey shown in the photo above was caught on the cell phone camera of one of my neighbors, trotting through a Long Grove backyard in June of 2015. Today we had Turkey Trotters of a different sort in town, as thousands of fitness enthusiasts (and those just wanting to burn off a few calories in advance) got their steps in under our covered bridge in the annual 8K/5K event. Our historic downtown benefited from the many post-race revelers toasting the holiday with a beverage of choice, be it craft beer or coffee from one of our new local gathering spots. I myself was trotting this morning down the aisles of Sunset Foods, gathering supplies for the family feast we are hosting tomorrow. I was pleasantly surprised at how many racers I encountered in the store, fueling up or picking up those last minute items for the turkey dinner ahead. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Pictured (L to R) are my husband Aaron, father-in-law Joe, and son Alex at the 2013 Turkey Trot.

Pictured (L to R) are my husband Aaron, father-in-law Joe, and son Alex at the 2013 Turkey Trot.

Within Reach

Owner of the newly relocated gift store Within Reach Marian Ward (R) with her daughter Julia.

Pictured above is the owner of the newly relocated gift store Within Reach, Marian Ward, with her daughter Julia.

Join me in congratulating Marian Ward, owner of the retail shop Within Reach, on her successful move to a beautiful new location in downtown Long Grove! Now located in the yellow building at 128 Old McHenry Road, Marian’s new space is part of the exciting renovations being done to the entire complex of buildings owned by Craig Leva of the Long Grove Confectionery. Coming soon will be the expanded Confectionery, Long Grove Coffee Company and Cafe, but for now we can enjoy a new spot to shop for gifts and treasures. In business since 1982, this is the third Long Grove location for Within Reach, which started in the basement of the old Stempel general store (now the downtown Visitor’s Center). For the past 35 years Marian’s kindness and love for the community has cultivated a loyal customer base, plus her knack for picking out great finds for home decor. The second floor of her new building is now exclusively devoted to baby clothes and gifts–it’s a pink and blue paradise where cuteness abounds! I stopped in on opening day two weeks ago to check out the new digs but I will be back shortly, Christmas gift list in-hand.

Within Reach and many of the other stores will be open until 7:00 pm every Thursday and Friday night thru Christmas starting tomorrow, November 16th. Shop into the evening and afterwards enjoy dinner at one of our four downtown restaurants or a glass of wine or craft beer at one of our three tasting rooms. Save your receipts and for every batch totaling $150, you will receive a gift at the Visitor’s Center. This Friday, November 17th, the downtown merchants are hosting a “Progress with Us” evening of treats and holiday specials throughout the historic business district. The fun kicks-off at 5:00 pm till 9:00. Carriage Rides, Carolers, and Santa will again be visiting on Saturdays & Sundays for a very “Vintage Holiday” season this year in Long Grove.

Women United

Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.

Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.

Retiring from the Village Board six months ago has allowed me to reset my priorities on how I spend my volunteer hours. One group that I have chosen to focus on is the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Lake County (soon to be called “Women United”), where I serve on the Steering Committee. This wonderful group of 90+ female leaders is committed to improving early childhood literacy in Lake County through philanthropy and volunteerism. Our network of women has been able to grant $100,000 this year alone to programs that serve children in areas of most need, helping them to be prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed in school. Some of the communities most impacted by our work include Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and Round Lake.

But it was Long Grove that played a central role in the story of WLC yesterday, as our major fundraiser for the year, Power of the Purse, was held at Royal Melbourne Country Club. I was honored to sponsor a table of local “women of influence” (many of whom are pictured above) including a former Village Clerk, two former Village Presidents, and a current Mayor. In between enjoying mimosas and brunch we were able to bid on purses and silent auction baskets, have fun playing games and winning prizes, and donate books and educational toys to children served in the “Little Kids, Big Futures” funded programs. It was an altogether lovely day but what made me smile the most was the sea of hands that went up when asked to sponsor one child for a week of Kindergarten Countdown Camp. When passionate, powerful, and committed women come together in the spirit of philanthropy, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Nov. 15, 2017 Update: A total of $49,500 in net donations was raised at the Power of the Purse event this year. Nice job, ladies!!

Wonder Woman is the inspirational "mascot" of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the recent Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.

Wonder Woman is the inspirational “mascot” of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the 2017 Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.

The Headless Horseman of Long Grove

The Headless Horseman (Greg Abshire) joins Aaron and Angie Underwood at the Ghost Walk after-party on October 27th.

The Headless Horseman (Greg Abshire) joins Aaron and Angie Underwood at the Ghost Walk after-party on October 27th.

One of the three people pictured above is actually a sheriff, but it isn’t the one wearing the badge. Yes, strange things happen in Long Grove on Halloween, as witnessed during the Fifth Annual Ghost Walk last Friday night, sponsored by the Long Grove Historical Society. The event was a great success and one featured highlight was a menacing visit to the farmhouse by the Headless Horseman, aka Lake County Sheriff’s officer Greg Abshire.

LILG-GhostWalk-7787

Many other community volunteers pitched in on this cold night to bring thrills and chills to over 330 residents and visitors to our historic downtown. One survivor of my 6:00 pm tour group just happened to be a journalism student who was so taken with the experience that she wrote a fantastic story of her journey through haunted Long Grove. Click here to read Natalie Bober’s article published today on the Chicago Tribune website:    Ghost Walk/Chicago Tribune Website  Natalie says it better than I ever could!

Happy Halloween!!

A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!

A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!

Rising Up for Preservation

Fundraising efforts to support saving the covered bridge now exceed $50,000 in donations and pledges.

The fundraising campaign to save the covered bridge now exceeds $50,000 in donations and pledges.

The Village of Long Grove was featured recently in two Chicago Tribune stories (see links below) and both articles spoke of the current efforts by the community to get our covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, several fundraising efforts are underway to generate private donations to help offset the public funds that must be allocated to pay for preservation of our iconic bridge. More and more concerned community members are becoming involved with efforts to keep our one-lane bridge by signing the online petition, purchasing raffle tickets, making donations to the covered bridge fund, and speaking up in support of preservation at community events and gatherings. The gauge at the downtown crossroads will be updated soon to show that private efforts have now surpassed the halfway mark of the goal of raising $100K in donations and pledges to save our historic bridge. More information on ways to help can be found by visiting SaveTheBridge.net.

After the bridge was ultimately recommended by the historians on the State of Illinois review committee, the Historical Society was expecting to hear earlier this month from the National Park Service regarding the application to be placed on the National Register. A request came for more documentation pertaining to the scarcity of this type of bridge in our area of Illinois and it’s local significance. The listing process is iterative, with each draft of the application being reviewed by a new historian who brings individual interests and experiences into what is significant and worthy of elaboration. The federal application itself plays a role in documenting our national history, so all involved in the process want to take their time and get it right. With this being the last level of review, the end is now in sight even if it takes a bit longer than desired to get there. More information on this topic can be found at LongGroveHistory.org.

This past weekend my husband and I took a drive up to Michigan to enjoy the fall colors, and we purposefully visited the town of Allegan, Michigan to see their one-lane iron truss bridge over the Kalamazoo River. Built in 1886, this bridge was almost lost in 1979 when rehabilitation was deemed more costly than replacement with a two-lane federally funded structure. The local community rallied and got the Second Street Bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Because the bridge was not a critical transportation corridor, Allegan city officials were able to persuade the federal government in 1981 to fund rehabilitation, even though the project would not meet the federal standards. The bridge is beautiful, with a pedestrian walkway decorated with iron latticework and end post finials. It is a centerpiece and source of pride for the small town and is featured in the logo for the city of Allegan.

This story and it’s positive outcome and correlations to Long Grove make me hopeful. But we all know that for every historic bridge that has been saved, many, many more have perished. I truly hope that the story history writes years from now about our Long Grove covered bridge will be a happy one.

Links to newspaper articles:

 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-long-grove-fights-to-survive-met-20171001-story.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/buffalo-grove/news/ct-bgc-long-grove-covered-bridge-tl-1019-20171012-story.html

Autumnal Amusements

Having a blast in downtown Long Grove at the Lion's Putt Putt Golf fundraiser on September 30th.

Having a blast in downtown Long Grove at the Lion’s Putt Putt Golf fundraiser on September 30th.

October is my favorite month, primarily because I love the beautiful colors our natural areas in Long Grove showcase this time of year. If you haven’t traveled on Old McHenry Road between the historic crossroads and Rt. 22 recently, make a point of doing so this week to enjoy the fall foliage.

The past two Saturdays have featured some extra fun reasons to spend time in downtown Long Grove, besides the shopping and seasonal decor. The Long Grove Lion’s Club held a Putt Putt Golf event on September 30th, featuring twelve unique mini-golf challenges scattered amid the various businesses and shops at the crossroads. It was charming and creative entertainment for the entire family on a particularly pleasant fall afternoon. I even got a hole-in-one at the Chatterbox! Proceeds from the event will support the Save the Bridge Fund.

Yesterday (October 7th) was the second annual Craft Beer Day, held this year at the Stempel parking lot in front of the newly opened Buffalo Creek Brewery. Earlier in the day, the Prairie State Half-Marathon was held in our Village, with many of the runners sticking around to help kick off the fest with a post-race beer. The event featured tastings from 15 unique vendors, many produced right here in Lake County. The rain may have caused the crowd to scurry at times, but did little to dampen the enthusiasm for the live music and craft beer samples!

Downtown supporters (L to R) Ryan Messner, Mike Marr, and Aaron Underwood conpare notes at the Craft Beer Day on October 7th.

Downtown supporters (L to R) Ryan Messner, Mike Marr, and Aaron Underwood compare notes at the Craft Beer Day on October 7th.

If you are looking for something to do this coming Saturday that will really get you in the fall seasonal spirit, plan to participate in the Do-it-Yourself Scarecrow Day being held on October 14th from 11:00 am till 4:00 pm on Towner Green. All you need to bring is a $5 donation for supplies, some old clothes and accessories and a decorated milk jug for your scarecrow’s face. The whole family can enjoy building the scarecrow, and then take pride in seeing it decorate our downtown for the remainder of October. There will even be a contest to select a few peoples-choice favorites! More details can be found at enjoylonggrove.

The Gayton family had fun creating one of the scarecrows for the 2015 event.

The Gayton family had fun creating one of the scarecrows for the 2015 event.

 

The Ghosts Are Gathering

Historical Society volunteers Doug & Jane Primack help me prepare to scare some young residents during the 2016 Ghost Walk.

Historical Society volunteers Doug & Jane Primack help me prepare to scare some young residents during the 2016 Ghost Walk.

Rumor has it, strange sounds have been heard coming from the woods behind the new Brewery. Claims have been made of something lurking behind the farmhouse. And is the new Dance Studio really haunted? Come find out on Friday, October 27th, at the Long Grove Historical Society’s 5th Annual Ghost Walk.

Each year the event has been getting bigger and better, and this year will not disappoint! A true village collaboration showcasing our community “spirit,” the Ghost Walk will feature skits involving community groups and businesses such as:

  • Long Grove Community Church
  • In Motion Dance
  • Long Grove Performing Arts Academy
  • Fred Astaire Dance Studio
  • Buffalo Creek Brewing
  • Long Grove Lions Club
  • Scout & Forge
  • Country House of Long Grove
  • Epilogue
  • Long Grove Arts & Music Council
  • Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association
  • Volunteer resident mischief-makers
  • And of course, the Long Grove Historical Society

The event is family friendly and tours run 6:00 pm thru 9:30 pm, rain or shine. Guides will escort you on a one hour haunted walk through our historic downtown. Advance registration is required along with a donation of $10/adults and $5/children, ages K-8th grade. Reservations can be made online only at LongGroveHistory.org. Due to high demand, this event sells out by mid-October so please make your reservations today!