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!

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.”

 

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!

Small Town Sweetness

Pictured above are the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

Pictured above are many of the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

I grew up in small town America. The Central Illinois farming community where I was born has a population of only 2,000 and a Main Street lined with historic buildings and a vintage train depot. Even though Long Grove is a suburb of Chicago, and with it’s 8,000 residents is quadruple the size of my hometown, there are times when it truly feels like a close-knit village. Case in point–our recent Vintage Days weekend. The Historical Society sponsored two family events run by kids, for kids, and it was heartwarming to be part of the festivities.

What's a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?

What’s a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?

The Penny Carnival

Older kids readily volunteered to organize old-fashioned games for younger children on the lawn of our 1860’s farmhouse. Costing only 1 cent per game, kids could have fun playing pirate ring toss, duck pond, ring the bell, and the ever-popular frog launch. It was incredibly sweet to see the teens and tweens patiently helping the little ones pitch pennies and redeem tickets for prizes, and generating happy smiles all around. Everything needed to man and run this event was donated, highlighting genuine community spirit. Here is a quote overheard at the event:

“This Penny Carnival epitomizes small town ambiance at its best–children laughing, adults chatting, frogs flying. Kudos to the organizers!” 

Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town's history entitled, "Good Times with the Gridleys." The cast is shown here crossing "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal."

Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town’s history entitled, “Good Times with the Gridleys.” The cast is shown here crossing “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.”

The Back Porch Players

Twelve talented local middle and elementary school students, with assistance by Narrator and Musician Mike Dvorak and professional Puppeteer Krist Neumann, performed an original show on the farmhouse back porch. “Good Times with the Gridleys,” told the story of the founding of Long Grove in the mid-1800’s and featured historical songs and real-life historical characters. My personal favorite was an original song involving the entire cast called, “The Long Grove Bridge.”  

Click this link below to watch a five minute video of highlights from the show:

 

The Inner Beauty

The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy of the Long Grove bridge.

The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy over the Long Grove bridge.

It was a bittersweet moment today watching the remains of the covered bridge being dismantled. Feeling sad as I gathered early this morning with members of the Historical Society, Arts & Music Council, and downtown merchants, it was a comfort to see the care being taken by the demolition crew to salvage as much of the original boards as possible. Village staff has arranged for storage of the old wood and the local non-profits are hopeful that they will be allowed to re-purpose it to benefit our Village and commemorate the bridge’s historical significance.

The demolition is expected to be completed this coming Monday, September 10th. Temporary clearance bars are planned to be installed on both sides of the bridge in addition to jersey barriers. This is to keep overweight and over-height vehicles and trucks from using the bridge and causing damage to the historic metal supports and foundations. Once these measures are in place IDOT engineers will inspect the bridge and if all goes well it could be opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic as early as next week. In the months ahead the Village Board will be considering bids for the reconstruction of the wooden covering, which is likely to occur in the spring of 2019.

To those of us that worked so hard towards getting the bridge on the National Register, it was certainly melancholy to witness our icon coming down. But when I stopped back late this afternoon to check on the progress, I began to notice something more:

With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.

With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.

With the covering gone on the majority of the bridge, the original 1906 Pratt Pony truss and walkway is now fully visible and no longer partially hidden by the wooden “hat” it was given in 1972. The historical elements that qualified our bridge for federal recognition are now on glorious display. As I snapped a few additional photos I chatted with shop owners, Montessori school moms, neighbors, friends, and the Village Engineer who all joined in with me to admire the beautiful ironwork from a century past. The real treasure of our covered bridge is still intact. The wooden covering will be rebuilt in a matter of months. The demolition this morning is really just the first step towards another century in the life of our iconic covered bridge, with a special inner beauty shining most vividly today.

King for a Day

Long Grove resident Gracie Mower shows her award-winning pooch, "Willie" who captured the title of King in the dog beauty contest at Irish Days this weekend.

Long Grove resident Gracie Mower shows her award-winning pooch, “Willie” who captured the title of King in the dog beauty contest at Irish Days this weekend.

I am always a little sad to see summer come to a close on Labor Day. Fortunately, in Long Grove we have a celebration to take my mind off the changing season with the annual Irish Days festivities.  Even though the weather was a bit touch and go as we dodged the occasional raindrops, fun was had with a slate of Irish music and dancing featured in Fountain Square over the holiday weekend. Wacky events like “Best Men’s Legs in a Kilt,” and the “Dog Beauty Contest” kept the crowds entertained. I know of at least two Long Grove friends who entered their furry family members in the competition, and one of them even won top-dog bragging rights as “King” for the day! And even though the summer festivals are winding down now, we still have plenty of fun fall events to anticipate in the months ahead. My personal favorite, the Historical Society Ghost Walk, will be back for a sixth straight year of spine-tingling and scary mischief on Friday, October 26th. Watch this blog and the website longgrovehistory.org for more details as the season unfolds.

All directions point to a good time during Irish Days!

All directions lead to a good time during Irish Days!

Vintage Days 2018

Long Grove merchant and event organizer Meghan Potempa (on the left) and Angie Underwood are photo-bombed in a very cool way at Vintage Days!

Long Grove merchant and event organizer Meghan Potempa (on the left) and Angie Underwood are photo-bombed in a very cool way at Vintage Days!

Three years ago the merchants in historic downtown Long Grove hatched an idea for a new special event, christened “Vintage Days.” Each summer this weekend celebration of all things antique, vintage, upcycled and reclaimed has grown bigger and better, but it was a perfect fit for Long Grove right from the very start. Held on August 18 & 19 this year, Vintage Days is without a doubt my personal favorite festival. Apparently I’m not unique. Vintage Days has become special to many of us in the village and according to Matt Potempa, owner of Scout and Forge and one of the organizers, that’s because, “It absolutely captures the spirit of Long Grove.” I couldn’t agree more. Steve “the Greek” Besbeas, owner of the Chatterbox told me he loves Vintage Days because, “This festival is familiar and cozy in Long Grove. Like the difference you feel between wearing a sweater from JCPenney and one made by your yia-yia.”

One of the most pleasant things about Vintage Days is the crowd that it attracts. Many more locals make their way to this smaller fest as opposed to the big Chocolate, Strawberry and Apple festivals. And those who visit are generally interested in history and eager to learn about our Long Grove crossroads and the buildings that have been preserved. My husband Aaron and I spent Saturday afternoon narrating the vintage tractor and wagon rides throughout the downtown, telling stories and answering questions about our town’s history. It was really enjoyable getting to interact with the adults and kids who were visiting for the day to soak in the old-fashioned charm of the past that our village offers. I met quite a few new residents to Long Grove as well! Sunday featured a Penny Carnival for kids at the Historical Society Farmhouse, followed by an original show on the back porch stage highlighting some very talented local youths. (More on this in a future blog post!)

I will leave you with one more quote that perfectly sums up Vintage Days, this one from Historical Society board member Mike Dvorak, who said:

“Closing the weekend relaxing near Scout and Forge, eating ice cream and talking with neighbors, friends and family while music drifted through the air from the nearby stage made for a delightful close to a beautiful day and a magical weekend.”

Some of the many booths in the open air market at Vintage Days.

Some of the many booths in the open air market at Vintage Days.