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!

Win a Watercolor, Save a Bridge

Long Grove Living magazine editor Harvey Stein shows off the watercolor painting that you can win in the raffle to benefit the Covered Bridge Fund.

Long Grove Living magazine editor Harvey Stein shows off the watercolor painting that you can win in the raffle to benefit the Covered Bridge Fund.

We are fortunate to have many artists living in Long Grove. Resident Tony Stencel is a former combat artist and veteran, having served with the Wisconsin Army National Guard for 9 years as a U.S. Army Illustrator. His art has been included in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the U.S. Air Force Art Collection at the Pentagon, and in private and corporate collections. Lucky for us, Tony is also a supporter of our historic covered bridge and the efforts to get it restored and listed on the National Register. Earlier this summer, Tony created the original watercolor painting of the covered bridge shown above, and generously donated it to the Long Grove Historical Society so that we could hold a raffle with the proceeds going to our bridge fund.

Stop by our Historical Society booth this weekend, Saturday and Sunday August 19 & 20 from 10-6 at Vintage Days in downtown Long Grove to see this gorgeous painting for yourself! With a little luck and a small investment in some raffle tickets it could be yours to keep. Raffle tickets are $10 each or three for $25. The winner will be drawn on the evening of Friday, October 27th, during the Historical Society’s Ghostwalk event. Visit SaveTheBridge.net for more information on the raffle and other ways in which you can help to support this cause.

Polly Pureheart Prevails

The back porch of our Historical Society farmhouse will serve as a stage for the upcoming production of "Polly Pureheart Prevails."

The back porch of our Historical Society farmhouse will serve as a stage for the upcoming production of “Polly Pureheart Prevails.”

Last summer a new festival debuted in Long Grove, known as Vintage Days. The entire event was a huge success, pairing old-fashioned fun with community group volunteerism to produce a hometown festival put on by locals, for locals. Right now, organizations such as the Long Grove Community Church, Long Grove Performing Arts Academy, Long Grove Historical Society, Long Grove Arts & Music Council, and the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association have partnered together to plan a weekend full of family friendly entertainment and shopping, August 19th and 20th. Over 40 antique, vintage, upcycled, and/or reclaimed dealers will have unique items for sale on the Robert Parker Coffin Road street market in front of the covered bridge. The bridge crossing will be open to pedestrians, bikes, and vintage tractor traffic only, so it will be the perfect opportunity to come linger under our iconic bridge, which is poised to be listed on the National Register. Admission and parking are free, as well as the live music, historic tractor rides, ice cream social on Saturday at the church, and penny carnival on Sunday at the farmhouse.

A couple of new activities this year include the Pop-Up Car Show and two entertaining dramatic presentations at our farmhouse “back porch” stage. The car show will feature registered VIP parking for classic cars in the Stemple parking lot. On Saturday at 4:00, our farmhouse stage will host “A Salute to Old Glory,” as narrator Mike Dvorak takes audience volunteers back to 1814 to tell the story of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by “Old Glory in Barnwood,” a presentation by artist Marie Roth featuring stories and selections from her celebrated collection of historic flag recreations.  On Sunday, trade in your pennies (if you don’t have any, we will give you some!) for a chance at old-timey games and nifty prizes at the Penny Carnival from noon till 2:00, then stay for a wacky 1-act melodrama, “Polly Pureheart Prevails,” presented by the summer session theater students of the Long Grove Performing Arts Academy. Showtime for the half-hour performance is 2:00. Cap off the day by attending the 4:00 Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green featuring the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. And don’t forget–all of this is free of charge! Visit longgrove.org for a full listing of all the weekend activities.

Plan to bring the kids and grandkids to downtown Long Grove Saturday and Sunday, August 19th and 20th, for one last blast of summertime memories before school kicks into gear once more. Vintage Days will be rocking and rolling fun for the entire family–be there or be square!

Outdoor Concerts Return

Arts & Music Council concert series founder Tobin Fraley (Left) and loyal concert supporter John Marshall (R) at the July 9, 2017 kickoff concert.

Arts & Music Council concert series founder Tobin Fraley (Left) and loyal concert supporter John Marshall (R) join me at the July 9, 2017 kickoff concert.

One of my favorite summer activities is now in full swing–the free outdoor concert series on Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on Towner Green. Blues harmonica artist Corky Siegel and his band performed for the sixth consecutive year at the kickoff concert earlier this month on July 9th. I was lucky enough to be one of the estimated 350 people to relax, meet up with friends and neighbors, and enjoy some beautiful music in our historic downtown. Long Grove residents are truly fortunate to have free entertainment of such high caliber right in our hometown.

But is anything in life really free? In Long Grove, many of the elements that make our community so special are the result of volunteer efforts. This summer, we can continue to enjoy this wonderful concert series because of the passionate and committed work of the members of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council. Thank you!!

In my opinion, a true gem in the revitalization of our village is the enrichment that comes through music and the arts. For the last twelve summers, the Arts & Music Council has given us the gift of this high quality concert series to enjoy. Besides the diligent efforts of the council volunteers, monetary support for the concerts comes by way of donations from individuals, civic groups, businesses, and a grant from the Village of Long Grove. I hope that this can continue for many more years to come.

This summer you can still enjoy five upcoming concerts:

July 30th – Black Oak Ensemble

August 6th – Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands

August 13th – Harpeth Rising

August 20th – Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

August 27th – Reggie Harris & Scott Ainslie

Enjoying the July 9th concert (L to R): Mary Dorner, Mike Dvorak, and George Dorner.

Enjoying the July 9th concert (L to R): Mary Dorner, Mike Dvorak, and George Dorner.

Happy Flag Day!

Posing with Long Grove artist Marie Roth and the patriotic gift that she created for me.

Posing with Long Grove artist Marie Roth and the awesome patriotic gift that she created for me.

June 14th is flag day, but only one state–Pennsylvania–observes the occasion as a legal holiday. Another interesting bit of trivia that I recently ran across stated that Betsy Ross didn’t receive credit during her lifetime for sewing the first American flag in 1776. So to honor Old Glory and the talented women who create her (past and present), I am highlighting the story of a fantastic gift I recently received.

To thank me for my service as Village President, Long Grove artist and friend Marie Roth presented me with the beautiful painted wooden flag pictured above. Marie has been creating wooden renditions of the red, white and blue for many years now, and has quite a following. She was even recently featured in a national magazine! Marie’s flags are usually made out of reclaimed barn wood, and she is often on the lookout for old farm sites and other possible sources of wood with an interesting history. When she completes a flag Marie always includes a write-up about where the barn wood was found, and any stories she knows about the former owners.

What makes my flag so special is that it did not come from reclaimed barn wood, but instead, from wood that was once part of our Long Grove covered bridge! During my term of elected office the covered bridge has been hit and damaged many times (too many times!) by trucks and distracted drivers. During one of the many repairs, a pile of discarded and damaged boards was left by the side of the road and after several days Marie was alerted to the find. I have often coveted Marie’s flags, and even purchased a couple for gifts over the years. Now I am delighted to have a piece of Marie’s art and a piece of the covered bridge hanging in my home to remind me of the years spent representing our Village.

Speaking of the covered bridge, we are getting ever closer to having our local landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. I will be attending a meeting in Springfield later this month of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, who will be reviewing our application and (hopefully) making a recommendation to the National Park Service for the official designation. Keep your fingers crossed!

Artists and Authors

Long Grove resident Barbara English showcases her paintings in her "Back Seat Gallery," the original inspiration for the event.

Long Grove resident Barbara English showcases her paintings in her “Back Seat Gallery,” the original inspiration for the event.

If you are looking for something fun to do in Long Grove on Saturday, September 17th, I have a good suggestion. The Long Grove Artists Guild (part of the Arts & Music Council) is sponsoring an “Artists and Authors” event on Towner Green, to showcase our homegrown talent.  The idea first got started last year with an informal “Back Seat Gallery & Trunk Show” and has been expanded this year to include local authors, who will be present to sign copies of their books and meet with the public.

The inspiration for this event can be credited to Long Grove artist & author, Barbara English. She stopped by the home of Artist Guild Founder Georgia Cawley after an art class one afternoon, to share her recent paintings. With the framed pieces propped up in the back seat of her car, Georgia teased her about her “back seat gallery,” and the idea was born.

This year, several artists will have their cars parked along Towner Green, with a variety of art in all mediums available to admire and purchase out of backseats and open trunks. The event is a gathering of artist friends, invited by Artist Guild members, to share art with each other and with the public. Stop by downtown Long Grove for a look!

Music on Towner Green

Enjoying an Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green with one of the founders and guiding forces of the group, Tobin Fraley.

Enjoying an Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green with one of the founders and guiding forces of the group, Tobin Fraley.

A tradition that I love in Long Grove is our free concerts on summer Sunday afternoons, planned and supported by the Arts & Music Council. The six-concert series is halfway through the 2016 season, but there are still three more opportunities to bask in the summer warmth on Towner Green while enjoying incredible music. This Sunday, August 7th features gypsy-jazz music by Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan, followed by bluegrass band Special Consensus on August 21st and wrapping up the season with Sons of the Never Wrong on August 28th. Bring your family and friends, lawn chair or blanket, and favorite beverage or even dinner to savor along with the beautiful music. The concerts start at 4:00 and did I mention that they are free?

For the past 11 years our volunteer Long Grove Arts & Music Council members have worked hard to provide this high-quality entertainment for our community, and I for one am grateful. I have so many pleasant memories of concerts in the park over the years and this coming weekend will be one more to remember. To read more about this group and the history of the concerts see my blog post Summer Concert Series Kickoff. 

Arts and Music Council board members Georgia Cawley (left) and Rachel Perkal accept donations at a recent concert.

Arts and Music Council board members Georgia Cawley (left) and Rachel Perkal accept donations at a recent concert.

Colorful Bridges Express Pride and Love

Starting at the American flag and moving right: Cindy Brown, Marie Roth, Rachel Perkal, Carolyn Denaro, Angie Underwood.

Starting at the American flag and moving right: Cindy Brown, Marie Roth, Rachel Perkal, Carolyn Denaro, Angie Underwood.

Many residents and merchants are proud of our Village, and have been showing their love for Long Grove by creating decorative mini bridges. In the past month, these little works of art have been slowly appearing in our historic downtown crossroads. I’m impressed by the efforts and artistic talent on display, and for the vibrant designs and rainbow of colors our merchants and residents have used to liven up the community for the summer.

One of my favorite bridges is pictured above. I love it for the especially fitting message of peace, hope, and respect. Regardless of ideology, politics, race, religion, creed, color, or whom we choose to love in this world, “All Lives Matter Here.” Bravo to Rachel Perkal and her staff at Epilogue, a lovely store here in Long Grove that features beautiful and unique works of art. It is one of my go-to spots when needing a special and memorable gift. Resident and artist Marie Roth was featured in a show this weekend of her one-of a kind American flags, created from reclaimed barn wood.

Art has a healing power, and love for one another is what truly matters.

Shall We Dance?

Greeting one of our newest business owners in the historic downtown, Jesse DeSoto of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

Greeting one of our newest business owners in the historic downtown, Jesse DeSoto of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

In the year 1900, Long Grove’s first dance hall was built. Housed on a site next to what is now Kildeer Countryside School (and now serves as a parking lot for the old Zimmer Hotel building), this community building was erected at a cost of $2,500. Residents came together to help finance the construction of this social gathering spot, at a cost of $10 per share. According to local lore, dances were held upstairs on the weekends and refreshments were served downstairs, with a separate room to check coats and horse blankets in the winter. Known as Union Hall, dances continued to be held here into the 1940’s, after which it was sold to a turkey hatchery, then a manufacturing company that produced decorative wooden ducks. Years of accumulated sawdust and wood shavings helped fuel a spectacular fire in 1951 that burned the old Union Hall to the ground. Ironically, the fire department was located just down the street but the firefighters were away that evening attending a dance in a nearby town!

One century later, Long Grove’s popularity as a fun place to dance is about to come alive once again. I have recently had the opportunity to meet local resident Jesse DeSoto, a former “Pro” from Season 3 of the popular television show “Dancing With The Stars.” Jesse is in the process of purchasing the former Red Oaks property, and is currently working to relocate his Fred Astaire Dance Studio from Buffalo Grove to our historic downtown. In business for over the past 11 years, this franchise has been consistently ranked as one of the top Fred Astaire Dance Studios in the United States. The former big “barn” on the property is slated to be renovated and reconstructed into a Grand Ballroom, to be used for day to day lessons as well as accommodating social dance events. Future plans for the additional buildings on the site include possible retail and restaurant tenants. Jesse and some of his students recently appeared on ABC Channel 7 to help promote Chocolate Fest this past May. Click here to view a short clip of this.

I know that I speak for so many of the residents and merchants in Long Grove who are excited to welcome Jesse and his new business to our historic downtown. It is a great fit for our community, and truly a kick to see history repeating itself with a popular dance hall coming back to town. This time though, I say we skip the special cloak room for the horse blankets and opt for a disco ball instead!

Summer Concert Series Kickoff

The 2015 Long Grove Sunday Concert Series Opened on July 5th

The 2015 Long Grove Sunday Concert Series Opened on July 5th

The Long Grove Arts and Music Council marks its 10th Anniversary this year. For the past decade, our Village has been the lucky recipient of free Sunday afternoon concerts held for all to enjoy in our historic downtown. From their humble beginnings in the summer of 2006, the volunteers who make up the Arts & Music Council have grown the organization into a 501(c)3 not-for-profit which relies exclusively on donations from members of the community. The summer music series has expanded to feature eight concerts in July and August, featuring a diverse array of quality artistic talent in styles such as Bluegrass, Folk, Classical, Harmonica, and Blues. The first concerts were held at the gazebo in Buffalo Creek Park, and when the need for more space became apparent they moved over to Towner Green. When Sunset Pavilion was built in 2011 the concerts moved again to Fountain Square, and this year the venue has returned back to the lovely Towner Green. An added bonus this year is the new wine bar, “UnWined” just opened in the Victorian house at the end of Towner Green. Residents and visitors can bring a picnic and enjoy a glass of wine or other favorite beverage while soaking in the sights and sounds of a summer concert in the open air. It’s like a mini Ravinia-style experience in our own downtown!

These hometown concerts are one of the things that I have grown to love best about summer in Long Grove. The music is top-notch, the weather is almost always pleasant, and it is supremely relaxing to be downtown among friends and neighbors. This Sunday I was reminded again how fortunate we are in our community to have individuals who work year after year, to create this kind of cultural enrichment for us all. This is truly a community effort, as it takes financial support from merchants, the Lions Club, the Village, and generous residents for this concert series to happen. It was a beautiful day for the kickoff event, and Grammy Award winning harmonica player Howard Levy did not disappoint. You have seven more opportunities this summer for a slice of bliss, free of charge, Sundays at 4:00 in Towner Green. Don’t miss out!

Arts & Music Council Board Members (L to R) Jane Primack, Carolyn Denaro and Walter Roth help sell friendship bread at the concert.

Arts & Music Council Board Members (L to R) Jane Primack, Carolyn Denaro and Walter Roth help sell friendship bread at the concert.