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:

 

Muttersholtz Around the World

Notice a picture of our Long Grove Village Hall on the upper right of the cover of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter.

Notice a picture of our Long Grove Village Hall on the upper right of the cover of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter.

Earlier this summer I was contacted by Martine Kilcher, the Deputy Mayor of the town of Muttersholtz, France. She was putting together a feature for their September, 2018 municipal newsletter on places around the world that have a special connection or “twinning” with their village. Long Grove was founded in part by descendants of settlers from Muttersholtz in the mid-1800’s, and went by that name for several years before officially becoming the Village of Long Grove. I was glad to be able to write a short piece about our history and current events, and provide a few pictures for our friends in Europe to see what our village in America, inspired by Muttersholtz, looks like today. From Martine I learned that Muttersholtz is also very ecology minded, even receiving a special designation for this. Our villages both share a historic downtown crossroads with vintage buildings, and have had local craft breweries open in the past few years. It was a delightful experience to connect with Martine and we have even kept up with each other’s organizations through Facebook. When our covered bridge was listed on the National Register our Historical Society received congratulations from France, and when it was damaged a few weeks later they shared in our sorrow. To learn more about Muttersholtz, France click on this link.

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Here is the English translation for the article (above) that appears in the September, 2018 issue of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter:

“Long Grove is an American city, located at about 50 km from Chicago, Illinois. It has about 8,500 inhabitants. It is not twinned with our commune, but part of its population is made up of descendants of Muttersholtzois who founded a village after having migrated to the United States. The name was Muttersholtz firstly. These are also our faraway cousins ​​who erected the parish church at the end of the 19th century. The people of Long Grove have been able to preserve their environment, which is composed of grasslands, forests and wet areas. The inhabitants are particularly proud of their covered bridge, which spans the Buffalo Creek and which has just been registered in the American Heritage. As with us, they like to party there. Each year a Strawberry Festival, an Apple Festival, a Festival of the chocolate and Saint Nicolas is honored. A brewery opened last year. To honor the story of the village, one of the first beers brewed was named Muttersholtz and, on July 21, the brewery organized a Muttersholtz Fest to celebrate the first year opening.”

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.

A Summer Sunday Serenade

Harpeth Rising  created beautiful music  on Towner Green during their Sunday, July 22nd outdoor concert.

Harpeth Rising created beautiful music on Towner Green during their Sunday, July 22nd outdoor concert.

The Long Grove Arts and Music Council is once again sponsoring free outdoor concerts in Long Grove. I look forward to this opportunity all year, when we can enjoy the out-of-doors and great live music at the same time! The concert series is a bit shorter for 2018 with only four performances, but you can still catch the finale this coming Sunday, August 5th. The April Verch Band will kick off the entertainment at 4:00 on Towner Green in downtown Long Grove. Be sure to bring your lawn chairs or a blanket, snacks and drinks or money to purchase them and support the all-volunteer, non-profit Council at the concession tent. This will be your last chance of the season to purchase a loaf (or two) of “Jane’s Bread.” This locally famous homemade dessert treat is baked by Arts and Music Council member Jane Primack, and serves as a popular money maker for the group. Jane’s creativity has resulted in a bevy of delicious flavors, with double butterscotch and banana chocolate chip being two personal favorites I can recommend. Under the direction of new Artistic Director Ethel Berger this year, many thanks to the dedicated group of residents who are carrying on the tradition of providing free cultural enrichment for another summer season. If you are in Long Grove this Sunday, take advantage of this musical gift to the community!

The Drama and the Trauma

 

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Picture of the damage to the covered bridge on June 27th, 2018, taken soon after the accident. The wooden covering has continued to slowly collapse in the days since. The long term work needed to stabilize, open the road to traffic, and repair the damage is still being evaluated.

Shock, sadness and disbelief only begin to describe the emotions felt by those of us in the Long Grove community, Chicago area, and other parts of the country as the news of the severe damage to our covered bridge spreads, coming less than two weeks after the Historical Society was informed of the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. For those of you who have not yet heard the details of the accident, the following report from WBBM CBS Chicago, which aired on Thursday, June 28th gives a good synopsis:

The day before the accident, the Village Board had approved plans to temporarily close the bridge on July 12th so that the community at large could celebrate the new federal listing. Plans were already underway by several community groups to participate in the party, and excitement among residents was high. Just look at these smiles below…

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Former Trustee John Marshall (left) and downtown businessman Ryan Messner are shown installing the National Register marker on the bridge exactly one week before it was severely damaged.

The recent news of the National Register status had seen major media attention in the Chicago area, and it was picked up by the Associated Press last weekend. Many individuals had reached out to the Long Grove Historical Society following the National Register news with congratulations and elation over this story. The feeling in the community had been one of pride and happiness.

Which makes the turn of events this week so incredibly dramatic. At the scene of the accident just an hour after it occurred, I talked with a woman from California who was a history buff and had heard the news of the National Register listing. She flew across the country specifically to see our iconic bridge, only to arrive minutes after it was severely damaged. I met a resident from a neighboring community who works nearby and purposely goes out of his way to and from work to drive over the bridge because he loves it. He was devastated. Again, our inbox has been full of emails from bridge aficionados near and far, expressing sadness and anger at what has happened. I heard today from a gentleman who is the Vice President of the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania, with, “support for your efforts to see that the bridge is repaired.” He also stated that, “this is a bridge that I now have on my list to visit.”

As disheartening as the past few days have been, I know without a doubt that this community is resilient, and that we will rally and come together once again to save our bridge and restore it. Many, many passionate people have worked very hard to get the bridge on the National Register, and we will work just as hard to have that long-awaited celebration when the repairs are completed. I am looking forward to it! In parting, be heartened by the lovely image below, recently taken and sent to me by someone who grew up loving this bridge and loves it still today. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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A beautiful picture of local boys searching for crayfish in Buffalo Creek under the bridge, taken and sent to me a few days before the tragic accident.

Mother’s Day Fashionistas

Long Grove boutique owners (L to R) Lynne Jankovec of Olivia's and Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna at the May 10, 2018 Fashion Show.

Long Grove boutique owners (L to R) Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s and Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna looking stylish at the May 10, 2018 Fashion Show.

Now that Spring weather has finally arrived in Long Grove, it’s time to shift those boots and heavy sweaters to the back of the closet and make way for sandals and sundresses. To help you with that, we have two stylish boutiques in Long Grove chock full of beautiful things to wear in the warm months ahead. And I know this for a fact, because I attended the recent Mother’s Day Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club put on by Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s and Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna.  This annual event has been held for the last five years and is always a really fun night out with the ladies while enjoying a preview of both the fashion forward and classic looks for the season. In addition, there was a bit of on-site shopping to enjoy and raffle prizes to bid on, with the proceeds going to support the fight against breast cancer. I was excited to find the perfect summery dress to take with me on vacation next month–and I’m still contemplating that matching hat!

No matter where this summer takes you, be it afternoons in the park, lunch in the garden with your girlfriends, or a romantic sunset dinner on Santorini, Lynne and Mira can dress you in the perfect attire. This weekend is a great time to stop by, as Chocolate Fest returns to Long Grove on Friday, Saturday and Sunday May 18-20. Now that is a winning combination if there ever was one–new clothes AND chocolate!

Harbor Chase of Long Grove

Members of the community, Historical Society, and downtown Merchants Association gathered to hear a presentation on local history and welcome Harbor Chase to Long Grove.

Members of the community, Historical Society, and downtown Merchants Association gathered to hear a presentation on local history and welcome Harbor Chase to Long Grove.

Earlier this year Long Grove’s newest Senior living community, Harbor Chase of Long Grove, held their grand opening celebration. While I was unable to attend the big party, it was great to be invited for a personal tour and to speak at a luncheon this past week at the newly built assisted living and memory care facility. Enlisting the help of my husband Aaron (who writes for Long Grove Living magazine and loves to tell a story or two…) we gave an educational program on “The History and Architecture of Long Grove.” The Historical Society enjoyed partnering with our new neighbors at Harbor Chase to provide some community enrichment, and I hope this will be the first of many opportunities to work together.

Everyone who attended the free luncheon was also given a full tour of the beautifully decorated facility. During my years on the Village Board I dealt with the many plans, renderings, approvals and resolutions needed to get this development underway. The end result is very elegant, with attention to detail and amenities like live music, beautiful flower arrangements, and homemade macaroons, not just on special occasions but as part of the everyday lifestyle. There is even a resident puppy to bring smiles and lively energy!

Having this new business in downtown Long Grove is a key piece of the redevelopment efforts that are funding current infrastructure improvements, such as extending the water system. Just one more reason for us all to say, “Welcome, Harbor Chase!”

 

Aaron Underwood stands next to the "Covered Bridge Room" at Harbor Chase. The "Crackerjack" lounge/bar area also pays homage to local history--it's the name of Long Grove's 1906 baseball team.

Aaron Underwood stands next to the “Covered Bridge Room” at Harbor Chase. The “Crackerjack” lounge/bar area also pays homage to local history–it’s the name of Long Grove’s 1906 baseball team.

 

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.

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.

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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!

Neighbors & Newcomers

Members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Neighbors and Newcomers Club (L to R): Sandi

Some of the Long Grove-Kildeer Neighbors and Newcomers Club members (L to R) at the September 12th Brunch: Sandy Yogendran, Renee Clark, Katie Hodge, Susan Fasano, Lana Pollard, and Angie Underwood.

Today I’d like to highlight one community group that is near and dear to my heart and continues to be a force for good in our village. Founded in 1957, shortly after the Village of Long Grove was incorporated, the Neighbors and Newcomers Club of Long Grove and Kildeer has been welcoming new residents and sustaining friendships for 50 years. This vibrant group has helped countless residents get acclimated into their new communities and fostered social connections that have lasted in some cases, decades. I was introduced to this group 20 years ago when we first moved to the area, and quickly met other newcomers like myself who shared similar interests and had children the same ages as my own. Some of the ladies pictured above I have known since I joined, others are more recent friends. I have had the pleasure of serving as President of this wonderful group three separate times over the ensuing years.

Earlier this month was the fall “kick-off” event, a brunch at our current President’s home in which we welcomed three new members and had fun catching up on summer happenings with long-time friends. Everyone who attended brought donations of toiletry bags filled with essentials (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, etc…) to be donated to WINGS, a local Safe House for women and children fleeing desperate situations. Each year the club sponsors one specific collection for a local charity. In past years the donations have ranged from food for the local food pantry, children’s pajamas for a shelter, toys for a holiday gift drive, and the adopt-a-family program through Vernon Township.

One way to really get to know your neighbors is through a shared interest. Here is where this group really excels, by offering eight different interest groups in which you can participate in, as little or much as you choose. My personal favorite is the Grove Trotters walking group, which meets at Heron Creek Forest Preserve or other neighborhood walking trails for fellowship and fitness in our beautiful Long Grove & Kildeer open spaces. You can participate in an evening book club, Bunco/Game Night, couples Wine Tasting or Gourmet dining, Out to Lunch with the ladies or take in a Chick Flicks show at a local theater. If social opportunities are what you are interested in, look no further than this friendly club. For more information please visit the Facebook page here.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a great amount of affection for this group. I liken it to the song I learned back in Girl Scouts, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” The friends I have made over the last twenty years in Neighbors & Newcomers are truly golden.