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The Belvidere Daily Republican Featured News
  • NB Chess 1.JPG
    Chess tournament brings large crowd to North Boone
    Jan. 29, 2015
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - Six of the 14 teams that make up the Northern Illinois Chess League (NICL) were in the auxiliary gymnasium at North Boone High School Jan. 18 for the Vikings' annual tournament.
    The field included Marengo, Stillman Valley, Freeport, Guilford, McHenry and the host team.
    McHenry won both the varsity and frosh-soph competitions with North Boone's varsity in fifth and its frosh-soph team in second.
    In addition, North Boone and Stillman Valley made up a dual match that had been cancelled by bad weather. The Vikings won, 61-7, to defeat the Cardinals for the first time since 2005.
    Winning matches for the hosts were senior Devin McFadden on Board 1; senior Ryan Johnson on Board 2; freshman Theresa Weiss on Board 3; freshman Damen McFadden on Board 4; freshman Jacob Dlugosz on Board 5; freshman Chase Morgan on Board 7; and freshman Hallie Mrkvicka on Board 8.
    The rest of this year's team consists of freshman Thomas Balsewicz, senior Chase Fitzpatrick, sophomore Dakodah Mrkvicka, sophomore Connor Rockwell, senior Nick Tauber and freshman Tyler Turner.
    This year's conference meet was held Jan. 31 at Freeport.
    NICL East Division members and standings before the conference tournament were McHenry in first, followed by Marengo, North Boone, Fox Lake Grant, Cary-Grove, Harvard, McHenry B and Guilford.
    The NICL West Division and standings included Rockford Jefferson in first, followed by Stillman Valley, Sterling, Byron, Freeport and Oregon. Hononegah was listed as a member but apparently did not have a team this year.
    Fund-raiser for state
    Volunteer head coach Glen Gratz said the North Boone tournament is held every year to raise funds so the team can go to state. There is no regional or sectional, with this year's finals being held Feb. 13-14 at the Peoria Civic Center.
    Gratz is no stranger to chess, having been a state champion during the 1975-76 season, on Board 1, and the runner-up in 1976-77, while a student at nearby Harvard High School. Team-wise, the Hornets were state champions both years, back when there were two classes: A for smaller schools and AA for larger schools.
    Now there is just one class and, typically, about 140 teams of all sizes compete each year.
    North Boone also fared well as a Class A team, winning state in 1979-80 and 1992-93, taking second in 1975-76, 1978-79, 1982-83, 1986-87 and 1992-93, with a third-place finish in 1980-81. All of those teams were coached by Guenther Wohlfarth.
    The Vikings have had 17 medalists over the years, including Don Ward, who was second on Board 3 in 1975-76. Currently, he is chairman of the North Boone Community Unit School District 200 board of education.
    The most recent medalist was Richard Bennett, seventh on Board 7 in 2010-11.
    Last year, the Vikings finished 79th among 140 schools. Junior Steven Hostalak led the way with a ninth place, individually, on Board 4. There, he won five of six matches, with one ending in a draw.
    Seniors Michael Abraham, Becca Fishbach, Dustin Nichols, Eric Saue and Margaret Shafala, who since have graduated, all were on that team.

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    Community supports Grandstand Project Fundraiser
    Jan. 28, 2015
    BELVIDERE-The Boone County Fair Association has raised nearly $50,000 so far in its fundraising campaign to refurbish the 50 year old grandstand at the fairgrounds, “The Boone County Fair Grandstand Rejuvenation Project” as its being called is looking to raise $125,000 to complete the project.
     “The time has come to give some needed attention to this hard working grandstand. The 2,000 seat grandstand has held some great audiences over the years enjoying a wide variety of entertainment from Loretta Lynn twice to George Jones to Blake Shelton,” Lyle Lee, president of the Boone County Fair Association said. “Not to mention the tractor pulls, harness races, demo derbies and such.”
    The Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization receiving no government funds from the city or county with limited funds from the state which go towards the premiums paid to the exhibitors. Any donations toward this project will be tax deductible.
    “We continually work to keep the fairgrounds well maintained, but this grandstand project turned out to be larger than we planned on and something we needed to do this year , said Lee. “That’s why we’re asking the community to help keep the Boone County Fairgrounds one of the nicest fairgrounds in the state.”
    “The outpouring of support for this project from the community has been very gratifying. We have a ways to go, but in the meantime we can’t thank everyone enough.” Lee added.
    According to Lee, one hundred percent of the monies donated will go toward the rejuvenation of this icon of the fairgrounds. The project will include improving the entire structure with new aluminum kick boards, aluminum walking planks, a fresh paint job and some new fencing.
    All donors will be acknowledged on a sign to be hung on the back of the grandstand. Donors giving $2,500 or more will have a larger listing on the sign but everyone who donates will be listed on the sign.
    If you would like to contribute to the “BCF Grandstand Rejuvenation Project” call the Fair office at (815) 544-2900 any Monday or Wednesday from 8a.m. to 4 p.m. or mail your donation to BCF Assn., PO Box 456, Belvidere, Il 61008. Write “Grandstand Project” on the envelope.
    “Our goal is to have the money raised and the project completed in time for the 2015 fair,” Lee said. “The fair association’s grounds crew has been busy preparing the structure so that painting can begin as soon as weather permits in the spring.”
    The 2015 Boone County Fair starts Tuesday Aug. 11 and runs through Sunday Aug. 16. The entertainer for Aug. 15 has not yet been announced.

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    A box of rocks welcomes museum director
    Jan. 27, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – On the outskirts of Kirkland, a little girl grew up fascinated with old things and dreamed of becoming an archeologist. Fast forward several years and that girl, now a woman, is the executive director of the Boone County Historical Museum.
    Anna Gill assumed the role that was vacated by the retirement of Mary Hale. Gill received her degree in archeology with an emphasis in museum studies from Northern Illinois University in 2010.  Gill is engaged to be married this September to Belvidere North High School English teacher
    Drew Pivoras
    Gill worked in fossil preparation at Burpee Museum in Rockford and took part in archeological digs that the museum sponsored. She worked at Midway Village before finding her new home at the Boone County Historical Museum.
    It should be no surprise then that as Gill explored the museum’s collection and archives, she discovered a box of rocks. The box as unlabeled and there is no indication of the rocks’ donor or origin.  On top of a card catalog in Gill’s office, the contents of the box of rocks are neatly arranged. 
    “I love this museum. It has been great,” Gill said. Before Gill applied for the position, Gill visited the museum and enjoyed the World War I poster exhibit. “There is so much potential here. There are a lot of opportunities for the future here.”
    “I was surprised by the high quality of the collection at the museum. There are so many things here that are very special. It has been a surprise to see how much is here,” Gill praised the collection. “I love that there are nostalgia people that save these things.”
    “I am very thankful to both the District and the Society for their support in giving me the opportunity to be part of the museum,” Gill said. She also praised the museum’s employees.
    “Lonna Bentley and Richard Nelson have both been awesome.”
    In addition to acclimating herself to her role at the museum, Gill is developing plans to partner with a different organizations within Boone County. She already has plans to meet with Jillian Fuller, local history and genealogy librarian at Ida Public Library. 
    Gill was impressed with the partnership between the museum and the library on the Belvidere and Boone County History book which was sent to the printer this week.  Many residents use both the library and the museum as sources of information as they delve into genealogy projects into their family history.
    The book , which Fuller hopes to be available in time for the Boone County Fair, will tell the first 100 year story of the county from 1830 – 1930 through 200 photographs and commentaries.
    “It was interesting how they combined efforts to pull everything for the book.”
    In addition to partnering with the library, Gill envisions a greater partnership with District 100 and District 200 school districts. She would like to organize more tours with school children or develop some outreach programs.
    The next major exhibit at the museum will be the history of immigration in Boone County. Bentley expects that the exhibit will be on display in mid-June to coincide with Heritage Days.
    Among the projects that Gill would like to tackle is the natural history room, commonly referred to as the bird room.
    “At the museum we have a complete femur of a mammoth that was found in Boone County,” Gill said. The collection also includes two fossilized mammoth teeth. Gill envisions giving the room some TLC in the future.
    As Gill rests her eyes on the collection from the box of rocks, she is home.

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    News in Brief New text amendment would increase wind turbine setback
    Jan. 25, 2015
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - A proposed text amendment that has been filed with Boone County would increase the setback for wind turbines from 1,000 feet to 2,640 feet, or 6.5 times the height of the tower, from all property lines.
    A public hearing on the amendment will be held before the county zoning board of appeals (ZBA) at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 27) in the county administration building, 1212 Logan Ave.
    Applicants are David Cleverdon and Karen Kenny, 21123 Grade School Road, Caledonia, and 22679 LeRoy Center Road, Capron, respectively. Grade School Road is the western boundary of the 8,000-acre wind farm being proposed by Mainstream Renewable Power, with upwards of 100 towers.
    The Dublin, Ireland-based company is expected to submit an application for a special use permit sometime this spring.
    Should Tuesday's hearing be concluded that night, the ZBA recommendation will move on to the county board for consideration at its Feb. 18 meeting.
    Planning staff is recommending denial of the request because it is not in compliance with the comprehensive plan. The county planning commission agreed with that position in a 2-3 vote Jan. 20. 
    Purpose of the text amendment is "to assure the protection of health, safety, welfare and property values for all Boone County residents and landowners ..."
    As proposed, the amendment also would increase the setback to one-half mile from all public roads, third-party transmission lines and communication towers. In addition, all towers would have a minimum setback of not less than 1.5 miles from nearby Sharon, Wis.
    The new setback would be 2,640 feet or 6.5 times the height of the turbine, including the blades at the highest point, whichever is greater.
    Notice of Tuesday's hearing was sent to each of the nine townships in the county, with no responses being received by the county planning office. Mainstream's proposed wind farm would be located in Manchester and LeRoy counties, in the northeastern corner of the county.
    Manchester Township was talking about establishing its own setback for wind towers, but so far has not applied for a text amendment. Manchester's proposed setback was 1,500 feet from property lines.
    Tuesday's hearing is the only one at which the public is guaranteed an opportunity to speak to the issue.
    Lions Club receives grant to enlarge basketball court
    POPLAR GROVE - The Poplar Grove Lions Club has received an anonymous grant if $5,000 to ensure a full basketball court is part of upcoming improvements to the recreational complex, behind the North Boone Fire District 3 station at Illinois 173 and Hill Street.
    Club President Owen Costanza said the project will include replacing baseball Diamond No. 4, new outfield fencing and fencing down the left and right-field lines, along with new playground equipment.
    He said the playground equipment is expected to be delivered the first week in April. That improvement will be done at the same time as expanding the basketball court.

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    Do you wanna build a snowman at Sinnissippi Park?
    Jan. 22, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    ROCKFORD –“Do you want to build a snowman? It doesn’t have to be a snowman,” Anna sings in the Disney movie Frozen.
    And at Sinnissippi Park, 27 teams assembled Jan. 14 – 17 to make snow sculptures in the 29th annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition. The field included 12 teams competing for the state title, 15 high school teams, and an exhibition piece from 2014 state champions Vikings in Black.
    This year, there were fears that the competition would be cancelled due to a lack of snow.  Mother Nature cooperated by blanketing the area with two heavy snowstorms which were promptly followed by a deep freeze.
    Snow cleared from the Chicago Rockford International Airport runways was trucked to Sinnissippi Park and placed into wooden forms which organizers slowly fill and stomp on the snow to pack the snow firmly and remove any air pockets. For the state competitors, the blocks of snow are 6’ x 6’ x 10’ high and weighs approximately 2.5 tons. For the high school competitors, the blocks of snow are 4’ x’4’ x 6’ high.
    During the four day event, competitors use axes, machetes, water buckets, shovels, ice chisels and homemade fashioned tools to carve snow sculptures.  And in the case of the team from Belvidere North High School, a paint brush and cold water was used.
    Belvidere North fielded a team by seniors Jesse Harris, Kelsey Heimer, Alicia Porter, and Justin Sepeda won the Linda K. White Spirit Award. The team was headed by art teacher Edith Obenchain. Jesse was the only returning member of the team.
    The team displayed a tremendous amount of spirit when unseasonably warm weather caused the snow to be soft and unstable. The team’s sculpture, titled Frost Bite, featured a saber tooth tiger climbing up on a snow bank. 
    On the night before judging, the team was attaching a saber tooth to the jaws of its tiger. During the procedure, the top half of the jaw broke apart. In its collapse, it destroyed the bottom half of the jaw and left their sculpture without a face.
    “They managed to take the pieces, mold them together and stick them on,” Obenchain explained. “We came back this morning and they got the teeth on. We crossed our fingers that it would not collapse.”
    “It was really stressful trying to put that back on. We had the biggest problem with the teeth.  I tried making the teeth and every single one broke in half,” Alicia added. “I put myself on time out before I through a fit. I didn’t want to get angry with anyone.”
    Kelsey completed the task of making the teeth.
    The team was aided by the with the advice of professional snow sculptor Fred Gardner who is a member of the ISSC Advisory Committee and served as a mentor to the high school teams and lent tools to the young competitors.
    “We had to use a paint brush to put cold water on it to make it sit and make it freeze and turn to ice,” Alicia described how the team resolved the problem of making the teeth in the challenging conditions. “We figured that icicles would work, but we couldn’t make it. We thought maybe if we turned it into ice.”
    “They did a great job especially when something bad happened. Can they pull it together and focus? Can they rally together to fix it and make it work?” Obenchain asked. “And they did!”
    The team was chosen in October and worked together to come up with a variety of design ideas. Each of the team members used clay to carve models as they practiced for the competition. “We bonded over this. Even though it was stressful, it was such an amazing time,” Alicia said.
    The Belvidere North team already is planning on participating next year in the state competition.
    Belvidere High School entered a team after a several year hiatus. Their entry Do you wanna build a snowman was made by Willem Kline, Brittany Schloskey, Jessica Schloskey, and Aneysia Scrader. The team was led by advisor Laura Davis. The Bucs’ entry featured Frozen characters Anna and Elsa sitting on opposite sides of a doorway and the snowman Olaf peering out to greet park visitors.
    Members of the Belvidere team were unavailable on Saturday to participate in an interview.
    State competition
    Among the teams vying for the state title was the Frosted Flakes team. The team is made comprised of team members Bruce Quast, Steve Larson and Michael Rathbun. The trio work at Discovery Center and have participated in the competition for several years.
    This year the team’s sculpture was titled The Space Between Us. “It has five columns for people to look at. If you look between the columns instead of at the columns you would see people instead of the columns,” Rathbun explained. ‘It is an optical illusion that you see at a lot of museums. We decided this year to make it out of snow.”
    The biggest challenge was Frosted Flakes faced in the competition was moving snow. “We had to move the entire back half of each block to the end to make it longer. The block is 6 feet wide and it ended up being 11 ½ feet wide,” the Poplar Grove resident and associate director of Discovery Center explained. “We took it in really big blocks. They were 36 inches by 16 inches by 15. They were really heavy.”
    It took all 3 of us to move it. We built them alternating Lego style.
    On the final day of competition, the temperatures hovered around 40 degrees. “The warm weather wasn’t too bad until the final day when we were trying to put some final touches and the snow was really soft,” Rathbun said.
    On Saturday when Sinnissippi Park was filled with visitors who came to view the sculptures, many of the sculptures were collapsing. The winner, Shot of Whiskey, Leave the bottle was made by Kilted Snow Weasels. Their intricate design of a 1800s style western bar featuring a cowboy and the bartender collapsed before the judging results were announced.
    The morning of the competition, the team, comprised of Randy tackett, George Harnish and Grant Rundblade, stood with umbrellas to prevent the sun from melting their entry.
    The Whippersnappers were forced to discontinue their work on their sculpture when a large fracture at the base made the sculpture at risk of collapse.
    By Saturday night, many of the sculptures had collapsed and they were plowed under.
    For anyone who did not have an opportunity to view the snow sculptures, the national competition will be held in Lake Geneva on Jan. 28 – Feb. 1 at Riviera Park.

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    Hands and hearts help hooves at Bertell Farms
    Jan. 21, 2015
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - On a brisk and sunny January day, the horses stand in pastures with contentment etched across their faces. A cozy barn awaits in case the equines feel the need to escape the elements. Nearby, three goats frolic in a separate enclosure, one of them appearing to smile as it peeks with curiosity through the fence.
    A light-hearted feeling lingers in the air at Bertell Farms. Perhaps it comes from the appreciation and gratitude its residents may feel for being given a second chance at happy lives.
    Located at 1217 Barberry Lane in Belvidere, Bertell Farms is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) animal rescue that primarily focuses on horses – though the shelter has rescued several other animals including goats, cats and chickens.
    It is the only horse rescue in Belvidere.
    Lora Bertell and her husband, Jim, own the shelter, which they started seven years ago.
    Originally from Rockford and Chicago, Lora Bertell said the couple moved to the area and purchased the home with its 13.4 acres after meeting several people who had hobby farms. She and her husband thought such an endeavor would be fun, and decided to do something similar.
    “The previous owners had two horses and we decided to take them as well,” Bertell said. “We knew nothing about horses, but the former house owners taught us how to take care of them and everything we needed to know.”
    Bertell said she and her husband fell in love with horses and decided they needed to find a way to make use of the house's large expanse of land, so they opened up a horse rescue.
    “We just kept getting horses,” Bertell said, adding that most of the facility's equines come from homes where they have been hoarded and/or neglected.
    The rescue can comfortably house up to 15 horses and currently houses 12. Bertell Farm's residents also receive regular veterinarian checks and complete dental work-ups. The horses are put through an extensive evaluation and, in some cases, rehabilitation process, before they are available for adoption.
    “We do not rush them and we try to assess what they know,” Bertell said. “For horses that were taken in because of starvation, the goal is to feed them and build their confidence.”
    Successful rehab
    One successful rehab patient is Phoenix, a 16-year-old thoroughbred.
    Horses are given body condition scores which range from 0 to 9 and a score of 4 to 6 is considered acceptable. Bertell said Phoenix was taken from a neglectful situation and came to the farm with a body condition score of 1. Initially, the horse had no muscle and appeared emaciated. He has improved significantly during his eight months at the rescue.
    Though Phoenix will live out the rest of his days at Bertell Farms, there are a number of horses currently available for adoption. Two of them are Betty, age 10, and her comrade Mare Mare, 30, a guide horse. Betty is blind and Bertell said the two friendly horses are inseparable.
    “They came in together and can only be adopted out as a package deal,” she added, gesturing to the two beautiful, noble-looking horses standing close together in the pasture.
    Volunteer, donation opportunities
    An important aspect of the day-to-day operations of Bertell Farms is its volunteers.
    Poplar Grove resident Janet Gualano has volunteered with the organization for 5 years. She showed horses as a child and said she enjoys helping out at Bertell Farms in order to give back to animals she loves.
    “The community needs places like this that take in large animals,” she said. “Horses do so much for people and it is really nice to be able to return the favor.” 
    There is always a need for more volunteers at the rescue and people with a wide range of skills are encouraged to apply.
    Bertell Farms also is in need of donations. People can donate at Cherry Valley Feed, 1595 South Bell School Road, Cherry Valley, or through Paypal at
    Items such as horse blankets, water buckets, trough heaters and enrichment toys also are much appreciated and can be brought directly to the farm.
    The organization is unique not only because it is a horse rescue, but also because the Bertells and volunteers are hands-on in their work and passionate about horses.
    “The horses are not numbers in a pasture,” Bertell said. “They are loved like pets and are family. We live by our motto here – hands and hearts helping hooves. We have learned a lot along the way.”
    Upcoming events at Bertell Farms will include a horsemanship education class for adults in February and a horse show in September. The rescue also will host a volunteer orientation at 9 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 24.
    For more information, visit

  • capron boy photo 1.JPG
    Capron boy has a future tickling the ivories, funny bone
    Jan. 20, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    CAPRON – A steady stream of approximately 300 friends and neighbors stopped at the Lion’s Community Building on Jan. 10 for the club’s 60th anniversary.
    The chapter, which was started on Mar. 30, 1955 purchased its new home in February 2014 and club members have been toiling to remodel the building. “We have been working hard to make it available for more community events and as an opportunity for people to use it,” Capron Lions Club president Barb Sager said.
    In addition to the pancake breakfast, the Capron Lions Club has several activities planned for the next few months. The Easter egg hunt will be held on Apr. 4 at Lions Park.  The group will host free diabetic and macular degeneration vision screenings at Lions Park from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Apr. 11. Club members are selling pre-orders of roses for $18 per dozen. The roses, which will be delivered on Apr. 18 help fund the club’s activities in the community.
    “We would like to thank everyone who came out today to support the Lion’s Club,” Sager said. “Events like today help us support the community and we appreciate everyone who came out.”
    During the pancake breakfast, guests were treated to the musical talent of piano prodigy Matt White.  The 11 year old started playing the piano when he was four years old. The tike found a keyboard in the storage room at his older sister’s Ame Trowbridge’s apartment and took an instant liking to the instrument. He quickly learned some chords and other notes.
    When Matt was 11, the son of Will and Mary White, he started to take began to take piano lessons from Mr. Forbish and he plays a wide variety of music from classics to songs that Matt has composed himself. “I like to play whatever pops into my head,” Matt said.
    When asked if he considered himself to be a classically trained pianist, Matt pondered “How old will I be when that happens…..15? 16?”
    In addition to his musical talent, Matt is proving himself to be a comedian with a steady supply of jokes in his repertoire. Matt’s specialty are corny jokes that make you think. “A man walks into a bar….and loses the international limbo championship contest,” Matt quipped. “A skeleton walks into a bar and orders a beer and a mop.”
    “What do you call a man with no arms and no legs laying on the floor?  Matt!”
    Not to be undone, I shared with Matt one of the jokes that from my childhood in the days before ethnic jokes were considered to be politically incorrect and taboo. The same ethnic jokes seem to have endured the passage of time having been converted into dumb blonde jokes.
    Question: why did the dumb blonde bring sandpaper with her into the dessert?
    Answer: because she thought it was a map.
    It’s ok to groan. It’s bad.  And yet, it is still one of my favorite jokes.   
    Well, it was until I heard Matt’s skeleton joke. He has a career as the next Victor Borge.
    And with Matt’s repertoire of what do you call a man with no arms and no legs jokes, I offer up one of Borge’s. “"Did you know that Mozart had no arms and no legs? I've seen statues of him on people's pianos."
    Insert the sound of a rim shot here.

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    Special medical response team organized in Boone County
    Jan. 18, 2015
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - As assistant chief of the Capron Rescue Squad, Tony Stepansky lives in a "what if" world.
    In the 21st century the unspeakable can, and has, occurred. Among those horrific, life-claiming events were the shooting at Columbine (Colo.) High School, which actually took place Apr. 20, 1999, and the Sept. 1, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
    Could a similar, catastrophic event occur in Boone County? Sadly, the answer to that question is "Yes." That caused Stepansky to ask himself, several years ago, whether Boone County was prepared should something like that happen here.
    Research showed him that 60 percent of those injured at an "active shooter event" could have been saved had appropriate medical personnel been at the scene in a timely manner. As a medical professional who often has dealt with life and death situations, the "what if" scenario led to formation of the county's first special response team, one of only 11 in the State of Illinois.
    It consists of four men and two women, all members of the Capron Rescue Squad (CRS). Three of them are paramedics and three are emergency medical technicians. Now they're known as "tactical medical providers."
    They recently graduated after completing about 60 hours of intensive training in providing such medical care in a setting that far expands the boundaries of what they usually do.
    Team members are Amanda Bouchard, Taylor Duncan, Dan Eldredge, Joe Erber, Morgan Lohse and Stepansky.
    3 levels of care
    As proposed, the team would provide three levels of care.
    There would be a first responder, who would be right behind law enforcement, carrying a medical kit to provide immediate care for life-threatening injuries.
    Then a second responder would set up at the scene, to provide more advanced care, if needed. The victim, or victims, then would be moved to a safer area.
    Transporting the injured individuals to a hospital or trauma center would follow.
    "We're set up so two such responders are available 24 hours a day," Stepansky said.
    There recently was a dry run of sorts during what was thought to be a hostage situation in Capron, behind a heavily populated bar and near the rescue squad station.
    "Initially, no one knew the severity of the situation," he said. "Ultimately, it was determined that the individual was not armed. But that took a period of hours. We had five of the six TMPs available in a short period of time and in a safe zone."
    Medical team members were able to see SWAT teams from Boone and Winnebago County sheriff's departments in action. "We learned a lot from this," he said.
    The next step, he said, is to meet with Boone's new sheriff, Dave Ernest, and ask for him to approve the team. Right now, Stepansky said, "We don't have the permission of the sheriff to deploy this team to any such event."
    "We have submitted a mission statement and operational plans," he added. "It will be up to him (sheriff) to decide if such a team exists and how it's utilized."
    Meanwhile, the team is continuing to train twice a month.
    "Our training is based on what the state of Illinois will require when it sets up an EMT-T (tactical) program," the assistant chief said.
    The rescue squad's Board of Trustees has committed $15,000 to equip the team. "I hope we put a lot of time and money into this team and that it's never used," Stepansky said.
    "But should we have one of those events, we are ready," he said. 

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    Belvidere North students compete in Hot Rodders of Tomorrow competition
    Jan. 15, 2015
    BELVIDERE - Since 2009, Belvidere North High School students have competed in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Competition.  Rob Arata, Automotive Technology Instructor at the high school, has encouraged his Auto students to join an after school club which essentially works daily to perfect the disassembly and reassembly of an automobile engine.  After many hours of practice these students enter into nationwide competitions designed for high school students to gain experience working in a team environment, solve issues on the fly, meet key people from all around the world at national trade shows such as SEMA and PRI, and earn tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money.
    Since 2011, BNHS has qualified a team for the National Championships, the first of which they attended was held at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and the PRI Show that was held in Florida until 2012. In 2013, the National Championships moved to Indianapolis to the PRI Show and BNHS had a team qualify for that year as well.
    During the 2014 season, BNHS was blessed with two teams that qualified for Nationals, the Hedman sponsored team took first in both the St. Charles competition here in Illinois and the Michigan competition while the K+N sponsored team took third in both venues as well. In July, the Hedman Team was the first Illinois team to complete a competition run in under 20 minutes for a full teardown and reassembly of a small block Chevy 350 engine. The K & N Team is comprised of Dan Gauerke, Jon Szara, Josh Brouillette, Michael Ruvolo, and Colton Gritzmacher. The Hedman Team members are Devan Atkinson, Keegan Knox, Alex Palka, William Wendt, and Will Haerterich.
    The teams then traveled to the Dual National Championships, one a SEMA Show in Las Vegas and the other a PRI Show in Indianapolis.  The Hedman Team placed third at the SEMA Show in early November, competing against the 15 top teams in the country and only missed second place by seven seconds, pulling the fastest times in competition to date. The K+N Team traveled in mid-December to Indianapolis to the PRI Show and took seventh out of 15 teams pulling off some of their personal best times as well. Both teams ended up in the top ten out of 30 teams with the Hedman Team tying for sixth and the K+N Team in ninth.
    In just this year alone, BNHS raised $202,500 in scholarships earned by both teams, with a new Grand Total near three quarters of a million dollars in scholarships earned since students started entering the competitions in 2009.
    Coaching is key for the BNHS Hot Rodder Teams, with countless hours of dedication by Coach Robert Arata.  He is joined by his wife Jill, who has been recognized by BNHS and the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow as an official coach.  Jill is the first female coach to have a team compete at the national level.
    The horizons for BNHS in 2015 have yet again two teams with a hopeful third comprised completely of female members coached by a female coach which has never been done before in Hot Rodders history.
    You can visit for more information.

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    Homeless board plans middle school outreach in new year
    Jan. 14, 2015
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Homeless Project Board of Directors has a new chairperson in Jennifer Jacky and a new vice chair in Shannon Hansen.
    A change in leadership often can lead to fresh ideas and one of the projects Jacky wants to begin is to "look at the causes of homelessness."
    Part of that effort will be reaching out to eighth-grade students at Belvidere South and Belvidere Central middle schools with a "reality check" type of program. It will begin early in the new year and last six weeks, in one-hour sessions.
    The sessions will include going over basic living skills. While many have an idea of the kind of lifestyle they would like to lead as adults, this program will get specific about how much money they would have to make in order to achieve that goal. And jobs. There will be a career inventory that shows what kind of money is paid for the different vocations and what it would take to get there.
    There will be a section on housing, the various types and the cost. The benefits of owning a home as opposed to renting will be discussed. The importance of budgeting, and staying on track, will be part of it as will credit and banking.
    Additionally, there will be a focus on the impact of credit reports on so many areas of life. How far-reaching can it be for people who don't pay their bills?
    There are other aspects of adult life will be explored as the program comes to a close.
    "The goal is to get them thinking about these things," said Jacky, who is executive director of the Belvidere Family YMCA.
    This program was a result of brainstorming among members of the homeless board. It will serve as an advance to the career expo, which will be held during their freshman year at either Belvidere or Belvidere North High School.
    It is a pilot for Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 and may be included in North Boone Community Unit School District 200 next year.
    "The idea is to educate kids (about homelessness) at an earlier age," she said. "They may not be exposed to this home. This will help them become more aware of what's out there. A lot of them want to know."
    "Shannon and I believe in the educational side (of homelessness) and want to reach out to youth," she added.
    Children are an important part of her job at the YMCA. That also goes for Hansen, who is communications director for District 100 and runs the community cupboard food pantry on East Avenue, adjacent to Belvidere High School.
    While homelessness is not a big issue in Districts 100 and 200, there are some students who don't have a place they can consistently call home.
    As of Dec. 15, 2014, there were 28 students enrolled in District 100, who fit the definition of being homeless, and 15 in District 200. That is a decrease from Dec. 15, 2013, when there were 41 homeless at District 100 schools and 17 in District 200.

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    Belated Christmas gift will help area veterans
    Jan. 13, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE - Bob Ryder, superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County received a late Christmas present that will benefit several area veterans in need. Alyssa Cortes donated to him a portion of the proceeds of the Home for the Holidays dinner dance that was held at the VFW on Dec. 20.
    “It was the largest private donation we’ve received in 2014 and we were thrilled by it,” Ryder said.
    Cortes organized the dinner dance after she was inspired by a Rock for the Ranch fundraiser in Schaumburg, Ill. she attended several years ago as a professional photographer. The Schaumburg event included key note speaker Marcus Luttrell who was the lone survivor in the Operation Red Wings ambush in Afghanistan. The movie “Lone Survivor,” starring Mark Wahlberg was based on Luttrell’s ordeal. “I donated my time to photograph the event and I left feeling inspired to want to help the troops,” Cortes said. She had a desire to specifically help Boone County active military and veterans.
    With the assistance of her father, Tony Ziegelbauer, who helped her acquire donations including customized furniture, Cortes was able to exceed her fundraising goal. With the money that was raised, care packages will be sent to Alex Jones in Kuwait and brothers Lt. Grant Swanson and his brother Major Luke Swanson who are both stationed stateside. 
    And the remainder of the proceeds was delivered recently to Ryder in a combination of money and food vouchers. “The food vouchers will be extremely helpful to a lot of veterans who are just short of basic needs and basic food supplies. That will make a big difference to a lot of people who are hurting this winter,” Ryder said.  “The money will help us pay utility bills like gas and electric that might be shut off during the months of December January and February.”
    “These are very basic needs that people have and are having a hard time meeting and this donation will make a huge difference in the lives of at least five to six veterans who are having some pretty significant financial problems.”
    The Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County (VACBC), now in its third year, helps area veterans who are in need. “Our main mission is to help indigent veterans on a short term basis,” Ryder said. “Our job is more crisis intervention. We try to do what we can to help them over the hump until they are able to be connected with the federal VA.”
    For low income veterans, the VACBC is able to provide partial payment of utilities, partial payment of rent or mortgage, limited transportation, and other financial assistance. “We try to do what we can to help them over the hump until they are able to be connected with the federal VA,” Ryder explained.
    “Seventy-five percent of the folks we see are Vietnam era or older.  Many of them are 65, 70 75 years old are on Social Security or on some type of disability so they have a very fixed income. A lot of these folks are trying to live on $1,300, $1,400 a month,” Ryder explained.  “If they have one thing go wrong like their car break down, or their heating bill is more than usual, if they have had a medical concern that they cannot pay for, it is a real crisis. One thing goes wrong and they are having a real tough time.”
    “When I went to the VFW and I paid for the rest of the food and I told her that I wanted to help the local troops, she mentioned the VAC,” Cortes explained. “It was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to help vets pay for utility bills or groceries. It was exactly what I wanted”
    Private donations help VABC mission
    Because the VACBC is funded through property taxes, the veterans the VACBC is limited in who they can help with financial assistance.  “Those private donations give us more flexibility to help the veterans who do not meet the county qualifications,” Ryder said. “We have had other donations from individuals in terms of money and food vouchers. It has been a wonderful time.” 
    In addition to the donation from Cortes, Ryder was impressed with the increase in donations that the VACBC received during the month of December. “We have seen so much generosity from people in the month of December whether it is food donations or monetary donations or Afghans or blankets. A lot of people have been extremely generous in the Boone County area and we are extremely thankful,” Ryder said.
    “He (Ryder) was so grateful. I got a call from him last week and he said they were already giving out the food vouchers. It was awesome knowing what a difference that money is going to make for them,” Cotes said.
    “One of the best things was the local company that came up with 25 baskets for Christmas,” Ryder said of an area company that donated and distributed 25 baskets of food to area veterans in need. “They choose to be anonymous.”
    Through Charlotte Kennedy’s efforts with Sgt. P’s Lapghans for Veterans, the VACBC received several Afghan blankets that are hand-made by a legion of area volunteers. Ryder is able to provide the blankets to their clients.
    In addition to providing financial assistance and limited emotional counseling to its clients, the VACBC helps Veterans learn about other financial assistance programs for which they are eligible. “We help people qualify for financial assistance. A lot of it is getting them aware of what services are available in Rockford,” Ryder said. The VABC helps veterans get connected with the outpatient VA clinic in Rockford as well as the VA hospital in Madison, Wis.
    “We are making sure they get connected to folks who specialize in PTSD for veterans both in Rockford and other local hospitals. A lot of that is more crisis intervention, referral and a little bit of financial,” Ryder said.
    “A lot of the younger veterans are working, and they are not meeting the financial (requirements). We try to give them emotional counseling and help them find the federal agencies they need through the VA to get their medical care.”
    As for Cortes, she is already making the plans for next year’s Home for the Holidays dinner dance.  Many of the people who attended the dance in December offered to help her plan and organize the event going forward.  “Keep a look out it will be held late November or early December.  We will have information posted at VFW for next year,” Cortes said.
    “I never knew about the VAC before. If I knew about them earlier, I should have been donating. Even $5 makes a difference to somebody.”
    “We hope more people will be inspired by her (Cortes) efforts to realize how important it is to honor our veterans and to remember them,” Ryder said. “Everyone can take a few minutes to say thank you to a veteran and let them know that their efforts are appreciated.”
    For more information about the VACBC, visit them 175 Cadillac Ct. in Belvidere or call (815) 544-6464.

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    30 years in the making a local photographer pursues his passion
    Jan. 11, 2015
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BOONE COUNTY-‘You know you grew up in Belvidere, IL when…’ is a private Facebook group (you may request to be added) where Bill Eklund has been sharing some of his local photography.  Bill’s photos have provided a glimpse of home for some who live far away, created long discussions, and has caught the eye of many local residents.  What started out as following up on a “photography experience that kindled a spark that smoldered inside of me for 30 years” has developed (pardon the pun) into something more than he could have ever imagined.
    Bill Eklund grew up in Belvidere and is a graduate of Belvidere High School Class of 1981.  Bill spent most of his school summer vacations running the river banks of the Belvidere Park which would later inspire his photography preference. 
    While attending Belvidere High School, he took a photography class with Mr. (Doc) Watson.  He was provided an SLR camera in 1979 for six weeks and took it everywhere.  “I stumbled thru Doc. Watson’s photography class in high school, but that photography experience has stayed with me,” said Eklund.
    “In 2009, I finally got around to buying a ‘real’ camera. It was much like the camera I so coveted back in high school, only a little more advanced. No film, full digital. Boy was I overwhelmed! I needed to learn what all of these dials & buttons were used for. So I enrolled in an ‘Introduction to digital photography’ course at Rock Valley College and made a serious effort to learn how to use it. I learned how to use my camera and the basics of photography. I was fascinated with the possibilities that this device presented.  I took my new camera and new found knowledge and headed to the Belvidere Park to take pictures,” explained Eklund. 
    For the next several years Eklund would enter local contests and win which inspired him to continue on his photography journey.  “This past year has been very rewarding for my photography as well.  My photos took a 1st and 3rd at Beckman Mill in Beloit.  Boone County Fair awarded my photos a total of 22 ribbons; Best of Show color, Best of Show Black and White, 17 Blue ribbons, two second, two third and one fourth place ribbon.  Winnebago County Fair awarded a total of seven ribbons ( five were blue) and Best of Show,” continued Eklund.
    The year 2014 would find Eklund in a new venue with the assistance of another local resident following on Facebook.  Nancy Ellis-Anderson is employed by Luecke Jewelers.  “I approached my boss Marcia Luecke-Toepfer after having seen Bill’s photos.  I asked if we could sell them in our store as many people were requesting to buy his photos.  I thought it would be nice for him to have a local location.  Marcia thought it was a fabulous idea,” Ellis Anderson said.
    “I approached Bill and we began selling his framed photos this past November.  Everything on display in the store is from the local parks or area.”
    “It’s been amazing to see the personal impact on our customers.  Many emotionally connecting to Bill’s photos have purchased a photos for that very reason.  Bill is so humble and is wonderful to work with.  He is very accommodating to all his customers,” explained Ellis-Anderson.
    “I never seem to tire of photographing our parks as there always seems to be a new capture to be had there.  Usually what I am looking to for when I go out for a photo shoot is pieces of ‘Americana’. I enjoy trying to capture the spirit of my hometown whenever I can. I feel compelled to capture the emotion of the time and share it. I strive to show people things that they see every day, in a way that they have never seen them before,’ added Eklund. 
    “Please stop by Luecke Jewelers to see Bill Eklund’s photography.  They are simply breathtaking,” concluded Ellis-Anderson.
    “I really can’t explain how I do what I do. Since being bitten by the photography bug, I just seem to look at the world from a whole different perspective. It is so very rewarding knowing that you touch so many people with your passion.  People love what I do and I love what I do,” expressed Eklund.
    Luecke Jewelers is located at 1444 North State Street, Belvidere.

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    Meijer, finishing Illinois 173 project expected in 2015
    Jan. 8, 2015
    By Bob Balgemann
    MACHESNEY PARK - Three long-awaited projects are expected to come to fruition in 2015.
    The arrival of a full service grocery store will fulfill a hope that's been high on the village's wish list for a number of year. Progress in building the new Meijer supercenter is seen daily by those who drive along Illinois 173, between Forest Hills Boulevard and Perryville Road.
    And speaking of 173, the widening project that began in 2012 was completed in 2014 from Illinois 251 east to Forest Hills. The third and final leg is to be done this year, from Forest Hills on to just shy of the entrance to Rock Cut State Park.
    Finally, the multi-use path along the west side of Alpine Road, from Lowe's south to Schnuck's, is slated for construction this year. Once completed, it will provide people with an opportunity to walk, or ride, from the Rock River into the state park.
    The path originally was scheduled to run from the entrance to Harlem High School south to Roosevelt Road. But an extension became possible when the village received a $620,000 state grant.
    There will be an election on April 7 for three, four-year terms on the village board.
    First-term incumbent Kate Tammen is being challenged by the village treasurer, Steve Johnson, in District 2. There also will be competition in District 5, where incumbent Tom Yoe chose not to run again. There, newcomers Terri Bailey, Henry Bridges and Dwight Genin are vying for that seat.
    Incumbent Erick Beck is running unopposed, in District 6, for a second term.
    Economic development
    Economic growth will continue to be pursued by the entire village staff.
    Mayor Jerry D. Bolin put "business to be announced" six times on a sheet of paper that included some of what was expected to happen in the new year.
    While it was a fill in the blanks kind of thing, he said he was confident those new businesses would be coming to town in 2015.
    "We will be working hard to complete the mall," he said, referring to the now-called Machesney Towne Center on the west side of North Second Street. "Practice Velocity is the anchor that will help make that happen."
    Practice Velocity is a high-tech call center that invested $6 million into renovating the former Kohl's store in the rrear of the center. It brought more than 250 employees over from previous locations in Machesney Park and Belvidere.
    Currently, the former Machesney Park Mall now is occupied by Bergner's, Big Lots and Burlington Coat Factory.
    Many shoppers continue to be sad over the recent closing of the former J.C. Penney Outlet Store, on the south end of the center. Mayor Bolin said efforts to fill that space will continue, as well as finding tenants for the six out lots fronting North Second.
    That also goes for the vacant, former Menards store on the north side of 173, near Kohl's.
    Road improvements
    The village has put millions of dollars into road improvements since the Rebuild Machesney project began in 2008. Voters recently approved a seven-year extension of that penny sales tax increase, which will extend to 2020.
    Work will begin in May and continue through August on rebuilding the following roads:
    Leland from Wilson to Pershing, a distance of 1,650 feet; Erma from Wilson to Pershing, 1,630 feet; Pershing from Victory to Illinois 251, 2,500 feet; Wilshire from Victory to 251, 1,775 feet; Gilbert from Victory to 251, 1,650 feet; Marquette from Victory to 251, 1,960 feet; and Liberty from Victory to 251, 1,885 feet.
    Also, Copper from 251 to Emerald, 2,155 feet; Ruby from Copper to Emerald, 470 feet; Emerald from 251 to Roosevelt Estates, 2,315 feet; and the Alpine Road service drive from Nelson to Roosevelt, 620 feet.
    Various roads also will be resurfaced, starting Aug. 1.
    All of that adds up to 3.45 miles of roads being rebuilt; 4.20 miles of road being resurfaced and a 1.59-mile Alpine Road multi-use path, for a total of 9.24 miles.
    Of the resurfacing, Bolin said, "We will probably exceed that."
    He said the village is very transparent about what it does to serve residents.
    "We continue to be in good shape financially," he said. "We are putting tax money to work and we show people where it goes."
    Additionally, all requests for information filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are put on the village's website, as are his expenses related to what he does as mayor.

  • murder suspect 2.jpg
    Belvidere police seek public’s assistance in locating suspect
    Jan. 7, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE - The Belvidere Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in locating the whereabouts of Michael E. Spraggins, 46, from Belvidere. He is considered to be armed, dangerous and suicidal and is believed to still be in the greater Rockford area. He is wanted in connection of the Jan. 2 murder of Rachael Ross Golden in Belvidere.
    “We are requesting additional assistance from the public in an attempt to locate Michael E Spraggins,” Belvidere chief of police Jan Noble said. “We are hoping that someone out there will call Crime Stoppers at (815) 547-7867 or the police department. (815) 544-2135.”
    Belvidere police detectives and U.S. Marshals along with the Rockford Police Department have been working nonstop to locate Michael Spraggins and remind the community that Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of Spraggins. Anyone having contact with Spraggins or knows his whereabouts is asked to contact the Belvidere police Department at (815) 544-2135 or call 911.
    At 7:41 a.m. on Jan. 2, the Belvidere Police Department received a request for a welfare check on a residence located in an apartment at 2112 Tobyne Drive in Belvidere. Belvidere police officers immediately responded to the scene. 
    “When they got on scene there was concern about the individual in the apartment, and additional information was obtained that subsequently entry was gained. Upon gaining entry, they found the deceased,” Noble said. “Officers responding on scene were able to determine that the victim had been deceased for a short while.”
    The deceased was identified as Rachael Ross Goldon, 41 of Rockford who was shot in the upper torso. Based on information received from family members, Spraggins was immediately identified as a person of interest. As the investigation continued, the search for Spraggins increased from a person of interest to a suspect. “The investigation is ongoing, and we believe we have a very good case as we are beginning to unfold,” Noble said. “It appeared to be of a domestic nature.”
    A warrant for first degree murder with a 5,000,000 (10%) bond was issued for Spraggins. Police Chief Noble declined to specify the relationship between Ross Golden and Spraggins. In July 2014, Spraggins filed for an order of protection against Ross Golden in Winnebago County. The case was subsequently dismissed.
    Spraggins, also goes by the street name of “Cockeye” is 5’08” and weighs approximately 220 pounds. In both photos released by the Belvidere Police Department, Spraggins appears to have a lazy eye. In both photographs released by he appears to be looking straight ahead with his left eye. His right eye appears to wander. No description of the vehicle Spraggins was known or suspected to be driving was available at press time.
    Neighbor Stacy Snoddy remembered Ross Golden as a dedicated mother.  The two women met when their sons became playmates and Ross Golden made a point of introducing herself to the parent of her son’s friend. “She told me that she was a single parent,” Snoddy said.
    Snoddy’s son was concerned about his friend and wanted to go over to the apartment to see how his friend was doing. He added that he may go to the apartment on Saturday to invite him over to play.
    The Belvidere Police Department was aided in the investigation by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police. Belvidere deputy chief of police Mark Pollock praised the assistance that the police department received. “Nice work today by everyone involved, dispatch, patrol and investigations. Thanks to the Deputies that responded to Sergeant Martin’s request for assistance, the Sheriff’s Patrol for their assistance and our VIPS that spent the day helping as well,” Pollock said.

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    Living in a fishbowl and overcoming stereotypes
    Jan. 6, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Jeremy Meyers told his wife Sarah that they were invited to a Christmas party on Dec. 22 at Steam Plant Restaurant for Susie’s Garden Patch, she initially protested. 
    Sarah couldn’t imagine why they had been invited to the party because they had not helped Susie Silberhorn or Mary Brubach that year. Sarah even accused her husband of honing in and inviting themselves to the party.
    As Jeremy has been telling his wife lately, sometimes he knows things.
    Jeremy was in on a little secret with Brubach and Silberhorn. Shortly after the entire Blasingame family, along with Mary and Kevin Brubach, Susie Silberhorn, Dawn and Ellis Mundy were assembled at the restaurant, in strolled Marilyn Blasingame who returned from Mongolia for a surprise visit.
    Ruth Blasingame immediately erupted in tears. “My mom started crying right away. I was shocked because she is not a crier,” Marilyn Blasingame recalled.
    With the health issues that Jimmy Blasingame faced this year, Marilyn wanted to come home and see her dad with her own eyes. She was pleased to see that he is doing better and is on the long road to recovery.  Ruth was overjoyed to have all four of her daughters Marilyn, Karie, Tracey Jones, and Sarah Meyers along with their husbands and children together for the holidays.
    Marilyn Blasingame has been stationed in Mongolia through the Peace Corps since June 2013.  She lives in Öndörkhaan, which is the capital of the Khentii province. Blasingame joined the Peace Corps as part of her Master’s program in public health at the University of Pittsburgh.
    Nestled between Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west, Mongolia is known as the land of the eternal blue sky because it has 250 sunny days per year. Blasingame describes the weather in Mongolia as “like Midwest weather, only more extreme.”
    Indeed it is.
    Located south of Siberia and just north of the Gobi Desert, the temperatures where she lives regularly are 20 degrees below zero in the winter and can drop as low as 40 or 50 degrees below zero. In the summer, the temperatures are very hot. Like the Midwest, the land is very flat. “A lot of people describe it as being not desolate but empty. But when you go, it is so amazingly beautiful,” Blasingame said.
    Blasingame lives in a small apartment provided by her agency. It has a water boiler that holds 20 gallons of water.  “I cannot control the temperature. If my apartment is cold, it is cold,” Blasingame explained.
    In a nomadic country, Blasingame considers herself to be fortunate. Another Peace Corps volunteer lives in what is known as a ger, a round felt tent which does not have running water.  An isolated country that was once part of the Soviet Union, “Their culture has maintained a lot of aspects of what they were like for the past 1,000 years,” Blasingame explained.
    Upon arriving in Mongolia in June 2013, Blasingame spent the first few months living with a host family while she took language and health courses as part of her training program.  The family did not speak English and Blasingame did not speak Mongolian.  The communicated with each other via sign language and gestures. Despite the language barrier, Blasingame fell in love with her host family. “It was one of the best experiences that I had learning a family inside and out,” Blasingame said.
    Since arriving in Mongolia, her Mongolian has advanced to an intermediate level and she is able to converse with others for running errands and having simple day-to-day conversations.  With her co-workers at the health department, they communicate with a blend of English, Mongolian and hand signals.
    In addition to helping teach best practices for public health issues, particularly infectious diseases, Blasingame and the other Peace Corps volunteer started an adult English Club to teach Mongolians who would like to learn English to improve their job prospects or travel abroad. With the English Club, they do activities such as cake baking, or having skating parties. “We try to come up with interesting and fun ways to improve English,” Blasingame said.
    Among the adjustments that Blasingame has had to make since being in Mongolia is what she describes as the fishbowl effect. “I am always on display. I do not look Mongolian. I am always on the outside,” Blasingame explained. “I wasn’t used to that at first with people looking and staring and wanting to know about me because I am different.”
    “Sometimes it surprises me how other people perceive Americans. People want to learn more about America. They have a great view of what America is or they have basic questions,” Blasingame said and mentioned that she has been asked if people speak American in America. “People view you differently when they see you as an American.”
    Blasingame helps dispel American stereotypes. Through the news and movies, Mongolians have a disjointed view of what typical life is like in the States. “They see the glamour and the problems,” Blasingame explained.
    Just as she has helped the Mongolians see past the stereotypes of America, Blasingame has had to learn beyond the stereotypes of Mongolia. She has had to learn that Mongolian beef is not typical of Mongolian cooking. “Most Mongolian food is boiled meat and potatoes and noodles. It is pretty hearty but it isn’t spicy or flavorful,” Blasingame added. “They have some interesting dishes that I have come to like.”
    She was grateful last fall for a care package from Silberhorn and Brubach that included a wide variety of spices because it represented a taste of home.
    Blasingame also learned that Genghis Khan is as beloved to the Mongolians as George Washington is to Americans and said that they have “a very different take on it.”
    “They have a huge love of Genghis Kahn,” Blasingame said of the twelfth century warrior and leader of the Mongol Empire. “Mongolians love him because he preserved their culture in a lot of ways.”
    During her time in Mongolia, Blasingame has realized how important her family is to her. “My family is what I have missed the most of everything,” she said.
    Since moving to Mongolia, Blasingame has fallen in love and hopes to bring her new love back home with her when she finishes with her Peace Corp service next year. It is a 10 month old Mongolian street dog named Myrtle.
    Blasingame has been excited to reconnect with her friends and family in Belvidere during her visit home. She returns to Mongolia on Jan. 6 where the temperature is forecasted to be 13 below zero.  And that’s before the wind chill factor is added in.
    Blasingame can be reached via Facebook. Her e-mail address is She also maintains a blog at

  • joy of christ photo 1.JPG
    Giving to others warms the heart at Christmas
    Jan. 4, 2015
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE –After Mike Carlson passed away on Feb. 23, 2014 following a sudden illness, his widow Barbara was not certain that she would be able to find the strength to participate in the Joy of Christ Community Toy Distribution at Evangelical Covenant Church.
    And then while moving to a new home she saw it.
    A spiral notebook.
    In her husband’s handwriting.
    Mike Carlson had left comprehensive plans detailing how the toy drive should be organized. The notebook was filled with names and phone numbers of volunteers and distribution sites, plans for where toys should be set up, how to manage the flow of people. Everything was in there.
    Barbara Carlson felt like it was a message from her husband to continue their work with the annual toy distribution. Although Mike Carlson was not into Christmas, when it came to the toy distribution he was all in.
    Many members of the Carlson family gathered ten months to the day after his death to distribute toys to the needy on Dec. 23. It was a bittersweet moment for Carlson’s sister Valerie Gunn who dedicated her participation in her brother’s memory.
    At 28 businesses, churches and organizations throughout Boone County, volunteers put out bins to collect toys, hats and socks. During the month of December, the rooms in the lower level of Covenant Evangelical Church slowly filled up to overflowing with toys. Each room was designated for an age group and gender.
    The Belvidere Police Department donated abandoned bicycles to the cause.  The bicycles were refurbished by Blueges Bike Shop.  Rule changes made last January by the Belvidere City Council facilitated the donation process. Previous rules required Belvidere chief of police to receive City Council approval for distribution of unclaimed property.  Rules that were adopted last January allow for the Chief of Police Jan Noble to allocate items worth less than $150 at his discretion.
    Earlier in the week, paramedics from OSF Lifeline Ambulance delivered an ambulance filled with toys. OSF Lifeline Ambulance began their involvement with the program in 2010 when Ron Wait, who was the area’s state representative at the time, told Jenny Tirado and another paramedic about the program. “That night at 9 at night we made about a dozen phone calls. Just that night alone we raised $500 from our fellow co-workers,” Tirado explained. “The next day we called St. Anthony’s and we told them about it and how the community was really struggling. They donated about $1,000.”
    Since that time, with contributions from OSF St. Anthony Hospital as well as employee donations from the hospital and OSF Lifeline paramedics, Tirado has been able to deliver an ambulance filled with toys and gifts every year since.
    On Dec. 23, nearly 100 volunteers and nearly 1,000 people gathered at the church.  Yellow tape was set up to create a series of switchbacks outside of the church for clients to pass through as they arrived as early as 5 p.m.  At 6:30 p.m. the doors of the church were opened and the clients filled up the church from the back pews to the front. After a quick greeting from Santa Claus who was on hand and a short prayer, the pews were emptied one by one and the clients made their way down the stairway into the church basement.
    In the basement, volunteers stood in front of a blue tarp that concealed the rooms where the toys were stored. The volunteers enthusiastically greeted the clients who in turn presented a sheet of paper that included the age and gender of their children.
    Volunteers took the slips of paper and ducked behind the blue tarp to get a large plastic bag and get toys for the children.
    Assisting in selecting the toys was Bianca Hernandez who has been volunteering with the community toy distribution for approximately 20 years. She has been involved in the program since the days when Reverend Don Norek distributed toys to children near the apartments behind Dodge Lanes Bowling Alley.
    “I would come with my mom and we would help out and do whatever we can,” Hernandez said. “It felt good to give back to those who are less fortunate.”
    Hernandez continuing the tradition and example set for her by her mother by bringing her young daughter Riley Leutik to help her volunteer. Riley was happily gathering toys to give to the volunteers. “I hope she takes it with her as she grows older and sees that it is nice to help out others,” Hernandez remarked.
    “I like helping mommy give gifts to kids,” Riley chirped.
    “It really brings back the spirit of Christmas for us,” Tirado added. “There is a selfish part of me that does it because it warms my heart.”

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    Boone County's current infrastructure needs total $31 million
    Jan. 1, 2015
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Boone County officials have worked up a wish list of infrastructure needs should state money become available to deal with five major, local projects totaling $31 million.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni worked up the list after being asked to do so, in the event the state Legislature passes a capital projects bill in the near future.
    "More and more people want it," said state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, who represents Bonus and Spring townships and a small portion of Belvidere in the General Assembly. "It will happen," he said of passing such a bill. But he added, "Raising the money will be difficult."
    The state already is addressing infrastructure needs, he said, through a five-year road improvements plan "that is rolled out every year."
    Two of the high-priority needs, according to Terrinoni, have to do with the local highway system.
    One of them is the Poplar Grove Road bridge over the Kishwaukee River.
    That structure was built in 1964 as a two-lane bridge with sidewalks to serve the northeastern side of the city of Belvidere. It is the route from U.S. Business Route 20 to Pillsbury-Green Giant, Dean Foods, and other businesses in Belvidere.
    But times have changed and Terrinoni said the bridge was not designed for the 80,000-pound trucks using it today "and is showing signs of deterioration from the many trucks that use this bridge.
    Cost to replace that structure is estimated at $2 million.
    The second local project would be widening Irene Road, whose interchange with Interstate 90 is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
    Irene currently is a narrow, two-lane road in Flora Township that handles truck traffic from the William Charles and Plote quarries, along with 80,000-pound trucks, exiting the toll road to use U.S. Route 20.
    That improvement calls for building a new three-lane road, for a length of one mile, which would be designed to handle those 80,000-pound vehicles. The estimated cost is $1.8 million.
    State highway system
    There are three proposed projects involving the state highway system, totaling $28 million.
    One of them concerns U.S. Business Route 20 between Rockford and Belvidere. This state road handles 12,000-17,000 vehicles per day in that area.
    Route 20 currently is a four-lane highway from Rockford to a point just east of Shaw Road in Boone County. The proposed project would be to widen the remaining, approximately three miles of two-lane U.S. 20 to four lanes, which would tie into the four-lane highway at Belvidere. The estimated cost of this work is $8 million.
    The two-lane stretch of Illinois 76 from the city of Belvidere north to Caledonia Road is 2.75-miles long and carries 11,000-13,000 vehicles each day.
    Route 76 is the only north-south highway in Boone County that services traffic from I-90 to the Wisconsin state line. The plan would be to widen that portion of 76 to four lanes at an estimated cost of $9 million.
    The final improvement also involves U.S. Business 20 around the north side of the city of Belvidere, from Route 76 to U.S. 20, a distance of 4.5 miles. This two-lane highway carries 9,000-12,000 vehicles each day, of local traffic and traffic traveling from I-90 to Wisconsin.
    Plans call for widening the two and three-lane portions of the highway to four lanes and rebuild the bridge over the Kishwaukee River. That cost is estimated at $11 million.
    Part of that road was improved last year. 

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    Chairman appoints breeding/boarding advisory committee
    Dec. 30, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Boone County Board Chairman Bob Walberg has appointed five women and two men to make up the new breeding/boarding advisory committee.
    District 1 county board member Denny Ellinigson is chairman of the panel, which will recommend rules and regulations for breeding and boarding animals in the county.
    Other members are Dr. Dan Lendman, a veterinarian; Sonja Hanson, Jeannine French, Gwen Meyers, Jill O'Malley and Meg Hennessey.
    It is an ad-hoc committee of the county board and its meetings will be open to the public. It will start meeting in January, with a recommendation ultimately being sent to the planning, zoning and building (PZB) committee. PZB is one of eight standing committees of the county board, comprised of five county board members.
    In response to a question from District 2 board member Cathy Ward, Walberg said he had received the names of 15 people as possible candidates for the committee.
    After the announcement was made District 3 board member Kenny Freeman said he didn't remember voting on membership of the committee.
    State's Attorney Michelle Courier said that being an ad-hoc committee, membership did not require a board vote.
    Walberg said a vote would be fine with him. "I would welcome board support on it," he said.
    But Freeman said he had concerns about some of the appointments and would have voted against no.
    Veterans office may move
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Veterans Assistance Commission operation on Cadillac Court has become so busy that it is running out of space.
    County board member Cathy Ward brought that message to the board Dec. 17, while adding that the commission's landlord wants a hefty increase in rent.
    "They're doing a great job" helping qualified veterans, she said. She added she would like to see the commission housed in the county building at 1212 Logan Ave.
    After the meeting, she said she would pursue helping the commission find new office space.
    Each county in Illinois is required to have such an organization and is responsible for its funding. But here, voters last year approved a small property tax increase to provide the commission with its own revenue.
    Housing for the homeless
    BELVIDERE - The Rockford Homeless Coalition is starting a new program whose goal it is to help the homeless find housing. 
    Information about the program, called "Chance 4 Change," was brought to the Boone County Homeless Project Task Force at its Dec. 19 meeting.
    Starting Jan. 2 people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, will be able to call (815) 987-5711 or, toll free, (844) 710-6919 for assistance. They also may drop by the coalition office at 555 N. Court Sapt., suite 301, in Rockford, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
    Candidates will be assessed on the basis of medical issues and needs. Each will be given a score, with the higher the score the more quickly they will be placed in housing.
    "The committee putting this together is excited that it will be for both Boone and Winnebago counties," said Amanda Mehl, director of public health for the Boone County Health Department. "I think this will link people with the right agencies, rather than bouncing around the system."
    Federal money is available, with most of it going to Rockford because it has more homeless than Boone, she said.

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    St. James is reborn in its solemn Mass of the dedication
    Dec. 28, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Advent is a time of rebirth. And nowhere was this more apparent than at St. James Catholic Church on Dec.18.
    Like a hospital waiting room that is filled to capacity anticipating the birth of a child, so was St. James’ Church overflowing with parishioners who filled the church to overflowing capacity for the solemn Mass of the church’s dedication of the newly remodeled church. Making the celebration even more poignant is 2014-15 is the sesquicentennial celebration for St. James Catholic Church in Belvidere.
    With most communities already established with a Catholic church and the churches built to last for centuries, the celebration to dedicate a church is a rare event and one in which few people, including the priests, have the opportunity to experience.
    Bishop David Malloy celebrated Mass in a service that was rich in symbolism and Catholic tradition. As a Catholic myself, it was a privilege to attend the solemn dedication Mass at St. James and I was grateful that fate had intervened in a way that my four year old granddaughter was at the Mass with me.  We positioned ourselves in the front of the choir loft. Even though she has the attention span of most four year olds, she pressed herself against the choir loft railing to watch the Mass so closely as though it were more engaging than the 1,000 watching of the Disney movie Frozen.
    The pageantry and symbolism began outside of St. James Church before Mass began. Bishop David Malloy, accompanied by a phalanx of priests from the Rockford diocese, exited the sacristy and met with representatives from Larson & Darby Architects and the general contractor Rockford Structures. The pair handed over the architectural plans to Malloy to symbolize that they are presenting the church to the bishop and handing it over to him.
    Poplar Grove resident Rick Hoover from Rockford structures told St. James’ pastor Father Brian Geary that he was very moved by that gesture that he could be part of the transition from Rockford Structures to the church.
    Helping celebrate the Mass with Malloy were 11 priests from throughout the Rockford diocese and two seminarians.  In addition to Father Geary and Father John Earl, seminarian Jim Linkenheld represented St. James. Linkenheld is a member of St. James Parish attends St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Lincoln, Neb.
    Linkenheld received permission to take his final exams early so he could make the nine hour drive to participate in the Solemn Mass.  He left Lincoln, NE. at 5:30 in the morning and arrived in Belvidere just before Mass began. Making his participation even more special was his father’s role on the remodeling of St. James church. Jeff Linkenheld is the chief engineer of the project. “It was very special that the engineer’s son was able serve the first dedication,” Geary said and noted that Jeff Linkenheld received the call to priesthood while his father was the chief engineer on the project.
    Walking into the church, parishioners were immediately overwhelmed by the significant changes that have taken place at St. James since the last time they were inside. The orientation of the church changed 90 degrees. The church which once held 300 people now has a capacity of over 800 people. The focal point of the altar is a mural of the Transfiguration.  Attendees were able to take a rare look inside of the Tabernacle which is usually closed. “The Tabernacle was open because  the body and blood of Christ had not arrived yet,” Geary explained. People were so moved and took photos of the inside of the Tabernacle because they never see the inside of it.”
    Mass began with the cantors singing hymns who sang ancient hymns and Gregorian chants during the service. The Knights of Columbus with their feathered chapeaus and colorful capes accompanied Malloy into the church. The Knights of Columbus assist the bishop at solemn occasions. The Knights of Columbus have been organized at St. James for over 100 years and promote charity and Catholic education and support seminarians and the church’s pro-life efforts.
    Similar to a baptism of a child, the church was baptized through the sprinkling of holy water. Malloy travelled throughout the church to sprinkle water on the approximately 1,000 people in attendance. The water was used as a sign of repentance, a reminder of baptism and a symbol of cleansing the walls and the altar.
    Following the readings and the Homily, Malloy was accompanied by Father Jon Bakkelund from St. Mary’s Church in Huntley to pray over the relics of saints in the altar. Bakkelund is the director of the Office of Divine Worship served as the Mass’ Master of Ceremonies.
    Because of practical considerations, the relics had been previously placed inside of the altar. Because the altar represents Christ’s body inside of the tomb, the dedication Mass includes the ritual of sealing the granite altar. Bakkelund’s asked his dad John, a stone mason, to seal the altar. “He was very proud to be a part of it,” Geary observed.
    Following the sealing of the altar, Malloy spread chrism on the center and four corners of the altar. Chrism, also known as myrrh, is consecrated oil. Malloy made a sign of the cross with the chrism at each of the four corners of the church. “We say a prayer that this may be God’s house and then we wash the walls with water and then the sacred chrism is used to anoint the walls. It is like the building is being baptized,” Geary explained. “It signifies that God’s blessing remains on you and in this alter. This place is now consecrated for divine worship.”
    After the walls were blessed, incense was burned to symbolize the prayers rising before God.  Geary and Earl took part in spreading incense throughout the church’s interior. “We burn incense on alter to show that all of the prayers go up to god. It symbolizes of angels taking prayers to the throne of god in heaven,” Geary explained.
    The altar was wiped with cloths and a cloth was placed on the altar to represent the shroud that was used to cover Jesus’ body. Candles were placed on the altar as a sign of rejoicing. The light from the candles was taken by Deacon Bob Mitchison to light the four corners of the church. “Christ is our light. From this altar will come his body and blood made present,” Geary said. “He will light the world with his presence and give us hope and direction.”
    For communion, the presentation of the gifts was brought to Malloy by Tom, Sue and Kelly Short and Jose Aguado.  Tom and Sue Short were the co-chairs of the building campaign. “Jose did a tremendous amount of volunteer work in the church,” Geary said. “I wanted to show him appreciation for all of the work that he did in the church.”
    Geary expressed his appreciation of the faith-filled parishioners at St. James who made significant sacrifices to make the project a reality. “I am so edified and humbled by the work of the workers who did such wonderful workmanship,” he added.
    Since the dedication of the church, Geary and the contractors have observed a steady stream of people who have stopped at St. James to pray.

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    Spirit of Bullard guides young ahunter’s hand
    Dec. 25, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BOONE COUNTY – On the first day of deer season, the Dylak family went to their favorite hunting spot. It was land that the family had hunted many times before with their good friend Dave Bullard who had passed away 11 days earlier in a vehicle accident. The family could feel “Big Dave’s presence” as deer season opened.
    Dave Dylak and his daughter Addie set out in a two man stand.  Son Bo Dylak took his position in what the family calls their “freezer stand” because of the number of does that pass through the area. Bo had the opportunity to take a position the stand where they generally see bucks, but the family’s meat supply was running low and the decision was made to quickly replenish their freezer.
    The son of Tami Mulholland and stepson of Paul Temple, Bo was playing video games on his cell phone and snap chatting with his friend Hunter Johnson. The Belvidere high school student who pays close attention to the lunar charts was waiting for the moon rise when he saw a doe in the distance.
    As he began to bring his rifle into position, Bo noticed a buck just behind the doe. “I remember it slowing down a little bit as it came out of the woods and it was running towards the tree line,” Bo said.
    He steadied his rifle and shot at the deer, injuring it.  A text message from his father asked if he shot a deer.  Bo immediately called his father to tell him that he shot a “monster buck.”
    “I was excited, and I was shaking quite a bit,” Bo recalled.
    Dylak urged his son to make a mental note of where he had seen the buck and the direction in which it ran.  Careful not to chase the buck and spook it farther away, Bo eased down from tree stand and began to follow the blood trail when he heard gun shots from other hunters on a neighboring farm and his heart dropped with the thought of the one that got away.
    Dylak joined his son and they were able to learn that the other hunter had shot a doe. Resuming their search, Bo spotted the buck a second time.  Steading his rifle on his dad’s shoulder, Bo took aim and shot a second time and missed his target. 
    A short while later, Bo spotted the buck a third time. The buck was approximately 150 yards away. Bo had to convince his dad that what he was seeing was not twigs until the deer waved its white flag. To the non-hunters, that means he flicked his white tail.
    Bo “applied a Kentucky windage” and shot at the buck a third time. The buck was so far away that Bo had enough time to blink and spot the buck again through the rifle’s site before it fell.
    “It was so far away I didn’t think he could make it,” Dylak said. “He had confidence in himself and he is a good shooter. He has young eyes.”
    “At first I didn’t realize how big it was until I saw my dad’s reaction,” Bo said.
    The 16 point buck measured a gross score of 201 5/8. It was a 12 point buck with two extra sticker points coming out of each side. It is the largest buck shot in Boone County.
    The family field dressed the buck and loaded it on the back of their vehicle.  The antlers were wider than the car and the family attracted considerable attention as they drove home from the check in station as other vehicles followed them.  As they slowed down to pass a utility worker who was working on a transformer at an intersection near their home, the worker positioned his cherry picker above the Dylak’s vehicle so he could get a better look.
    Bo and his dad credit Dave Bullard’s guiding hand in helping Bo. “Dave was one of the greatest outdoorsmen I ever met,” Dylak said. “I have hunted that woods for 25 years and I’ve never seen that deer before. I know the area pretty well and I never saw that deer before.”
    “For Bo to score this magnificent buck, I think there was something extra. The spirit of Big Dave had some positive input on this.”

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    Christmas storytelling becomes a lifelong gift
    Dec. 24, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    NORWAY-In 1929 the stock market crashes and a baby boy named Ronald was five months old.  He would be first born in the United States in Rockford, IL to Norwegian immigrant parents.  President Roosevelt declared a “Bank Holiday” in 1933 to prevent a third run on the banks.   
    Work was scarce so Ronald’s parents made the decision to return to Norway.  Ronald and his mother Margit would depart Mar. 7, 1933 by ship from New York for Norway, the same month as the third bank run.  His father Axel (Aksul) would remain behind to earn enough money to travel back later that year.  The hope was for a better life in Norway.  But who could have predicted what was to come.
    The family settled in Austmarka, Norway where Axel’s family lived.  This was logging country and was near the Swedish border.  This region encompassed hard work, hard men and life and death.  At that time women were not treated equally.  Margit had lived in the states, attended Bible College, and lived independently.  Her father-in-law Paulus was old school and prohibited her from taking her guitar and son Ronald to a home Bible study and where they had music.  Margit defied Paulus exhibiting great courage by going against his will.  Off she went with Ronald and her guitar.  One can only imagine what Paulus thought.  “Who was this woman born and raised in Norway that his son had married and brought home from America?” 
    Apr. 9, 1940 Germany invades Norway and gains control within days.  The King and his family would flee to Sweden in the middle of the night crossing the border not far from where Ronald’s family lived.  From 1940-1945 Germany controlled Norway.  The Nazi’s took what they wanted.  If you had three cows you were lucky if they left you one.  It was better for those in the rural areas as they could grow crops, fish, and raise rabbits.  They were not pets, but rather food for survival. 
    Christmastime was especially lean during the war years.  A single orange or other piece of fruit was considered a valuable gift.  When the pig was slaughtered for dinner, nothing was wasted including the blood for blood pudding.  Everything was used.
    During the war Ronald attended school three days a week while working as a hired hand at a nearby farm the other days.  He would walk to school, carry a knife by his side, and in the winter months would ski to school.  Hitler’s picture hung upon the one room school house wall.  The Nazi’s has strict rules.  No one was to have possession of a firearm.  Ronald and his father were in town one day when they saw the Gestapo arrest an old farmer.  Someone had squealed he had a gun in his barn loft.  They watched as they arrested him and took him away.  The Gestapo returned only his boots. 
    By 1941 the United States entered into WWII.  Most knew Ronald had been born in the states.  A very well kept secret as the Nazi’s would have killed him.  Despite this imminent threat, Ronald and his friends would cross into Sweden at night to get the current news.  They knew the back woods and routes better than any Nazi.  They risked their lives to get the information.        
    Norway would find its freedom again on May 8, 1945.  The family eventually moved to Telemark, Norway where Margit’s family lived.    Christmas 1949 Aksul and Ronald would buy a wooden jewelry box with Viking ships for Ronald’s Tante (Great Aunt) Ragna.  She was widowed and no children.    Ronald signed the bottom of the box.  It would be the last Christmas the family would spend in Norway as in 1950 they would returned to the United States for Ronald to accept his American citizenship by age 21.  Within a year Uncle Sam would draft Ronald and he would be sent to Occupied Germany as a soldier in the United States Army.  What irony!
    As you may have concluded, Ronald Paulsen was my father.  He was a story teller and at Christmas I heard many of these stories of his life in Norway.  He reminded me each year to be thankful for what I received.  We did not have to endure such hardships.  I encourage your families to turn off the TV, cell phones and have a conversation of family stories.  In years to come, you’ll be thankful and will have many cherished memories.  Merry Christmas and God Jul!   

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    Roads committee to oversee animal building project
    Dec. 23, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Boone County resident Robert Christianson was there, reminding the health and human services committee (HHS) of the need to keep moving ahead with construction of the new animal services building. And committee members assured him during their Dec. 11 meeting that progress was being made.
    In that vein oversight for the $713,000 project was transferred Dec. 11 from HHS to the roads and capital improvements committee, also a standing committee of the county board.
    And a timetable was established for having an occupied, 3,000-square-foot building before the end of 2015.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said step No. 1 will be to sell bonds to pay for the project. That has to be done in February in order to begin receiving revenue later in the new year.
    Step No. 2 is to send out letters to engineering candidates to assist the project architect, Knapp Schmidt, with design of the building. "We'd like to keep that local," he said of hiring an engineering firm.
    "We should be able to break ground by this summer," he added.
    While Terrinoni will manage the project for the county, he said the architect would have someone on-site to oversee day-to-day construction activities. "I'm not qualified to do that," the administrator said.
    He said the goal is "to build it on time and under budget. We usually have a deadline in the contract. I would stay away from incentives or penalties."
    HHS committee member Cathy Ward asked where the facility would be built. She said there had been talk about county property along Illinois 76, where the highway department is located, but there never had been an official vote to accept that site.
    County board Chairman Bob Walberg, running the meeting in the absence of committee Chairman Paul Larson, said three locations had been looked at. Those included the animal building's current location along South Appleton Road.
    He said he thought building it on the 76 property "has been fairly well accepted," though he agreed there never had been a vote.
    Bill Hatfield, environmental health director for the county health department, said studies of the integrity of the existing well and septic system on the 76 land were due the week of Dec. 15.
    "We know about the septic system," he said. "It's four times larger than what will be needed there." Condition of the well casing and pump are being checked, along with the well's recharge capacity.
    Terrinoni said he wanted to get started right away on landing an engineer for the project.
    Christianson, who has bird-dogged the project since its inception late last year, offered some possible changes to current building plans. He said he thought the carport should be closed in and that the building should include a community room, for fund-raisers and other uses by residents.
    Walberg agreed. "We've talked about education," he said.  "This would be an excellent facility for tours by school groups. The room you're talking about would be excellent."

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    Jail revenue declines despite increase in per diem
    Dec. 21, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Boone County officials were expecting to see an increase in revenue at the county jail because of an increase in the daily charge to house federal inmates. But that didn't happen.
    Instead, income declined primarily because of they had to turn away detainees. That happened primarily for two reasons:
    1. While they had the beds, 20 in all, they didn't have the manpower to provide supervision of the "foreign" prisoners, who came through the U.S. Marshal's Service.
    2. The number of people booked into the jail increased by 389 over the 2012-13 fiscal year. That reduced the number of available beds for federal detainees.
    Sheriff's Lt. John Hare, commander of the jail, attributed the higher local population to an increase in arrests prompted by younger officers at the Belvidere Police Department and sheriff's office.
    The decline in revenue occurred in the final months of the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ended Nov. 30, 2014.
    As of Aug. 30, the county had been paid $498,204.84 for housing non-local inmates, up from $461,759.99 the previous year. The average daily population for that month was 107, compared with 95 in 2012-13.
    There were 274 people booked into the jail during August, up from 215 the year before.
    That trend continued in September when the increase over 2012-13 revenue of $36,445.25 decreased to $447.76. Total booked into the jail that month was 247, up 44 from the year before.
    In October, revenue tumbled to $43,645.48 behind the previous year as income totaled $27,765.60 for the month, compared with 71,858.24 in 2012-13.
    A total of 206 people were booked into the jail in October, up by seven over the year before.
    In November, final month of the 2013-14 fiscal year, jail revenue fell to $83,582.88 behind the previous year. That month 236 people were booked into the jail, compared with 239 the year before.
    The $576,671.56 collected in 2013-14 compares with $660,254.44 the previous year; $591,014 in 2011-12; $523,407 in 2010-11; and $502,147.50 in 2009-10.
    Sheriff Dave Ernest said he wasn't surprised by the decrease in revenue.
    He said the jail was built to house local prisoners. There initially was space available, so it was agreed to accept inmates from DeKalb County and the federal government.
    "We've been fortunate to have been able to collect that extra money," he said.
    Supplemental funds could decrease further in the future as DeKalb County is planning to build its own jail.
    Income for housing DeKalb inmates during the last quarter of 2013-14 amounted to $41,824 as a result of housing those detainees for 697 days.  

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    First United Methodist Church is the volunteer of the month
    Dec. 18, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – A familiar sight throughout the month of December are the bell ringers outside of many stores raising donations for the Salvation Army.
    Boone County has nine locations where volunteer bell ringers can be seen raising money for the Salvation Army’s ministry in helping serve others. For Tomas Valladares, Officer and Pastor at the Belvidere Salvation Army, getting volunteers to fill all of the spots throughout the month takes a tremendous effort and many of the collection sites are unmanned.
    When there are gaps in coverage for volunteers at a location, Valladares calls some people to step in and cover the store. At some donation points, the stores will secure the red kettle at the service desk for the Salvation Army. At other locations, Valladares has to travel to the store to pick up and drop off the red kettle.
    And it is with great relief that Valladares appreciates the First United Methodist Church in Belvidere. For many years, the congregation has volunteered their time to fill all bell ringer time slots at all Salvation Army red kettle donation sites in Boone County on a Saturday.
    For this, the Belvidere Daily Republican recognized First United Methodist Church as the December volunteer of the month. 
    Members from the congregation covered all bell ringing shifts on Dec. 13. “If you see someone bell ringing today, they’re Methodist,” Leathryce Deyo quipped.
    “It makes a big difference for the fundraising for the red kettles,” Valladares said. “Every year they do this. I am trying to take them as an example even our own church to collect as much as possible.”
    “I think it is a great thing to serve them and help them,” Bob Clair from First United Methodist Church said.  Clair helps organize the bell ringers from the church.  Clair stopped at Shopko to check on bell ringers Neal and Leathryce Deyo before heading over to Wal-Mart to cover his own bell ringing shift.
    “I see that we are not just preaching and talking about Jesus and making a difference. We are actually stepping out and making a difference for our community,” Youth Pastor Cris Ramirez added. “For me, to see our congregation responding to that it is very fulfilling.”
    Although no one was certain how long First United Methodist Church has been committed to the Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign for well over a decade.
    Larry Rubek has been volunteering as a bell ringer for ten years. “It is caring for the Christmas spirit and to help others,” Rubek said as he gently rang a bell in the vestibule at K-Mart.
    “It is nice to have the Salvation Army helping out people,” Janet Wheeler added.
    The money collected through donation sites in Boone County funds programs in Boone County. “The money we collect stays in Boone County. The money goes to different programs such as food programs, women’s programs, emergency food, rent assistance,  and utility assistance,” Valladares said.
    The Belvidere Salvation Army provides food for families in need through food distribution on the first Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at its location at 422 Main Street. In early December, the group distributed to its clients toys and the fixings to make a holiday meal. In addition, the Salvation Army provides rent and utility assistance to Boone County residents, offers a variety of programs for women, holds ESL classes, and offers citizenship classes. The non-denominational church holds worship gatherings on Sunday mornings.
    “I think they do a great job. I even shop at their store and donated to them,” Pat Carpenter said. “They do a wonderful job helping people with what they need.”
    Carpenter was at Pacemakers to help with the effort.  She was relieved for a moderate climate. “I was here last year and every time the doors opened it was really windy and cold out. I was so cold. This year I brought hand warmers.”
    Carpenter revealed that there were spots that were favored by the congregants. Shopko, she said was generally the first location to fill its available bell ringing spots because the volunteers can stand indoors and there is a bench on which the mostly elderly volunteers can sit.
    Wal-Mart was usually the last location to be filled as volunteer must stand outside in the elements to collect donations.
    Valladares said that the Salvation Army tries to have bell ringers at Wal-Mart because of the high foot traffic.
    Although many of the volunteers from the congregation are senior citizens, teens from First United Methodist also served as bell ringers. “Youth want to see that they are making a difference. That is one way to empower them,” Ramirez said. “They are excited to make some changes in our community.”
    Valladares spoke of two Boone county boys who volunteered last year as bell ringers to fulfill community service hours that were required for high school graduation.
    The boys, now young men, were touched emotionally by the experience as they learned of the impact that the Salvation Army has in the community.
    Although they have since graduated, they returned this year to volunteer.
    In addition to donating at red kettle locations at storefronts, people can donate online or mail. To donate online, visit and click on the red kettle.
    To volunteer or donate, contact the Salvation Army at (815) 544-3892. They are located at 422 S Main St. in Belvidere.
    With 10 days remaining before the end of the campaign, the Belvidere Salvation Army had reached about half of its fundraising goal of $30,000.
    “We are praying that donations increase,” Valladares added.

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    State hits Boone County with another unfunded mandate
    Dec.17, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Illinois counties already are facing the unknown cost of paying for court cases filed by indigents. Now the state Legislature has sent another unfunded mandate in their direction: increased cost of paying men and women to serve as jurors in the court system.
    Boone County currently pays $12 a day for that service. The new cost will be $25 for the first day and $50 for each succeeding day.
    For a full week, which happens on occasion, that would increase the county expense from the current $60 to $225. Right now the county pays about $47,000 a year for jurors.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said he didn't know where the money would come from.
    "It's a work in progress," he said of finding the source of the additional money. While he didn't have a firm estimate of how much more the county would have to spend, he said it could be $90,000 or more.
    The new financial burden was imposed during the Legislature's recent veto session in Springfield. Locally, state Reps Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford and John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, voted against Senate Bill 3075  as did state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, voted yes.
    Franks said he voted in favor of the increase because he felt it was the right thing to do. He said it's difficult for someone with a family to give up a day of work and be paid $4 for it. "This will reduce the hardship some," he said.
    While Boone pays $12, some pay between $4 and $10 for one day's service.
    Franks said this bill also reduces the number of jurors to six for all civil cases. Currently, 12 would service if the amount of money being sought was more than $50,000.
    County pays mileage
    The increase in jurors pay was mentioned briefly at the Dec. 8 administrative and legislative committee meeting. Terrinoni said it was working on it and would be checking to see if the county could stop paying mileage in view of the additional service cost. The county currently pays about 10 cents a mile for residents to drive to the courthouse on Main Street.
    Gov. Pat Quinn had not signed the bill as of Dec. 9. His options are to sign it into law, veto it or not take any action. Should he not act, the measure would become law after a prescribed amount of time. 
    The county currently is facing another new unfunded mandate. A Dec. 1 Supreme Court ruling had to do with indigent persons not being required to pay fees and costs associated with a court action in which they are involved.
    "It's another expense that we didn't anticipate," he told the finance, taxation and salaries committee at a meeting in November. "But we'll have to pay it. So we'll run it through our normal accounting process."
    Another work in progress is finding the money to pay the $132,000 annual budget of the county soil and water conservation district.
    Half of that amount recently has been paid by the county health department. But the board of health recently voted not to pay it to help balance its 2014-15 budget, which became effective Dec. 1.
    The board at its Dec. 1 voted unanimously to pay $5,500 to keep the department in existence through the month of December, while officials continue to meet on the issue.

  • evangelic -Annette Gustafson and Pastor Scott Nellis organizing boys   toys ages
    Joy of Christ distributes toys to many children
    Dec. 16, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Over 25 years ago, Reverend Don Norek began to distribute toys from the back of his pick-up truck to the needy families who lived in the apartments behind Dodge Lanes. With the generosity of Boone County residents who donated toys at drop boxes throughout the county and gave of their time, the operation grew exponentially.
    “The whole area would be shut down,” Barb Carlson recalled of the days when they toys were distributed at the Belvidere Outreach Mission on State Street. Long lines of people queued up for hours in a night that generally seemed to have the worst weather including freezing rain. One year the group distributed gifts to over 1,400 children.
    Although parents and their children were on hand to receive toys, volunteers have literally given the coat off of their own back. “We had people give their coats away to people who did not have coats and they were freezing,” Carlson recalled.
    “There was a young girl whose shoes got wet and she took off her shoes and she had no socks,” Carlson said.  The girl’s feet were painfully cold and Carlson took the girl to a waiting ambulance to warm up and give her a dry pair of socks.
    Three years ago, the Evangelical Covenant Church and the Open Bible Church partnered to assume leadership of the Joy of Christ Community Toy Distribution. The distribution now takes place inside the Evangelical Covenant Church each Dec. 23. With the toy distribution at the Evangelical Covenant Church, parents and families can wait inside away from the winter elements. “We bring people into the church so they are not as cold,” Carlson said.
    The Joy of Christ Community Toy Distribution has partnered with 28 businesses, churches and organizations throughout Boone County. “It is a community wide effort,” Pastor Scott Nellis from Evangelical Covenant Church said.
    The Coon Creek Castors donate fishing poles and tackle boxes. “Culvers has a promotion. If you bring a toy, they will give a pint of frozen custard.  OSF Lifeline always brings an ambulance full of toys that they purchase through St. Anthony Foundation,” Nellis added.
    “The city has given us bikes that are not claimed, they are refurbished by Blueges Bike Shop. We gave away 18 bikes last year.
    “Sometimes I will ask a kid ‘how would you like a bike’ and their whole face would light up,” Carlson said.
    The donated toys are sorted based on age and gender. On the night of the toy distribution, 100 volunteer from throughout the community are on hand to help distribute toys for children from infant to age 16/17.
    Large tarps are set up to separate the distribution point from the toys. The group asks that parents bring their children above the age to the toy distribution. “One of the things that we ask is that unless the child is under the age of 2, we ask them to bring the kid so they could have an idea what to give them as a gift. Volunteers talk to the kids so they have a better idea what gift to select for them,” Carlson said.
    After meeting with the children, volunteers place toys in opaque bags for the children. The parents can decide when the child receives their gift.
    Having the children at the toy distribution provides a second purpose that makes the effort an added bonus for the volunteers. “The faces you see, and the kids’ lives that you touch is just huge,” Carlson said.
    “A lot of work goes into carrying out something like this, but when I see smiles on kids’ faces and knowing that they will have a gift, it brings joy to my heart,” Nellis added. “The smiles of kids come through and they are so excited.”
    The group accepts toys and stocking stuffers items. “We realize that a lot of families are struggling and my not have the resources to give,” Nellis said. Last year the group distributed toys for 600 children. “We usually give two gifts. We don’t anyone left out at this special time of year.”
    Distribution points for the Joy of Christ are: Ace Hardware, Applebee’s, Ashley’s Salon and Spa, Belvidere Public Library, Blackhawk Bank, Culver’s, Dodge Lanes, Dollar General, DiCello’s Pizza, Dr. Perry Tuneberg, DDS, Evangelical Covenant Church, Family Dollar, Fiesta Market, Grandma’s Restaurant, Keen Age Center, McDonalds, O’Brien & Dobbin’s Pharmacy, Marathon Station – Poplar Grove, Open Bible Church, Pacemaker Foods – Belvidere and Poplar Grove, Pizza hut, Shell Station, Shopko, Snyder’s – Poplar Grove, Steam Plant Restaurant, and Tom & Jerry’s.
    To volunteer to help with the Joy of Christ Toy Distribution, contact Pastor Nellis at (815) 547-6471. To receive a gift for your child, come to the Evangelical Covenant Church located at 220 E. Harrison St. in Belvidere on Dec.23 at 6 p.m. Toys will be distributed between 6 and 8:30 p.m.
    “One thing that touched me the first year there was a young woman who came to volunteer,” Nellis recalled. The woman had received a gift through the Joy of Christ when she was 8 or 9 years old. “Now she is volunteering because she wants to give back. It says so much about this outreach and how it impacts children and adults alike.”

  • st james photo.jpg
    St. James has a special reason to celebrate
    Dec. 14, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    After 49 long weeks of Mass in the gymnasium at St. James Catholic Church, the parishioners will finally have the opportunity to celebrate Mass inside the newly remodeled church at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 18. Bishop David Molloy will celebrate the rededication of the church along with Father Brian Geary.
    The Advent season is a joyous time of year for Christians as they prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. And for the faithful at St. James, they will also celebrate the rebirth of their church during its sesquicentennial year.
    “It will be a tremendous blessing. We set this hard date of Dec. 18 a couple of months ago and it looks like we are going to make it. We have been in this gym for 49 weeks. It is hard to worship in a gym. We couldn’t imagine missing Christmas in our church,” Geary said. “We worked very strenuously to finish the church before Christmas.”
    Church leaders worked with Larson & Darby Architects to design the $6.4 million project. Rockford Structures was the contractor of the project. We worked with “Arrow Electric, Miller Engineering, Air Temp Services, Combined Painting and Taping, Packard Excavating, Jack Hall Contractor, M&R Millwork, Bossler Construction, Nelson Carlson Mechanical, Nelson Fire Protection, Northern Illinois Terrazzo and Tile, ARC Design, and Swanson Floor Covering,” project manager Rick Kluber from Rockford Structures said. “I am afraid I am missing somebody. There are a lot of people involved.”
    “Rockford Structures has been excellent. Easy to work with and very professional,” Geary said.
    Parishioners worked alongside the contractors to help with the construction. “The contractor owner (Nathan Heinrich) said he had never worked on a project where there were so many volunteers,” Geary said and described himself as being humbled by the generosity of the volunteers who toiled both in the construction as in the kitchen. “Sometimes you get some volunteers and they see the workers and they say’ you do it it’s too much.’ They have worked tirelessly from January to today. Without our volunteers we could not have accomplished this.”
    “There is a pride for the members in doing much of the work themselves,” Kluber added.
    Through the construction project, the capacity of the church increased from 325 to over 800 people. Columns supporting the choir loft represent where the demolished wall once stood.
    Parishioners removed the stained glass windows from the demolished wall and preserved them by removing the protective plexiglass covering and replacing it with a clear UV covering and replacing the frame. “The president of the contractor (Nathan Heinrich) was impressed that people who are unskilled in stained glass artistry could do such a wonderful job. I cannot say enough about the Paul family,” Geary said. “They donated their time and love for the church in a most beautiful way of removing, restoring and securing in new framing of the stained glass windows for future generations of Catholics.”
    “What will strike them most powerfully is the beautiful artwork inside,” Geary said. “The church has always been a patron of the arts. The church will have four original oil on canvas mural paintings.” “Beauty is one of God’s transcendental qualities. Beauty is something that should lead us to God. I think people will be awestruck with the beauty of this artwork. It should draw their hearts and minds to God.”
    The focal point will be The Transfiguration. The 14’6” x 7’ mural was suggested by liturgical architect Joe Winkelmann from Larson & Darby. The mural was inspired by paintings by Raphael and Gustave Dore. “They are two of the most important pieces in the history of art of the Transfiguration,” Geary said.
    In a city of murals, it is fitting that the center piece of altar is a mural. The mural represents when Jesus took James, Peter and John to pray at Mount Tabor prior to his death. While Jesus prayed, his clothes turned a dazzling white and Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Jesus.
    In Dore’s masterpiece, James is seen shielding his eyes from the brilliant light. “The artist recommended, with our direction, to lower James’ arm and turn his head to point to us that the transfigured Jesus that they saw on Tabor is now in the Tabernacle. We positioned the tabernacle to find its end where James is pointing. He is also telling us the same transfigured Jesus he saw on the mountain is now in the Tabernacle,” Geary said. “That is where we can find our transfigured glory.”
    Rays of light on the mural emanate from where the tabernacle is located. “So it looks like James is being lit by the Tabernacle,” artist Craig Gallagher from Church Interiors added. Gallagher and Al Wormka have been responsible for the murals of The Transfiguration, Lady of Guadalupe and Divine Mercy, the stencil work as well as the faux stone work on the interior of the church.
    The mural includes the symbols of Saints James, John the Evangelist and Peter. James includes both the shell and gourd. John includes the eagle, and Peter is depicted with keys. “The designer added these symbols to help tell the story,” Gallagher said.
    Geary finds inspiration from the missionary story of Saint James who traveled to what Santiago de Compostela Spain in what was at that time considered to be the end of the earth. “He is associated with the pilgrim staff with a gourd. He was courageous in the midst of persecution and fearless in his love for Christ and one who had a missionary spirit which we need so desperately today,” Geary said. “Recent popes have said that mission fields are not somewhere across the world in Papua New Guinea or Calcutta. They are right here where vast numbers of believing Catholics are not practicing their faith.”
    “James is our example to be a missionary again to realize that the mission that Christ trusted each of us is to make disciples. We need to bring people back to the faith.”
    Among the changes to St. James church is the choir loft that can seat 175 people. With limited space in the gym during the past year, Masses at St. James have been without music. Geary looked forward to having music again with the liturgy. He recently announced that the church hired Christopher Aune as the musical director. Aune will begin in mid-January.
    Parishioners will be relieved to know that among the changes at the church is the installation of a bathroom on the first floor. No pun intended.
    “It has been fun to see the church slowly take shape and come to life,” Gallagher said. “Now it feels like a sacred space.”

  • jays secret santa photo.jpg
    Area Secret Santas help families in need
    Dec. 11, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    In 2012, Jay Lagerman set up a private Facebook page for his friends and family to participate in a virtual online garage sale, support each other’s community service and business ventures, and help spread the word on fundraisers or lost pets.
    Since that time, the number of members on the Belvidere / Poplar Grove Area Swap and Sell’s Facebook page has swelled to over 3,300.
    While the primary focus of the online community continues to serve as a cyber-Boone County garage sale, something even more remarkable has been happening with Lagerman and the participants of the Belvidere / Poplar Grove Area Swap and Sell Facebook page.
    Three years ago Lagerman and his wife Leah Root picked up some items to donate to others in need during the Christmas season. Coming from a split family and having friends in similar situations, Lagerman knew what it was like to have a Spartan Christmas. He felt a connection with people in need and wanted to help them.  In addition, he wanted to set a positive example for his children.
    After Lagerman’s experience in giving to others during that first Christmas, he decided to open it up to others.  On the Facebook page for the Swap and Sell, along with several other group pages that Lagerman administers, he invited page members to get involved and to donate gifts, food or more.
    The response was overwhelming. “Last year we launched it in the groups and it blew out.  People wanted to be a part of this. Last year we had ham dinners, sides, fixings, toys, gifts cards,” Lagerman said. “This year we have already surpassed what we collected last year.
    “We had 15 complete Thanksgiving dinners that we were able to distribute. It was all collected through donations.”
    To facilitate the information sharing for the holiday donations, Lagerman created the Jay’s Secret Santa Facebook page. Jay’s Secret Santa is helping needy families in Boone County and is also assisting families in Freeport, Genoa, Harvard and Woodstock.
    Many members of the online community embraced the effort and have donated their talents in a wide variety of ways. The group has collected holiday meal items, hams, turkeys, vegetables, Christmas ornaments, artificial trees, toys, hats, gloves, diapers, baby wipes, household supplies, towels, gift certificates, and anything people think would make a good gift for young or old. The group also collects freshly baked cookies to include in the care packages that they will deliver to needy families.
    Area businesses have helped raise funds for Jay’s Secret Santa. Midwest Carpet Upholstery and Duct Cleaning auctioned sofa and loveseat cleaning services and has agreed to donate 25% of services provided through Dec. 19 to anyone who mentions their ad on Jay’s Secret Santa Facebook page. Family Video donated 20 frozen turkeys which were given to needy families for Thanksgiving.  In addition, the video store serves as one of the collection sites for donations.
    Area Girl Scouts raised $300 at an art show and auction held at St. Johns Church in early December. The girls donated the proceeds from their auction to Jay’s Secret Santa.
    In addition to accepting new items, the group accepts gently used clothes and toys. For items that Jay’s Secret Santa is not able to distribute to the needy families that have signed up will be donated to other charitable organizations throughout the community. “We have some families that are in dire situations,” Lagerman said. “We will even take things like gently used bikes and replace the seat or handle grip if they need replacing before passing them on.”
    Jay’s Stateline Secret Santa has collection bins at Family Video at 105 W. Harrison in Belvidere, Buchanan Street Pub at 111 Buchanan Street in Belvidere, and Salon La T Da at 100 E. Grove Street in Poplar Grove. For additional information, visit
    Lagerman was inspired by the response that he has received from throughout the community. “For some reason this has been bringing people together,” Lagerman said. “It is putting the Christmas spirit in people’s heart.”

  • hometown christmas photo.JPG
    Hometown Christmas is a hometown success
    Dec. 10, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Mild temperatures and fun filled activities helped coax residents to downtown Belvidere to celebrate Hometown Christmas on Friday Dec. 5 and to the parade on Dec. 6.
    Belvidere showcased its musical talent throughout the celebration with performances at several venues. A large crowd gathered at Hub Plaza to listen to Belvidere Middle School choir students sing Christmas carols before the lighting of the Christmas tree. Mayor Mike Chamberlain presided over the festivities in Hub Plaza.
    The Washington Academy Chorus entertained revelers in front of Alpine Bank with carolers, dancers and mariachi singers. The Belvidere Youth chorus treated residents with their singing and dancing.
    In addition, Belvidere North Acappella, Zion Lutheran Church Choir, Belvidere High School Choraliers and Rockford French Horn Club performed at the Boone County Community Building Complex.
    Beautiful Percheron horses led the wagons that clip clopped down State Street.
    Hometown Christmas delivered on its promise to feature a wide variety of activities throughout the downtown area. From a teen dance at the Apollo Theater, to a living Nativity display behind Dairy Ripple, to activities at the Belvidere Fire Station, to a family fun fair at the YMCA, a petting zoo sponsored by the North Boone 4-H Club and FFA at O’Brien’s Pharmacy, to a living window display in front of Ollmann Ernest Architects to the avenue of Christmas trees and craft vendors and bands at the Boone County Community Building Complex.
    During a time of year when shoppers are encouraged to support small business, the local businesses along State Street were crowded as local shops extended their hours. Residents had the opportunity to patronize and discover local shops. Many shops including Larsen’s Community Eye Care, CT Hobbies, Brereton Inc., Barr’s Florists, and PNC Bank were filled with residents who stopped by to visit and receive some refreshments. Gary Gold and the Metal Level Quartet were epic as they 0020performed their silent rendition of “Our Home is in Belvidere” at Brereton Inc. Insurance.
    The Boone County Historical Museum was visited by more than 1,500 people and went through many gallons of punch and hot chocolate. Many visitors took the opportunity to tour the museum.
    At the north end of downtown Belvidere, many visitors stopped at Lori’s Little Critters where they were greeted by shop’s canine in residence, a black Great Dane named Inky Dinky Doo.  The pet shop which offers grooming, obedience training, doggie bakery also sells birds, reptiles, fish and other pets.  Getting the most attention from patrons was a pair of ball python snakes that were surprisingly soft and gentile.
    The story of the Nativity came to life with a series of scenes depicted by members of Immanuel Lutheran Church. The Journey to Bethlehem showed the Nativity story from the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son and name him Jesus.  Other scenes depicted Caesar Augustus ordering the census that required Mary and Joseph to travel to his ancestral home to be counted for a census of the Roman Empire; Mary and Joseph registering for the census; learning that there was no room at the inn; and the birth of Jesus.
    An addition to Hometown Christmas this year was a teen dance at the Apollo Theater. A large group of teens gathered to dance at the club amid flashing lights and a fog machine adding to the ambiance.
    Boone County’s commitment to the community was in strong evidence at the Community Building. Nearly 90 Christmas trees were decorated by area businesses and organizations. Each Christmas tree represented fan area family that was adopted by sponsoring businesses and organizations which decorated the trees and purchased presents.
    Residents added to the generosity by putting money in the donation cans for the Christmas trees that they liked best. The money collected was pooled to purchase additional gifts.
    On Sunday, members of the 4-H and others delivered the trees to the recipient families.
    On Dec. 6, the town turned out along State Street for the parade.

  • historic survey photo.jpg
    Belvidere planning to resume historical surveys
    Dec. 9, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission is applying for more funding so it can continue a survey of properties around the Boone County Courthouse.
    With the application due Nov. 14, the commission has received permission from city council to seek $9,450 through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. If approved, the city will be notified in January.
    This is a $13,500 project overall, with the $4,050 local match coming from the Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission.
    Phase I was accomplished earlier year, covering a 70-acre tract that yielded 150 survey documents including monuments in the Big Thunder Park, across the street from the courthouse complex. Among other things, consultants identified two possible local historic districts and 17 properties worthy of being designated as local historic landmarks.
    The city already has one local historic district, along West Hurlbut Avenue, which included 19 homes, two of them local landmarks.
    In addition, Belvidere has 31 local landmarks, a mix of homes and commercial buildings. A brochure containing photographs of all 31 buildings, with information on each one, is available at city hall, 311 Whitney Blvd., and suitable for self-guided tours.
    Also in that brochure are five buildings that have been named to the National Register of Historic Places.
    That list includes the Pettit Chapel at Belvidere Cemetery, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1907; Belvidere High School, First and Pearl streets; Belvidere Community Building, around the corner from the high school at 111 First St.; Lampert residence, 410 E. Lincoln Ave., built in 1837; and the former Belvidere Post Office, 200 S. State St., built in 1911.
    Now Phase II is in the works - subject to approval of the grant - and it should take 30 to 40 weeks to complete.
    In her presentation to the city council, interim planning director Kathy Miller explained the scope of work will include photographing all of the buildings in the remaining area around the courthouse, obtaining dates of construction, who built the homes and architectural style
    Attempts also will be made to determine the historic significance of the buildings and their owners, or people who stayed there.
    Among the possible outcomes of the survey are designations as a local landmark, being set aside as a historical district or placement on the National Register.
    The five-member historic preservation commission works with the city of Belvidere and IHPA to identify and help preserve historically and architecturally significate properties in the community.
    Each year, the commission presents awards to local property owners who have improved their historic buildings. The gathering in 2012 was held at the Swift home, 127 Locust Ave., which since has been named a local landmark. It was built in the late 1880s, during the Victorian era, once housing a flower shop, restaurant and offices.
    Last year the awards were presented in the newly expanded historic museum off State Street, downtown.

  • heidi benzel-maxwell photo.JPG
    Heidi Benzel-Maxwell was an artist, 60’s hippie, and loyal friend
    Dec. 7, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE-On Dec. 30, 2010 Heidi Benzel-Maxwell lost her life to ovarian cancer at the young age of 58.  Heidi had two children: a son John Maxwell and daughter Jocelyn Maxwell-Greene.  Heidi was a Belvidere High School graduate Class of 1971. 
    Her passion for art was discovered in Jr. High and continued on into High School and throughout her life.  She never earned a living with her artwork as her art was recreational.  Heidi focused on winter scenes, farm scenes and plant life.  “Heidi was a child of the ‘60’s.  She was independent and wanted to be a hippie. From Jr. High age through High School art was the only thing that kept her in school.  Art was her entire world and she wanted to go to art school but did not want to be bothered by the other academic classes.  All she wanted to take was art classes so she never finished her degree,” said Heidi’s mother Sis Benzel.
    “Heidi was a student of mine at Belvidere High School. That particular group of art students was unique because, by chance, there was a very strong grouping of very creative students. Some, like Heidi, were very strong in the visual arts, but others were equally talented in music and drama. Many of that diversely talented group had a tendency to be drawn together at the art room. Heidi was certainly one of the magnets that brought them all to the far end of the building...which was a good thing because of a lot of the craziness that went on,” said Kit Scheidenhelm former Art Teacher at Belvidere High School.   
    “In terms of talent, Heidi was, when she wanted to be, very talented. Several years ago, I found a critique note I had written for one of Heidi's drawings. It said something to the effect of: ‘Your drawing shows lots of creativity and the technique is very good. The one thing you might try to do is perfect things a bit more; pay attention to more visual detail.’ That last part just wasn't a part of the high school Heidi. Her personality was so outgoing that there often wasn't time for ‘perfecting’. Her sense of humor (a laugh I will never forget), and her enthusiastic spirit, just got here side-tracked at times. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, explained Scheindenhelm.
    “I was in high school with Heidi and she was a good friend.  I remember when we were both taking art classes and needed money we came up with the idea of going around to the Belvidere downtown businesses offering to paint their windows at Christmas time for cash.  We did several windows that year and got paid.  We just had so much fun doing them,” said Gary Simon. 
    Through the month of December, the remainder of Heidi Benzel-Maxwell’s portfolio is on display at The Brick in Belvidere.  Heidi’s family gave the remainder to Gary Simon to be given away to anyone who might be interested in having a piece of Heidi’s artwork.  “We have about 14 pieces of unframed artwork from Heidi’s remaining portfolio.  They are unframed, varying sizes and mediums.  All we ask is that to take a piece of Heidi’s artwork home that you make a donation to the Boone County Arts Council in her memory,” explained Simon.
    “I have always preached that talent is something you never lose. You may not use it all the time but when you decide to, it will still be there. The final pieces in the show are evidence of that. The figure work is very expressionistic and very freely drawn. It is tragic that such a vibrant and talented woman's life was taken too quickly,” expressed Scheindenhelm. 
    “I miss her!  Heidi had a good heart, enjoyed other people and helping others.  She cherished her high school friends and maintained those relationships along with her former art teachers.  I hope that anyone who takes home a piece of Heidi’s artwork enjoys it,’ expressed Sis Benzel.
    The Brick is located at 615 South State St. Belvidere.  For more information please call (815) 547-7586.

  • police dept promotions photo 1.jpg
    The baton is passed for Boone County law enforcement
    Dec. 4, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – With Sheriff Duane Wirth’s retirement and Dave Ernest assuming the helm, it caused a ripple effect in the Belvidere Police Department that was a cause of celebration on Monday, Dec. 1.
    Ernest was sworn in as sheriff in the morning at the Boone County Courthouse.  At the ceremony, Wirth gave Ernest the keys to the sheriff’s office and the coveted and newly repaired Ford Explorer.  In the afternoon, the Belvidere Police Department held a promotional and swearing in ceremony before a standing room only crowd at City Hall.
    “We have a whole bunch of change coming and it is all positive,” Deputy police chief Mark Pollock said.
    With Ernest moving to the sheriff’s department, it vacated the Deputy Chief position in the Belvidere Police Department. Deputy Chief of Administration Mark Pollock assumed Ernest’s role as Deputy Chief of Operations. Police Sergeant Brad Lasswell was promoted to Deputy Chief of Police and will be in charge of the administrative and support services side of the police department. With the vacancy created by Lasswell’s promotion, Detective Christofer Washburn was promoted to the rank of sergeant.  With the vacancy created by Washburn’s promotion from the rank and file, KC Brox was hired and sworn in as a police officer.
    “These ceremonies are always the most enjoyable part of my work because it says to the community that we have continuity in our police department,” Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain said. We have officers come up through the department and take on additional responsibilities, add to their career and stay with it. It speaks volumes about the camaraderie, quality and the leadership of the department.”
    While some changes may naturally occur as a result of the personnel shuffle, the transition in both the sheriff’s department and police department will be relatively smooth. Ernest has been working with Sheriff Wirth over the last few months, meeting with the command staff at the Sheriff’s department, and attending regional law enforcement meetings. “Since the time it was determined that I would be elected the next sheriff, Sheriff Wirth has worked very close with me during this transition,” Ernest said. “He, unlike most exiting sheriffs in the State of Illinois, wants to make sure that the department and the people see a smooth and seamless transition”
    “The good part about leaving is knowing that there is not going to be a miss of the beat at all,” Ernest added.
    “Belvidere is one of the best departments around. From Chief on down, it is among the best you will find,” John Hunter from the Police and Fire commission said. “They are all very well qualified and the people they were competing against were also very well qualified and dedicated individuals.”
    At the promotional ad swearing in ceremony for the police department, Laswell, Washburn and Brox were joined by members of their family as they took the oath which was administered by City Clerk Shauna Arco. Laswell, Washburn and Brox stood tall and proud as family members pinned their new badge on their uniform.
    “No benchmark in my life, be it personal or professional, would be possible without the support and encouragement of my family,” Washburn said.
    Pollock was promoted to Deputy Chief of Police a year ago and has been with the department over 20 years. Lasswell has been a member of the Belvidere Police Department since Sept. 9, 1987 and was promoted to sergeant on Jun. 21, 1996. He praised the department and expressed gratitude for the training that he received in advance of his promotion. “Brad is going to do a fantastic job in his new assignment,” Pollock said.
    Washburn joined the police department on Apr. 8, 2002 and was assigned to the Detective Division on Oct. 1, 2012.
    Brox was not the only member of her family wearing the familiar blue uniform. Her husband Doug attended the ceremony in his uniform from the Hampshire Police Department. “We understand what it is like to be in law enforcement. I have several years’ experience, my husband as well,” KC Brox said. “I look forward to a long career with the Belvidere Police Department.
    On a day in which President Barack Obama met with community leaders and law enforcement officials in light of the riots and looting following the grand jury’s decision  not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, several of those in attendance spoke of the danger and peril that police officers face.  “Being a police officer is not the same as when I started as a police officer 40 years ago.  It is much more difficult. The challenges are greater. The risks are greater,” Hunter said. “One thing they need is your prayers for safety and protection and safety out there. It is getting harder and harder to do this job safely and come home every night. You take a chance and it can happen in a split second. They need your prayers, support and understanding when things are not always the best when they come home.”
    “These are difficult days in our nation. We know our friends and your servants in law enforcement have become increasing targets of evil,” police Chaplain Bob Kopp said in the invocation prayer. “We call upon you to encourage them and to embrace them when the duty becomes even more difficult.”
    “What we learn as police officers we often think that we do it because we are in charge and we are the first guy on the scene. There is always that larger hand that I know guides each and every officer and helps make sure those officers return home at the end of a work day,” Police Chief Jan Noble added.

  • down on the farm photo 1.jpg
    Down on the farm with the Pierce Family
    Dec. 3, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    This article is the first in a series of articles that focuses on Boone County farming.
    GARDEN PRAIRIE – If you ask the Pierce brothers what the best thing about being a farmer is, they will tell you that they like being their own boss. “It is enjoying what we do and being your own boss and having a little control over your destiny,” Ron Pierce said.
    Ron and Steve Pierce have been farming for 15 – 20 years at Pierce Family Farm and grow corn and soybean on several fields throughout Boone County. Their father and grandfather also farmed in Boone County.
    The pair began this year’s harvest the third week in September and finished up in mid-November. “We have been running from 7 in the morning until 10 or 11 o’clock at night,” Ron said. “I haven’t been home before 10 o’clock at night for quite a while.”
    “When it is time to go, you have to go. There are extremely long hours. When something breaks down and it is 9 o’clock at night, you are out there until midnight working on it.”
    During the harvest, Steve drives the combine while his brother Ron drives the truck with the hopper bottom trailer to the grain elevator. 
    The Pierce brothers use technology to aid in production. Special yellow feelers attached to the front of the corn head (or the fork attachment, as Ron’s wife calls it) helps to steer the combine.
    Computer monitors in the cab show where the combine is in the field, instantaneously measures yield per acre throughout the field and the moisture content, and indicate which fields have already been harvested and which fields still need to be harvested.
    The computer analysis also compares how different varieties performed overall and in any given field. “We are not the first to adopt (technology), but we see how other people are using it and we will buy it,” Steve said. “We use it a lot to determine where to do any tile work.”
    Like many farmers in the area, the Pierce Family Farm grows several varieties of GMO corn and soybeans. Ron cites the difficulty in ensuring that the purity in the crop as one of the reasons why they do not grow non-GMO corn or soy. “If you grow non-GMO corn and do everything to the best of your ability to keep it segregated and pure, if you neighbor is growing GMO corn right next to you, his pollen could drift and contaminate your field and then you would be out of compliance,” Ron said.
    “It is hard to do.  If you have a big enough area with enough people going in together, you could do it.”
    The Pierce brothers have a love-hate relationship with rain. “It is your friend in the summer and enemy in the spring and the fall,” Steve said. They worked at a frantic pace to bring in the harvest while the weather cooperated.  With the early snow storms this year, their long hours were worth it.
    With the harvest complete, the next phase of farming began. “Once we get done combining, we work on getting the equipment cleaned up and doing the repair work, start doing the books and getting ready for tax season,” Ron explained. “We get the back hoe out and trim some trees along the fence lines and take care of stuff like that.”
    Like many farmers, the Pierces rent fields from a variety of landowners. On the day of the interview, they were harvestings corn that they had planted from land they rented from Jim Turner. The pair has rented from the Turners for several years and characterized them as very good land owners.
    One of the frustrations that many farmers face in renting their land is that they are not guaranteed that they will farm the same land year after year. Despite making changes to improve production such as removing or trimming trees, a farmer can lose his field if another farmer negotiates a higher rental price for the land.
    While harvesting the field, Ron flushed out a coyote. As the coyote left the field, he looked back at the combine as though he were cursing it.
    “This past winter the coyotes got thinned out because of the harsh winter,” Ron added. “Prior to that, the coyotes were getting to be a bit of a problem.”
    Ron did not mention whether or not Turner’s sad and lonely goat also lived in the field.

  • bb Boone Budget 5.JPG
    Probation department pay prompts county board debate
    Dec. 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Non-union Boone County employees are slated to receive 2 percent salary increases during the 2014-15 fiscal year, which will begin Dec. 1.
    But the probation department wants 3 percent adjustments for its employees and that prompted debate among county board members Wednesday night, as they adopted their new budget in a split vote.
    Board member Cathy Ward raised the specter of a secret meeting being held on probation department raises, leading to 3 percent increases after the finance, taxation and salaries committee recommended 2 percent.
    "The probation department does not think there should be fairness in salaries," she said. "This has gone on for years and I have objected to it for years."
    The finance committee recommendation of 2 percent pay increases for all employees came in a 5-0 vote, she said. However now the probation department is scheduled to get 3 percent raises. "Apparently they raised enough fees to allow the 3 percent," she said.
    Ward moved that probation department employees receive 2 percent adjustments, the same as everyone else, and it was seconded for discussion by board member Bill Pysson. Ultimately, it failed in a voice vote.
    No secret meeting
    Board member Karl Johnson, who chairs the finance committee, said there was no secret meeting.
    "It was recommended by the finance committee that I meet with them," he said of probation department officials. Earlier in the budget process he also met with members of the board of health, with that meeting being talked about afterward and receiving newspaper coverage.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni explained the probation department is different than others overseen by the county board, because is falls under the perview of the 17th Judicial Circuit and chief judge. It submits a pay plan every year, which is approved by the state, with the county and state sharing in paying for the salaries.
    He called it a confusing, sometimes frustrating process that allows the probation department to pay employees more if it finds the money within its budget to do so. He said he wouldn't be surprised if it did so for the coming year.
    That prompted Ward to ask if all the other county departments could increase their pay allocations if they could find the needed money.
    "Far as I know," board Chairman Bob Walberg replied. But he said that would not apply to departments that are subject to union contracts.
    After the board voted 8-4 to adopt its new $15.3-million budget, with 2 percent pay raises for probation department employees, Ward encouraged other county departments to look for money within their spending plans to enact higher increase salaries for their employees.
    She and board members Pysson, Kenny Freeman and Marion Thornberry voted against approving the 2014-15 budget.
    Several recognitions
    Also Wednesday the board paused to recognize several longtime officials, who are retiring and five of its own who are leaving for various reasons.
    Circuit Court Clerk Nora Ohlsen and Sheriff Duane Wirth are retiring, after holding those positions for more than 50 years.
    They were at the meeting and were applauded for their service.
    Outgoing board members included Chris Berner, Bill Pysson, Marion Thornberry and Ron Wait, who lost bids for re-election, and Brad Fidder, who chose not to run again.
    The new board will be seated Dec. 1, with the reorganization including election of a chairman and vice chairman.
    In addition, Walberg reappointed Barb Sager, Owen Costanza and Martha Suhr to three-year terms on the Capron Rescue Squad District Board of Trustees. 

  • wirth with grandchildren.jpg
    Grandpa is the biggest inspiration I could have
    Nov. 30, 2014
    By Nolan Soma
    Guest contributor
    My grandpa has worked so hard for 36 years of being a sheriff.  He is very special to me and I love him very much.  I like riding in parades with him.  It makes my day. I like to spend time with my grandpa.  We both like to go to Steak-n-Shake.  He gets a chocolate shake and I get an orange cream shake.   I like to go into his office and see his security cameras.  I also went into his jail and a prisoner waved to me, I waved back.  My grandpa supports me by going to my baseball and basketball games.
    My grandpa must have been a great sheriff if he was sheriff for 36 years.  I love when he teases me.  It shows me he has a good sense of humor.  He is a helpful, funny, and respectful person, but I already know that because he’s a big inspiration to me.  When I spend time with him, I am going to make every second count.  My cousins, Madison and Dawson, love him very much and support him a lot.  My twin sister, Eden, loves him with all her heart and cares for him.  She likes arts and crafts and makes a lot of things for our grandpa. When there are people around him, I know he will put a smile on their face.  My grandpa had lots of brothers and sisters growing up and I know they are very proud of him.  I know he should be very proud of himself, too.  His daughter, my mom, must be very proud of him, too.  I love him to the end and he has kept our county safe and happy and that is all I can ask for. 
    My grandpa is the biggest inspiration I could ever have. 
    Love, Nolan

  • catch a turkey photo 2.jpg
    Caledonia students give instructions on catching turkeys
    Nov. 27, 2014
    By Miss Slaven’s third grade class
    How to catch a turkey by: A.J.
    For tools you need a dart. You should bring a bag. For gear you need a tube. Then you need a hat. How to trap a turkey. Get your gear. Then set the trap. If you  don't catch a turkey let the animals loose. If you do then bag the turkey so you can take it home and eat it. The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Angel
    First your age has to be 14 or 55 to hunt. Just kick it than it will fall. Than dance and go to a tree and slam it. You can get a cat to fight the turkey. Hopefully the cat will win. If the turkey fights back with its wings, get a car, and put it in the trunk. Keep it there until Thanksgiving. To eat it, follow my steps than you will get a turkey. The End.
    How to Catch a Turkey by Ava
    First, you go outside and go to a big forest. Then say a turkey noise and soon the turkey will come but you have to be 33 and older. If he starts to be mean and he starts to go after you it’s not my problem. After you get hurt you will have to go to the hospital. You will have to get stitches and then when you go home you will have to rest. You will go get the turkey and put it in the oven. When it’s Thanksgiving all the owners, friends, cousins, and even aunts come for when they serve the turkey. I will be out of the hospital. Then when they have a good Thanksgiving I take a vacation to Hawaii. The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Brock
    First, you have to go outside, then gobble like a turkey. You will eventually attract a turkey. Next, do the turkey dance with the turkey. The turkey thinks you are its friend. Then, catch the turkey and, get rid of all its diseases. Lastly, keep the turkey as a pet and, make sure you don’t have any other pets or, the turkey has to say bye-bye to the world. That’s how to catch a turkey. The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Brooke
    First, you have to find a turkey. You have to make gobbling noises so it will communicate with you. It will get your attention. Then you have to grab a cage and yell here turkey, turkey. It will soon get your attention, so you lead it to the cage. Hopefully it will get in the cage. So you take it to your backyard, quickly make a fence then put the turkey in. After you make your fence you put the turkey in it. Last you can throw a party since you caught Lurkey the Turkey.  The end.
    How to catch a turkey by: Cameron
    To catch a turkey grab something  to track a turkey. Then after you find a turkey. Chase  it and grab it. Then  take it to somewhere where they kill it and cook it. If you want a new turkey try and tackle it and if you want to keep it as a pet, tame it. 
    How to catch a turkey by Dalaney
    First you find a turkey .Then you set up a trap. When it is caught put it in a cage. Put a fence up. Then get a bunch of spiders to get it to one spot. Then tame it. The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Donovan
    First you lay down food. Next you lay down a trap. Then you walk inside. Then you lay down. Then you walk back outside. Then the turkey would be in the trap. Then you bring it inside and eat it.
    How to catch a turkey by Gabby
    First  you look for a turkey. Put your turkey in the cage so it does run away. Next go to a pet doctor to see if your  has rabies. Then if it does not have rabies take it home.  Last say hi to the turkey in turkey language and it may be friends with you. The End.
    How to catch a Turkey by Gabe
    Have a plan to get the turkey. Then, find a turkey by a tree. You need to fight the turkey. You can also get a bear to fight the turkey. Then bring it home to your house. Have it as a pet and name it. It would be awesome to have a turkey as a pet. The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Gabriel
    First you set up a trap. Then you wait for the trap to go off. When it goes off you check the trap to make sure it is a turkey, if it is not a turkey. Let it go. If it is a turkey you say “You're goin’ down”, next you pick it up and  chuck it at a tree, finally, Thanksgiving dinner. The End.
    How to catch a turkey for a pet by Gabriella
    First you find a turkey. Then you introduce yourself and say hello. Next you jump on the turkey and put it in the cage. Last you bring it home and put in your house. Close the door so it won’t run away. You get hot coco for the turkey and you. That’s how you catch a turkey.
    How to catch a Grant
    You just charge towards it and kick it up a tree and into outer space. And it will fall back down from where you kicked it. Also it will make a 100,000 foot hole.  You jump in the hole and it will still be alive and you can have it as a pet. The End.
    How to Catch a Turkey by Jenny
    First you need water balloons and throw it by them and it will scare the turkey. Also you can put the turkeys’ favorite food and the turkey will eat it. Next you lock the cage. Then you take it inside and cook it. Now you can eat it and you have a turkey for Thanksgiving.
    How to catch a fat turkey by Karina
    First you kick a fat turkey off a tree. Then you get an evil cat and it will stop the turkey. You should comfort it and it will think you're its  friend. Lower it into a bear cave with a bear. Show it you mean no harm. Jump on it and ride on it like a horse. Then name it Bob. Make the turkey say bye to the world.  The End!
    How to catch a turkey by Kendra
    First, you go outside and look for one. Next, once you see one go after until you catch it. Then, once you catch it you take it home. Last, you make sure it’s healthy so you can eat it for Thanksgiving. The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Leonard
    First you find a turkey. Then you will make a pie. Then you throw the pie at it and then it will say ouch. You will then jump on it and you will buy a bear to eat it. The End.
    How to catch a turkey for a pet by McKenna
     First, you have to make a plan and find the turkey. Next, you need to get water balloons to scare the turkey. Then, set out a cage to get the turkey in it. Last, you have to squirt it with water and chase it towards the cage. You will then need to record a turkey gobbling. Then, put it in the back of the cage. Now all you need to do is lock it and you can have him as a pet! The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Nate
    First you need to make a plan. Next you find a shelter. Then you wait for a turkey to come at you. Last you make him be your friend. When that’s done you have it as your pet. You put it in a cage. Then you give it food. Then it will be your pet turkey.
    How to catch a turkey for a Nicole
    First, you have to find a turkey or get a turkey that is still alive. Next, you have to be nice to it so it will start to like you and be nice to you. Then you put it in a cage so it cannot get out and run away. When you do this you have to make sure it gets in the cage or you will not have your turkey for your pet. Then, you go to the pet shop, to make sure it has no rabies. Last, you have to take it home to make sure it gets along with your other pets which will be very hard.  The End.
    How to catch a turkey by Seth
    You should get bait and bait around the area. Then get some traps and set the traps. Put some bait in the traps. Wait 2 or more days and then go and check it. If it is there put it in the back of your trunk and drive away. You might want to strap it down. You also might want a thick coat in case it pecks you.  The End.
    How to catch a turkey by: Vinny
    First, you need to get people to help. Next, make a trap. Then, set the trap so the turkey won’t see it, then booooom. If you like the turkey you can keep the turkey. But if you don’t like the turkey say bye-bye. Then you can finally celebrate.
    How to catch a turkey by William
    First you make a trap than a trail of food. Then wait for the turkey to step in the trap. Then take it home and have it as your pet. That’s  how to catch a turkey.

  • growth dimensions photo.jpg
    Growth Dimensions supports vision of Boone County industry, tourism
    Nov. 26, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Since being named as the executive director of Growth Dimensions in September, Jarid Funderburg has big plans and a vision for growing and supporting Boone County’s economy.
    “I have a vision for Belvidere and Boone County. I think it is probably a vision that a lot of people in Belvidere and Boone County have,” Funderburg said. “And that is to see a vibrant downtown, a healthy housing community, great schools and a destination for people to come to.”
    In the short term, to accomplish that vision, Funderburg plans to strengthen the ties of communication and collaboration with Growth Dimensions, the City of Belvidere, County officials, the Chamber of Commerce as well as key players and members of the community. “Communication is essential,” Funderburg said. “If we are on the same page looking at the same vision or goal, it will be easier.”
    He praised Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain’s vision for the community. “He is very well engaged and he certainly has a tremendous amount of opportunity in the City of Belvidere which is the core of the community,” Funderburg said. “He just got back from Louisville and he shared ideas of ways to utilize vacant space in the community and to make it a unique draw for entrepreneurism and opportunity for people in the city. It is great to hear and to see him working so hard for the City of Belvidere.”
    Funderburg is working with the Rockford Regional Economic Development District to submit an application for an Enterprise Zone designation from the State of Illinois.  If approved, the Enterprise Zone designation will be larger than the one currently in place in Boone County and will provide local and state rebates and tax incentives to encourage business investment in the community and provide an attractive option to area businesses to make capital improvements. “It will give us better leverage to attract more business – both retail and primary employment in the area,” Funderburg added.
    In addition to the expansion of the Enterprise Zone, Funderburg saw growth and potential of a light industrial corridor near the recently completed I-90 project and the expansion of the Irene Road Interchange.  The area is close to significant interstate, air, and rail service as well as being within 20 miles of the second largest UPS hub in the United States.
    In addition to economic growth in the City of Belvidere, Funderburg outlined a vision for rural Boone County that embraced its agricultural and conservation roots. “From the conservation or natural land, there is so much beauty in the county with the parks. The Boone County Conservation District has worked their fingers to the bone. There are many opportunities with conservation. There are a lot of great reasons for people to see those parks and experience them,” Funderburg said.
    On the Growth Dimensions website, they provide links to many organizations that could be considered in the agritourism industry. Boone County has many hidden gems that if leveraged to its advantage can bring agricultural tourists to the area. Although many are already familiar with places or activities such as the Boone County Fair, Edwards Apple Orchard or Pioneer Days, there are many other places that poised to attract tourists of urbanites looking for a weekend in the country. Those places include Angelic Organics Learning Center, McEachran Homestead, Kinnikinnick Farm, The Complete Sheep Shoppe, Wind Ridge Herb Farm, Susie’s Garden Patch, and the Poplar Grove Airport and a myriad of antique stores.
    Funderburg spoke promoting Boone County as a destination for agricultural tourism. He mentioned the experience of northern Indiana’s Fair Oaks Farm’s mega dairy operation that has 30,000 head on 30 square miles, and on any given day 80 – 100 cows give birth. “They have the creamery, the restaurant, the ice cream, and all the little stuffed animals. They also have an area for school children to go and see the farm experience. This farm operation has studios where they will have bleachers set up and you can watch a cow calve and give birth,” Funderburg said.  “It is a remarkable experience to witness. There is a lot of fascination in that. These kids in the city they get to see something completely remarkable and it makes them think maybe I want to be a farmer.”
    Funderburg also praised the growth of the small farm industry in Boone County. “We are seeing point where smaller farms are coming back because a different generation is seeing the opportunity of growing organic for market of farmer’s markets,” Funderburg said.
    Lastly, Funderburg stressed the need for Growth Dimensions and residents of Boone County to support local businesses and restaurants. “There are ways to help and support these businesses through the Small Business Association or through SCORE which is on the website for the Chamber of Commerce,” Funderburg said.
    “I would like to take it a step further to try to get the community more involved in supporting their downtown shops. We have to get people to know that there is a downtown. There are these shops. People don’t know about some of these places on our website. As a community if we are all working together, all promoting it together, they would have better odds of surviving.”
    “It is exciting to be able to see those things in action. It takes a community,” Funderburg added.

  • bb_200 Extra Money 1.JPG
    School District 200 ponders best way to spend extra money
    Nov. 25, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - It doesn't happen all that much but the North Boone Community Unit District 200 Board of Education has found itself with extra money.
    There's $12.5 million in state-owed funding that comes from construction projects dating back to the early 2000s. And there's $450,000-$500,000 a year coming from the penny sales tax approved by voters in 2012, in an initiative led by Belvidere School District 100.
    A handful of residents turned out for a joint business services committee and town hall meeting Nov. 13 to discuss various ways of spending that money.
    The $12.5 million came through the Capital Development Board as reimbursement for some of the money spent on new construction early in the new millennium. North Boone school boards of those days agreed to use the money, should it be received, to pay down some of the bonds sold to make those projects possible.
    That money has arrived and the current board seems ready to honor the commitment. The $12.5 million would be paid out over 10 years, thus reducing the tax burden for District 200 property owners.
    District Administrative Assistant Kelly Holster spent more than one year assembling the necessary paperwork, so the money could be received. While doing that, she informed school board President Don Ward that she found another $500,000, meaning the final amount of money coming in would be about $13 million.
    District 200 Superintendent Steven Baule said the district still has about $42 million in outstanding bonds.
    Consultants from PMA were the at the business services portion of the meeting to discuss the best way to invest money over that timeframe, which was not involved in paying down the bonds.
    No one was in favor of extending the length of time it would take to pay them off.
    Stadium improvements
    Additional sales tax revenue started to be collected in January 2014, with the first dollars being received by the two school districts in May.
    Ward said that money may be used for capital projects, but may not be used on salaries or day-to-day operational expenses of the district.
    Approval of the referendum resurrected talk about a new athletic complex near the high school, with new bleachers for both home and visiting fans, an artificial surface for the football field and a new track. That estimated cost is $3.2 million.
    The current stadium is 57 years old and has passed its design life, the board president said.
    Some sales tax revenue already has been earmarked to pay down bonds sold to build the new district office and transportation barn off North Boone School Board. That comes to $117,000 a year.
    While that takes a good chunk out of District 200's share of the sales tax, Ward said his calculations show the district still could afford the athletic facility and needed parking lot improvements.
    "Our buildings are in pretty good shape," he said of the possible need for renovations.
    More discussion of best uses for the sales tax revenue is expected at Monday night's school board meeting.

  • bb_Boone Hearing Officer 1.JPG
    Zoning board will discuss hearing officer Tuesday night
    Nov. 23, 2014
    By Bob 'Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - After an unsuccessful start, the Boone County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will discuss hiring a moderator for contentious public hearings during its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 25).
    The ZBA tried to do that during its October meeting, but the need for State's Attorney Michelle Courier to be there to answer legal questions caused a delay until November.
    Chairman Tony Savino suggested the postponement, saying it was "too confusing without legal counsel being here."
    It's possible that Mainstream Renewable Power will apply sometime next year for a special use permit for development of a wind farm in northeastern Boone County.
    Given the complexity of that issue, and the potential for public hearings to go on and on and on, county officials are considering the appointment of a moderator, also called a hearing officer, to preside over the public hearings that would be held by the ZBA.
    Courier previously provided an ordinance that would allow a hearing officer to run such a meeting, while still allowing the ZBA to make findings of fact and recommendations.
    Boone County government is requesting a text amendment that would allow employment of a hearing officer. That person would be appointed by the county board chairman with the advice and consent of the county board.
    Associate county planner Gina DelRose said at the Oct. 29 ZBA meeting that hearing officer would aid the ZBA during more contentious meetings. That individual would act as a judge, to be sure all rules are followed.
    The officer would have to be an attorney and in good standing with the state. The term of appointment would be for two years, with the officer receiving $500 per meeting, paid by the applicant.
    "He would be familiar with Robert's Rules of Order and the Boone County Zoning Ordinance," DelRose said.
    Focusing on testimony
    Public hearings are quasi-judicial with the ZBA being a body of volunteers. Having a hearing officer would allow that board to focus on testimony, rather than being concerned with procedure and behavior of those in the audience.
    "Other counties in this area have such officers," she said.
    Some legal questions began to arise at that point and it was stated they would have to be answered by Courier, who was unable to be at the Oct. 29 meeting.
    Former county board member Marshall Newhouse was concerned that the cost of such an officer could be in the thousands of dollars if there was more than one meeting. That could narrow the playing field "to well-heeled applicants," he said.
    Board member Joan Krumm moved to postpone and it was approved, 5-0.
    What can happen without a hearing officer was seen last year when several public hearings were held on possible revisions to rules governing wind farms. Some of the hearings were marked by repetitive testimony and not sticking to the subject at hand, despite continued requests from ZBA Chairman Norm Stimes.

  • Local Horticulture Educator speaks at International Conference 1.JPG
    Local Horticulture Educator speaks at International Conference
    Nov. 20, 2014
    NORTHERN IL - Travel can truly open up one’s eyes to a completely different world and can be absolutely life-changing. This certainly was University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Candice Miller’s experience when she visited South Korea this fall. Candice provides horticulture programming to residents in the northwestern Illinois counties of Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, DeKalb, and Ogle counties.
    Candice was chosen out of many U.S. Extension Educators to give a presentation on youth gardening at the 2014 Korean Master Gardener International Conference held at GyeongGi-do Agricultural Research and Extension Services (GARES) in South Korea this September. Candice’s presentation focused on giving the newly established Korean Master Gardener Program ideas on how to start youth gardens in their communities. She shared some examples of successful youth gardening programs in her counties, like the Junior Master Gardener programs occurring in Ogle and Winnebago counties, and outlined the step by step process of establishing a youth garden. In addition, she shared a few activities that our Master Gardeners utilize locally like an activity called ‘Calling All Insects’ that helps youth understand how insects can communicate with each other using sounds.
     If you’re unfamiliar with the Master Gardener program, Master Gardeners are a group of volunteers who are trained in horticulture to help their local communities. The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program is, "Helping Others Learn to Grow." Master Gardeners involve people in improving the quality of life by helping them find sound management practices for home and urban natural resources, by creating aesthetically pleasing environments, by promoting well-being through people-plant interactions and horticultural therapy, and by contributing to a safe, abundant food supply through home fruit and vegetable production.
    The idea of taking the Master Gardener program to South Korea was begun in 2011 by a graduate student at the University of Kentucky. She witnessed the program and thought it would be a great program to take to her native South Korea. Since then, Korea has trained 207 Master Gardeners who have similar projects as the volunteers in the U.S. In Illinois, we now have more than 3,400 Master Gardener volunteers in a program that was established 40 years ago.
    A large theme of the conference was focused on urban agriculture and horticulture, as one of the goals of GARES is to promote and educate more urban farmers. The Korean government sees the Master Gardener program as playing a pivotal role in promoting urban agriculture in the country. Presentations were given on a variety of volunteer management and horticulture topics and two days of garden tours wrapped up the conference.
    Interested in the Master Gardener program? Contact your local Extension office for information about the next training schedule and stay up to date on the latest horticulture news and Candice’s adventures by following her Facebook page and blog:

  • amber returns home photo.jpg
    Amber Rangel is home and ready to roll
    Nov. 19, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    CALEDONIA – It was a day like any other day for Amber Rangel. The best water skier in the United States was on the Rock River with her coach and training for the U.S. Nationals.
    A small, almost imperceptible mistake during a maneuver that the barefoot water skier had done thousands, if not millions of times previously sent her careening through the water on July 27 and left her paralyzed.   Within seven minutes, three different fire departments were on the scene and it took an additional four minutes for 15 fire and EMS personnel to reach her.
    The 20 year old Caledonia woman was placed on a floating dock and carefully carried up a steep hill to a picnic table while an ambulance drove through the woods to reach Rangel. She was airlifted to the hospital at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
    The woman who was ranked the 26th best barefoot water skier in the world suffered a severe spinal cord injury. After being released from the hospital in Madison, Rangel was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
    “I had to relearn how to do everything. I couldn’t move from the chest down,” Rangel said. “My arm was snapped backward in the accident. For the first month and a half, I had to learn how to write and eat with my left hand. I had to learn how to dress, put on make-up, roll over in bed. I need to know to do everything”
    “It is humbling. You learn how to humble yourself. You have to learn to let go and not be in control of anything anymore.”
    The fiercely independent Rangel put as much intensity into her treatment and recovery as she put into her beloved sport. As part of her therapy to prepare her for life outside of the hospital, Rangel took part in the many opportunities that RIC offers. She went to Navy Pier, rode buses, and took taxis.  Rangel already has plans to take the train from Harvard to Chicago.
    Rangel described the bus rides as scary, although for different reasons than one might expect. “If someone is driving recklessly (and making fast turns), I would fall out of the wheelchair. It is scary at first,” Rangel said.
    With six other patients and staff, Rangel went to O’Hare Airport to take part in a program offered by United Airlines. She went through airport security and boarded an airplane.
    And on Nov. 14, Rangel came home.
    She was the first patient transported by North Boone Fire District #3’s ambulance. “We were happy to bring Amber home,” John Ragland said. After bringing Rangel home, Ragland and the other members of the North Boone EMS crew visited with Rangel and her parents and sister.
    Rangel was excited as she explored the house in her motorized wheelchair. The home has undergone some modifications in the last four months. Doors were widened to accommodate her wheelchair. The bathroom adjacent to her bedroom was renovated. Ramps were added in the garage and off of the back deck. “I love it. It is so nice,” Rangel said of the changes made to the home.
    Rangel’s mom Tracy admitted to be overwhelmed by some of the changes, particularly the size of the wheelchair ramp that takes up a significant portion of the garage. “There is an expert for everything and everyone has a talent even if you don’t know they have it,” Rangel said. “Her friend Billy did the dry walling. Her boyfriend’s dad did the tile. Otherwise we would not have been able to do all of this. It would have been too overwhelming.”
    Amber Rangel already had plans for her first day home. She wanted to go to Woodman’s Grocery Store with her sister Adora. She was anxious to go grocery shopping and had already assessed the family’s lack of food in the cupboards. “I haven’t shopped in four months. All you do is come home and sleep and leave,” Tracy Rangel explained. Rangel spent three or four days each week at her daughter’s side at RIC.
    While Rangel and her husband Joe and daughters Adora and Ariel spent many days and hours traveling to visit Amber, friends and neighbors helped out.  “People stopping by and helping out was a huge difference,” Tracy Rangel stated. “The neighbors have mowed.  It takes a village.”
    On Saturday Nov. 15, a bowling fundraiser was held for Amber Rangel on Nov. 15 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Don Carter Lanes in Rockford. At the time of the interview, Rangel was looking forward to attending the fundraiser and seeing her friends and well-wishers again.
    Donations can be made to the Amber Rangel Fund at Bank First, P.O. Box 10, Manitowoc, Wis., 54221-0010.
    Rangel has plans for the future. She is preparing to join the Paralympics and wants to take part in the rock climbing and other sports offered at RIC. She talks about working with horses at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center in Poplar Grove.
    Within two years Rangel wants to return to Colorado where she was living and training before the accident.  And in six years she hopes to be walking again.
    With Rangel’s determination, she will do everything she can to make that a reality.

  • bb_PG Ash Borer 1.JPG
    Emerald Ash Borer hits Poplar Grove, Boone County
    Nov. 18, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - An infestation of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has found some of the 290 ash trees in public rights of way in Poplar Grove. A survey earlier this year showed five them them being dead, 127 in a declining condition and the rest being all right at the moment.
    Unincorporated Boone County also was surveyed several years ago, with more than 2,000 in the right of way. That study did not include trees in the city of Belvidere or villages of Capron, Caledonia and Timberlane.
    Those numbers were delivered Monday night to the Poplar Grove Village Board, along with the urgent plea for development of a plan to deal with the fast-moving disease. 
    EAB is a tiny, metallic beetle that burrows into ash trees and eventually kills them by cutting off their water supply. While there is a treatment, there is no known "silver bullet" for eradicating it.
    Poplar Grove was surveyed earlier this year by five teams of volunteers from the University of Illinois Extension Service office in Belvidere. The check did not include ash trees on private property.
    Candice Miller, horticultural educator at the extension office, said EAB, which originated in China, was discovered in Michigan in 2002. It reached Illinois in 2006, Missouri in 2008 and now has spread west to Colorado and south to Georgia.
    EAB is in 61 of the 102 counties in Illinois, with numerous quarantine zones around the state. "The majority of the movement is in firewood," which now is prohibited, she explained. "It kills very quickly, both healthy and stressed trees."
    She said EAB was confirmed to be in Boone County in 2010, "so we're a little bit late in getting on the ball. Now you have an inventory" of ash trees. "You're just at the start of mortality. Healthy trees will die if you don't treat them. I ask you to have a plan and to be proactive."
    But she cautioned that treatment, removal and replacement can be very expensive. And there is very little government funding available for whatever plan is developed. Beyond that, ash trees on private property are the homeowner's responsibility, she added.
    Former Poplar Grove Village Board member Cliff Stetter said a grant requested through the U.S. Forest Service about three years ago was denied.
    "You can treat (ash trees), not to save but to spread out the cost of removal," Miller said. "EAB takes out the green ash first; white trees tend to resist a couple of years longer. Treatment needs to happen before one-half of the canopy is lost. Treatment can be every one or two years, depending on which option you choose."
    She said the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, about the same geographic size as Poplar Grove, spent $2.5 million dealing with its EAB problem. But Wilmette had 2,000 ash trees, compared with the 290 in Poplar Grove public rights of way.
    Boone County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said its survey of ash trees was conducted three years ago, also by a team from the extension office. He said that office determined no funding was available to remediate that situation, with no direction received as to what should be done.
    Village President John Neitzel said the timing was right for Poplar Grove, which soon will start work on its 2015-16 budget.

  • an orchard dream Bob Edwards 1964.jpg
    An ‘Orchard Dream’ leads to Edwards family’s way of life
    Nov. 16, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    POPLAR GROVE-A young family seeking to build a way of life, overcoming adversity, a family unit working together and ultimately building an annual excursion for many far and near.  It’s a slice of apple in the history of Edwards Apple Orchard which celebrates 50 years 1964-2014.  With the fruits of their labor and decades of love and commitment to an orchard way of life we enjoy their apples, cider and the famous cider donuts hot out of the kitchen.  The temptation is just too great to bring the cashier a full dozen donuts for checkout!  Fact be told, an Edwards Apple Orchard cider donut is being consumed for inspiration during the penning of this article.  Consider it research. 
    In reading The Early History of Edwards Orchard A Family Affair written by Robert (Bob) Edwards.  A memoire, Edwards describes himself sitting in the family apple tree watching the transformation of green apples.  His mother warns him that eating too many green apples would result in a stomach ache. Finally the fruit was ripe for eating.  Edwards (age 15) the summer of 1944 recounts the crispy, tart flavor of a large, bright yellow apple.  Edwards reminisced of his love affair with apples as far back as the age of five.  It is apparent Edwards’ love for the apple has been a lifelong narrative.    
    “The path of one’s life has many twists and turns and the very difficult decisions of selecting the most promising direction to proceed.  Ours has been filled with many interesting choices and successes we have enjoyed has come from many years of hard work, risk taking, a family that stuck together, a little luck and many supportive friends,” writes Edwards.
    In 1961, Edwards had completed his tour of being in the United States Air Force and was also in his sixth year in Waterman, IL as a Vocational Agricultural teacher.  The same year Warren Wessels who was a classmate and good friend of Edwards’ at the University of Illinois submitted his name to the National Peach Council Board and Illinois State Horticulture for a General Managers position.  Edwards would apply, and would be offered the position.  Edwards and his wife Betty along with four (later to become five) children would move to Carbondale, Ill. 
    “I am not sure when I considered the possibility of becoming an orchardist.  The seed may well have had its roots in one of the many trips I had taken across the U.S.,” continued Edwards.  By 1963 “I was well into my third year with the National Peach Council and Illinois Fruit Council and each new acquaintance further confirmed my observation that orchard families were a very special group of people.  Many of the orchards I had visited were managed by multifamily intergenerational members with the most successful having a strong husband-wife team,” Edwards explained in his book. 
    By 1964 the Edwards were putting together their “Orchard Dream” as Edwards writes in his dedication to his wife Betty who passed away in 2013. With the help of his father Bob Edwards Sr. and mother Audrey Edwards and many other people, the multigenerational Edwards institution would begin to take shape.  Despite Bob Edwards’ concern that “it was too far from Rockford and customers would never find us” it was determined “it would be an excellent choice.”  In May 1964, 2,000 apple trees consisting of Golden and Red Delicious, McIntosh and Jonathan would be purchased, planted, and watered by hand and the orchard dream began.  On Sept. 27, 1969 the grand opening of the apple orchard occurred.   
    Resourceful in providing income for their fledgling dream, Edwards taught science in the Rockford School system, raised hogs and grew field crops.  Betty Edwards also served as a substitute school teacher. 
    The Edwards raised 5 children and not only overcame financial challenges but overcame many severe weather conditions and most recently the devastating tornado on Jul. 7, 2008.  The orchard ownership was transferred to Barb (Edwards) Hall and husband Ken Hall in 1990.  The orchard continues to thrive with the Edwards’ children, in-laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren participating in the orchard way of life.
    Visit the orchard before it closes and enjoy the hours of family love and devotion to an “Orchard Dream”.   Edwards Apple Orchard is located at 7061 Centerville Road in Poplar Grove.  Currently open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.  Closed on Thanksgiving Day.  The final day of the 2014 season with be Sunday Nov. 30.   

  • megan schultz photo_edited_edited.jpg
    Family, friends gather at fundraiser to remember Megan Schultz
    Nov. 13, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – By all accounts, 15 year old Megan Schultz was the picture of health. She played basketball and volleyball. A competitive jump roper, the girl was enjoying all that her freshman year had to offer. When the opportunity came up for her to participate in the powder puff football game during Harlem High School’s homecoming week, she immediately jumped at the chance.
    During practice for the powder puff football game, Megan complained of a sudden and severe headache. Within minutes, Megan began to get violently ill and an ambulance was immediately called. “By the time the ambulance got there, she was unresponsive,” Megan’s step-mother Sara Coleman said.
    Megan was rushed to Rockford Memorial Hospital. Emergency surgery revealed that Megan had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) which caused a brain aneurism. The aneurism burst and Megan lost a significant amount of blood. The damage to her brain was extensive and severe. Her parents were told that if she survived, she would most likely remain in a permanent vegetative state.
    On Oct. 23, the pretty teen with the gorgeous smile and infectious laugh lost her battle and she passed away. She is survived by her parents Eric Schultz and Teresa Haugen, her brothers Steven and Kyle Schultz, grandparents Larry and Sue Schultz, Bonnie Wangen, Roy Haugen, and Bonnie Tilton, and step parents Will Lauritzen and Sara Coleman.
    Mourners from Belvidere as well as students and teachers from Loves Park filled Megan’s visitation and her Oct. 30 funeral at First Presbyterian Church in Belvidere. “It was very overwhelming,” Coleman recalled.
    A fundraiser is being held on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Backstop Bar and Grill at 1800 Union Ave. in Belvidere from noon until 5 p.m. The fundraiser will include food donated by Olive Garden Restaurant and family and friends, a silent auction and a DJ. The cost to attend the fundraiser is $10 per person and will help pay uncovered medical expenses as well as funeral expenses.
    Megan loved going camping with her dad and brothers. She spent this past summer in Belvidere with her grandparents Larry and Sue Schultz. “She did not have a bad bone in her body. She was very active,” Coleman recalled. “She had a love for all animals.”
    “She was too young to go.”
    For additional information on the fundraiser, contact Shelle Frickman at (815) 978-8535 or Sara Coleman at (815) 988-6335.

  • rauner photo 1.JPG
    Governor-elect visits Rockford to thank supporters
    Nov. 12, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    ROCKFORD – Governor-elect Bruce Rauner, first lady Diane Rauner and Lt. Governor elect Evelyn Sanguinetti travelled the State of Illinois on Friday, Nov. 7 to thank voters and constituents. The last stop of the day was at Giovanni’s Restaurant in Rockford where he was greeted by hundreds of supporters, area leaders, politicians and well-wishers.
    “We are so honored. This is a victory of all of the families of Illinois,” Rauner said. “Illinois is back. We are going to restore pride in Illinois. We are going to make Illinois the greatest state on earth.”
    The governor-elect promised to deliver results that benefit Illinoisans. “We will make Illinois competitive again to create jobs and careers again. We are going to compete with our education system so it is world class competing with every school in America and around the nation,” Rauner added.
    Although Rauner is the third governor in a row from the Chicago area, Rauner reiterated his commitment to the Rockford area.  “Rockford has been so good to us. Evelyn and I are going to judge our leadership of the state by how well Rockford is doing. Rockford has everything going for it: Location, people, infrastructure, fertile farm valley and key location. It has every reason to thrive,” Rauner said. “The leaders in Springfield have failed Rockford with policies of the regulations and taxes.”
    Area leaders looked forward to the prospect of a renewed interest in the Stateline region. “What this means is that when we call the governor’s office and ask for help, they will actually answer the phone and remember where Rockford is. Remember where downstate is. Remember where more than Chicago is,” State Representative Joe Sosnowski added. “That is very important for our region.”
    “As Rockford, Winnebago and Boone County, we are going to have access to the governor,” Gloria Cardenas Cudia said. “And that is what it is all about.”
    “It is great to have a governor who is responsive to any place outside of Chicago,” State Senator Dave Syverson stated.
    On Nov. 6, Rauner announced his transition team. “It is exciting to have Rockford leaders as part of our transition,” Rauner said. Among the key members of the transition team are Rob Funderburg, owner and chairman of Alpine Bank and Gloria Cardenas Cudia, president and founder of Salsa Business Network. “What does a transition team member do? We are going to be a bridge. We are going to have access to the governor by staying connected to the hearts and souls of our community,” Cardenas Cudia said. “He wants us to be the eyes and ears of the administration.”
    Other members of Rauner’s transition team include former Governor Jim Edgar, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Manny Sanchez from Latinos for Obama, former Chicago Public Schools superintendent Ron Huberman, and Sarah Frey-Talley from Frey Farms.
    Rauner implored his supporters to become involved in helping to transform Illinois government. He asked those assembled to encourage their friends to get involved. “If you are willing to serve, we want to bring together the most talented team of leaders that has ever been assembled to turn around the state government. We want to bring talented people; people of intelligence of expertise of intelligence of integrity who are willing to get involved in our government so we can get it running right,” Rauner said. “We need leaders in education and health care and operations and technology and finance. Reach out and contact us. We are going to work together as a big team so we deliver values for taxpayers we deliver the best schools in America and we get our economy booming. We will ensure that our schools are world class.”
    “We want it to be broad, inclusive, diverse and representative of the entire state.” We want it to include people from every county.”
    In addition to selecting key Democrats to his transition team, Rauner offered an olive branch to Democrats. “I am a Republican. My wife is a Democrat,” Rauner revealed of Illinois first lady Diane Rauner. “I am going to be a bipartisan leader to find real solutions to improve life for all families in Illinois.”
    Among the themes of Rauner’s visit was caring for others. “We can judge ourselves as a society by how we help those in need. Those who are vulnerable, those who need our help; the veterans who need our support; our children growing up in poverty who need our support; our elderly citizens who have health issues,” Rauner said. “We will make Illinois the most compassionate state in America.”
    “We care about our families. We care about our elderly parents. We care about our children,” Cardenas Cudia said.
    Supporters at the event looked forward to Rauner’s election and what it means for the Illinois economy. “It is a new day for Illinois. It is a positive move for the future of Illinois,” Belvidere mayor Mike Chamberlain said.
    Many of the supporters anticipated economic growth for Illinois and the Stateline region. “We will be able to move some of the issues we have been talking about for years that we were never able to bring forward to a vote. Bruce is going to give us a voice at that table,” State representative Bob Pritchard said. “We can deal with some of these issues, and we will be able to do more than pass out money.  They are going to create jobs and keep businesses here and even attract businesses.
    “The good news is that the people of Illinois realized that we needed to change direction. Now we have a governor who believes you grow your way into a strong economy. You cannot tax your way,” Syverson said. “I am excited about what is the future is going to be for Illinois.”
    “Rauner’s election means a new beginning,” Rauner supporter Dave Gallano added. “It is a new start for everyone in the State of Illinois.”
    “I love Illinois. I am honored I am humbled and privileged,” Rauner thanked his supporters. “I want to go to work for you. I cannot wait to deliver real results to you.”

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    Let’s make Veterans Day a day of action
    Nov. 11, 2014
    By Robert R. Ryder
    Superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County
    Tuesday, November 11th is Veterans Day, a day dedicated to honoring all those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
    Many will honor our local Veterans by attending parades, such as the one in Belvidere Tuesday morning, going to local ceremonies such as the one at the L. Z. Peace Memorial in Rockford, or perhaps saying a simple prayer for a beloved Veteran who is no longer with us. No matter what your choice, each has value that shows respect for our Veterans.
    But many across our state and even across our nation will not even realize it is Veterans Day, or if they do, won’t recognize and honor the significance of the day. Veterans Day doesn’t have the same notoriety as the 4th of July, or Memorial Day, or even Labor Day and their appealing three day weekends. Because Veterans Day can fall anywhere during the week it can be easily overlooked.
    But that’s where all of us who realize the significance of Veterans Day can help. We can reach out to those who seem ambivalent about taking part in Veterans Day activities and invite them to attend. We can educate those who are unaware of the day’s importance with a gentle comment or two about how much the day means to us and how we look forward to honoring it. We can increase awareness of how important Veterans Day is by simply talking with our children or grandchildren or even our great-grandchildren about what the day is all about and why it is important to honor and remember those who served. Children, especially younger ones, love to hear stories about their family and about what Daddy or Grandpa or Aunt Jane did in the military. If you have a picture or two of a loved one in uniform don’t be afraid to show them to the kids and tell them the story behind those pictures. Most children will be amazed that someone from their very own family served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard. You’ll be educating those children about the importance of serving our country in a fun and interesting way without them even realizing it!
    In short, let’s make Veterans Day more than just a day of parades and ceremonies. Let’s take all that good will towards our Veterans and put it into action. It doesn’t have to include any “grand gestures”. It can be as simple as displaying the American flag outside our homes. Or maybe saying thanks to the family of a Veteran for their sacrifices. Or possibly a gentle touch on the arm of a Veteran who needs to hear the words, “Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”
    In reference to Veterans Day President John F. Kennedy once said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” I believe those words are still as true today as when President Kennedy spoke them more than 50 years ago. Let’s use those words to motivate us to make Veterans Day a day of action. A day where we not only let our Veterans know how much we appreciate their sacrifice, but honor them by helping others to understand and appreciate it as well.

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    Animal services building, GOP candidates big winners
    Nov. 9, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - A new 3,000-square-foot animal services building is in Boone County's future and the county board will continue to be dominated by Republican membership.
    In addition, voters in Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 showed they were happy with the way their board members were being elected.
    Those were among the results from Tuesday's mid-term election that saw 48 percent of the county's registered voters go to the polls.
    Republicans swept all seven available seats on the county board, starting with incumbent Kenny Freeman. He was unopposed for the two-year unexpired term in District 3.
    Also in District 3, newcomers Sherry Branson (30.51 percent of the vote) and Brad Stark (29.09 percent) won four-year seats. Coming up short were two Democrats, including a former 10-year board member, Theresa "Teri" Glass (23.11 percent) and Brandon Wells (17.29 percent).
    Incumbent Republican Karl Johnson received 36.62 percent of the vote in District 2 and was joined by newcomer Jeffrey Carlisle (34.02 percent) in winning a pair of four-year terms. Democrats Francis "Frank" Egan (14.95 percent) and the late Ray Pendzinski (14.41 percent) trailed.
    Overall, Johnson received 3,740 votes, the most of any county board candidate.
    Incumbent Democrat Bill Pysson (24.05 percent of the vote) lost his bid for re-election in District 1. Those four-year seats were taken by Republican newcomers Sherry Giesecke (45.11 percent) and Raymond Larson (30.85 percent). Incumbent Republican Brad Fidder chose not to seek re-election.
    Swearing in Dec. 1
    Successful candidates will be sworn in on Dec. 1. Also that night the board will reorganize, with a chairman and vice chairman being elected. Current Chairman Bob Walberg said if he is chosen he would be willing to serve. Paul Larson is the vice chairman,
    Walberg was eager to talk about the successful referendum, calling for a small property tax increase that will be used for construction of a new animal services building.
    He said construction of the facility would begin during the 2015 building season and should be ready for occupancy "by this time next year."
    A short-term loan will have to be taken out as the project will be under way before the county begins to receive tax money next summer.
    That issue drew the most interest of any on the ballot, with 9,548 votes in favor of paying a little to see the project happen, or 63.60 percent, and 5,464, or 36.40 percent, voting no.
    Walberg called that "a clear mandate" in support of the new building. "It's an example of the community coming together and working for something positive for the county."
    He said newspapers and television stations were instrumental in the outcome with their fair and accurate coverage of the issue.
    For someone with a home valued at $100,000, the tax increase will be about 70 cents a month for three years. Bonds for the project will be retired in 2017. There is an $800,000 cap on how much can be spent, with construction estimated at $713,000.
    The second referendum, calling for a change in the way School District 100 board members were elected, failed. Unofficial final results showed 7,149 no notes, or 57.82 percent of those cast, to 5,204 yes ballots, or 42.13 percent.
    Board members will continue to be elected from separate districts. The referendum proposed changing to an at-large election system.
    Craig Schultz in District 3 now will be the lone remaining Democrat among 12 members of the county board.
    "We had a very good slate of candidates," said Pat Murphy, chairman of the county Republican party. "They're a very good addition to the board. We're in good shape."
    For Mike Gurhrie, chairman of the Democratic party, it was another disappointing election day. "The need for a change won't happen this time," he said. "I thought Bill (Pysson) and Teri (Glass) had a good chance; both were good candidates. But now the county board will run wild."
    As goes Precinct 15 ...
    Precinct 15, with votes cast at the county administration building on Logan Avenue, was the first to report results Tuesday night. And its balloting accurately reflected the winners in each of the races.
    Democrats, at a disadvantage in countywide voter registration, trailed in early returns and the margin increased a little each hour.
    Countywide, Boone voters generally mirrored what happened throughout Illinois. And while most Republican candidates were favored locally, statewide and in federal races, that was not always the case.
    Incumbent state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, was the eventual winner. She edged out her Republican opponent in Boone County with 48.85 percent of the vote to 47.56 percent.
    Another Democrat holding statewide office, Secretary of State Jesse White, also was favored here. He received 53.79 percent of the votes cast to 42.42 percent by his Republican opponent.
    Gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner, the eventual winner, was a big favorite locally. He garnered 62.42 percent of the votes to 32.93 percent for incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn.
    Incumbent U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., won his second two-year term in Congress in the new District 16. He picked up 71.76 percent of the Boone County vote to 28.24 percent for his Democratic opponent.

  • Default image
    School buses look the same, but technology brings changes
    Nov. 6, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    MACHESNEY PARK - School buses that are on the road this year look similar to the ones that transported parents of today's teen-agers. But what's on the inside is another matter altogether.
    Technological improvements, especially over the past 10 years, have increased the amount of information available to people such as Poplar Grove resident Don West, transportation director for Harlem School District 122.
    Cameras, global positioning systems (GPS), you name it, all in the interests of keeping students and bus drivers safe and in providing information as to what's going on while thousands of young people are moved from one point to another and back again.
    Now, each of the district's 75 buses have a camera on it. Same goes for GPS systems. But when it comes to the GPS, it's not just about finding a location. "It's so we know where buses are and where they've been," explained West, former transportation director for North Boone School District 200.
    That stemmed from the off-season tornado in November 2010, which skipped through Caledonia and along the north side of Illinois 173. A bus on Harlem Road, near Argyle Road, overturned and there was confusion as to whose bus it was. In addition to District 122, Rockford School District 205 and Belvidere School District 100 also operates buses in that area.
    Now all of the cameras in District 122 buses work. A district mechanic figured a way to connect the cameras with the GPS system, which tells district officials which cameras are functioning.
    In the past some school districts would have cameras on all buses but only a small number of them actually recorded what was going on. Not so in District 122.
    Tells a story
    In addition to locating a bus, West said a GPS system also will report how fast one has been going. Sometimes a resident will report a bus for appearing to speed down a residential street. The GPS will tell if that's true.
    "More often than not they aren't speeding," the director said.
    Future improvements could include installation of a camera on the stop arm, which is in the front end of each bus, to record when motorists drive past them. "We get that quite a bit during the year," he said of impatient drivers, who run the risk of endangering the life of a child who happens to be crossing the street.
    The city of Chicago has installed red-light cameras on some buses, which record the license plate number of a violator. The citation then is mailed to the owner of the offending vehicle.
    West said District 122 is working with District 205 and the Winnebago school system on possibly doing some of those improvements together. But don't look for any of that to happen in the next couple of years.
    The District 122 transportation department has 115 employees including drivers, bus assistants and mechanics.
    "They're busy all the time even though this is a fairly new fleet," he said of the three mechanics. Buses are replaced on the basis of age, not mileage, and having units with 100,000 miles or more on them is not unusual.
    "It's more of a salt issue than age," he said of why buses are retired. "I believe the quality (of workmanship) has improved."
    Buses work in two daily shifts. The morning tour can start as early as 7 a.m. and usually concludes by 8:30 a.m. Afternoon routes run from 2:15 until 4:30 p.m. After-school activity trips bring buses back around 5:30 p.m. at the latest, with some evening sporting events not ending until 10 p.m. or so.
    After-school work is a perk and West said to be eligible, a driver must have been with the district for at least two years.

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    Some county buildings to receive cosmetic improvements
    Nov. 5, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Four members of the Boone County Board have seen first-hand what's ailing the jail and public safety building (PSB). 
    Members Marion Thornberry and Cathy Ward were there at the start of the recent inspection, with board Chairman Bob Walberg and member Karl Johnson joining the tour later on.
    When it was all over County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said both buildings will see some improvements with money from the 2014-15 budget. But specifics won't be known until November, when the full board approves the new spending plan.
    Outgoing Sheriff Duane Wirth, his top aides and Sheriff-Elect Dave Ernest greeted the small assembly with Wirth only remaining for a short time.
    After speaking privately with Thornberry and Ward about some 911 dispatch center issues, sheriff's Lt. Perry Gay, the center director, took the group to some parts of the PSB.
    He didn't mince words when he talked about how some of the building's needs haven't been addressed.
    "I don't turn in many new initiatives because they don't get funded," he said. That's especially true of the exterior.
    He and members of the command staff in the sheriff's department visit a lot of other facilities. 'I've never been to another place where the outside looks like this. I'm not going to be kind about it."
    Trees and bushes around the public safety building look terrible, he continued. Weeds are everywhere; it's embarrassing. Saying he always wondered why landscaping was considered to be a new initiative, when it should be ongoing maintenance, he added, "I don't put in money for landscaping because it won't go anywhere."
    Beyond that, Gay said, "There are all kinds of sewer pipe problems.”Lighting fixtures? We were working on grants before (assistant county administrator) Becky (Tobin) left."
    "We're still working on that," Terrinoni said. "It's definitely on our radar."
    "The tile, you can just see the dirt in them," the lieutenant said, as the group reached another part of the PSB. "There are health issues. We have always waited for something to break."
    Something did break in the office of Boone County State's Attorney Michelle Courier, in the historic part of the County Courthouse. A recent water pipe break resulted in her office being flooded.
    Ward said county officials tried a referendum a couple of times for public safety, but they were "badly defeated. So the public must either not know or not care."
    "Anytime you see the word 'tax,' it's defeated," Thornberry said. "We have to talk to the public and explain why the issue is important."
    Terrinoni said income from video gaming machines and a recently-received $100,000 state grant will be used for improvements at the PSB and jail. And since the PSB is jointly operated with the city of Belvidere, the city also will share in the cost of improvements.
    Lt. John Hare, commander of the jail, escorted the group to that facility. Part of it was built in the mid-1970s, with the newer portion constructed 2001.
    Improvements are needed in the shower area, where he said he was concerned water may be leaking behind the tiles. "That could lead to mold and mildew issues," he said. "There's too much steam, too much water" in an area used by 48 inmates every day.
    While the new portion of the jail is in pretty good condition, he said, "The wear is beginning to show."

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    Local officials celebrate completion of I-90 construction
    Nov. 4, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    Drivers on their way to the suburbs, Chicago or beyond have a reason to celebrate with the opening of three new lanes between Rockford and Elgin on Oct. 28. The road has been under construction since 2012.
    Elected officials from Boone and Winnebago Counties as well as representatives from the Chicago Rockford International Airport and Illinois Tollway Authority and construction workers assembled at Johnson Road Bridge in Belvidere to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony.
    “Gov. Quinn has been an incredible leader for the state particularly on infrastructure and capital investment. He is truly the infrastructure governor,” Kristi LaFleur, Illinois Tollway Executor Director said. “From his support of the state’s capital bill which was the first in over a decade shortly after taking office to his incredible support of the Move Illinois capital program which has helped up be here today to open up this first stretch of I-90.”
    “Our Move Illinois is a 15 year 12 billion dollar program. That is the largest capital program in the Illinois Tollway’s history. But it is the largest of any toll road agency in the country.”
    At 56 years since its original construction, the Rockford – Elgin segment of the Tollway of the project cost $800 million dollars. The new I-90 corridor will accommodate as many as 83,000 more vehicles per day beginning in 2016 and accommodate more than 15,000 trucks carrying 375,000 tons of freight per day.
    “We build in each direction 37 miles of widened rebuilt roads in five and a half  months each year,” LaFluer added.
    The rebuilding and widening of I-90 between Rockford and Elgin also includes improvements to two interchanges and 37 bridges. On the 37-mile-long segment, nearly 580,000 cubic yards of concrete, 860,000 cubic yards of asphalt and about 3,300 tons of steel were used to construct the new pavement and bridges. More than 2.7 million cubic yards of earth were moved as part of this project. 
    Officials praised the completion of the project and looked forward to the economic growth and development possibilities that the I-90 corridor promises. “It is important to recognize the Tollway’s role as an economic engine for our area. In addition to this project, the Irene road interchange project will create a full interchange to enhances access and create new economic development opportunities for Belvidere, Boone County, and Winnebago County ,” said Illinois Tollway Board Director Earl Dotson Jr.
    “As lawmakers we always talk about jobs. What we can do to get jobs here. What we can do to attract jobs throughout the Rockford area. It all begins with projects like this. For me and the General Assembly, the key to economic development is transportation infrastructure and supporting projects like this,” State Senator Steve Stadelman said.
    “When it comes to infrastructure, economic development things that will propel this region, across the aisle we are pumped and excited for what this project means to our region,” Illinois State Representative Joe Sosnowski said. “With things like Irene Interchange, growing our economic development possibilities within Boone County is a huge asset for our region.”
    The project involved cooperation, coordination and planning between many stakeholders. “This project is being coordinated with Boone County, Belvidere, Spring and Flora Townships and the Illinois Department of Transportation along with local municipalities, school districts, police and fire departments,” Dotson Jr. said.
    “I have been so impressed with how open and impressed they were to work this out.,” Boone County Chairman Bob Walberg added “They gave us this whole thing as an economic engine for this corridor . They realized that and they wanted to make it work for everybody.”
    LaFluer said that Walberg had been in her office close to 60 times to talk about the project and to promote the needs of Boone County and the region. She added that if Walberg did not receive an answer that he liked, he returned for a subsequent meeting to revisit the issue.
    Among the issues, was the original plan to permanently dismantle the Johnson Road bridge. As the ceremony took place on the Johnson Road bridge, Walberg praised the Tollway Authority for working with him and the community for recognizing the need to replace the bridge. Walberg also praised Spring Township supervisor Ryan Kufalk for his efforts in promoting the need for the Johnson Road bridge.
    “A lot of the citizens had concerns about safety and response time for emergency services as well as ag equipment,” Kufalk said. “It is a lesser travelled road. If it were gone, it would force more of the farm traffic or ag  traffic to the heavier traveled roads.”
    “One of the Tollway representatives came to our township meeting and we were able to get the bridge put back in.”
    The work on the western segment of the Tollway created or sustained 5,880 jobs and included work by 290 firms including 225 construction firms. 
    “Today is evidence of what vision, persistence cooperation and determined execution can produce. We want to thank everybody from the governor’s office to every job that was created of  everyone who worked on this Tollway,” Belvidere mayor Mike Chamberlain said. “We want to thank the men and women of Illinois for creating an incredible project that makes us world class.”
    Approximately 100 of the construction workers who worked on the project were on hand to participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony. A section of ribbon was handed to each person who attended the ceremony. Many of the construction workers held up their green ribbon as they smiled broadly and posed for photos overlooking the wide open expanse of Tollway beneath them.
    One of the workers commented that he enjoyed having a tangible memento to remember his contribution to the Tollway.
    “The citizens of Belvidere and Boone County thank you,” Chamberlain added.

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    A few dogs have their day in Belvidere
    Nov. 2, 2014
    By: Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - It was a tail-wagging weekend as dogs, their owners and dog lovers gathered together Oct. 25 at Meyer's Tails Up Farm in Belvidere for the first annual Experience Canines with Us event. Sponsored by the Blackhawk Kennel Club, DeKalb Kennel Club, Fox River Valley Kennel Club and the Kishwaukee Kennel Club, the gathering featured a number of different breeds of dogs accompanied by their breeders and trainers.
    All canines present were AKC pure bred dogs, most of which had been show dogs at one point in their lives, or were on their way to taking the stage.
    The event provided visitors with information on select breeds, and also featured a few demonstrations.
    Dogs on display were on their best behavior and were happy to pose for pictures. Their owners were also happy to share insights about why they believed their breeds were so special.
    Connie Swenson, Rockford, brought her Irish Terrier to the event.
    “She's a nice size and has a lot of energy and likes to play,” said Swenson of Quinn, her female terrier. “She has a really good personality and is a nice companion. Irish Terriers are a working type breed, but they are versatile and can do a lot of different activities. People should be committed to owning the breed and make sure they are experienced with obedience training,” she continued. “Irish Terrier coats require a lot of grooming and investing a lot of time. But having [an Irish Terrier] is a great reward. They are good for families with older children and can be around other pets, as long as the animals are properly introduced.”
    Also in attendance were members of the Greater Chicago Whippet Club. Sue Schinel shared her thoughts on her female whippet, Terrion.
    “I love how fast these dogs run, their friendliness. They are easy maintenance since they are short-coated. They can be active when they want to be, but are also couch potatoes,” she laughed, as Terrion sat nearby, looking on with wide eyes. “They aren't really good at tricks. They should always be leashed because they run so fast. But they are good with kids.”
    Two of the more unusual looking dogs at the event were the Chinese Crested “hairless” dog and its “powderpuff”counterpart. Pat Franklin of Gurnee shared some fun facts about the breed, and about Lee, her male Chinese Crested hairless, in particular.
    “They always make you smile and they are always doing something [somewhat naughty],” Franklin said. “You will come home and find things like newspaper chewed up, and they just look at you with happiness, as if to say 'Look what we did for you!'
    “One thing people need to know is that the hairless variety of the Chinese Crested is not always hairless,” she added. “They are like men. Some have no hair and others are like bears. You need to be prepared to love them with or without stubble as well as puffed.”
    When it comes to the type of family best suited for a Chinese Crested, Franklin said that the breed is good with everyone.
    “They are also good with kids as long as the kids are good to them. They love to snuggle and give kisses, and they fit in with just about everybody,” she said.
    A few other breeds making an appearance at the affair included the Siberian Husky, Standard Poodle, Belgian Tervuren and the Rottweiler.
    “This is the first time that the local kennel clubs have sponsored such an event,” said Cindy Meyer, president of the Blackhawk Kennel Club and one of the organizers of the gathering. “For our first time coming together like this, it is going well.
    “We would like to introduce the community to purebred dogs, and give them the opportunity to meet different breeds along with breeders and trainers, as well as a representative from a local veterinarian's office. We hope that this could become an annual event.”
    For more information, or to learn more about Meyer's Tails Up Farm, visit

  • bb Referendums photo 1.JPG
    Animal building, District 100 election referendums on ballot
    Oct. 30, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Tuesday, Nov. 4 general election ballot will be chock full of issues other than selecting representatives for seven of the 12 Boone County Board seats.
    In addition, voters will decide whether to approve a short-term property tax increase to construct a new animal control services building and to change the way Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 board members are elected and appointed.
    Approving construction of the new animal building would mean a three-year tax increase of about 70 cents per month for someone with a home assessed at $100,000. But the referendum question doesn't contain such detail and that's irritating some supporters of the project.
    "This would cost them virtually nothing," resident Robert Christianson said of county taxpayers.
    He said he and others are spending the final days before the election handing out brochures that provide details omitted from the ballot.
    "That's their strategy, so the referendum is defeated," he said of some county board members. "I hope I'm wrong."
    Here's the wording of the referendum question: "Should the County of Boone be authorized to construct and equip a new Animal Services Building and issue its bonds to the amount of $800,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?" Voters then are asked to check Yes or No.
    The $800,000 is the cap for the project, whose estimate for a 3,000-square-foot building is $713,000. It would be built on property owned by the county on the east side of Illinois 76, between Squaw Prairie and Spring Creek roads.
    It has been stated many times at committee and county board meetings that a new building is needed. There never has been a county board vote against the project.
    Christianson and another supporter, Jane Gordon, said they and others would continue going door-to-door and setting up tables outside local businesses in an attempt to provide voters with complete information about the referendum.
    "It's inexcusable that it was written the way it was," Gordon said of the referendum question as it appears on the ballot."
    While she believes there are "a lot of people who don't care about animals," she said she thinks the project would be good for the community, "to have something new and positive."
    Is there any organized opposition to the project?
    Christianson said he thought there was, among seven members of the county board. "Otherwise, this would have been a slam dunk," he said.
    He said the county board "is sitting on $23 million (in reserves) that they don't want to talk about. Plenty of that money isn't restricted and can be transferred."
    District 100 referendum
    The District 100 referendum question reads as follows: "Shall the members of the Board of Education of Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 be elected at large and without restriction by area of residence within the district?"
    Currently, four board members must reside in Belvidere Township, including the city of Belvidere, with the remaining three coming from four other townships in the district. However, board members are elected by all voters in the district, not just those in their respective townships.
    For that reason Superintendent Michael Houselog, in a memorandum dated Aug. 18, stated there has been discussion in recent years to seek change in that process.
    "Changing the structure moving forward would provide a more balanced representation of the overall population of the district, would give the school board greater flexibility when selecting appointments to fill vacant seats on the board and insure that candidates receiving the highest number of votes are elected to the board," he stated further.
    The district administration recommended approval of putting the question to referendum.
    But the Parents Advocating for Students and Staff organization, known as PASS, believes approval of the referendum "has the potential to eradicate school board representation from smaller, outlying townships and the current, guaranteed three seats would no longer exist."
    "PASS is significantly concerned with this potential change," according to information being passed out to community representatives and community members.
    "We feel the views and concerns of community members outside the city of Belvidere and Belvidere Township may be quite different as they may relate to other impactful issues such as school start/end times, curriculum programming, school closures and building sites/usage."
    The material states further that to pass, the referendum must be approved by a majority of voters in all five townships. Should it be approved, the change would become effective with the April 2015 election, with three of the seven board members being elected to serve two-year terms.

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    Special Olympians go for the gold at BraveHearts
    Oct. 29, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – Equestrians from throughout the state of Illinois arrived at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center in Poplar Grove to take part in the equestrian events for the Special Olympics. The equestrian events have been held at BraveHearts for the past three years. This year the event attracted 130 athletes. The athletes competed in equestrian events such as dressage and equitation.
    BraveHearts got its start when Marge Tautkus Gunnar was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Aug. 1993. Through the course of treatment, Gunnar struggled through the emotions of her diagnosis and treatment, she received solace from her Lipizzan stallion named Max.
    One day during one of Gunnar’s darkest days, she went to the stable and with tears in her eyes, she hugged Max. By wrapping his neck around her, he hugged her back.
    By 1999, Gunnar recovered from ovarian cancer and was volunteering at a therapeutic riding center. Wanting more, Gunnar eventually founded BraveHearts which was incorporated in Oct. 2002.  The program began at the Fantasy Fresian Farm in Harvard. The organization purchased the property in October 2005. In Aug. 2010, BraveHearts expanded by adding a second location through the purchase of the 17 acre Bergmann Center in Poplar Grove. The Poplar Grove facility also included a 55,000 square foot indoor facility.
    A 501(c)(3) charity, BraveHearts is a premier accredited center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International and is one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States.
    “We offer retreats and a lot of continuing education programs,” Meggan Hill-McQueeney, president of BraveHearts said. The facilities have an outpatient clinic that specializes in hippotherapy. They also offer services in therapeutic riding,  dressage, equitation, and continuing education opportunities.
     Unlike traditional therapeutic horseback riding, hippotherapy incorporates the horse’s movements into a total care plan for its patients. In addition to helping patients improve balance and core strength, hippotherapy also helps in the development of fine motor skills, cognition, sensory processing, and speech and language pathology. Therapeutic riding provides social, educational and recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
    “It is incredible how much a horse can do for so many people. Horses find our holes and they step in and take care of our needs,” Hill-McSweeney said.
    At the Special Olympics, athletes competed in dressage, equitation and trail. For the equitation event, athletes walked their horses through the arena and were accompanied by their coaches as they went through the paces with their horses.  In one of the last competitions held on Saturday, Justin Moriarty was declared the winner in the equitation class.
    Moriarty riding on a horse named Chica raised his arms in victory when his name was announced as the winner. Moriarty travels from the Chicago area to train at BraveHearts Harvard location. “I like horses. I like riding,” Moriarty said. “They are really neat horses. I like to ride them and pet them.”
    One of the success stories out of BraveHearts is Jake McManus. The 2014 Barrington High School graduate is one of the athletes who participated in the Special Olympics on Oct. 25 and 26. McManus began hippotherapy at another facility when he was five years old and has since transferred to BraveHearts.
    McManus was selected to represent the United States at the 21015 Special Olympics World Game in Los Angeles. “He is a really neat young man,” Hill-McQueeney said. “He lives and breathes riding a horse.”
    McManus began riding a horse at the age of five. “I have known him most of his life. We went from initially giving him hippotherapy which is when a physical, occupational or speech language pathologist works with a child and treats them while they are on the back of the horse. That was one of Jake’s early introductions with horses and he blossomed from there,” Hill-McSweeney said.  “He is one of those individuals that once you set a goal for him he totally can shatter it.”
    McManus learned prepositions and math on the back of the horse. “A lot of kids don’t realize that they are doing homework because it is just so much fun,” Hill-McSweeney explained. “We used to roll dice with Jake and have him add the dice. He would walk his horse forward that many steps. We incorporate little things into the riding.”
    McManus won two gold medals for trail and dressage at the Illinois State Special Olympics this past weekend.  As he was announced as the winner for dressage, he pumped his fists in victory and the crowd assembled chanted his name. “I like when everyone chants my name when I win,” McManus said.
    “It is great to hear everyone chant his name and to see everyone respond so positively to him,” his mom Stacie McManus added.
    Jake McManus has a little over a year to prepare for the World Games in Los Angeles. The games will include 7,000 athletes from 70 countries.  “We were thrilled he was selected to be part of Team USA,” Stacie McManus said.  “It is a big deal. We are excited
    Hill-McSweeney praised the volunteers and employees who helped at the Special Olympics event and who help throughout the year at the BraveHearts facilities. “We have hundreds of volunteers. “We have a staff  who gives 200% of their time. Our Board of Directors work tirelessly every day,” Hill-McSweeney said. “It is an amazing organization with so people who deeply care about serving the people who step on our farm.”
    As much as the patients who receive therapy at BraveHearts, the organization touches the lives and hearts of the volunteers and employees. “They are touched too. They get to see people who are challenged physically, cognitively, emotionally,” Hill-McManus said. They leave fulfilled knowing that they have helped somebody and seeing that BraveHearts makes the impossible possible.”
    To learn more about BraveHearts, contact them at 815-943-8226 

  • mural - bccd photo.jpg
    Interior mural is an ambassador for the Illinois prairie.
    Oct. 28, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE-Over a five year period employees as well as visitors witnessed the transformation of a blank interior wall inside of the Boone County Conservation District's nature center into what is now a mural of the Illinois prairie and Boone County wildlife and plants.  Employee Aarron “Ace” Minson was encouraged by supervisors to conceptualize and implement the mural.
    A Natural Areas Technician at the Boone County Conservation District (BCCD), Aarron Minson has been an employee for the past 12 years.  His main role is to implement the ecological restoration of BCCD sites by ensuring that each project site is as florally diverse as possible. This floral diversity provides a foothold for our native wildflowers, grasses and sedges, and has positive ramifications for pollinators and other fauna throughout the food chain.
    “From the time I was in first grade, I have enjoyed coming up with original cartoon characters, and thought I was going to be a cartoonist until a year or two out of high school. During that time I had jumped at any art class that was available, most notably those taught by Mr. Troy Yunk and Mr. Kit Scheidenhelm at Belvidere High School, and even started college as an art major. But my experiences in nature, and the resulting desire to steward it, endeared me to pursue a career in conservation,” said Aarron Minson.
    Upon first examination of the mural, the wild flower and prairie scene are prominent.  However, as one would stand in an art gallery admiring a piece of art work, one’s eyes begin to focus and the tiniest of details begin to emerge from the mural bringing its viewing into an amazing and enlightening experience.
    “The concept is an Illinois prairie scene, with as much native flora and fauna as I could pack in there. This was an endeavor to offer people a sample of the sheer biological diversity found in our state.  I completed the mural in the spring of 2013,” explained Minson. 
    “I was reluctant at first, as my background in art is primarily illustration and not painting so much. But their faith in me was very vocal.  The mural was originally designated as a "rainy day" project for me.  My supervisors encouraged me to paint a mural of a prairie scene with many wildflowers.  These were my only guidelines, and I largely had free artistic reign.  I wanted the mural itself to be an ambassador for the Illinois prairie that is now largely lost, but entirely worth saving and bringing back. I tried to incorporate as much as possible of what could have been seen on the historic Illinois prairie, along with what can still be seen today. Much of what I painted was inspired by what I've been privileged to observe first-hand in nature, and some of what I wish I could have seen. I also received inspiration from the work I've observed from local artists such as Troy Yunk, Kit Scheidenhelm and Gary Simon,” continued Minson.
    “It's refreshing to be able to look at it without wondering ‘What am I going to do next?’... I'm finished! I'm grateful that I've been able to incorporate my passion for art into a career that allows me a function within the natural world,” expressed Minson.
    While viewing the mural you can play “Find Ace’s Face”.  Yes, Ace Minson’s face appears in the mural.  And it is not easy to spot!  To give you a hint, Ace has red hair and a beard.  Good luck finding him! 
    For more information, please call (815) 547-7935.  The mural may be viewed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during normal business hours.  The Boone County Conservation District is located at 603 N. Appleton Road in Belvidere. 

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    Poplar Grove may hire help to find new administrator
    Oct. 26, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - Village officials are moving toward hiring a consultant to help them find a new village administrator. But they may have jumped the gun by forwarding resumes to a former Machesney Park executive whom they have not officially approved.
    Questions arose during Monday night's village board meeting, resulting in a brief delay in retaining the services of Bob Mullins. The primary stumbling point was the lack of specifics as to the scope of work to be done for $50 an hour, not to exceed a total of $1,500.
    Trustee Ron Quimby brought up the need for a contract that would contain those kinds of details.
    It had been stated at the Oct. 6 finance committee meeting that Mullins would provide Poplar Grove with the names of five candidates. There were no other details.
    Trustee Jeff Goings said he couldn't understand why the village was going to spend money on a regional search, when Village President John Neitzel and Trustee Don Bawden earlier conducted a national search at no charge. Their efforts led to the employment of Mark Lynch, who resigned effective May 31 after the board voted 4-3 to retain him for another year.
    "That took us an enormous amount of time," Neitzel recalled. "He (Mullins) has the local expertise, which is important."
    Mullins was Machesney Park's administration and finance director for 10 of the 11 years he worked there. He was the first village administrator before retiring in 2011. "He is well respected in the area," Bawden said.
    Trustees Owen Costanza and Goings expressed concern that some resumes already had been sent to Mullins. That caused Village Attorney Jim Stevens to say that no longer should be done. "We've got the cart before the horse a little bit," he said.
    Rather than have to call a special meeting, the board voted 4-2 with Costanza and Goings dissenting to allow Neitzel to sign a contract with Mullins, once one is received and approved by the attorney.
    Belvidere Twp. electric bills to see an increase
    BELVIDERE - Belvidere Township residents are among the last in this area to see an increase in their monthly electric bills.
    The board of trustees has agreed to remain in the electric aggregation program, renewing the kilowatt use rate at 7.14 cents per hour for the next 36 months. That's an increase of almost 2 cents an hour from the 5.229 that was in effect since the program started Jan. 1, 2013.
    Township Supervisor Pat Murphy said under the lower rate, homeowners saved an average of $275 a year, with the township as a whole saving $450,000.
    Boone County, the village of Machesney Park and Harlem Township also have approved rates considerably higher than what had been in effect for the past two years.
    Karen Herbert, president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, said the increase was because of new U.S. Environmental Protection Regulations (EPA).
    She said the Obama Administration wants to reduce carbon emissions by 42 percent in 2030. But she added that a study showed more aggressive standards would increase American electric bills by $17 billion and cost 224,000 jobs nationwide. That while reducing global emissions by just 2 percent, far short of the announced goal.
    "The president's war on coal will create a significant blow to the economy in exchange for very little environmental benefit," she said.
    Information obtained by Boone County Administrator Ken Terrinoni stated the new regulations could cause the closing of 30 percent of the coal-fired electric plants in this country.

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    Rescue Squad sues Fire District 3 over ambulance service
    Oct. 23, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Capron Rescue Squad District (CRS) has filed a lawsuit against North Boone Fire Protection District 3, saying it violated state law by purchasing an ambulance without asking voters for approval.
    Documents on file at the Boone County Courthouse show CRS is asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the fire department, to stop it from providing ambulance service on the north side of the county until after the referendum is held.
    In addition, CRS is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting District 3 from "providing ambulance services that do not arise in connection with fire protection duties.
    "We want to be sure everyone is following the law," said Owen Costanza, president of the CRS district, as to the reason for the suit.
    "We've contacted our lawyer and he's working on it," said Ray Morse, president of the District 3 Board of Trustees.
    "It's all about money to them," he said of the rescue squad. "Nowhere (in the suit) was public safety or the well-being of the public mentioned. That was disappointing to me."
    Meanwhile, District 3 has assembled a crew for its new ambulance, which soon will be ready for the state inspection, he said.
    The suit alleges that District 3 is in violation of 70 ILCS 705/22, which states it must submit to referendum the question of whether to provide ambulance service other than for life-saving and rescue operations, which might arise in connection with fire protection duties of a district. 
    It states further that the CRS District "will be irreparably harmed by the operation of an un-authorized ambulance service within the district it serves due to a town-turn in revenue."
    "The providing of ambulance service is highly regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health and if an un-authorized ambulance service is allowed to operate, the IDPH will not be able to conducting proper licensing of the paramedics and EMTs (emergency medical technicians), leading to potential harm to the citizens of Boone County," he states.
    The suit was filed by Jim Hursh, attorney for the CRS District.
    CRS has been providing ambulance service to a 144-square-mile area of northern Boone County since 1957. The district, from which tax revenue is collected for the service, covers the unincorporated area plus the villages of Capron, Caledonia, Poplar Grove and Timberlane.
    CRS currently has three ambulances with stations in downtown Capron and on Poplar Grove Road in Poplar Grove. It plans to build a third station on the south side of Candlewick Lake, off Caledonia Road.
    The Fire District 3 station is located at the corner of Illinois 173 and Hill Street in Poplar Grove.

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    Pottinger, Hearne return to the sidelines to honor Bucs football
    Oct. 22, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Joe Glickenberger, Tyler Mason, Jerry Rowe and Doug Sims were honored during halftime at the Belvidere Bucs football game on Oct. 17. The group was inducted into the Buc football hall of fame. The group was surrounded by family and friends as they watched the Bucs decisive 46-18 victory over Rockford East.
    On hand to bestow the honors on the group were former Belvidere Buc football coaches Verne Pottinger and Mike Hearne. “These four individuals gave their heart and soul to Belvidere football over the years,” Hearne said during the halftime ceremony.
    Pottinger recalled Jerry Rowe as being “one of our best fans.”
    “There is probably not one man in this town that supported Belvidere football more than Jerry Rowe,” Hearne added. Rowe, who wore #38 on his jersey and is a member of the IOU Club, was one of the founders of Belvidere Junior Tackle program.  Hearne told the crowd that Rowe was the first to help if the team needed anything and went as far as buying shoes for athletes who needed them.
    Lifetime season ticket holders and booster club members with his wife Carol, Rowe was honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I was honored that they would go back that far,” Rowe said. “I didn’t think people would remember.”
    Rowe was a three year starter on the high school football team and was a three sport athlete. A graduate of the Class of 1954, Rowe won the Ed Huck award for outstanding senior male athlete while in high school. He was inducted into the National Athletic Scholarship Society and the All Millennium team.  Rowe played offensive end, defensive end, and defensive corner. “Back in those days you played wherever they needed you,” Rowe said.
    Rowe was pleased to see Sims, Mason and Glickenberger honored. “It made me feel really good because they all came up through the Belvidere Junior Tackle program,” Rowe said.
    Rowe was at the game with his former cheerleader wife Carol and their daughters Diane and Karen and many of their four grandsons and three great grandchildren.
    “Some of us were together since third grade,” Glickenberger #31 said of his teammates from the Class of 1981. “We started at the YMCA in flag football and went through the Belvidere system. We all played in it (Belvidere Junior Tackle),” Glickenberger said.
    Perhaps inspired by his days at Belvidere Junior Tackle, Glickenberger paid it forward for youths in the northern end of the county.  “He started two different junior tackle programs in North Boone with his own money and is a tribute to their football program like he had people contribute to football here at Belvidere,” Hearne said.
    A running back and a member of the 1,000 yard club with 6.9 yards per carry, Glickenberger credited his success to the strong linemen that surrounded him. “Super linemen that I was surrounded by and the blocking running backs and a really strong group,” Glickenberger said. “I was lucky to be there.”
    “This guy can turn nothing into something. That’s what he did. It was great to watch him run,” John Lamont said. “Most of the time I was blocking someone and I would see him run by me.”
    Hearne recalled a game in which Glickenberger was running towards an almost certain touchdown. “He got to the 10 yard line and it looked like he was going to score and he had one guy to beat. Instead of trying to outrun him he decided to take him on. The kid tried to take him on and tackle him,” Hearne said. “He (Glickenberger) picked him (the defender) up and carried him into the end zone.”
    “I always remember what kind of a runner he was,” Pottinger said. He ran with his knees so high that he punished people.”
    Although the Bucs won their first conference championship in 1983, they had the potential for the title in the 1980 season had they not gotten out to a rough start. “Our senior year we started off 0-3 because we kept making penalties,” Lamont recalled of Glickenberger’s senior year. “We won the last 7 games. The first three games we had over a hundred and something yards a game in penalties. It just wiped us out.”
    Glickenberger was at the game with his wife and girlfriend Maureen and their three children Kayla, Sarah and Danny and a large group of friends. After graduating from high school, Glickenberger played football for Rock Valley College before taking a job at Chrysler in their tool and die shop.
    “In 1983 we won our first conference championship,” Pottinger recalled. “We got in the second round of the playoffs.”
    A member of the 1983 team was #67, Tyler Mason who was a starter on his college team, Valparaiso University.
    “I would really like to dedicate this to  #66 class of 1962 my dad and #67 class of 1991 and my teammates and coaches,” Mason said in honoring his father Larry and his brother Tory.
    “He told me his highest honor was being voted team captain his senior year in college,” Hearne said. “That tells you what kind of player he is having that as his highest accomplishment in college.”
    After graduation from the Division 2 Valparaiso, Mason was invited to attend the 1988 NFL Scouting Combine.  Valpo’s D-2 status when he was a collegiate athlete “made it more special when I went to the Combine,” he said.
    He was invited to attend a free agent tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers before eventually playing professional football for a year with the London Olympians as an offensive guard and coach.
    Mason lives with his wife Tammi in the Milwaukee area.
    Doug Sims #40 was a 1,000 yard club for rushing in both his junior and senior years. “That is something that has only been done two times in the history of Belvidere,” Hearne said. “He is the number 13 guy in all-time rushing yards in NIC-10 history.”
    “He ran people over. Amazingly he had some very, very good linemen and offensive guards and he was a very good ball player,” Pottinger praised the 1992 graduate.
    “I used to knock people down. I enjoyed it, Sims admitted. “I wasn’t fast by any means. If I didn’t have good blocking in front of me I muscled through it anyway.”
    Sims brought a football with him today and asked the coaches, the other hall of fame athletes and others to sign the ball. He already had plans
    After graduating high school, Sims played football for Rock Valley College and later for College of St. Francis in Joliet. While still in college, Sims took a job at Chrysler. “I thought I would use their tuition assistance to get through college and I am still there 19 years later,” Sims said.
    He is married to his wife Dawn and they have two children, Madison and Parker.
    “It is a special night. I am glad these guys are having so much fun with each other,” Hearne said. “The football program has always been so special. It is nice for our school and our program. It is a nice honor for those kids and it brings back the memories.”
    “I like to come back every year to see all of the people the memories are so good,” Pottinger agreed.

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    World War I poster collection reflects an age gone by
    Oct. 21, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE - When Lonna Bentley arrived to open the Boone County Historical Museum on Wednesday morning, there was a bus filled with 30 visitors already waiting in the parking lot. Surprised, the museum’s archivist wondered why museum director Mary Hale didn’t her that a tour group was coming through that day.
    A member of the group read an Aug. 19 article in the Belvidere Daily Republican about the museum’s upcoming World War I exhibit of war posters and they patiently waited nearly two months until the exhibit’s opening day arrived. Their early arrival signaled that they were not about to wait one minute longer. They were on a mission.
    “They were here for three hours. They were ecstatic,” Bentley said. “They loved the posters and then they started to get involved in the museum.”
    “They had a ball. They were hysterical,” said Bentley who seemed to have enjoyed the group’s visit to the museum as much as they did.
    The group toured the 53 World War I political posters that were from the New Process Electro Corporation. The rare collection of James Cartoons was created as wartime propaganda and reflects the era and attitude of one hundred years ago. As an example a caricature that is dressed like Aladdin represents the Turkish Sultan Mehmed Reshad. Kaiser Wilhelm from Germany is portrayed wearing a Pickelhaube spiked hat.
    The posters also reflect a history lesson of sacrifices that were made on both the warfront as well as the home front. In a poster titled “Workless Mondays” Uncle Sam is holding a piece of paper in his hand that says “Garfield closing order” as he points to a blackboard and says “these are the ten Mondays the government is asking you to give up in order that we can catch up with the war requirement.”
    Garfield refers to Fuel Administrator Harry Garfield.
    Even prior to the war, the country experienced coal shortages and the Federal Fuel Administration was organized to ensure a steady supply of coal for the military, industry and consumers.  Americans were asked not to work each Monday from Jan 21 through Mar. 25, 1918. In the poster, a merchant is seen saying “No blue Monday for me. I’ll make mine a red white and blue Monday by cooperating with Uncle Sam.”
    Also referenced in the cartoon is Meatless Mondays.  During the war, 13 million Americans signed a pledge to aid the war effort by going meatless Monday and wheatless Wednesday. The U.S. Food administration urged families to reduce consumption of key staples because “food will win the war.”
    In a bit of humor in the cartoon, a forlorn man is seen sitting on the edge of the stage. “Gee whiz! I always did stay home on Mondays to get over the effects from Sunday. Must I now stay home on Tuesday to get over the effects of Monday,” he laments.
    A note on the bottom of the poster says “this establishment advocates that you devote your spare Mondays to doing your bit for the boys who are fighting our battles in Europe.”
    Remnants of the Fuel Administration still exist when the North America, Europe and other parts of the world spring ahead or fall back for daylight time. This year, daylight savings time will end on Nov. 2.
    The cartoons are unabashedly patriotic and do not mince words against the enemy.  “WWI propaganda posters were everywhere.  Other than newspapers, this was the only source of information and it was what the government wanted the public to know.  At that time, war information could take days and even weeks to reach our shores,” Bentley said.
     “Each poster has a different theme but all were meant to feed information on the war and entice patrons to shop at that establishment. Several in this collection focus on the sale of War Savings Stamps and Liberty Bonds,” Bentley said. “The posters are first run and not reproductions and are believed to have hung in JR Balliet's store in Belvidere, Illinois as several of them have his name on the bottom as well as a few handwritten messages.” Visitors to the museum can tour the 53 posters.  A sign next to each poster described the contents and activities of each poster.
    The posters are in remarkably good shape considering their age and storage history.  They were recently found in a tube among the museum’s archives. “There had never been a reason to open a tube we had marked WW2 Posters until I was planning the Veterans Exhibit that just concluded.  I was hopeful there was something I could use.  However, when I investigated tube and unrolled the posters, I did not have anything related to WW2, but instead discovered I had WW1 Cartoons,” Bentley said. 
    In addition to viewing the posters at the museum, they can be viewed online through the museum’s website at and clicking on the link for the Rare WWI James Cartoon posters.
    Among the first visitors of the exhibit was Alan Roloff from the DeKalb County Forest Preserve. Roloff, himself a veteran, was at the museum to view the log cabin on display. “We are rebuilding a cabin similar to the one in here. We came here to get a few ideas,” Roloff said. “It is in a state of semi-completion. We still need to put in the windows and doors. We just wanted to see how they did it here and to see how they did the stairway. The way they did the stairway was different than what I would have thought it was earlier.”
    The log cabin will be part of the Hoppe Heritage Homestead on Rt. 72 in DeKalb. The log cabin is significant because it was built by the father in-law of Isaac Elwood, the barbed wire baron of the United States.
    Residents will have several special reasons to visit the collection of posters before the exhibit closes on Nov. 15. The museum will hold its Trash or Treasure event on Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
    Visitors to the museum can bring an item to be appraised for a $6 donation. Professional appraisers from a broad range of expertise will assess the value of residents’ artifacts. The event is sponsored by financial advisors Eric Dahl and Shawn Rooney from Edward Jones.
    We are excited for the public to be able to come in and have professional appraisers for their family heirlooms,” Museum president Don Banks said.
    “We are happy with the exposure for the museum and the opportunity to allow people to have professionals look at their artifacts,” board treasurer Dick Stegemann added.
    Perhaps it is fitting that the collection of World War I James Cartoon posters is on display now as Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. The holiday was originally called Armistice Day and celebrated the end of World War I.
    The holiday celebrates and honors all veterans all veterans either living or dead.  The Veterans Day parade will step off exactly at 9:30 a.m. from Parking Lot 5 by City Hall in Belvidere and will proceed to the State Street Bridge where Gold Star Sisters will cast the wreath upon the Kishwaukee River. Bob Ryder, superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County will be this year’s speaker.
    As for the first group to tour the exhibit, they left the museum to dine at the Steam Plant Restaurant. “One of the guys said that he would be back in five minutes,” Bentley said that the man added that his quick return reflected how much he enjoyed the exhibit.
    The Boone County Historical Museum is located at 314 S. State Street in Belvidere.
    Lisa Rodgers contributed to this story.

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    School district, teachers reach tentative contract agreement
    Oct. 19, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Belvidere School District 100 and the Belvidere Education Association (BEA) reached a tentative agreement on Tuesday, Oct. 14 following a five hour negotiation session with a federal mediator. The settlement was reached after 90 hours of face-to-face negotiations since mid-June. 
    The teachers held a membership meeting at the Apollo Banquet Hall on Oct. 15 and voted to ratify the agreement. According to a status update shared on the BEA’s Facebook page, the contract was ratified with a vote of 387-62. The School Board will vote on the contract at its Oct. 20 meeting. A large crowd is expected to attend the Oct. 20 meeting as the School Board is also set to discuss the Career Academy Expo and Vocation Magnet School Recommendations.
    Before Tuesday’s negotiating meeting, the teachers held a show of unity by picketing at various locations throughout Belvidere. “Today was an entire demonstration of a show of solidarity across the district. The middle schools were before school. The high schools and grade schools demonstrated after school, some of them meeting at the state street bridge with then we all met up here (at the district office) after that,” Andy Werhane said.
    “The teachers are maybe a bit weary but we are united and strong and we feel good about supporting our negotiating team to get a fair contract.”
    On Tuesday afternoon, elementary as elementary school teachers picketed on the State Street Bridge in Belvidere, several passing motorists honked their horn in support of the teachers. At least one driver expressed a different sentiment and gave the teachers a one finger salute as he drove past.

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    Millenium Mural tells the stories of Boone County
    Oct. 16, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The Millenium Mural got a new look on Oct. 12. The original mural was painted in oil 14 years ago by Bill Hueg and was badly fading. Hueg recreated the mural on a lightweight canvas. The new mural was made possible from a bequest from Marjorie Blietz.
    The original mural and the new mural were painted with oil pants. “It’s my favorite medium,” said St. Paul, Minn. Muralist Bill Hueg. “We knew it wouldn’t last.”
    The new mural was photographed and digitally printed on 12 aluminum composite panels by Jay Allen’s ShawCraft Sign Co. on aluminum composite panels.  This procedure will ensure that the mural may be refreshed again.
    “This is a great day in the city and a great day for the city for generations to come,” Belvidere mayor Mike Chamberlain said.
    When the Millennium Mural was originally commissioned, the direction was to select the most notable items that represented Boone County in the past 100 years. The images that were selected were the 1967 tornado, the crowning of Judi Ford Nash as Miss America, the Boone County Fair, the Chrysler plant and farming.
    The 1967 tornado is represented through the haunting image of John and Kathy Fitch, Connie Jeanblanc, Judy Hage, Linda, Donna, Paul, Ann and Harry Wennmacher huddled as a group as they leave Belvidere High School and make their way towards a waiting ambulance.
    To the right of the image of the group are the countless unidentified volunteers who helped clean up in the aftermath of the tornado.  It is appropriate that one of the volunteers is shown wearing his Belvidere Bucs letterman jacket. After the tornado struck on Apr. 21, 1967, members of the Bucs football team quickly organized themselves to use cafeteria tables as makeshift gurneys to transport many of the tornado victims.
    In the forefront of the image is the Milky Way Donut Shop which was one of the many businesses and homes that were destroyed by the tornado. Diners dove under the counter and tables for safety when the tornado struck. Reflecting the power and mercy of a tornado, the shop was destroyed and napkin dispensers remained on the counters.
    It has been said that the Beatles helped America recover from the depression of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Judi Ford Nash is the Belvidere equivalent of the Beatles.   A 1967 graduate of Belvidere High School, her crowning as Miss America in 1969 helped Belvidere emotionally recover from the aftermath of the tornado and gave the county a new definition.
    Nash’s image in the dress she wore when she was crowned Miss America is next to the tornado image in the mural.
    To the right of Nash is an image of harness racing at the Boone County Fair when it was held at Spencer Park.
    The Chrysler Assembly Plant including images of the water tower and the 1965 Plymouth Fury are the next images depicted in the mural.
    The next image shown is the Gallano farm on Newburg Road as farming is the largest industry in Boone County. “Farming is Boone County’s largest industry,” Sherry Lindquist, from the Boone County Arts Council said. “It is the rich farmland that brought settlers here in the 1830s. It is our most valuable asset today. Remember when the KB land sold a few years ago at $8,500 acres. The early homesteaders paid 1.25 an acre. Farming and the spinoff industries dairy, Deans foods the canning industry, General Mills and now the grain farming and agribusiness is Boone County’s largest industry.”
    The final image is of Ed Dooley, Bud and John Gallano.  The image of Ed Dooley representing was also patterned after Hugh Funderburg. Funderburg worked as a supervisor at KB Farms. Through his ownership of Belvidere Bank “he virtually saved Belvidere from the Depression when all of the other banks failed,” Lindquist said.
    Many of those on the mural attended the rededication ceremony on Oct. 12.  “I was very honored 14 years ago when they wanted to put me on the Millennium Mural,” Nash said. “I am honored to be back.”
    “It is always nice to come back here and be nostalgic.”
    John Fitch, Donna, Linda and Ann Wennmacher came to participate in the rededication ceremony and recalled that fateful day in which their image was captured by the photographer.
    The tornado struck so suddenly that Fitch was unable to make it to safety. His sister Kathy Loy raced into the back of John Hage’s car with several other students. Fitch was outside of his father’s car holding on for dear life as the tornado ripped through the area.
    He and the Wennmachers were unaware that they were being photographed. His concern was on his sister who had a large gash in her leg.
    “There was way too much going on,” agreed Donna Wennmacher.
    “The first time we realized that it had been taken was when we were told it was in the world book,” Ann Wennmacher said.
    “The first time I thought it was important was when my daughter came home from the museum and said ‘mom your photo is in the museum,’” Linda Wennmacher added.
    Although when many see the image of the group, they feel the passion of the day. The Wennmachers remember the passion of the day along with other odd little personal details that are firmly etched in their memories. Donna’s paisley dress….Linda’s St. James plaid uniform….a pair of eyeglasses….the Hail Mary. Little brother Paul was wearing his favorite Army cap. Paul’s had four stars on it, but one star flew off in the tornado and young Paul was very upset about the missing star.
    Donna’s glasses were ripped off of her face during the storm and they landed safely in Elgin. Because she had attended an all-girls school in Rockford, her glasses were labelled with her name. Someone who read their names in the newspaper returned her undamaged glasses to her. Donna was grateful that her poor eyesight prevented her from fully seeing the initial carnage.
    “I remember my mom saying the Hail Mary over and over,” Linda Wennmacher recalled.
    It was through fortune that the Wennmachers were not on the bus that day.  Typically five of the children would have been on the bus.  “We were the farm kids and the St. James kids on the public school bus. So they always picked on us.” Linda recalled.  Two weeks prior to the tornado, younger brother John was picked on by some of the other children. “We took care of it.”
    Taking care of it resulted in the Wennmacher family being kicked off of the bus.
    “There would have been five of us on the bus. My dad always said one of us would have been hurt or killed if we had been on that bus,” Donna Wennmacher added.
    The Wennmachers credited the bus driver on what would have been their bus for sacrificing his own life in saving many children that day. “The bus driver who was killed had been on a medical leave and wasn’t supposed to be driving the bus that day. They called him in that day and he said ‘I’m not driving So and So is supposed to drive.’ And they told him ‘no he is sick today you have to come in.’ He lost his life,” Linda recalled. “He saved a lot of kids that day.”
    During the tornado, Donna and Linda Wennmacher ran into a house and threw themselves on the ground. When the storm ended, the house around them was gone. They saw the woman of the house and a small girl. The girl was wearing nothing but training pants and they surmised that the mom grabbed her napping daughter from her crib and raced down the stairs.
    After the Wennmacher girls were reunited with their mother, the little girl’s mother handed her daughter to Ann Wennmacher and wandered through the neighborhood in a daze.

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    SwedishAmerican celebrates five years in Boone County
    Oct. 15, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – SwedishAmerican Medical Center celebrated its fifth anniversary in Belvidere on Oct 9.
    Bill Gorski, president of SwedishAmerican Health System spoke of receiving a phone call from former Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton. Brereton told him that Northwest Suburban Hospital was struggling financially and it looked like it would be closing its doors.  As an enticement, Brereton dangled the enticing tidbit that Northwest Suburban Hospital held a hospital license.
    Undoubtedly, it was one of many phone calls that Brereton made throughout the Chicago suburbs  and city of Rockford. As Brereton was about to give up hope of having quality health care in Belvidere, SwedishAmerican accepted the challenge.
    As Gorsky tells the story, in January of 2007, he received the phone call from Brereton expressing the need, in September 2007, the SwedishAmerican board approved the purchase of the facility, in December the purchase was completed, in July of 2008, remodeling began, and in April 2009, the emergency room opened its doors.  
    “There were many days that we didn’t think this day would ever come,” Brereton said.  “They make it sound so easy. One hospital went out. They remodeled and moved in. End of story.”
    “We went from a community that had two hospitals to one that did not have any.”
    Gorski admitted that the road took many twists and turns and thanked Brereton for acknowledging the challenges they faces to open the Belvidere facility. In turn, Brereton thanked Gorski for SwedishAmerican’s dedication to the community.
    Mayor Mike Chamberlain echoed his praise and gratitude of SwedishAmerican. “To be able to stand here seven years after someone decided that we were worth taking a chance on is very gratifying,” Chamberlain said. “When everyone else closed their doors and walked away and we had a community that did not have adequate health care, SwedishAmerican took the challenge and chance on us as a community. We are very grateful.”
    Daniels praised DawnaMenke, administrator of the medical center.  “She worked tirelessly with boundless energy to make SwedishAmerican of Belvidere what it is today,” Daniels said. “She has done a great job.”
    “The reception of the community supporting us has been overwhelming,” Menke said. “When you go out in the community and people are thanking us for being here.”
    “We try to get involved in the community.”
    “It is a pleasure to be here. We work with a bunch of people who are great, hard-working,” Dr. Ed Sloan added. “The patients are a pleasure to serve.”
    Gorski solidified his commitment to Belvidere and Boone County communities by promising to expand services and to continue to partner with the community. “At the end of the day, it has been a wild ride and it has been incredibly fun,” Gorski said.

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    Waters family receives a hand up
    Oct. 14, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – On Thanksgiving morning surrounded by moving boxes, Lisa Waters and her children woke up for the first time in their new home and cooked a turkey in their new stove. The family of four had rented for years and finally achieved their piece of the American dream of homeownership.
    Nearly a year later, Habitat for Humanity of Boone County is offering to help another family achieve the same dream. Habitat for Humanity of Boone County is accepting applications from families to be the next recipient of a Habitat for Humanity home.  Plans are for the new house to be built at 1021 W. Fifth St. in Belvidere. “It is a real nice looking lot. I like it a lot,” attorney Henry Repay from Habitat for Humanity said.
    “It is affordable housing to give families a chance to own a new home,” Tammy Zurfluh from Habitat for Humanity explained. “The family is in partnership with Habitat.”
    “It is a hands up, not a hand out,” Lisa Waters added. The single mom and Northwest Pallet employee moved into her new home with her three children last November. “I was renting for more than what my mortgage payment is now. It allowed me to put money into a home where we are living in forever.”
    Habitat for Humanity will hold two informational meetings on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 25 at the First United Methodist Church, 610 Bonus Ave. in Belvidere. Interested people can attend the sessions to program requirements and process. The group expects to break ground on the new home in April with a move in date by next October.
    “They will learn the qualifications requirements,” Zurfluh said of the informational meetings. “We will answer questions on how to fill out the application. They will get a packet to take with them where they can return all of their financial information to us. We need all of the information back by Nov. 7.”
    “I put together a letter saying how I take care of my children on my own and I included information on my work history,” Waters said of the application process.  Waters had applied in prior years for the program before finally being accepted as the recipient.
    Repay is quick to point out that it is not free housing. “There has to be a need. We are not giving someone a home. They are going to make a mortgage payment,” he said. “What makes it affordable is it is at cost of the house and at no interest.”
    “Typically when we qualify a family we estimate the payment to be $550 a month,” Zurfluh added. “When you look at market rents, that frequently is below market rents.”
    In order to qualify as a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, Waters had to demonstrate a need for adequate shelter, be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity, meet minimum income and credit score guidelines, and have been a resident from Boone County for at least one year.
    Waters had to pay $700 towards closing and administrative costs and put in 300 hours of sweat equity into the home. The sweat equity can be split among family members. During the construction process, Waters frequently stopped by with her children Juliana, Soraya and Damian. “To complete some of my hours we would do things that the kids could help out with like sweeping up or cleaning up or carrying and moving things,” Waters explained. “They got to be a part of it too.
    A core group of five volunteers, led by Art Hyland worked several days a week building the home. On Saturdays, other volunteers, employee groups and church groups arrived to help work on the Waters’ new home. “Saturday is our primary volunteer days,” Repay explained. “Basically anyone can show up. You might have a certain employer who brings a bunch of their staff and come in. We have had Alpine Bank, State Farm, County Bar Association, and Blackhawk Bank.”
    Through the process, the family built new relationships in the community from the legions of volunteers who helped construct her home.  Waters describes them as “family” and enjoys when they come to visit. Waters and her children developed a close bond with Hyland who put in over 900 volunteer hours constructing their home. “I got to pick out the roof, the siding, and the shutters. My kids and I went with Art and his wife. We adopted him in as our grandpa,” Waters said.
    Waters was deeply affected by the various organizations and church groups that volunteered and described the frequent tears that she shed in appreciation of their efforts during construction. “At our dedication churches made blankets, and those are things that are out in our house every day. Everything reminds me of the whole process and everyone we got to meet.”
    In addition to seeking applicants for the 2015 Habitat for Humanity project, the organization needs volunteers and donations. “We are looking for more people to be involved in the organization as far as volunteering to be on committees or to work the house. We need individuals that want to come out once construction starts or if a company wants to send a team out on a Saturday,” Repay said.  “Any construction people who want to donate their time or if they have materials they want to donate or if they have surplus is appreciated.”
    “Certainly financial donations will help us get the house built.”
    For additional information on Habitat for Humanity of Boone County, visit or call (815) 980-6247. Applications for the new Habitat for Humanity home are due on Nov. 7.
    Since moving into their new home, the Waters family added a new family member in May. A puppy.  “That was one of the things we could never do before,” Waters said.

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    Marshall Wolfe makes history come to life
    Oct. 12, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – For Belvidere’s Marshall Wolfe, the Boone County Conservation District’s (BCCD) Autumn Pioneer Festival is much more than a weekend festival. The conservation district volunteer has already begun planning next year’s festival.
    Wolfe has been a participant in the Autumn Pioneer Festival for 26 years and has been the festival’s bourgeoisie for the past 10 years. Although the word is a French word that means the ruling upper class, for the BCCD, it means that Wolfe helps organize and run the Pioneer Festival along with Pam Stock and Mick Johnston from the BCCD. Wolfe serves as a liaison between the festival’s reenactors and the BCCD.
    Wolfe is the Belvidere Daily Republican’s Volunteer of the Month because of his dedication and service to the BCCD.
    “He is fantastic. He works year round,” Pam Stock, Public Outreach and Special Events manager, said. “
    It takes a year to plan the festival. He comes to our steering committee meetings. He works with the reenactors year round.”
    “That takes a lot of pressure off of me.”
    “I am a volunteer. I try to do as much as I can,” Wolfe added.
    Wolfe first became involved in the BCCD in the 1980s. Matt Foster was his coworker at Machine Tool. One day Wolfe noticed Foster swapping out a barrel on a rifle. “I said ‘what are you doing you are supposed to be doing your work.’ He said ‘I am swapping a barrel to make a gun,’” Wolfe recalled the conversation.
    “So I served my apprenticeship as a gun smith when I first started.”
    From that humble beginning, Wolfe began a lifelong association with the conservation district and the reenactors who bring history to life.
    Fifty years ago, Roger Gustafson founded the Boone County Conservation District. It is the first conservation district in the State of Illinois. “Bill Wolf was the first president of the board of directors for the conservation district,” Wolfe recalled. “This year he is the 50th. He has been around for50 years.”
    “Roger Gustafson is one of the reasons why I stuck around. He was a great teacher.”
    Although the Pioneer Festival is in its 33rd year, the festival’s origins go back 50 years.  “It started as the Butter Babes in 1964 when Roger first started the conservation district,” Wolfe said. The festival was originally held at Spencer Park. “It was a couple of shacks and people making buffalo stew. The original 14. Jack Engleson, Chuck and Carol, Matt and Kathy.”
    With a few exceptions, the Pioneer Festival recreates life in the region pre-1830 when the “silver spoons” arrived.  “The ladies of the prairie were here. The farmers were moving in,” Wolfe said. “We say pre-1830s because the French were very prevalent in this area for trading and trapping.”
    To recreate a pre-1830s environment, the festival utilizes buildings and trades from the era. “The Murray Cabin, the Newhouse cabin. Those cabins were found right here in Boone County,” Wolfe said of the log cabins that were encased inside of area buildings. “They kept putting siding on them and made them into a barn or a shed.”
    Mark Dawson left an endowment to the BCCD. “He said ‘I want a blacksmith shop and we need a school house.’ These buildings are time period appropriate,” Wolfe said.
    “They want to see a tin smith, they want to see the lace maker. We have so many volunteers,” Wolfe said.
    He praised the many groups that volunteer for the event including the skilled reenactors, demonstrators and exhibitors such as the blacksmiths, tin smiths, lace makers, Girl Scouts, and Coon Creek Casters.
    “The reenactors that we have are the crème de la crème. The event is the conservation district but volunteers make the event what it is,” Wolfe said.
    Wolfe praised the efforts of Mike Patterson to reach out to area youth and establish an Explorers volunteer program.
    The Explorers program will be geared towards students age 15-18 to teach them black smithing, bobbin lacemaking, chair caning, and sewing. “Do you want to make quilts? Do you want a chair cane? Do you want to make your leggings, your clothing? Do what your grandmother and grandfather did?” Wolfe asked.
    This year’s Autumn Pioneer Festival attracted between 18,000 to 20,000 people. Because the district does not charge to attend the festival, they cannot use ticket sales to determine attendance. “Where we are concerned it is a family event,” Wolfe said. “If a guy comes with his family and you charge them $5 a piece then he cannot buy the kids a root beer or a doughnut.”
    “It has always been this way since Roger did it. The Pioneer Festival is never going to die. It is always going to be a part of Belvidere history. That is what Roger would have wanted.

  • 4-h Tim Kindberg Photo.jpg
    Approaching the end of my 4-H journey
    Oct. 9, 2014
    By Tim Kindberg
    Guest contributor
    When I started my 4-H journey a few years back I wasn’t so sure I wanted to join. With a lot of encouragement from my family I took the dip and joined 4-H. Ten years later I’m kind of sad for my 4-H journey is coming to an end. 4-H has taught me many life skills and has opened up many opportunities I would never have had. It has been an awesome experience that I will cherish throughout my life.
    Even though I was away at college, I continued for the ninth consecutive year as a dairy project member. With the help of my parents and twin sisters I was able to continue to raise my few registered animals that I purchased over the past few years. I was born and raised on our family’s Black and White Holstein dairy farm. We never had any registered animals until I told Dad I wanted to expand my herd and buy registered animals. The first animal I bought was a registered Red and White Holstein heifer calf. She now has had two offspring that I continue to raise. I also purchased a registered Brown Swiss heifer that was bred. She had a bull calf that I am raising. I have learned many things from my animals. They have feelings just like people do. If you treat them with respect they will treat you well in return. They can get ticked off at you also. Raising animals is an awesome experience.
    My family is proud of my 4-H participation. They were all past 4-Her’s and Mom is still a leader (15 years) today. It seems each year my skills improve and get better and better and this year was no exception. I won 2 big awards this year when I showed at the fair.
    4-H has helped me with my career in many ways. When I started this journey I was quiet, shy and did not want to get involved. Since I was strongly encouraged to get up in front of people and do a talk as one of the 4-H requirements my public speaking skills have skyrocketed. I can get up in front of a large crowd and speak, play an instrument and even sing a solo on the Praise Team at our local church. I have also found out that English and Speech classes are getting easier thanks to 4-H for I have developed a lot of self-confidence when I put my public speaking skills to work.
    4-H has taught me to be a better leader for I can now teach and encourage others to try new things. I can lead small group discussions or hold an office. I have held many offices throughout my 4-H years such as Sentinel, Vice President and this past year I was club Historian. I had the privilege of construction a scrapbook of all of the projects, events and activities our club has done this past year. It makes you feel good when you can toot your own horn and show others how great 4-H can be. I have also served on many committees such as Fall Food Shower, International night poster display, Refreshments and the best one is Hometown Christmas where we sponsor a needy family. The leadership skills that I have learned in 4-H also help me be able to lead small group discussions and taking on challenges I would never have done a few years back. It has built my confidence.
     Community Service is another important skill I have developed through 4-H. Our club did many things to help others in need this past year. We sorted, packed and delivered food to the local food pantry for the Fall Food Shower. We wrote, labeled and sorted Christmas cards for the Friends of the Troops military mail. We wrapped gifts for the Angel tree for a local organization. We made valentine cards for residents at the Assisted Living facility. We promoted the dairy industry by manning a booth at the annual Dairy Breakfast where we passed out dairy literature, pencils and “Got Milk” tattoos to the children. The best community service project we do every year is Hometown Christmas. We sponsor a needy family from our local community. We buy them a Christmas tree; make ornaments for their tree, purchase lights and a tree skirt. We then go out and buy each member of the family gifts and wrap them. We put together a food basket for the family as well. Finally we have the honor of delivering all of the items to the family. What an awesome feeling you get when you see the priceless expression on the face of a child whose holiday just got better because you helped them and made a difference. Providing Community Service is one of my favorite things to do whether it is for 4-H, school, church or any organization I belong to. I, along with my family members, just can’t say no when it comes to helping others. Hoping someday those people will help me in return if I need it.
    In conclusion, over the past 10 years 4-H has helped me to become a more well-rounded individual who has developed many skills that I can use and share with others throughout my life. 4-H has been an awesome experience and I would gladly recommend all youth ages 5-18 to join this great organization.

  • homecoming photo 1_edited.JPG
    Homecoming season ended
    Oct. 8, 2014
    Homecoming season ended in Boone County when Belvidere High School held their homecoming dance on Saturday Oct. 4. For the second time in as many weeks, the Guilford Vikings came to Belvidere to face a homecoming crowd. And for the second time in as many weeks, the Vikings were defeated nearly as decisively as the Minnesota Vikings were by the Green Bay Packers.
    Belvidere High School’s homecoming week was packed with activities including the spirit days, powder puff football game, pep rally, paint the dam, parade, homecoming game, and the dance. The senior girls won the powder puff football game and the seniors won the spirit stick.
    This year’s homecoming theme was Hollywood through the ages.  A Belvidere twist on the homecoming theme took place during the halftime show at the varsity football game. The marching band added eighth grade band members from Belvidere South Middle School and 30 alumni members from the Belvidere High School Band, including one member from the class of 1967. The high school choir added students from Belvidere South Middle School as well as 40 alumni and sang Bohemian Rhapsody.
    Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport was among the alumni participating in the halftime marching band performance. A trumpet player, Newport is no stranger to marching band. He was part of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini Marching Band. He travelled with the band when the Illini faced the UCLA Bruins in the 1984 Rose Bowl. Newport advised the middle school students to continue in the band. He told them that band might not be a lot of fun in junior high, but it gets better in high school and is very enjoyable in college.
    Although the group had one opportunity to practice together, they sounded great and performed well in unison. They played Don’t stop me now, Crazy little thing called love, and the school fight song.
    On Friday, the high school held its homecoming pep rally. The gym was filled to a stentorian capacity as the students took part in a variety of competitions.
    One of the highlights of the homecoming rally was when 20 teachers dressed up in Bucs uniforms and sang the Homecoming Shuffle to the Tune of the Homecoming Shuffle. Special education teacher Eric Samuelson channeled his inner Jim McMahon to the delight of the students. As part of the Homecoming Shuffle, the teachers celebrated each of the football seniors in song.
    As much a part of the pep rally games was seeing a more casual side of their teachers. Mr. Saville, who was the Master of Ceremonies, skeeved the students with a demonstration of his double joints.  It is an image that will take a long time to be erased from this reporter’s retinas and memory.
    The pep rally included a toilet paper mummy competition.  Male students from each class wrapped a female student in a roll of toilet paper.  Tyler Lass and Mackenzie Hauser won the competition for the seniors. Tyler admitted that he had a little help from the coaches who were standing about five feet away from him. “The coaches behind me were helping me out a little bit telling me which spot to cover up,” Tyler said.
    When the senior team was declared to be the winner, the girls from the freshman, sophomore and junior teams emerged from their toilet paper cocoons. Makenzie did not immediately break out of her toilet paper dressing, to the delight of the coaches assembled behind Tyler as they encouraged him to wait in telling Makenzie. “We were seeing how long it would take her to realize that it was over,” Tyler said. At the time of the interview, he did not think that Makenzie realized that she had been part of an impromptu prank. “I was just going along with it.”
    Nik Vistina showed his baseball playing prowess during the cheese puff throwing competition. With his face completely covered in shaving cream, Nik swayed to the left and right to catch cheese puffs on his face that were thrown by his friend Amanda Taylor. “She was throwing them and I was maneuvering to catch as many cheese puffs as possible,” Nik said. “It was a little uncomfortable; my eyes were burning.”
    Nik had plans to go with a group of friends on Saturday. The group rented a party bus to take them to the homecoming dance at the high school.
    Near the end of the pep rally, the classes held a tug-of-war. The freshmen and the sophomores faced off first, with a sophomore victory. In the second competition, a close competition between the juniors and seniors gave the victory to the juniors.
    The juniors won the class competition by besting the sophomores.
    In another light moment during the pep rally, the teachers faced off against the juniors for the school tug-of-war championship. The teachers stacked the deck when several of the coaches and young male teachers took up the rope.
    When it seemed that the school championship would go to the teachers, several members of the football team stormed the gym floor to join the juniors and pull the rope in the students’ favor.
    For the homecoming game, heavy coats and blankets were the standard attire as the mercury dropped to 47 degrees as game time and a steady and sustained wind gave a wind chill factor of 36 degrees. If it were February, it might feel balmy. But since it was Oct. 3, it was miserably cold in a game.
    Before the game began, each of the homecoming king and queen candidates were escorted by their parents on the track for the coronation. Varsity quarterback Colton Bahling and Leandra Carlyle were announced as homecoming king and queen.
    “It is very special to know that a lot of people in this school like me enough to nominate me and vote for me, Leandra said. “Band members aren’t who you would typically think of as homecoming queen.”
    Colton and Leandra did not have long to receive hugs and congratulations, almost as soon as they were crowned, they had to remove their crown and sash and go to work.
    Leandra had a clarinet to play and Colton had a football game to win.

  • joey bucci photo.JPG
    Joey of Belvidere is Camelot’s Tom of Warwickshire
    Oct. 7, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When the national touring Broadway production of Camelot takes the stage at the Coronado Theater on Oct. 16, Joey Bucci will in the cast as Tom of Warwickshire. Joey is a charismatic fourth grade student at Seth Whitman student in Belvidere.
    Joey’s acting career began last year when he was selected to be the Master of Ceremonies at Seth Whitman’s Willy Wonka night. The school participated in the “one book, one school” program in which the entire school read the same book over the course of several weeks. To celebrate the completion of reading Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the third grade class students read poems. Joey was selected to MC the event on Mike TV. He appeared on a TV screen and introduced his classmates as they read their poems.
    “As people were coming in, they kept saying ‘who is that kid. Wow, he is not shy at all!’” John Bucci recalled of the other parents’ reaction to seeing his son on Mike TV. “And Mrs. Borswell said ‘yeah, did I pick the right kid or what?’”
    “He was chatty and never skipped a beat,” Joey’s mom Amy Bucci said “Everything just flowed so easy and he did very well.”
    With his interest in acting ignited, Joey and his parents looked for acting opportunities. Joey was recently cast to play Michael Darling in the Children’s Theater Project/Youth Theater Project of Peter Pan Jr.
    “There was dancing, singing and acting,” Joey recalled of the auditions for Peter Pan Jr. “I believe I did acting first and I did good at that. Then we did singing. I did pretty good at that. Dancing….we did a (choreographed) dance.”
    Joey auditioned for the role of Hook. Bucci watched his audition and noticed that Joey kept rubbing his chin. Afterwards Joey explained to her that he was stroking his beard.  “I thought wow that was clever. The other boy he tried out with was also very animated,” Bucci recalled. “I thought it was really smart on his part.”
    Peter Pan will be performed at the JR Sullivan Theater in Rockford on Nov. 14-16.  The show has three casts and Joey will perform with the red cast on Nov. 14 and the 4 p.m. show on Nov. 15.
    When the request came from National Tour of Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot for a boy between the ages of 8 – 13 years old, the call went out to local theater groups and school districts. 
    “Children’s Theater Project sent out an e-mail to all of the boys who are in Peter Pan. Because he was having so much fun we thought it might be fun for him just to try and to go to the Coronado,” Bucci explained.
    Joey had to provide a head shot and a 50 word biography for the audition. “We said he is very charismatic and loves to make people laugh and smile,” John Bucci recalled.
    “I remember his first grade teacher (Sheila Grooms) writing on his report card that his entire class loves to listen to him read, and that is as a first grader, because he is so animated.” Amy Bucci said. “He has always been giving a little extra.”
    Thirteen boys from the area tried out for the role. “I can really say that there were a lot of talented kids. Many of them have done professional roles in different roles,” Nolan O’Malley, marking coordinator for the Coronado Performing Arts Center said of the auditions for Tom of Warwickshire. “We did have some experienced kids.”
    O’Malley videotaped the boys’ auditions and selected the top five tapes to send to the casting director. “It was a combo of looking the part, having experience and looking comfortable,” O’Malley said of the decision to cast Joey in the Tony Award winning play.
    After Joey was selected for the role, he asked his parents if the all of the seats in the theater were going to be filled. “We said they could be,” John Bucci recalled him answering his son. “Are you going to be nervous? He said ‘nope!”
    “I want all of the seats packed. I want it to be sold out,” Joey exclaimed.
    Joey will appear in one scene in Camelot. His character, Tom of Warwickshire, boldly tells King Arthur that he wants to be a knight in the Round Table. “I came to fight for the Round Table. I am very good with a bow,” Joey rehearsed his lines. “I intend to be a knight of the round table.”
    Because Joey will only have the day of the production to rehearse with the cast and learn blocking, he has to have all of his lines memorized and rehearse with his parents. The family has been working with O’Malley to help him prepare for the role.”
    The day of he is going to meet the rest of the cast. They are going to get him comfortable and show him what it is like to be in a professionally run play,” O’Malley said. “They will provide some assistance and direction and make him feel comfortable.”
    On the day of the interview, John Bucci mentioned that a revised script arrived that day and it included more lines for Joey.
    “More, I have more?” Joey asked excitedly.
    “It is all yes m’lord,” Bucci replied.
    “Awwww!” Joey responded dejectedly.
    “It was very surreal the other night when the commercial came on for Camelot and to realize that this is a national play and Joey is going to be in it,” Bucci said.
    “I am excited to see him in Camelot,” Amy Bucci added “But also I’m excited just to see Camelot.”
    Joey is the second of four children in the Bucci family. He has an older sister Morgan Reis and younger siblings Andrew and Ashley. Sharing his big brother’s charisma, first grader Andrew declared his favorite subject in school to be lunch.
    When Joey isn’t on the boards or at school, he is on the mat with the Gymnastics Academy of Rockford (GAR).  He recently made GAR’s pre-team.
    Tickets for Camelot can be purchased at the Coronado box office, by visiting, or by calling (800) 745-3000.

  • dewanes mural photo.jpg
    Fate brings DeWane’s Mural to life
    Oct. 5, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE- Creative Flooring and C & H Cabinets and Remodeling is located in the former DeWane’s on Logan Ave.  When Darin Luhman did a tile job, that last thing on Luhman’s mind would be a mural. 
    “Don “Red” Elliot and my dad Richard were firefighters together.  Red collects things and I saw he had a post card of DeWane’s.  I asked him for a copy and one day he came by just gave it to me. At first I thought I would just hang it on the wall.  Then I thought we are the ‘City of Murals’ and we had this huge bare area of wall over the offices.  How cool would it be to have a mural up there?  I had no idea who to call or how to get it done,” said Darin Luhman.
    About a month after completing Elliot’s, Luhman was at the home of Kit Scheidenhelm who is a former Art Teacher at Belvidere High School.  Luhman asked “Do you know anyone who could help me put together a mural for DeWane’s?” Scheidenhelm got in contact with Belvidere North High School Art Teacher Troy Yunk and as they say “the rest is history”.
    “The mural project began with a discussion when Darin was laying a tile floor.  I contacted Troy as we have worked on many of the Belvidere Mural projects.  Darin provided photos and I also did research at the Boone County Historical Museum where I found tornado photos.  I found the photo of the two men on the wall at the Steam Plant Restraint,” said Scheidenhelm.   
    “The next step was measuring the space.  Troy and his students began putting the images together along with several stock images of cows etc. into full color sketches that were in scale to the space. The final design was projected in pieces onto white kraft paper to size. I put charcoal on the back side of the sheets which turned it into primitive tracing paper.  The designs were traced onto the space with light gray paint used over the trace lines. From that point the project became almost a ‘paint by numbers’ effort based on the color scale design,” explained Scheidenhelm.   
    “Whenever I have researched these types of projects, there have always been surprising personal stories. While looking at the photo of the two men at the Steam Plant, a man having coffee knew exactly who they were. My next door neighbor, Barb Blatchford's mother had cooked at the restaurant which Dana Farina's mother had managed.  And I may have had a personal experience traveling from my hometown up to DeWane's with my dad and a neighbor. In talking to Ray DeWane, he informed me that one of the cars in the mural was his, as well as the man pictured in the sales ring,” continued Scheidenhelm. 
    “The mural was painted in January of 2013 by me and my students from Belvidere North, Kit Scheidenhelm, and Mike LaScola Assistant Principal at Belvidere North. The goal of the mural was to recreate the way DeWane’s looked back in the 1960s when it was a popular gathering point,” said Yunk, Art Teacher at Belvidere North High School.
    “Whenever we do a mural there is a process that we typically go through. First it starts with a hand drawn image and then we enlarge it to fit the size of the mural. We transfer the image onto the wall and then we paint and paint and paint some more,” explained Yunk.
    “This project is an important reminder of the county's agricultural heritage and tradition.  The murals Troy and I have partnered on also serve as a way for students to give something back to the community as well as showcasing their artistic ability. The young people who worked on the mural were also musicians, athletes and fine academic students.  One was even a member of the DeWane family,” concluded Scheidenhelm.
    “Any time I get a chance to use students on a historical mural like this I try to involve them in the research process and teach them something about the history of Belvidere and Boone County,” added Yunk.
    “It was fun watching the kids and my own daughter got to paint on it.  We are very proud of the DeWane Mural as it keeps our local history alive,” expressed Luhman.
    The DeWane Mural may be viewed during normal business hours.  For more information please call (815) 547-8453.

  • Pioneer Festival 3.JPG
    Mission accomplished for visitors to 33rd Pioneer Festival
    Oct. 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Lynn and Caroline Bullard were on a mission Saturday when they visited the 33rd annual Pioneer Festival.
    They were looking for a historic log cabin he helped move here in the late 1970s, after finding it inside a house he purchased on Rockton Road in Manchester Township.
    "I bought it (house) for the lot," Lynn Bullard recalled. "I was tearing it down when I came on the log cabin."
    They walked around some of the many exhibits making up this year's festival on the Boone County Conservation District grounds off Appleton Road.
    As they approached the Murray cabin, built in 1838, Caroline Bullard exclaimed, "That looks like it,"
    "Sure does," her husband said in agreement. "It was the living room of the house I bought. There was no roof on it so they (district officials) put one on."
    They walked inside and before long came upon a plaque with his name on it as being the one who found the cabin and had it moved here.
    After coming back outside Lynn Bullard, former Capron police chief, remembered someone talking about the discovery with Roger Gustafson, first director of the conservation district. "He was really into history," Bullard said.
    That led to the red log cabin being hoisted on a flatbed by Paul Slaybaugh "and off we went. Past the Manchester grade school to Hunter Road, Caledonia Road and (Illinois) 76. The (Boone County) sheriff's office had a car in front of it and one in back of it."
    A historic area
    Now it's part of the conservation district's collection of historic buildings that includes a second log cabin, built in 1844, and a blacksmith's shop. There's also a replica of the one-room Dawson River Road schoolhouse and a series of gardens to show what vegetables were grown by Boone County pioneers.
    Some of the exhibits at the expansive festival, such as one where applesauce donuts are made by Girl Scouts, date to the start of the event. Troop 3361 has been making the donuts and apple cider for the past 12 years and there were two other troops before that. 
    Longtime leader Elaine Spanna was "kind of coordinating it this year," she said, with help from Melanie Spanna, Stephanie Spanna Zajdel, Genevieve Spanna and others.
    Proceeds from sales on Saturday and Sunday went to various scouting projects, with some of the participants are working towards a trip to Alaska next year. 
    "It's a basic recipe; we use applesauce rather than oil," Genevieve Spanna explained. "Oil was hard to get in those days."
    The donuts, a bargain at 25 cents each, were made over an open fire, "similar to the old days," she said. In addition to helping make donuts she also made the period dresses and aprons worn by the scouts.
    Genevieve earned her Gold Project, similar to an Eagle Scout effort for a Boy Scout, by designing try-it badges for Brownies for basic sewing techniques. Melanie's Silver project was the creation of triangle scarves for cancer patients. Stephanie also completed her Silver Project, standardizing kitchen appliances for a scout camp in Pennsylvania.
    In the midst of all the hustle and bustle that's part of making and selling donuts and cider was the preparation of dinner for the participating scouts. That was part of Stephanie Zajdel's job, cutting up meat for a beef stew to be served later in the day.
    "If not, we'll have donuts for dinner," she joked.
    Fur trader is busy
    While most of the exhibits portrayed life in the 1800s, Mark Pfeiffer from Glenview showed how a fur trader plied his trade between 1700 and 1750.
    Rabbit, fox, otter, coyote, bobcat and mink skins were on the ground in front of him, with one black bear skin and under all of that a buffalo skin. But the most popular was the beaver skin, which he held in his hands, because they were used to make men's hats.
    Indians were frequent customers, sometimes trading the clothing they were wearing for knives and muskets. "They could hunt better and defend themselves better with those weapons," he said.
    In between showing visitors the vast array of animal skins he had assembled, Pfeiffer was busy tending to a kettle of French onion soup he was preparing over an open fire.
    While the festival was relatively compact and didn't require too much walking, it was quite a hike for most from parking lots to the display areas. Help for that was provided by shuttles in the form of horse-drawn wagons.
    Jeff Flippo from the Northern Illinois Vintage Tractor and Engine Association in Belvidere was behind the wheel of one of three old tractors that worked as people movers.
    "This is our first year here," he said. "But we had a lot of tractors at the Boone County Fair."

  • bel north homecoming photo.JPG
    Belvidere North students make heart-warming decisions
    Oct. 1, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE - Belvidere North students were winners even before the Blue Thunder football team took to the field for their 40-10 victory against the Guilford Vikings on Sept. 26.
    What would have been an ordinary homecoming week story about painting the dam, movie night, pep rallies, parade, powder puff  and varsity football games took a dramatic turn when Logan Blahunka was crowned as homecoming king at the high school.
    Logan is a special needs student at Belvidere North. The student body roared with thunderous cheers at the Friday pep rally when he was announced as homecoming king and the entire student body chanted his name. Logan pumped his fist and ran with pure joy. Homecoming queen and his good friend Bailey Kowalkowski beamed with pride as the varsity football players filed out of the bleachers and hugged and congratulated Logan.
    “Senior year is supposed to be a good year,” Bailey said. “This made it a lot better.”
    “I feel the same way,” Logan added and said that he felt good about the recognition from his peers.
    “It meant everything. For a special needs student to be accepted by the entire student body is beyond words,” Logan’s mom Marcie Blahunka said. Logan participates in Special Olympics and Gigi’s Playhouse.
    Logan is part of the Best Buddy program that began with the 2014-15 school year at Belvidere North high school. The program partners a special need student with a peer. The group has several activities each month. The program focuses on  inclusion of the special needs students in the high school experience.
    “This morning we decorated our Best Buddy’s lockers. We got to meet them and give them some treats,” Stephanie Vazquez explained. “They get to come with us to the games . We’re happy. They’re happy.”
    “We are planning on carving pumpkins with them in a few weeks.”
    One month into the club’s founding at Belvidere North High school, Logan was named and embraced as homecoming king. “This is the first year we have had the Best Buddies program.  What we saw at the pep rally program was just heart-warming. I am proud to be principal of Belvidere North High School,” Marc Eckmann said.  “It was very rewarding to see the respect the kids showed everybody.”
    During the homecoming pep rally, the Best Buddies members were introduced to the student body. If possible, they received louder cheers than those received by the football team. The student body learned a new cheer and thunderously chanted “B-U-D-D-I-E-S! B-U-D-D-I-E-S !Best! Best buddies!” as the special needs students danced on the floor of the gym.
    “I had never heard that before,” Blahunka said of the cheer. “It brought me to tears.”
    During the homecoming football game, many of the Best Buddy students sat with the cool students in the bleachers. Following a fourth quarter touchdown, the student body erupted in the Best Buddy cheer.
    The Best Buddy program was introduced to Belvidere North High School by Becky Fridly. Following her son Carter’s freshman year at the high school, she wanted him to be more fully integrated in the high school experience and learned about the Best Buddy program. “When Carter went to high school, I felt that he wasn’t getting the benefit of being in the clubs and being involved, or of the kids getting to know him,” Fridly explained. “We wanted him to enjoy his high school years like everybody else.”
    During the homecoming football game, Carter was in the front row center of the student section.  “There is no way to describe the feeling as a parent that you get from that,” Fridly said of seeing her son accepted by the student body. “It is like magic.”
    “We want people to know that these kids have value and they have something to offer to the community. The enrichment that they (the student body) get from these kids is going to benefit these kids in their lives as well.”
    Fridly praised the Belvidere North students for embracing the club and fully including the special needs students  as full members of the student body. “They made them a part of it,” Fridly said. “The year before, they weren’t a part of this.”
    “I liked it,” Carter added.
    “It is a really cool program. It is awesome,” varsity football player Jake Hattendorf said of Logan’s crowning as homecoming king.
    “It is a great feeling  to be able to make a change in our school.”

  • va clinic groundbreaking photo 2.jpg
    American Legionnaires serve the community in many ways
    Sept. 30, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Governor Pat Quinn broke ground on the $70.5 million Illinois Veterans Home on the near north side of Chicago, Terry and Tina Abdelnour and Paul Gardner from Belvidere were on hand to take part in the ceremony
    Terry Abdelnour is the American Legion commander of the Illinois 12th division which serves veterans in Grundy, Kendall, LaSalle, Winnebago and Boone counties. Gardner is the Illinois American Legion vice chairman of constitution and by-laws.
    The 200 bed facility will be the fifth veterans’ home in Illinois and the first in Chicago. The five-story home will be located near Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. The facility will include long-term care units for veterans with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago will be operated by Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs (IDVA), which also supervises veterans’ homes in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy. IDVA also operates the Prince Home, a 15-bed permanent supportive housing facility for homeless and disabled veterans at Manteno.
    “Our new veterans’ home in Chicago will provide care and support for 200 of our nation’s heroes and create hundreds of jobs for hardworking Illinois residents,” Quinn said.
    “I am a disabled vet. I understand the process that veterans go through,” Abdelnour said. “I have seen the impact that it has on a lot of people. For us to be able to give back and help is why my wife and I are heavily involved in it.”
    The American Legion has been reaching out to veterans and active duty military and their families to offer their assistance. “When they step into that uniform they involved themselves and their families into something larger than themselves. And that never changes,” Abdelnour explained. “As Legionnaires we are still involved in something larger than ourselves. “
    “All we want to do is help our veterans and active duty. We want to help them any way we can. so they can help them not go through some of the things we went through or if they are because we have experiencing in going through these situation.”
    The American Legion offers assistance to veterans, active duty military and their families. The American Legion and Auxiliary make homemade blankets that are sent to injured troops.  When a service member is injured and moves between hospital wards and the hospital, they are provided with a homemade quilt, afghan or blanket. “They get to keep this blanket with them the whole time they are there,” Abdelnour said. “It gives them comfort.”
    Providing comfort to veterans and active duty members and their families is a key component of the American Legion’s mission. “We have pillows for troops. We have a group that takes photos of families and we silk screen the image on to a pillow case for a family for the soldier,” Abdelnour said. “We also silk screen the soldier’s image to a pillow case for the family to have at home.”
    Personnel at the American Legion help veterans, active duty military and their families complete paperwork and apply for assistance in various programs. “With all of the veterans in the organization and all of the diversified training, you have millions of hours of experience in helping people processing their claims and things that they need to do. It gives them a little comfort knowing that we are there for them,” Abdelnour added.
    With the nearest base nearly two hours away, family members of deployed troops can turn to the American Legion for assistance or information. “That is why it is important to be in contact with families in our local areas because we are remote from a lot of their needs. A lot of their medical coverage is under a remote plan. Families know that if they have any needs at all to contact us.,” Abdelnour said.
    With the diverse and valuable experience of American Legion members, Abdelnour championed transforming the 12th division’s emergency response team. Rather than simply offering financial or administrative assistance to veterans following a natural disaster, the division developed a coalition of firefighters, paramedics, emergency personnel and others who can come in and help a community with their immediate needs.
    Following the Nov. 2013 tornado that struck Coal City, the American Legion handed out food, water, clothing, toys and helped homeowners put tarps on roofs. “We have a team that can help with logistics,” Abdelnour explained. “We help with the entire community for whatever it takes.”

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    DeWane’s offer a glimpse into the past
    Sept. 28, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE-On Aug. 21, a new mural depicting DeWane's Livestock Exchange and Restaurant was dedicated to the community at a ribbon cutting ceremony.  The building is now the home of Creative Flooring and C& H Cabinets and Remodeling. 
    The concept originated from a postcard dated Aug. 25, 1961.  But before writing about the mural I first needed some background on DeWane’s.  On Monday morning Sept. 22, I had the opportunity to speak with Ray DeWane.  In that conversation he graciously agreed to an interview.  I told him “Be thinking of some stories you might wish to share about DeWane’s”. 
    He humbly responded by saying, “I don’t know that anyone would be interested.” 
    My response “Well I am and I believe our readers will be also.”
    Audrey, Audie Ray’s wife, greeted me at the door that same afternoon and the three of us sat down to the kitchen table.  I saw old photographs, menus and, I thought oddly at the time, dishes.  I explained to Ray that I had been told the DeWane’s mural was a result of an old postcard.  Ray pulled out a duplicate postcard and showed it to me.  “I had to buy this off of eBay for $17.50,” he chuckled, “and it was my own business!”
    “I understand that one of the cars in the postcard is actually your vehicle,” I said. 
    “Yes.  It is the 1953 mint green Chevy.  I paid $50 and drove it all over the country as my work car.  I sold it for $100.” 
    “Do you wish you still had it?” 
    “Oh yes!”
    When did DeWane’s begin?  “My father John DeWane started in 1930 by renting from Marshall Sheep Yards on McKinley.  His business was not expected to survive as it was right in the throes of the depression.  My Dad worked very hard and he still had his farm to care for.  After chores he would drive to Chicago with a cattle delivery from one trip up to three in one night.  The most he could haul was 16 at one time as the largest truck he had was 24 footer. 
    “We were on McKinley from 1930-1935 and then moved to Biester Dr. In 1950 we built the building and auction arena on Logan Ave.  About 1951 we began the restaurant.  Sale barns as they used to be called typically had an eating establishment.  We were open 24 hours a day six days a week and had the best steaks and Friday night fish fry.  People would stand in line to get in.  It all ended on Apr. 21, 1967.  The Belvidere tornado hit and in two minutes it was all gone.  We took a direct hit!  We suffered over a million dollars in damage at that time, but despite everything we never missed an auction!  The repair men were working while the auctions continued.  After the tornado, we auctioned off what survived from the restaurant. Unfortunately we could not afford to rebuild it,” explained Ray. 
    I stated earlier there were dishes on the kitchen table.  And then the “a-ha” moment hit me.  Could it be?  As I made eye contact with Audie I asked are they your dishes? 
    With a big smile Audie said “I thought you might like to see them.  Two months ago we got a call from some dear friends asking us to come over as they had something for us.  They had been to Ray’s cousin’s estate auction.  Unknown to us until recently, Ray’s cousin and wife bought our custom restaurant dishes at our auction.  We never knew they had them.  We were in complete shock as our friends had recognized our dishes and purchased them back for us.  It was overwhelming,” expressed Audie. 
    “Forty seven years and it came full circle,” said Ray. 
    “We have seven place settings, a sugar bowl, and enamel coffee pot.  We use them all the time and have served dinner on them for guests.  They bring back so many wonderful memories,” explained Audie.
    Ray showed me that through his kitchen window he can see DeWane’s in the distance.  I asked Ray what do you miss the most?  “I miss the people.  Every Friday at 1 p.m. the bell still goes off in my head.  The auction is about to start.  I met hundreds if not thousands of people and I would not trade it.  I cherish those memories.”  DeWane's Livestock Exchange closed Dec. 18, 1987.

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    Wal-Mart $25,000 grant helps food pantry buy new truck
    Sept. 25, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    CAPRON - The Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry is the new owner of a refrigerated truck, thanks to the generosity of the Wal-Mart Foundation's State Giving Program.
    The charitable arm of the retail giant has presented food pantry officials with a check $25,000, with which to purchase the truck. It is a 2009 International that will be used to pick up refrigerated and non-refrigerated items from suppliers around northern Illinois.
    "Wal-Mart has been a generous and loyal supporter of the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry since 2006," said Linda Clark, executive director of the pantry. "We are very grateful to have their support for the growing population living in poverty in Boone County."
    Dan Ketcham, Wal-Mart's area market manager, recently presented the check to Clark at the food pantry office.
    "The Wal-Mart Foundation is very pleased to support the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry and is committed to help those in need in the communities where we serve," he said. "Through this grant, we hope more people will not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from."
    The food pantry opened its doors in 2005. Today, it serves more than 1,000 people a month through a variety of programs.
    Food is distributed to qualified families and individuals from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday. Clothing and household appliances also are available at the same building on Fifth Avenue.
    In addition, the pantry supplies food for three community meals sites at three locations in Boone County. They are at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, 5:30-6:30 p.m. every Thursday; St. John's United Church of Christ on Main Street in Belvidere, 5-6:30 p.m. the third Wednesday; and Apostolic Christian Church, 8675 Town Hall Road, Belvidere, 5-7 p.m. the first Friday.
    The pantry also provides snacks for qualified children at four North Boone District 200 elementary schools. And it works with the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program in providing meals for the home-bound.
    Sixty-five percent of the people served by the food pantry live in Belvidere.
    Through the State Giving Program, Wal-Mart supports organizations that create opportunities so people can live better, according to a statement about the donation. The program strives to award grants that have a long-lasting, positive impact on communities across the United States.
    During 2013, Wal-Mart and the foundation awarded more than $35.6 million in cash and in-kind donations to local organizations.
    To be considered for a grant, organizations must apply online through the foundation's State Giving Program. Applicants must have current 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Details are available at

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    'Super Heroes' rule 2014 homecoming at North Boone
    Sept. 24, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - "Super Heroes Smackdown" took over at North Boone High School the week of Sept. 15 as all four classes celebrated homecoming.
    There were various activities during those days, with four competitions among the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.
    The seniors ruled with their float, lip sync team and in the powder puff football game against the juniors. The juniors put together the best hall decorations, in the view of judges, and they also boasted the best male cheerleaders.
    In the other powder puff game, the freshmen upset the sophomores.
    One of the highlights of the week was students being able to drive their family tractors to school. There were 15 vehicles in all and they were more than just a static display.
    Creative writing students from the high school toured the tractors and wrote an essay about the experience. Sixth-grade students from the nearby upper elementary school came over and participated in a relay race - using tiny tractors - around the parking lot. They also learned about the tractors from students in the Future Farmers of America organization.
    North Boone senior Brianna Brunschon was in charge of the relay races, which the sixth-graders seemed to enjoy. The eighth-graders had been there earlier.
    She said she was making the most of her final year at the high school. Post-graduation plans are for her to attend Friends University in Kansas and pursue a career as a zookeeper.
    The homecoming parade kicked off in Capron and then continued in Poplar Grove, where numerous residents lined both sides of Poplar Grove Road to see the various participants.
    Seniors Danny Eberhardt and Jackie Sosa were this year's king and queen and joined members of their court and class attendants by riding in convertibles.
    Both said they were surprised by their selection, believing others would win the honor. Jackie is a member of National Honor Society and Pit Crew, while Danny plays basketball.
    When her name was called out during the Sept. 17 pep rally, Jackie said some people thought she looked as if she was mad. But that was not the case. "I was in shock," she said.
    This year's homecoming court consisted of seniors Michael Wagner and Madison Grimm; Michael Schaedel and Brooklyn Riley; Matthew Vonderheide and Haley Drew; and Brandon Briggs and Patsy Alvarez.
    Freshman attendants were Max Zwart and Natalie Emmanuel; sophomore attendants, Marcus Protz and Morgan Dawley; and junior attendants, Cesar Hernandez and Vanessa Tellez.
    Senior Kyle Kniep portrayed Batman in the senior's float, which ultimately was declared the best of the four classes. "I love it, it's awesome," he said of his role. There was no competition for the part. "I just got selected," he said.

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    Belvidere teachers file notice of intent to strike
    Sept. 23, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The teachers in Belvidere CUSD 100 have been working without a contract this school year. Despite negotiation meetings with a district attorney, the teachers took the first step on Wednesday Sept. 17 to authorize the Belvidere Education Association (BEA) to strike.
    The BEA members voted 430 – 6 to file a notice of intent to strike. Following the vote, BEA president Mark Luthin filed the notice on Thursday afternoon at the Belvidere school district office as well as with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board.  In addition to filing the notice, the bargaining team declared an impasse in the negotiations.
    “This is a big step. Any time you file a notice of intent to strike it is a big step,” Luthin said after submitting paperwork with the district office. “We cannot go on strike until 28 days from now. We hope that we can come to an agreement on a contract.”
    Approximately 30 teachers were on hand to enter the district offices with Luthin when he filed the notice of intent to strike paperwork. “It is a lonely job and some of our members wanted to support me,” Luthin explained.
    Despite the vote, members of the negotiation team expressed optimism that a resolution would be forthcoming in the near future. “We had excellent dialog on Tuesday night (Sept. 16). We met with them for two hours and we had very good dialog. I feel like our team listened very hard to their team and what their concerns were and I hope they did the same,” Luthin said. “We made progress.”
    “We are hopeful to make progress when we meet on Tuesday (Sept. 23). It would be nice to wrap it up that night.”
    One of the frustrations expressed by BEA members is that they have been negotiating with an outside attorney who was contracted by the school administrators to handle the negotiation process. At the Sept. 18 negotiation meeting, Dr. Michael Houselog and other district personnel participated in the negotiations. “Up until then it was exclusive the attorney for the board,” Lutin explained.  “I strongly believe that dialog really opened things up.”
    “It is slow, but I do believe we are making progress,” Micki Whitacre added. “We made more progress in one evening than we did all summer.”
    According to the BEA, the major sticking points in the contract negotiations are class size, at risk students, providing more robust student services, improving services for special need students, and attracting and retaining quality educators.
    “We also want to be competitive with other districts salary wise. We want to attract and retain teachers. We have lost 92 teachers since last May that does not include the retirees. That is a lot,” Luthin said. “That is close to 20% of our teaching staff is gone.”
    “We are looking for across the board increases for all of our teachers. We want to attract younger teachers to our district and we want to keep them here.”
    BEA members are concerned that with some Illinois State Board of Education violations that occurred in the 2013-14 school year in regards to special education students. These violations included a self-contained special education class that exceeded “the maximum number of students, exceeding the 70/30 ratio of regular to special needs students in a mainstream classroom, and  self-contained special needs classrooms that exceed the allowable student age range. “We feel that contractualizing some of the state law just in case that law changes some day we can avoid having large class sizes with special education students.”
    One of the solutions that the BEA proposed is contract language that would support at risk students through additional instruction outside of the standard school day. “A lot of students in the elementary level get pulled out of either science or social studies to receive an intervention,” Whitacre said. “If we can come up with a solution which I believe we have with the before and after school opportunities then they can receive these things. They still need that help and assistance.”
    “In the middle school they tend to come out of their encore classes. It is such a hard call. You want them to receive the interventions but then they miss out on art or they miss out on Spanish or band or something that really interests them. It is really hard as a teacher to see them struggle and not have that outlet for something they are really talented at.”
    “They still need that help and assistance, Whitacre added. “We are proposing a solution that would allow both time. I think it is a win-win for students.”
    At press time, administrators from District 100 were unavailable for comment.

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    Keen Age Center meets the needs of the community
    Sept. 21, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – With the youngest of the baby boomers turning 50 this year, the mission and services of places like the Keen Age Center is increasingly important to help mature individuals live a full life.
    Helping meet the needs of the center’s nearly 35,000 annual visitors requires fundraising efforts. “Our budget was $6,300 short as we kicked off the budget July 1,” Joe Fortmann, executive director of the Keen Age Center said. The Keen Age Center held a Fall Colors fundraiser dinner on Sept. 16 at the Moose Lodge in Belvidere. “We need to make up the shortfall and this is one of the ways we do it.”
    “The over 60 population increased over 20 percent from 2000 to 2010. With the expanding over 65 population, there are going to be many more people. Our mission is to help mature individuals live as full of a life as they possibly can. have them participate in a full and rich blend of services, supports, and community activities and be a part of the community.”
    The Keen Age Center targets its services for people age 50 and older. The Keen Age Center, located at 2141 Henry Lucklow Ln. in Belvidere offers a wide variety of services and activities. Among the activities are a woodworking class, pool tables, art classes, exercise classes, line dancing, computer lab, support groups, caregiver assistance, public transportation, pot luck luncheons, health and financial planning seminars, and referral services. Some of the activities sponsored by the Keen Age Center are offered at other locations.
    “I see the services that they provide to the elderly and the retired in the community and what they do here. I see the buses that people use to take to the bank and get around town. It is a worthwhile cause,” IOU member Don Banks said. “It is important to make our community better.”
    Linda Mullins participates in the line dance classes. “It helps keep me a little limber,” Mullins said.
    For the past two years, Mullins has attended the Painting with Donna classes after she heard about the classes from Iris Humphrey. “She said it was like her therapy. She had started it and she talked me into joining it and I have been doing it for almost 2 years now.”
    Mullins has been decorating her home and the homes of her family in Kentucky with the acrylic paintings that she has made in the classes. A novice to painting, Mullins entered her artwork in the Boone County Fair and won some blue ribbons. “I really enjoyed that!” Mullins exclaimed.
    Mullins attended the recent Illinois State Grange Convention as a representative of County Line Grange.  At the convention’s Youth Grange auction, Mullins donated a copy of one of her paintings of a blue jay wearing the Grange emblem. The piece sold for $65. “That was exciting,” Mullins said of having someone purchase her artwork.
    The Keen Age Center offers a program called Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP). The service offers free counseling provided by the Illinois Department on Aging to help answer questions about Medicare, Medicare Supplement plans, prescription drug plans and Medicare plans. “I go to the high rise at Sheffield Meadow Apartments to help them with their Medicare or insurance,” SHIP counselor Pat Cowan said.
    Cowan has been volunteering through the Keen Age Center as a SHIP counselor for nearly 15 years. “I was interested in Medicare and what it does. I thought I would try this and see what happens. And I am still there,” Cowan added.
    In the pool room at the Keen Age Center on many mornings, a lively group of seniors gather for tall tales, camaraderie and to play several rounds of pool before taking part in the numerous card games.  “We start playing two or three games of pool then we go play pinochle around 11 o’clock,” Tom Lockiger said. “On Wednesdays we have a pool tournament.” 
    “There is always something going on. I like everything. That is why I am here every day.”
    The center has a computer lab and it is staffed on Monday through Wednesday with volunteers who help participants get on and use the computer. “We answer questions if they do not know how to use the computer at all we can help them get on the computer,” computer mentor Keith McAlhaney said. “The primary interest is e-mail and Facebook.  We can help them do that.”
    McAlhaney retired two years ago as a worker’s compensation adjuster for Zurich Insurance in Schaumburg.  As the computers have the Microsoft Office programs, McAlhaney can help people use programs such as Word or Excel if they want to write down the old family recipes or create simple formulas on spreadsheets for a family budget.  As the computer mentors have varying level of computer experience, they provide levels of support that meet their expertise. “Any monitor you meet with, if that monitor cannot help you they will refer you to someone who can,” McAlhaney added.
    The Keen Age Center offers a variety of programs regarding memories. The Over 80’s Club invites seniors to share their memorable stories from their past. Participants have the opportunity to share with others who understand what it took to live in the first part of the 1900s. The Keen Age Center records the memories to share with others.
    The Keen Age Center sponsors the Memory Café at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Steam Plant Restaurant in Belvidere. “In the next several years, one in seven women and one in 11 men will develop memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. That is a big deal,” Fortmann said. “It may not be a cause of death, when this occurs, it does not affect just the person who has the disease it affects the entire family, the extended family and anyone who is a caregiver.”
    “That is why we started Memory Café in October of 2013. Memory café is a place where people with the disease, family, caregivers can come and talk about what they are experiencing. They can get some assistance, some advice from experts from the Alzheimer’s Association. One of our board members is a professor of psychology at Rockford University. And they can talk about themselves, they do some sharing. Sometimes it is a support group, sometimes it is heavy-duty learning. It is a number of things. It is sharing stories.”
    The Keen Age Center has planning committees looking at how the Keen Age can reach out to more people, including younger AARP-eligible individuals. “We are trying to figure out how to do that. We have not cracked that nut yet, “Fortmann said. He recognized that one issue may be the Keen Age Center’s hours. “A lot of mature folks are still working. There is a lot of literature that people will retire from a job more than once, perhaps two times. Perhaps three times. They still work and we are open at the moment 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and not on weekends.  We may have to change.”
    “I am a boomer myself. I do not view myself as old as my parents at this same age. It is a very different set of perceptions.”
    For more information on the Keen Age Center, call (815) 544-9893 or visit

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    Back in the saddle By Ann Marie Cain Contributor
    Sept. 18, 2014
    Agriculture High in the Sky
    Last week, I enjoyed traveling with Prime Timers from the N. IL Farm Bureaus through Colorado and parts of New Mexico.  The focus of the trip was riding five of the historic trains.  Throughout the trip, agriculture was all around us.  We learned about the Pablo Indians and how they were an agricultural society raising turkeys, corn, and beans.  At Mesa Verde National Park, we learned how these cliff dwellers moved from living and farming on top of the plateaus to building their homes in the cliffs and farming the plateaus.  These Native Americans dismantled their homes above and recycled the stones to build their homes in the cliffs. 
    Traveling through the countryside from one train to the next, we saw ranches with horses and beef cattle.  While riding through Colorado and New Mexico we caught a glimpse of some of the native wildlife: mule deer, antelope, moose, and bighorn sheep. 
    While bighorn sheep are related to goats and are different than our domesticated sheep, they do have a number of things in common.
    Males are called rams.
    Females are called ewes.
    Sheep that is younger than one year of age is called a lamb.
    They have split hooves.
    Sheep eat available grass, seeds, and plants.
    They regurgitate their food to chew it as cud before swallowing it for final digestion.
    They live in social groups called herds or flocks.
    Sheep are active in fire prevention by keeping the brush controlled to reduce damage from wildfires.
    Domesticated Sheep Fun Facts:
    There are over 40 breeds of sheep in the U.S. and approximately 900 different breeds around the world.
    One pound of wool can make ten miles of yarn.
    There are 150 yards (450 feet) of wool yarn in a baseball.
    Professional sheep shearers can shear one sheep in under a minute.
    6% of the world consumes lamb and mutton (22% poultry, 32% beef, and 40% pork).
    Scotland & Ireland Informational Meeting- Monday, Sept. 15
    The Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau will be hosting an informational meeting on Monday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the office located at 1925 S. Meridian Road, Rockford, IL on our 2015 trip to Ireland and Scotland.  The Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau and neighboring Farm Bureaus have partnered with Tri-State Travel to bring to you the opportunity to see “The Best of Ireland & Scotland”- July 20-31, 2015.
    Over twelve days, you will have the opportunity to visit the palace of Holyrood, Edinburgh Castle, Scottish Highlands, Cairngorms National Park, Lock Ness, Rosslyn Chapel, and Culzean Castle before leaving Scotland.  We will say goodbye to Scotland aboard the ferry to Ireland. Stops along the way also include the new Titanic Belfast Museum, a farm tour on the way to Dublin, Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, and more.
    Taste of Milwaukee- Tuesday, Sept. 23
    On Sept. 23 we will be heading North to Milwaukee.  Our first stop will be at the Pabst Mansion where we will embark on an historical adventure.  The Pabst Mansion is an award-winning historic museum and stands as one of Milwaukee’s great architectural landmarks.  Following the mansion tour, we will head over to the brewery for more Pabst history at the Best Place.  Best Place will take you back to 1844 to tell you how the small Best & Company brewery transformed into the Pabst Brewing Company.  Don’t miss your opportunity to have your picture taken with Captain Pabst; see Blue Ribbon Hall and the King’s Courtyard; and visit the Vintage Gift Shop.
    Enjoy lunch at Buck Bradley’s, home to the largest bar East of the Mississippi and is one of the oldest buildings on Old World Third Street.  You will have a choice of their BBQ Chicken Sandwich (half lb. chicken breast charbroiled with their secret BBQ sauce), Wisconsin Grilled Cheese (Cheddar, American, Swiss and Monterey Jack with bacon, tomato on grilled sourdough bread), or the Frisco Burger (half lb. with cheddar cheese, tomato and bacon on grilled sourdough bread).  All served with fries, pickle, and your choice of soda, tea or coffee.
    Before heading home, we will stop at the Sprecher Brewery for a tour of the brew house and discover how Sprecher is reviving the Old World brewing traditions that once made Milwaukee famous.  Tour will include the brew house, aging cellar, bottling line, warehouse and conclude in their indoor beer tent.  End the day with beer tasting out of your own beer tasting glass.  Also taste their sodas to your heart’s content. 
    The bus will leave from the Farm Bureau office at 6:30 a.m. and will make a second pick up at the Cherryvale Mall overflow parking lot at 6:45 a.m.  The cost will be $62 per member and $67 which includes the deluxe coach, tours at the Pabst Mansion, the Best Place, and Sprecher’s, and lunch at Buck Bradley’s.  We plan to return home by 6 p.m.  
    Ann Marie Cain is the manager of the Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau.

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    Fair Board gives thanks to the volunteers
    Sept. 17, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    Many people say that the Boone County Fair is the only time they see and connect with some of their friends. For the volunteers who help make the Boone County Fair a success they may not have that opportunity to get caught up with their friends as they are busy toiling at the many venues scattered throughout the Boone County Fairgrounds.
    The annual Fair Board’s annual Appreciation Dinner affords the volunteers with the opportunity to get caught up with each other and receive the Fair Board’s gratitude for a job well done. Approximately 650 guests filled Exhibit Hall #1 to nearly full capacity on Sept. 10 to attend the Appreciation Dinner.
    “Without our volunteers, the Boone County Fair would collapse overnight,” Boone County Fair president Lyle Lee said.
    “They mean a tremendous amount to me,” Jack Ratcliffe added. “They are our life blood because they help us do everything that we do here.”
    “Without the volunteers we could not survive.”
    Lee presented Boone County Sheriff Duane Wirth with a plaque of appreciation for his loyal dedication and service to the citizens of the people of Boone County and the Boone County Fair. To resounding applause, Lee also presented Wirth with a lifetime pass to the fair and hoped that Wirth would continue to attend the Boone County Fair.
    Al Henninger wrote a poem in honor of Wirth that he read in appreciation of Wirth’s service to the county. Henninger in his prose and poem spoke of the time that Wirth pulled over the Henninger’s for speeding.
    “One Sunday afternoon Darlene and I were headed to dinner and we were late.
    “We were speeding along not thinking what could be our fate.
    “We met with a car that did a U turn with lights of red white and blue.
    “We pulled over and stopped, but knew were in a great big stew.
    “Sheriff Wirth came walking over to the car with a stern look and then a smile.
    “Al you were going pretty fast, over the limit by many miles.
    “A warning he did give, and said slow this car down.
    “With a thank you and grateful hearts, off to a late dinner we were bound.”
    Lee presented Bucky Eschbach in absentia with a service award for his many years of service in managing the harness racing at the fair. In addition to the plaque, Eschbach will receive a lifetime pass to the Fair.
    Lee called Eleanor Swanson to the front of the stage and presented her with a Service Award for her 12 years of service in running the Reed Schoolhouse.  Swanson also received a lifetime pass to the fair.
    During the winter, Emmalee and Larry Culver were awarded by the Illinois State Fair Association with the Friends of the Fair Award. Lee recognized the Culver’s for this prestigious award. “This is due to a lot of years of dedicated service. An award well deserved,” Lee said.
    Tom Ratcliffe called up the staff from the Belvidere Daily Republican to present them with the Fair Board’s first Special Media Award. Ratcliffe praised the BDR’s Road to the Fair series. “”We put together a scrapbook and it is 50 pages of articles. We will have it in the administration building,” Ratcliffe said. “They covered different aspects of the fair.”
    Tricia Goecks from the Belvidere Daily Republican thanked the Fair Board for this honor and praised the staff and reporters from the Belvidere Daily Republican for their hard work and dedication.
    Goecks thanked the Fair Board and then called up the Gallano family to present them with a special recognition as Volunteer of the Month for their dedication and service to the Boone County Fair and to the Boone County community. “When you thought you were just being interviewed for an article on the fair, it wasn’t,” Goecks told the Gallanos.
    “The volunteers mean a tremendous amount to me. They are our life blood because they help us do everything that we do here. Without the volunteers we could not survive,” Jack Ratcliffe said. “As an example, Laurel and I were getting behind with some of the work. We asked Zion Lutheran Church for help and we painted Building 3 and we also tore out the floor in the judge’s stand and we repaired the steps going up in the grandstand.”
    As Lee and Ratcliffe read through the names and accomplishments of the volunteers who dedicate countless hours to the fair, it varied between a Who’s Who and a county census. Among those recognized for their service were: Jack Wolf, Dave Geske, Noah Mullins, John Gallano, Iris Humphrey, John Mulholland, Flora Grange, Sharon Geske, Robert Eschbach, Roger Miller, Mike Mundy, Steve Paulson, Butch Peters, Artie and Sue Schmidt, Ott family, Lindsey Voss, Ray Kruger, Steve Little, Dayle Paulson, Steve Munch, Dick Cruz, Chris Lee, Jim Marks, John Henninger, Jim Olson, Bob Scherer, and Arnie Pierce.
    “We can hardly thank them enough,” Fair Board treasurer Dayle Paulson said of the volunteers.  “They come every year and work really hard and work before during and after the fair. There are some who not only put in the sweat equity but who contribute monetarily because they love the fair.”
    The evening wrapped up with two musical numbers from the talent contests during the Fair as well as raffle prizes.
    More than anything, it was a night of gratitude and camaraderie among the hundreds of people who work throughout the year to make the Boone County Fair one of the best county fairs in the State of Illinois and throughout the Midwest.

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    Hope raised that popular model train show will return
    Sept. 16, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - The Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum at Poplar Grove Airport hosted a model train show Sept. 6-7, which featured five layouts of varying sizes.
    It reminded some visitors of the show that once filled every room at the Keen Age Center the first Saturday in December. After an absence of several years, it's possible that the show will return to Belvidere in space at the expanded, downtown Boone County Historical Museum.
    "It's going to happen," said an optimistic Pat Murphy, vice president of the Boone County Historic District. "It's just a question of scheduling."
    The Wings and Wheels Museum also is a possible site.
    But wherever it winds up, it won't be until sometime next year.
    "There's too much to get together for December," said Dave Oberholtzer, who helped organize the show when it was at the Keen Age Center.
    He, too, is optimistic about the future. It's especially nice to see the boys and girls who look wide-eyed at all the wonders that are before them, smiling, building memories, he said.
    Oberholtzer had one of the displays at the Poplar Grove event, a 10-by-13-foot spread of larger Standard Gauge trains and accessories.
    The Stateline S Gaugers 12-by-27-foot exhibit was filled with trains, track meticulously arranged so the engines didn't run into one another and a host of street scenes. There was a typical downtown, large park area, circus big top and midway including an operational Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, and an industrial complex to name a few.
    Stateline's layout included trains, track and accessories provided by some of its members, including Tom Behles.
    "My wife said it was time to get the trains out of the barn," he said. The S Gaugers' layout is taken to shows for fun and "to show kids what trains are all about," he explained. As for the contributors, he said, "We get to play with our toys. There are a lot of participants."
    As youngsters watched in awe as the trains rumbled past them Behles continued. "This is a true scale," he said. "The cars look real. It's a bridge between those who are purists to scale and the HO stuff, which is smaller. HO has taken over the hobby. It's smaller and doesn't take up much room."
    Nearby, John Mann had a 5-by-9-foot display of HO trains and accessories.
    Behles was wearing carpenter's overalls and cap, but looked very much like a train engineer. "It's show time," he said.
    Others having exhibits at the museum were Keith Mitchell with a 4-by-16-foot Lionel setup and Dick Bird with a 4-by-6-foot N Gauge display.

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    Autumn Pioneer Festival offers an excursion back in time
    Sept. 14, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE-We have all said at some point, “I wish I could go back in time.” There is a curiosity to see what it was really like in a time period we never lived in. Movies and books tend to glorify and simplify the past. The fact of the matter is that it was a day to day life struggle to survive. The pioneers did not have the options as we do today of antibiotics, running water, inside toilets, electricity or have the ability to drive to the store for a gallon of milk. If their cow died, it meant no milk or butter. If the weather did not cooperate, it might mean no grain for the winter to feed a family and nothing to feed the livestock with. And yet pioneer fever saw thousands head west in what they hoped would be a better life, and a new beginning of prosperity.
    “The hardships endured by these pioneers were severe. Food was scarce, their huts were rude and ill fitted to bear the inclemency of the winter, but the fever of adventure which possessed them kept them in steady march, the aborigines yielding step by step before them, and civilization, with slower but firmer steps, advancing in their rear,” according to
    We complain that life is hard in 2014 when in fact, we have what they would have considered a life of royalty or the very wealthy. Any yet, why is it we yearn to go back with all the life’s amenities we have? What is it that draws us back? Could it be we just yearn for a life that is simple and not complicated by politics, electronics that steal our life away every day and a society that appears completely detached? On September 27 and 28, you have the opportunity to take that step back in time with a visit to the Autumn Pioneer Festival. The time period represented is the early 1800’s. Food, period clothing and delightful characters will make their annual appearance.  
    “Many of our exhibitors become the character. What is so wonderful about these folks is they are also very knowledgeable about the history of the time period and are able to educate those attending. Some of our volunteers and exhibitors have participated all 33 years. An amazing transformation of our grounds occurs when our exhibitors begin to arrive. Within hours, we are literally transformed into the 1800’s. We will also have live oxen for the first time. Rather exciting to have them on the grounds,” said Pam Stock who is the Special Events and Public Outreach Manager at the Boone County Conservation District.
    The food selections have something for everyone. You may wish to sample mini tea breads of zucchini and pumpkin, buffalo stew, a glass of homemade root beer, followed with a piece of pie and ice cream. But these are only a few of the1800 cuisine available at the festival. And this year, three new food items will be added. “Our new food vendors are offering roasted corn, fried pork skins and apple dumplings with caramel sauce on top,” explained Stock
    “This year we are very much in need of volunteers. We ask for a minimum of two hours and provide period clothing. It has become difficult for many of our older volunteers to stand for long periods of time. Age requirement is 15 years or older. Younger children may participate as long as they are with a parent,” added Stock.
    “This event is for all ages. Come try your skill at the axe throw or the cross cut saw. Visit with voyagers (fur traders), black smiths. And be sure to be ready to have the ground shake under you. If you hear “fire in the hole” our cannon is being fired off.  And I would be remiss if I did not say a huge “Thank You!” to all our volunteers and exhibitors. Without them this event would not be possible. It is just a great way to spend the day with your family,” expressed Stock.
    Boone County Conservation District is located at 603 N. Appleton Road in Belvidere. Autumn Pioneer Festival will be held Saturday, September 27 from 9a.m. to 5p.m. and Sunday, September 28 from 10a.m. to 4p.m. If interested in volunteering, please contact Pam Stock at (815) 547-8935.

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    Blue skies help make Old Farmin’ Days a success
    Sept. 11, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    CALEDONIA – For many of the visitors at the Ward View Farm in Caledonia, they were stepping back to their youth when family farms still utilized draft horses or sturdy tractors to pull or operate farming equipment.
    Every September the Ward family puts on Old Farmin’ Days at their Caledonia farm. Old Farmin’ Days got its start 15 years ago when Andy Ward purchased an antique thresher and invited friends and family for a picnic and to see it in action.
    The thresher was simply another addition to the large collection of antique farming equipment and memorabilia that the Ward family has collected over the years.  Ward built a museum on the property and converted a silo into a two story museum.
    “They have oodles of stuff,” exclaimed Vaughn Johnson from Beloit. “They are really a wonderful family.”
    Johnson and his wife Judy were at Old Farmin’ Days to demonstrate rope making. The Johnsons began making ropes 45 years ago when they purchased an antique rope maker. As they travelled to various fairs with their cattle, they killed time by making halters. Soon they attracted attention from other people at the fairs who would order halters by the dozen.
    “We don’t make and sell as many as we used to now that our daughters are grown,” Johnson said. For the 4-H students who purchase a calf at the club calf auction held at the Johnson’s farm at the beginning of November, they receive a halter with their calf. The halters are a prized possession.
    In addition to Johnson, there were demonstrations of a day gone by throughout the day. Rick Kruse brought several pieces of wood statues that were carved by using a chainsaw. Ed Mueller from Lake Somerset sold old fashioned brooms and canes. The brooms were made using broom corn. Several women were dressed in long calico dresses as they used straight pins and thread on bobbins to make bobbin lace.
    The biggest attraction of the day by far was the wide variety of antique farm implements that utilized truly green energy – horse power. On occasion, the horses had to stop for a refueling…as they bent down to eat the alfalfa they were mowing.
    Dan Champion from Roscoe and his father tilled a filed using a spring tine harrow. Champion plowed the field with his registered draft paint horses. The breed was only recently recognized as a breed. “I am glad to help Andy have a good show,” Champion said.
    Others made quick work of riding behind a pair of draft horses to mow and rake the field.
    The hay lay in the field to dry until a horse drawn hay loader gathered the hay and it was put through a threshing machine.
    In addition to the farm implements, a group of collectors brought several dozen antique engines. Bob Brown from Poplar Grove brought five engines, a water pump and a corn grinder. Among the engines that he brought was a Model Z engine that was made in 1915 by Fairbanks Morse in Beloit. Brown purchased the Model Z engine in part because of its local connection to the area and also because of the limited availability of antique engines on the market.
    Near the engines, visitors could hear the telltale sputtering engine punctuated by distinct pops when the single engines fire and coasts,  “It is very satisfying to know that I took a piece of rusting stuff and  made it run again,” Brown said. “People admire it and it makes me feel good.”
    “Brown got his start collecting and refurbishing antique engines when a friend asked him to attend a gas engine show. The pair both were bitten by the bug and left with a gas engine apiece. Brown has been showing his antique engines at Old Farmin’ Days for the past five years.
    Also on hand at the show were a large collection of antique tractors and a tractor pulling competition.
    Andy Ward was pleased by the turnout and the pleasant weather. He was nervous in the days leading up to the festival as the area was hit by several large storms. “The weather is our number one saving grace, Ward said.
    Ward praised the volunteers who helped make this year’s show a success. “There are hundreds of people who help put this together and we appreciate every one of them,” he said.

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    Gallano family shares their love of Boone County through volunteerism
    Sept. 10, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BOONE COUNTY – While many people in Boone County may be familiar with the Gallano family name from their trucking business or the family farm on Newburg Road in Belvidere, the family should be remembered for their volunteerism and devotion to Boone County.
    “They donate a lot of equipment and hours. They do a remarkable amount of stuff around here,” Boone County Fair Board president Lyle Lee said. “All of them come out and help. They do a lot to get the fairgrounds ready. You can go on and on about the things that they do.”
    For this reason, Brian, Dave, John and Steve Gallano are being recognized by the Belvidere Daily Republican as the September Volunteers of the Month.  The Belvidere Daily Republican will recognize each month volunteers in the community who help make a difference in Boone County.
    “They want a little help with this or a little help with that,” John Gallano said. “It became a ritual to set aside some time before the fair and go out and give them a hand and see what could be done. It is part of making it a better place.”
    “We are fortunate that we have the equipment,” John’s brother Steve added. “We can do extra things out there.”
    “With the connection with farming they (Steve and John) know who to reach out to get a job done,” Brian Gallano said of the many people who help them along the way to complete many of their projects.
    Steve Gallano downplayed the family’s involvement at the Boone County Fair by himself, his brother and sons Brian and Dave. “During the fair Brian helps with the infield, John does tickets. David works the sheriff’s department and I work the sheriff’s department. We are busy during the fair and we help get it ready before the fair.”
    Helping get the fairgrounds ready before the fair means resurfacing the roadway with crushed black top, hauling in many truckloads of dirt and ag lime for the infield track , prepping the infield track, installing dry wells, moving the Reed one room school house to its present location, and more.  
    “We got together and put it on a trailer. And off the road we went,” John Gallano recalled when the family helped move the Reed’s Crossing one room school house to its present location. “Back then it was simple. You didn’t have to involve anyone. You didn’t have to mess with permits.”
    “We took the roof down and put it on the trailer and away we went.”
    The group breathed a sigh of relief as they successfully crossed the Garden Prairie bridge. “It just went across the bridge,” Gallano said. “It touched on the sides as we went through.”
    “They do a lot of work to maintain it and fix it up,” Dave Gallano praised the volunteers who furnished and maintain the school house. “It is neat that they do that.”
    “We try to get better surfaces in case it does rain,” John Gallano said of the new roadway surface that covers all of the roadways on the western side of the fairgrounds.
    “We are pretty fortunate the farm is pretty diversified so we have a bit of different equipment that we are able to help out with that stuff,” Dave Gallano said. “The farm has the graders and loaders and it helps to support that. As John said we like to see the fair continue to be such a great event.”
    “It is fun to see the families partake in it and help out.”
    “There are so many people you only see once a year and that is at the fair,” John Gallano explained. “It is enjoyable to catch up on things.”
    “They (the Granges) do such great things with the proceeds from the fair. So much of it goes back to the community,” Gallano praised the Granges and the hundreds of people who volunteer their time and effort to make the Boone County Fair a success. We’re the second largest fair in the third smallest county. That tells you how much involvement everybody has,”
    “You go there a week before the fair and you see people painting stalls and painting buildings.”
    “That must be the difference with the volunteers,” Brian Gallano praised the approximately 1,500 volunteers who make the Boone County Fair a success. “You go over to Winnebago which is state funded and there is not a lot there.”
    “There are so many people that volunteer out there that it is satisfying to work with them,” Steve Gallano added. “The officers of the fair and all of the fair board members really participate in their own niches and the whole thing comes together.”
    During the fair, Steve Gallano and his son Dave are at the fairgrounds with the Boone County Sheriff’s department. Steve Gallano has been a part time member of the sheriff’s department for 37 years.  Dave Gallano has been a reserve member of the department for over 20 years. His father quickly points out, “he has been a member or a gopher for 37 years.”
    During the fair, Brian Gallano works to prepare the infield track for the tractor pull and the rodeo. “Kerry Lee and I were out there with the Ott boys and we helped Jack (Ratcliffe) with the track. We try to get the track to what the pullers want and are looking for. We get a lot of input from them and they tell us what they want done,” Gallano explained.
    For the rodeo, Gallano tills the surface to make sure that there are no big rocks in there. “We take the ag lime off and mix up the dirt and make it a little softer for the guys to land on. Then we put it all back when we’re done.”
    The Gallano’s contribution to Boone County does not end with the Boone County Fair. Steve Gallano is the president of the IOU Club.  “We (the IOU Club) put on the Halloween parade, Easter egg hunt, first grade Christmas party and we take kids shopping and pay for that.”
    During the winter months, the Gallano family helps plow the roads at the fairgrounds. “Brian has gone there and plowed snow if they need the snow plowed for an event,” Dave Gallano explained.
    “We try to help out any way we can. These guys (John and Steve) are big into the community and helping out,” Brian Gallano added. “We help in various areas wherever it can be done.”
    During the winter nights when it snows or ground blizzards create drifting snow, the sheriff’s department calls on the family for assistance. “A lot of times the townships will close at midnight so the sheriff’s department has us go out if they have any calls that they cannot get to,” Dave Gallano said. “We will lead the way.”
    “The townships will go home at midnight because they cannot manage the storm all night long.”
    The Gallano family helped during the massive five day long mulch fire at Rt. 76 and Woodstock Road in May 2012. Over 100 agencies responded to help fight the fire. The family has a six wheel drive airport fire truck that they were able to use to maneuver to drive on top of the mulch pile and reach areas that the traditional fire trucks could not reach. “We had our two tankers delivering water to the fire trucks. They set two pools up,” Brian Gallano explained. “We’d unload into the pools so the fire trucks could pull water because there were no hydrants nearby .You had to transport all of the water to the site.”
    “The Gallano family is a godsend to us,” Lyle Lee said.

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    NBHS receives grant to promote health
    Sept. 9, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    POPLAR GROVE - North Boone High School recently received word from the General Mills Foundation that the Belvidere Community Action Council – which makes grant recommendations to the foundation – was given $6,000 for the North Boone Teens Get Heart Smart Program.
    The grant will purchase a classroom set of Polar brand heart rate monitors, cases, webinar training for teachers, an annual license for and a Bluetooth enabled iPad for North Boone High School's physical education department.
    Three P.E. teachers at NBHS will work together to share the monitors to ensure that maximum exposure is achieved through the classes.
    Erika Seivert, one of the P.E. teachers, believes the grant is important for several reasons.
    “This grant is important to the school because we promote a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “With this grant we are able to purchase the heart rate monitors, which are something North Boone High School has never had before. Our students will be able to learn how to use technology related to their personal fitness levels, and it is a lifelong skill that they will continue to use once they graduate high school,” she continued. “Being that we are a smaller high school, our students will have opportunities to use the latest in technology in the physical education field, [opportunities] that even some larger high schools do not have access to.”
    Seivert added that the NBHS physical education department is really excited about using the new equipment.
    “This is something that we have wanted our students to have access to,” she said. “I remember going to the Illinois Association for Physical Education, Recreation and Dance convention last year in St. Charles, where I attended a session on heart rate monitors and the Polar GoFit program, hoping that we could incorporate [the devices] into our classes at North Boone High School.”
    The heart rate monitors and new program will be used throughout the day in general P.E., weight training and fitness classes, which will include step aerobics, cardio kick-boxing, Zumba dancing and team sports. Students will be able to measure health progress with objective data, while also learning how to work out individual target heart rate zones. One aspect of the program will allow students to track data online, so parents have will have access to health information as well.
    With the increasing obesity rate in society, Seivert noted, it is important for students to learn the necessity of exercising and eating right at an early age in order to know how take care of their bodies throughout their entire lives.
    “There are many people at various ages who are suffering from some type of heart problem, whether it's high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a history of heart attacks,” she added. “We have a poster up in our locker room that says, 'If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?' I think this is a great statement because if our students don't take care of their bodies, their physical health, emotional health and social health will all suffer in some way....[Also], if a student is physically fit, they typically perform better in their academic classes.”

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    Giesecke takes county board campaign on the road
    Sept. 7, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BOONE COUNTY - The general election for seven seats on the Boone County Board is about two months away.
    Sherry Giesecke is one of those who didn't wait until Labor Day to start campaigning for one of two four-year terms in District 1.
    She dropped by the monthly Capron Rescue Squad District Board of Trustees in August and talked a short while about why she's running. That wasn't her first road trip as she already has visited meetings at six of the seven townships in her district. Candlewick Lake was on the list of upcoming stops. 
    "I've learned an awful lot," she said.
    Personally, her background brings plenty to the table, as a former school teacher and then banking executive for three decades.
    Once she helped how to set up a separate school district in the Elgin area after the U46 district had become the second largest in the state. Also, she was a trustee on the Bartlett Village Board for eight years.
    "Boone County is up against some things and one of them is being in Illinois," she said. "I have a lot of experience that I think will make me a good candidate."
    She and the other District 1 Republican hopeful, Raymond Larson, won their party's nominations without opposition in the March primary. That also was true of the only other candidate in that race, incumbent Democrat Bill Pysson.
    A matter of policy
    One of the things to look at is whether the county board is setting policy and whether the administrative staff is following those policies, Giesecke said.
    Among the issues are people leaving the county and it having one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
    Rescue squad board member Barb Sager said she thought it was important for county board members to listen to their constituents. People seem to say one thing and the board votes the other way, she said, adding,  "We don't know why they voted that way."
    Giesecke, now retired, said she's "an old newcomer." Of District 1, she said, "We're in the hinterlands of the county and that's where you find the real people. I'll make decisions; I'll take the heat."
    She was asked about a sentence in Pysson's campaign literature that stated she and Larson were running as anti-wind farm candidates. Her response to that was: "If every taxing body will benefit from a wind farm, maybe we can talk."
    Among her related concerns were trucks carrying parts of wind towers being able to negotiate turns in northeastern Boone County. "Will they replace drainage tiles? Will they make everything whole?" she asked.
    In addition, she said she has read how a wind farm currently in the talking stages would bring $400 million into the county. She said she has yet to see any empirical evidence of that.
    "And lots and lots of jobs," she said. Yet she added that, across the country, the average has been four or five jobs.

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    Belvidere Township braces for increase in electric bills
    Sept. 4, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - It was nice while it lasted, here and in other northern Illinois communities. There were two years of lower monthly bills through electric aggregation.
    But that's ending in those places, one by one, and it's projected to end in Belvidere Township as well.
    Homeowners here have had a 5.229-cent rate per kilowatt hour, as negotiated by the township's consultant, First Energy. "It will be a few months before we have to decide on a new company," township Supervisor Pat Murphy said during the board's Aug. 26 meeting.
    First Energy, with which the township worked since the outset of the program, "pulled out of the business," he added. "We will start looking at new rates in mid-September."
    Commonwealth Edison's currently is offering 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour. Nearby Machesney Park recently agreed to 7.59 cents, up from the 4.68 it had for the past two years. ComEd is expected to lower that rate to 7.42 cents in October.
    "Hopefully, we will be in a little better position in December, when we have to make a decision," Murphy said.
    He said larger homes get a better rate than smaller homes. Smaller homes are part of the reason why the rate in Machesney Park is a little bit higher, according to Village Administrator Tim Savage.
    Boone County in June approved a rate of 6.415 cents through a new supplier, Integrys.
    Harlem Township, with 177 participants, negotiated rates of 6.98 for the first year, 6.92 for the second year and 6.85 for the third year.  
    Also at the township board's Aug. 26 meeting Murphy offered congratulations to Richard Lee on reaching his 20th year as road commissioner.
    "That's an accomplishment these days," the supervisor said. "We couldn't ask for a better road commissioner. Our roads are among the best in Illinois ... and he has money in the bank. I want to thank you and wish you well."
    Lee, who is a man of few words, nodded and township Trustee Bill Robertson asked if he could offer a motion for adjournment "so we can eat some cake."
    Not one cake but two awaited those in attendance.

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    A lifetime of leading area 4-H students
    Sept. 3, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – As a10 year old girl, Nathalie Lyford joined 4-H and participated in the organization’s home economic clubs for sewing and cooking. She continued in the club through high school. When she married her husband Robert, she became involved again in the 4-H as a leader.
    On Aug. 9, Lyford’s dedication to the Beaver Valley Clippers 4-H club was being recognized with her induction into the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame sponsored by the Illinois 4-H Foundation. Lyford joins her husband with this distinction. Robert won the award ten years ago in the inaugural year of the award.
    At the ceremony held on the Director of Agriculture’s Lawn on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, one volunteer from each county in Illinois was inducted into the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame.
    Lyford has been a leader with the Beaver Valley Clippers 4-H club for 31 years. Her husband became a leader in the club when he returned home from the Army 54 years ago.
    “These long-time volunteers fully embody what 4-H strives to instill in youth,” Angie Barnard, director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation said. “They are caring, dedicated, generous leaders, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation is extremely proud to be able to provide this honor to each and every one of them to thank them for their service to this wonderful organization.”
    “We are not in this to win awards. I prefer to be in the background,” Lyford said. She was very humbled by the award and reluctant to receive the attention. “This was a total surprise to me.”
    In addition to serving as leader of the Beaver Valley Clippers, Lyford serves on the Boone County 4-H Food Stand Committee, serves as a recording secretary at General Projects Day, and assists in the swine barn during the Boone County Fair. Robert Lyford is the superintendent of the swine show at the Boone County Fair. Preferring to stay in the background, on auction day, the Lyfords help manage the traffic flow between the swine barn to the auction ring at the Boone County Fair.
    “They really seemed to dedicate a lot of time to 4-H. They haven’t had kids in 4-H for a long time and they are still leaders,” Mark McConnell said in praise of Lyford. McConnell’s son Adam is a member of the Beaver Valley 4-H club.
    “Our baby is 41,” Lyford added. Her 14 year old granddaughter Meagan Waidel from Loves Park is member of the chapter.
    “I think it is very good that they are being recognized because they put a lot of time into it,” McConnell said.
    “We think it (4-H) is a very good experience for kids and it is why we keep working at it. It is a good opportunity for people to learn diff things and life skills,” Nathalie Lyford said. “They learn public speaking and we encourage them to do a talk or demonstration.”
    “One of the things that she does that I really enjoy is the pizza making party she does with her 4-H club every year,” Melissa Irwin said. Irwin is the Boone County 4-H coordinator. “The 4-H’ers plan what kind of pizza they want to make and they organize purchasing the supplies.  Then they gather at the Lyford’s home and learn to make pizza crust and complete the pizza’s with toppings.  They even prepare veggie and ice cream/dessert pizzas.”
    “Later, the parents come and they begin by having a nice supper of all the pizza’s they have made and then they follow that up with their business meetings.  The kids really enjoy this activity and it has become a club tradition.”
    “They make Hawaiian, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and we also make fruit and vegetable pizzas. We have a good time,” Lyford explained. “It is fun to watch them. They are quite involved with what they have done.”
    “One of the kids decided he liked barbecue chicken. Sometimes it gets messy and they have to clean up.
    It is a really good time.”
    At the annual pizza party, the students provide an evening of entertainment for their parents before the 4-H business meeting. “They can do a number, read a poem, and sing a song. It is amazing what the kids do,” Lyford said. “We had one kid surprise his mom, and he juggled lemons. He said the benefit was that if you dropped it, it didn’t hurt anything and when you were finished your hands smelled good.”
    “It is funny to watch the parents be surprised at what their kids can do.”
    The Beaver Valley Clippers has 15 members. The Lyfords prefer to keep the enrollment in the club to fewer than 20 students so that they can provide greater opportunities to participate in the organization and to help them develop the skills they may need in their future careers. “All of the kids have a chance to have an office,” Lyford explained. “They have meetings every month and have to run them with Roberts Rules of Order. It gets the kids used to talking in front of others.”
    As leader of the Beaver Valley Clippers, Lyford works closely with the students on their 4-H projects. “They do a good job making sure the kids are on course and when they get done they have their paperwork done,” McConnell said. “They have worked with us quite a bit.”
    “We like to see the kids succeed. Whatever we can do to help them is fine,” Lyford explained. “Their motto is to make the best better. There is always a way to improve.”
    Many of Lyfords favorite memories are intertwined with the 4-H. In 1986, the Lyford’s four daughters went to Springfield with different projects at the Illinois State Fair. “That was the year that Ronald Reagan went to State Fair and he met the 4-H kids at the junior livestock arena It was very exciting for the kids,” Lyford explained. “You don’t get to see the president very often.”
    Similar to a school teacher, the Lyfords are now leading the children or grandchildren of their former students. ““That means a lot,” Lyford stated.

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    Superintendents celebrate past successes, look to the future
    Sept. 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Remembering the past and the lessons it taught can be a worthwhile exercise. That goes hand in glove with the future, building on what worked and discarding what didn't meet expectations.
    Boone County's two superintendents of schools did a little of both Thursday morning during State of the Schools updates given at a monthly continental breakfast sponsored by the Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce.
    District 100 Superintendent Michael Houselog was up first and in slightly more than the scheduled 10-12 minutes, he celebrated what was right about those schools and their 8,100 students.
    Among the pluses were special education graduation rates increasing from 57 percent to 74.4 percent in four years. That compares favorably to more than 80 percent at Belvidere and Belvidere North high schools.
    The graduation rate used to be 71 percent, during what he termed "the good old days” when that was considered to be acceptable. The state average was 87 percent back then; now it has slipped to 83 percent while District 100 high schools both are over 80 percent.
    "That's worth celebrating," he said.
    Academic achievement is increasing despite the fact that 50 percent now are living in poverty, up from 23 percent 10 years ago. He attributed part of that improvement in the classroom to 58 percent of the district's budget being spent on instruction, compared with 42 percent 10 years ago. "We are putting our money where the priorities should be," he said.
    Briefly addressing the occasional criticism that District 100 should reduce the number of administrators, he said 2 percent of the budget was spent on building and district administration, compared with 4.1 percent at the state level. "We're running pretty lean," he said.
    Student attendance is increasing; chronic truancy has decreased from 7 percent to 1.3 percent.
    This is the seventh year of Running Start, a cooperative effort between District 100 and Rock Valley College. So far more than 220 seniors have graduated with both a high school diploma and two-year associate's degree.
    "Things may have gotten worse in some school districts, but not here, not in Boone County," Houselog said. "We've been a stable staple in the community - both school districts."
    School District 200
    District 200 Superintendent Steven Baule reported student use of tablets had gone from just seventh graders, in a pilot program last year, to both seventh and eighth graders this year.
    Goals were met in 2013-14 with student attendance increasing and disciplinary referrals decreasing. Even teacher attendance was up. And while he said the union didn't like to hear that, it was a fact.
    One seventh-grade teacher said he saw a high increase in student participation because of the tablets.
    District 200 graduation is more than 90 percent, Baule said, with the dropout rate at .06 percent, compared with the state's 2.1 percent. North Boone finished its first year in the Running Start program with Rock Valley College.
    The number taking advanced placement tests increased from 17 in 2010 to 114 last year. The goal, he said, is for every student to take at least one AP exam and one AP class before graduating.
    About one-third of North Boone's graduates go directly into a four-year school, with Northern Illinois University the top choice.
    Adequate Yearly Progress, under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, was dreaded by some school districts every year because of ramifications attached to test results. That now is a thing of the past.
    He said this was the year 100 percent of the students taking the state achievement test were to meet or exceed AYP standards. "Magically, we're done with that," he said.
    There will be new standards, but tied more to actual student achievement.
    Physically, District 200 improved security at its elementary, upper elementary, middle and high school buildings by going to a keyless entry system.
    Among the goals for 2014-15 are developing a long-range facilities plan and trying to get $13.1 million owed by the state for buildings constructed between 2003 and 2008.

  • both inspired to give photo.jpg
    Both inspired to give results in unexpected paths
    Aug. 31, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE-The moon and stars are not just what we view in our night sky.  They can be found in our homes, flea markets, antique shops and museums.  “Many a home has held a set of ‘Moon and Star’ canisters in its kitchen, a ‘Moon and Star candy compote on its coffee table or a beautiful ‘Moon and Star’ lamp on a bedside table. Collectors are drawn to the distinct pattern and the electric colors, ranging from ruby red, amber, green, colonial blue, amberina cobalt or the original crystal clear. For many of Americans, the memories of the ‘Moon and Star’ pieces are what make this glass one of the most popular patterns in vintage glassware collecting.
    In 1874, the Adams & Company introduce a new pattern of pressed glass they called "Palace". The glass known as “Palace” eventually earned the nickname, “Moon & Star” because of the star-like design and round depression that took on a moon shape but only gained the “Moon and Star” name once L.G. Wright began production. The early 1880’s pieces were all clear glass and came in the shape of goblets, sugar bowls, creamers, butter dishes, relish trays, shakers, spoon rests, candy compotes, and more utilitarian pieces,” according to
    L.G. Wright a later manufacturer would initially add the color blue opalescent to what had only been clear dishes until this point.  Eventually additionally colors would be added and future producers would follow suit.
    Lyle and Mary Snyder loved attending flea markets.  In 1990, Mary began collecting pieces of the pattern “Moon and Stars”.  In the fall of 2013, the Snyder’s donated over 50 pieces of the pattern to the Boone County Historical Museum. Although currently living in Cherry Valley, Lyle grew up in Boone County and thought it appropriate to donate them locally.  “This way the public can enjoy them,” said Lyle Snyder.  When asked why she began to collect ‘Moon and Stars’, “They just caught my eye and I still have some at home that were not donated last fall.  There are so many beautiful colors,” said Mary Snyder.
    This past spring break Jim Whitcomb took his sons Jason and Jack to visit the Boone County Historical Museum.  Jason is a 7th grader at South Middle School and is the youngest of ten children Lisa and Jim Whitcomb have adopted. 
    “I like history and wanted to take my family on a tour of the museum.  While visiting last spring, Jason was impressed by all the glass and the different colors found in the display of ‘Moon and Stars’ on display at the museum,” said Jim Whitcomb.  “I liked all the colors but especially the green because I like nature.  They were bright and crystalized,” said Jason Whitcomb.
    The Whitcomb’s attend Rockford First and home schooled for many years.  Part of their children’s education was to volunteer and give back.  “I told my kids your life may have started out rough, but there are people who are much worse off than you,” said Lisa Whitcomb.  “It has been very important that we teach our children to give.” 
    Jason decided along with his neighborhood friends to put on a play this summer in the Whitcomb driveway.  Inspired by his sister Julia who is involved in theater, the 45 minute presentation was complete with costumes, wagons, and props.  The performance was titled “The Missing Kids”.  The purpose of this local youth production was a fundraiser for those less fortunate.  “It makes me sad that a lot of people do not have as good a life as I do,” said Jason.  Attended by neighbors and family, “The Missing Kids” raised $6.
    Following the production, Jim Whitcomb took his son Jason to the Salvation Army Thrift Store to make the donation.  “We had been in the store a week prior shopping for school clothes when Jason spotted the glass dish in the display case.  Jason recognized it as the ‘Moon and Stars’ pattern he had seen at the museum.  When we returned to make the donation a week later the piece was still there.  ‘Dad can you buy this?  I want to donate it to the museum.’  The Whitcomb’s purchased the glassware and made a second donation.
    Saturday Aug. 23 despite the horrific weather, the Snyder’s and Whitcomb families met for the very first time at the museum hearing of each other’s journey.  One donation inspired two.  Simply said, “Amazing!”    

  • purple and gold photo 7.JPG
    Purple and gold prepare for upcoming season
    Aug. 28, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – It was Purple and Gold night at Belvidere High School’s Funderberg stadium on Friday Aug. 22 as the members of all sports teams dressed in their uniforms for their official team photographs for the yearbook, were introduced on the field, and the girls volleyball and boys football teams played their first scrimmage game.
    “It is a dress rehearsal. We get a chance to go with officials and evaluate kids. It is a nice dry run. We will break down this film and treat it like any game,” Belvidere head coach Chuck Leonard said.  “We’ll go over it with the kids. They will get graded on it and know where they stand. We are looking to evaluate a couple of positions. This is their last chance to impress before we get going in the season. It should be a good night.”
    Quarterback Colton Bahling had his thoughts on the opening game on Aug. 29 against Belvidere North High School and the upcoming season. “We are preparing for North. It’s a big game,” Bahling said. “Overall my main goal is to make it to the playoffs.”
    “The kids have worked incredibly hard all summer long. Their work ethic has been impressive. About 75 to 80 percent of the kids have been here all summer working hard,” Leonard added. “The way they are coachable and listen, they try to improve. It is a really good group of kids and we are glad to have them.”
    Fans of girls volleyball had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the team as they played an inter-squad scrimmage in the gym. “I’m super happy with the girls,” girls volleyball head coach Jennifer Wedig praised the team. “This season we are looking forward to finishing top three in conference. The girls are working hard and they come to practice ready to work hard every day.”
    “We are looking forward to a good season.”

  • old farmin days photo 2.jpg
    Spend an old fashioned day in the country
    Aug. 26, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    CALEDONIA – It started with the purchase of an antique threshing machine 15 years ago.
    After Andy Ward of Caledonia purchased an antique threshing machine, he decided to try it out and he invited family and neighbors over for a picnic. From that family neighborhood picnic has grown into an event that attracts 2,500 to 3,000 visitors to the Ward family farm from throughout the Stateline area and beyond.
    Andy Ward, along with his wife Sarah and his parents Roger and Joanne will celebrate the fifteenth annual Old Farmin’ Days on Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Ward View Farm is located at 1171 Rockton Road in Caledonia.
    Simply driving to the Ward View farm on Rockton Rd. begins to prepare visitors to step back in time as Rockton Rd. as the road transforms a four lane road near the I-90 exit to a small country lane to a dirt road.
    The Wards and their friends create a good old-fashioned day in the country with good old fashioned values of cooperation and neighborliness. The cost to attend the Old Farmin’ Days is free. Although many say there is no such thing as a free lunch, it is at Old Farmin’ Days although donations are appreciated. “We don’t charge admission and we will give you a free lunch,” Roger Ward added. “Spend a day on the farm. All the cost is the gas to drive out here.”
    “We will be demonstrating several pieces of antique farm equipment being powered by either antique tractors or teams of draft horses nonstop from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.,” Andy Ward said.
    Approximately 100 antique tractors will be on display. For many of the tractor enthusiasts, the Old Farmin’ Days provides them with the rare opportunity to put their tractor back to work. “Anyone who wants to belt up to the machine and put their tractor on a threshing machine or a corn sheller, they can do that with their tractor while they are here,” Joanne Ward explained. “He likes to give them the opportunity to do it if they want to.”
    In addition to the threshing machine, visitors will have the opportunity to see in operation a corn sheller, silage filler, horse-operated grist mill, stationary baler operated by tractor, stationary baler operated by horses, hay loaders operated by horses, horse plowing. “New this year is “Haying with Horses”-a demonstration of seven pieces of hay equipment all with teams of horses,” Andy Ward added.
    Vaughn Johnson from Turtle Township in Wisconsin will make rope halters and lead straps. “He gives them to the kids for jump ropes,” Roger Ward said.
    Ed Mueller from Lake Somerset raises broom corn and will provide demonstrations of broom making. Others will demonstrate bobbin lace.
    “Back again this year is antique tractor pulls, pedal tractor pulls for the kids, and horse plowing demonstrations,” Andy Ward said. “We will also have kid’s games, a petting zoo, wagon rides, chainsaw art, blacksmithing, as well as plenty of farm antiques to see and watch. This is a great chance to step back in time and see how farming was done many years ago down on the farm.”
    For an event that honors old fashioned farming, it is fitting that among one of the greatest pleasures that the Ward family receives is an old fashioned expression of gratitude….a hand written letter. “People bring their families out. A few days later you get a thank you note in the mail from someone thanking them for the opportunity to come out,” Joanne Ward said “It is worth it.”

  • ALS Dousing 1.JPG
    ALS campaign brings ice water baths to Boone County
    Aug. 24, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The courtyard at Belvidere North High School was a busy place Monday afternoon (Aug. 18) as four people were doused with ice water, as part of a national campaign to bring heightened awareness to Lou Gehrig's Disease.
    Belvidere School District 100 Superintendent Michael Houselog and Belvidere Education Association President Mark Luthin - on opposite sides in current teacher contract negotiations - joined hands in support of a good cause.
    They doused each other with buckets of ice water and shared a bucket that saturated Renee' Talbert, executive president of the Belvidere North student council, and Mathis Mateus, president of the school chapter of the National Honor Society.
    Amyothrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurological disorder that attacks nerve cells, which leads to muscle weakness, loss of the use of arms and legs and difficulty speaking. It was named for Lou Gehrig, professional baseball player for the New York Yankees from 1923-39, who died in 1942 at age 37.
    Houselog was the first to arrive, walking into the school with his own bucket and large bag of ice.
    While waiting for the event to start, Renee' said that was not part of her plan for the first day of school. But she was happy to participate in such a good cause.
    It was the same for Mathis, who said, "I'm up for this. Senior year. It's a good way to start the year."
    Photos of the dousing were taken by Courtney Huhta for the school's yearbook, a continuing memory of the day a national campaign stopped at Belvidere North High School.
    Before the first splash of water, Houselog called out Tom Lassandro, executive director of the Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce, to take the challenge. Those who are challenged have 24 hours to get the dousing or contribute $100 to the ALS Association.
    This campaign, which began in Boston, has been so successful that the association received $1.35 million in donationis between July 29 and Aug. 11. That compares to $22,000 for the same period in 2013.
    Pete Frakes, a former Boston College baseball player, was diagnosed with the disorder in 2012 and today is unable to speak. He posted his own ice bucket video to the tune of Vanilla Ice's Ice, Ice Baby and a social media firestorm followed.
    U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, already have accepted their challenges.
    "A small amount of discomfort to shed some light on this disease is a small price to pay to help raise awareness,"
    Syverson said in a statement. "This was a creative idea that helped raise awareness and research money for a vicious disease that robs otherwise health people of their quality of life."
    Experts claim only about half of the general public is familiar with ALS.
    More recently Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain put a video of his ice bucket experience on Facebook, and challenged Boone County Board Chairman Bob Walberg to do the same.

  • the first day wiggles photo.jpg
    The first day wiggles
    Aug. 21, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE- 94 kindergarten students began their education at Seth Whitman Elementary School on August 18.  Many students experienced their very first school bus ride and arrived for a new life experience.  Four classrooms each with their own theme greeted the students.  “The kindergarteners had to have an extra break today to get their wiggles out,” said Principal Nicole Difford of Seth Whitman Elementary School with laughter.  “They are just so excited!”  Wiggles, giggles and smiles were apparent on most student faces as they saw Mrs. Difford in the hallway.  Students called out to her and former teachers.  All were greeted with smiles and even a few hugs as they went from recess to lunch or to gym class. 
    Even for seasoned students, the first day of school can be rather intimidating.  However, those first day jitters were hopefully lessoned by the efforts of the staff at Seth Whitman.  “Last Thursday we held an event we call ‘The Kick Off Night’.  The entire building was open.  It offered the students and their parents the opportunity to bring in school supplies and to meet the teachers and ask questions prior to the first day of school and to pick up any needed supplies before the first day.  The PTO also provided Culver’s ice cream and everyone gets a scoop,” continued Difford.
    So what might students at Seth Whitman expect this year?  “I am really proud of our language growth program and its success.  It took easily seven years in the making to initiate this program and continues into each grade level beginning in kindergarten.  The program now is in our second grade students.  They were our very first students who started out in kindergarten.  As they reach middle school we hope to be able to offer them options.  The program offers language growth and bilingualism in reading and writing.  Students have remained in the program so it is a stable core and parents are very committed.  This year we have two kindergarten classrooms with a total of 44 students that are language based rooms.  The children are pre-screened and with parent approval enter into the program.  They are taught 50% in each language.  Mornings are Spanish and the afternoons dedicated to English,” explained Difford. 
    On the day the Belvidere Daily Republican visited Seth Whitman, Charlie Bear and a few of his friends along with Mrs. Moeller who is the school counselor were found visiting in Mrs. Norquist’s kindergarten classroom.  Now Charlie Bear is rather shy and will only speak into Mrs. Moeller’s ear, but he wants all the students to learn about respect, rules and keeping hands to themselves.  Students were attentive and well behaved as Mrs. Moeller and Charlie Bear visited with them for the very first time today.  Charlie Bear will be a regular visitor to the kindergarten classrooms the first few weeks of school.
    And no first day of school goes without that “first day school pictures” Moms and Dads require of their children.  One must wonder with the tech age if kids are now doing a “Selfie” first day pictures?  Alas, there were still plenty of “first day school pictures” inside and outside Seth Whitman taken by parents.  “We welcome parents to come a bit early to bring their students and be a part of the first day.  Some of them say their goodbyes outside, but many parents walk their students to their classrooms.  Parents take pictures out front by the sign and front doors or at the classroom door.    There were lots of smiles and a few tears in and outside the building today by Moms.  Despite the few emotional goodbyes, today went super smooth.  This is my best first day in my three years here as principal and its thanks to everyone at Seth putting forth such a great effort.” concluded Difford. 
    There was absolute excitement in the air with students all sporting their new school clothes, tennis shoes and lunch boxes and teachers doing their very best to start the school year off with a positive introduction.  There were a few students spotted with the “deer in the headlight look” as they were trying to take it all in the first day.  With the help of the staff at Seth Whitman they will quickly get into the school year routine.  By the end of the week, teachers, staff and students may all need a Friday afternoon power nap. 

  • CASA Roast photo 1.JPG
    Roast of state's attorney benefits abused, neglected children
    Aug. 20, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Dig as they might, they couldn't find much with which to roast Boone County State's Attorney Michelle Courier Thursday night (Aug. 14).
    So they did their best to be sure the large crowd that turned out to benefit the county Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program had a few morsels to chuckle about.
    Courier is a redhead so the first to roast, County Administrator Ken Terrinoni, tried his hand at a few redhead jokes. After receiving a smattering of laughter, he said it was time to move on.
    She is a lawyer and so he took aim at that profession, a relatively easy target.
    He told the story of a lawyer who died at 30 years of age and asked St. Peter why he had been called so early? The guardian of the Pearly Gates outside Heaven had a quick answer ... they looked at his billable hours and thought he was 93.
    Why don't sharks attack lawyers? It's called professional courtesy.
    It was so cold last winter that a lawyer had his hands in his own pockets.
    Why was the lawyer skimming the Bible before he died? He was looking for loopholes.
    But all jokes aside, he said her efforts in fighting crime were appreciated by many people. "We are a better community because of you," he said.
    Longtime friend Mike Branom reminded Courier that they grew, saying, "I got out but you're still there."
    And he raised a question.
    After leaving Belvidere for Chicago, he said he moved back in 2007, when campaigning for state's attorney was under way. He saw her name on a campaign sign and wondered how someone their age could be running for that kind of office?
    "But then I thought about it and realized that if anyone could pull it off it was her," he said.
    He added that Courier really has no place in politics because she's too clean. "Still, I figured I could dig up something on her, but I could not. There are some fun stories but nothing embarrassing."
    Branom said how great it was to see what a difference she's making in the community.
    After a live auction, it was time for two more roasters: Lou Bianchi and Tawny Blatchford, to take aim at one of six female state's attorneys among Illinois' 102 counties.
    CASA's executive director, Charlotte Meier, said abuse and neglect happens right here in Belvidere. So far this year volunteer advocates have served 80 children. "Thankfully we have those advocates to be sure their voices are heard," she said.

  • wwi poster photo.jpg
    A treasure discovered in a tube
    Aug. 19, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BOONE COUNTY- Rumblings had been present prior to June 28, 1914.  On this date, the catalyst for WWI occurred when a Serbian nationalist by the name of Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire along with his wife Sophia in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  This assassination began “The war to end all wars”. 
    Referred to as cataclysmic, WWI was the first global war and involved 30 countries.  Fought in the horrific trenches of Europe (2,500 miles worth), it was estimated that there was one soldier per every four inches.  Men lived among death, mud and rats.  Bodies were buried in the walls of the trenches or lying on the ground.  Disease ran rapid and most men believed they were going to die.  By the end of the war in 1918, 65 million soldiers had been involved with nine million killed (6,000 men per day) and 21 million injured.
    “The four years of the Great War–as it was then known–saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction, thanks to grueling trench warfare and the introduction of modern weaponry such as machine guns, tanks and chemical weapons,” according to   
    Stateside, WWI propaganda posters were everywhere.  Other than newspapers, this was the only source of information and it was what the government wanted the public to know.  At that time, war information could take days and even weeks to reach our shores.  
    “There had never been a reason to open a tube we had marked WW2 Posters until I was planning the Veterans Exhibit that just concluded.  I was hopeful there was something I could use.  However, when I investigated tube and unrolled the posters, I did not have anything related to WW2, but instead discovered I had WW1 Cartoons.  With the aid of Steve Belonger, a volunteer, we did some research and quickly realized we had a treasure in the tube,” said Lonna Bentley Archivist at the Boone County Historical Museum.
     “This collection of James Cartoons was a series of WWI political posters from New Process Electro Corporation that were sent to businesses with the purpose of them being displayed in windows for customers to see.  Each poster has a different theme but all were meant to feed information on the war and entice patrons to shop at that establishment. Several in this collection focus on the sale of War Savings Stamps and Liberty Bonds.  Our collection contains 53 of these posters and begins in 1917.  This is a rare collection and not much information can be found on the New Process Electro Corporation whose president was Charles C. James and were sent out under a weekly subscription of $1 per week. The early ones in our collection show the corporate office as being on One Wall Street in NY and eventually they moved to 42nd at Broadway in NY,” continued Bentley.
    “The posters are first run and not reproductions and are believed to have hung in JR Balliet's store in Belvidere, Illinois as several of them have his name on the bottom as well as a few handwritten messages.  Upon further investigation, I found that the Committee of Public Information set the standards for satire and upon inspection at the bottom of one of the posters there was a message as to how effective the James Cartoons were in ‘spreading the word.” explained Bentley.
    “Duke University has 14 James Cartoons from 1920-21 and the Smithsonian has only a few posters.  We are so fortunate to have 53 of these rare posters as most were disposed of and very few have survived.  Our posters have marginal tears, original fold lines and slight patches of discoloration along the border.  Our posters are in good condition, but are fragile.  We will be having them on display beginning October 15.  In the meantime, if you wish to view them online, there is a virtual tour of the posters with complete explanations for each one.  You may visit to view the posters.    If you are unable to attend the event and wish to view the posters after November 15, a 24 hour notice will be required.  We hope the community will take the time to stop by and view these amazing posters,” concluded Bentley.
    The museum is located at 314 South State Street, Belvidere, IL.  Hours of operation are Tuesday thru Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.  You may reach the museum at (815) 544-8391.

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    County board to decide fate of new animal services building
    Aug. 17, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Board is expected to decide Wednesday Aug. 20 whether a new animal control services facility is built.
    The health and human services committee has done its part of the job. It recently recommended that the building, if constructed, be located on county-owned land on the east side of Illinois 76, just south of Spring Creek Road, where the highway department is located.
    Members of the finance, taxation and salaries committee are to decide the best way to pay for the $700,000 complex. But that recommendation won't come until after the full county board, including the five finance committee members, makes its decision.
    The finance committee discussed various options Tuesday night (Aug. 12) during a sometimes raucous meeting attended by more than 40 people who support a new building.
    Committee Chairman Karl Johnson several times had to call for order because of applauding, outbursts and continuous talking while the panel was discussing the matter.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni presented three options for financing the building.
    The first one was almost immediately eliminated because of an opinion from State's Attorney Michelle Courier. She determined the county could not obtain a bank loan for the project unless it was paid off within two years.
    Committee members discarded the possibility of taking out a series of two-year loans because of Courier's belief that such a move "would be difficult to justify" should the action be challenged in court.
    Payment shortfall
    The two other options were:
    * Alternate bonds, which the county used for the jail and courthouse projects. Voters would have the right to call for a referendum if they obtained enough valid signatures.
    * Debt certificates, which Terrinoni said would be "less complicated" and, in his opinion, the best choice. Voters would not have opportunity for a "back-door referendum" if this option was selected.
    Monthly payments would be $82,061 over 10 years, at 3 percent interest. They would be $58,536 over 15 years, also at 3 percent interest.
    The board increased dog registration fees by $5 last year, hoping the additional revenue would be sufficient to make payments on a new building. But revenue is falling short of expectations, leaving a $23,425 deficit in making the monthly payment.
    When Johnson said that amount of money "would be difficult to come up with," some in the audience laughed out loud, with one remarking, "That's ridiculous." That prompted him to once again ask for no comments from those in attendance.
    A number of people earlier spoke in favor of a new building, during the public comments portion of the meeting, and later, when the item came up on the committee's agenda.
    Committee member Cathy Ward offered several suggestions as to how the $23,000 deficit could be made up. Among them were reducing by 50 percent the donation given each year to Growth Dimensions, marketing arm of the county and city of Belvidere, or asking department heads to cut their spending by one-half percent.
    Help is offered
    "Professional fund-raisers have said they will help you," she said. "Six hundred people have signed petitions saying they will help you."
    Criticism from within came from committee member Marion Thornberry, who said, "We're sitting here tonight listening to people say why we can't do this, rather than looking for ways to do it. It's time to quit not doing our jobs and find a way to get this done."
    Side comments from the audience in support of his observations prompted another admonition from Johnson.
    When residents got a second chance to address the issue one asked about eliminating the $45,000 set aside for overtime in the public safety, sheriff's department and jail budgets.
    Johnson replied there were understandable reasons why overtime is necessary in law enforcement. A deputy can't just walk away from a case because his shift is over and he has to go to the station to punch out, the chairman said.
    But animal activist Robert Christianson, in a return trip to the podium, said, "All I hear is excuses."
    "These are facts, Mr. Christianson, not excuses," Johnson responded.
    The committee moved on to the next item on the agenda, a discussion of the current budget, which is projected to finish $189,000 in the red this year. A short time later all but a few of the animal building supporters left the room.

  • neighbors nite photo 3.jpg
    Historic Neighbor's Night Out still popular in Poplar Grove
    Aug. 14, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - The weather cooperated and that, along with the popularity of the annual summertime gathering, led to another large turnout for Neighbor's Night Out, held Aug. 2 at the North Boone Fire District 3 station and Lions Park.
    One of the new wrinkles this year was a series of tents set up on the property, occupied by representatives of local businesses. Poplar Grove Lions Club member Ron Quimby said that provided businesses with an opportunity to tell visitors about what they do and to fellowship with one another.
    One of the longtime staples of the event - the Lions Club pork chop sandwich lunch - went off without a hitch after being dampened by rain in recent years.
    There were plenty of activities throughout the day including a 5K run, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, all-star baseball and softball games, a car show and an evening of dancing to live music in bays usually occupied by fire trucks.
    The department's fleet of equipment was parked along the north side of the station for all to see. In addition, District 3's new advanced life support ambulance also was available for inspection.
    Capron Rescue Squad, which has been serving northern Boone County since 1957, participated with a display in the Lions Club booth. All three of its ambulances were there and it had an exhibit of its cardiac capabilities.
    Also, the Lifeline ambulance from OSF St. Anthony Hospital flew in at 12:30 p.m. and remained on the grounds for about three hours. 
    "The Lions Club is trying to return a focus to the community," said rescue squad Assistant Chief Tony Stepansky. "We plan to participate again next year."
    "I think it went very well," said Owen Costanza, new president of the Lions Club. "We will be putting together a committee and see about additional activities for next year."
    Neighbor's Night Out started in 1969 as a village-wide gathering, a throwback to Sunday school picnics and barn dances of an earlier time. It was initiated by a handful of Poplar Grove organizations and held downtown, behind Poplar Grove Elementary School.
    The carnival rides of years ago are gone, but grilled hotdogs are still part of the event.
    The Lions Club ultimately assumed responsibility for the gathering and District 3 has been part of it for the past 10 years.

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    Courier to be "roasted" Thursday night
    Aug. 13, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Another in the series of "roasts" to benefit the Boone County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program is set for Thursday night at the downtown Belvidere Community Center, 111 N. First St.
    This year's focus of the good-natured barbs is Boone County State's Attorney Michelle Courier.
    Tickets are $35 per person.
    Community building doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the roast to follow.  Tickets may be purchased at the State Street locations of Alpine Bank; CASA office, 130 S. State St., second floor; 1988 Gateway C and the community building.
    CASA is an organization of volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children in this county and others. They work through the court system to represent the best interests of those children.
    All of the proceeds will go to CASA.
    Courier is in her second term at state's attorney. Prior to being elected here she served as the chief assistant state's attorney for McHenry County and as an attorney with a civil law practice.
    In addition to her duties as state's attorney, she also serves as attorney for the Boone County Board.
    She is a graduate of Belvidere High School and obtained her law degree from Northern Illinois University. She also has degrees from the University of Illinois and University of Regensburg in Germany.
    She is married and has two children.
    Gang activity has been severely impacted during her stint here as state's attorney.
    Dave Ernest, deputy chief of the Belvidere Police Department, was talking about the county's zero tolerance for gangs during a candidate's forum Feb. 25 at Candlewick Lake.
    Belvidere PD, which has its own gang unit, once joined Courier in filing a lawsuit against the Latin Kings gang. Now, if any of them are seen associating with other gang members, they are subject to arrest.
    "Harvard hates us because a lot of our gang members have moved over there," he said, referring to the nearby northern McHenry County city.
    Ernest, who won the primary and since has become sheriff-elect, pledged to continue that work with Courier and the police department.

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    Cameraderie fuels obstacle course, feed race at fair
    Aug. 12, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BDR Editor
    BELVIDERE – The obstacle course and feed race are a fun opportunity for equestrians who do not have show horses to participate in the Boone County Fair in a night of levity and camaraderie.
    The outside horse arena was transformed on Aug. 6 into an obstacle course in which horse and buggy drivers had three minutes to perform a variety of challenges including stop with all four feet on a bridge, going through a trash alley, make a 180 degree left turn inside a circle, collect mail from a mailbox, drive forward through a fence area and then back up, and back up through a hitch obstacles.
    In the three minute long event, drivers have to attempt each obstacle at least one time. They can attempt obstacles multiple times to accumulate additional points. Each obstacle has a specific point value based on level of difficulty.
    “We brought this idea back from the National West Stock Show in Denver 10 years ago. The Fair Board gave us $500 to run this and a page in the Fair book,” Bob Kemp said. “They said if you get 20 teams, then the state will sponsor it. We got 46 teams the first year. The second year we added the feed race and we had 86 contestants.  We have been doing it ever since.”
    “I went out there with my horses and it was fun to do so we thought it would b e a good entertainment here.”
    In the draft horse division, pint-sized Cheyenne Clevenger from Rockford competed with a pair of Percherons. Because of her age, Clevenger needed her dad, Jim, to ride in the cart with her while she took control of the reins and drove the pair throughout the obstacle course.
    The Clevenger’s got into a bit of trouble when one of the Percherons worked his bit free from the bridle. “He was being a brat,” Cheyenne Clevenger said of her horse who has figured out how to unhook his bit from the bridel. “That’s why we were going around in circles,” she said.
    The clock stopped on the race temporarily so Jim Clevenger could adjust the bit and bridle before resuming the race. Once the bit and bridle was adjusted, the girl was able to adeptly maneuver through the remaining tasks.
    This is the first year Clevenger has competed in the obstacle course with the 17.2 and 17.3 hand draft horses. In the past he competed with standard sized horses. The Cleverdons who own Chasing Dreams Percherons farm migrated to the draft horses because he was bored and have other friends who have the gentle giants.
    Elk Horn eighth grade reading and writing teacher Randy Kurth competed with a pair of Belgians. “It was the first time I ever did this,” Kurth said.
    Kurth, who usually competes in pulling competitions and has his horses fitted with special shoes that dig into the ground.
    “Lynette Miller used to judge the contest and she talked me into coming down to compete in the feed race. I thought that as long as I was down here I would try the obstacle course too,” Kurth said.
    Both Kurth and the Clevengers competed in the feed race.  “I am going to be driving,” Cheyenne Clevenger declared.
    This (the obstacle course) is more challenging for the individual,” Kemp explained.  “The feed race is more entertaining because you see two people trying to beat each other.”
    In the feed race, pairs of teams race against each other to load between two and 6 bales of hay into a sled and drop off the hay at specific checkpoints before racing towards the finish line.
    The feed race began with Clinton High School students Taylor North driving a sled pulled by her ponies with Riley Hubbard as her baler. The pair wore Clinton FFA t-shirts as they navigated the course. Before the race, Hubbard indicated that his race strategy was to save time by “grab two load it on. Grab one.”
    The pair ran their heat unopposed due. During the race, Hubbard loaded one bale at a time on to the sled. When questioned about the change in strategy, Hubbard replied “ahhhhh. We got out there and…..oh well.
    In one of the most humorous heats of the day, Todd Greenlee from Caledonia drove a team of burrows with Jackie Woolover as his baler. They raced against Jared Ellingson and Austin Brockmann who drove another pair of burrows owned by Greenlee who was wearing a long sleeved shirt that looked like an American flag. Their heat was amusing from the start as the four burrows sauntered from the starting line despite Ellingson’s and Greenlee’s best efforts to hurry them along.
    Greenlee got into trouble when one of his burrows started to feed on the bales of hay as Woolover loaded three bales of hay on to the sled.
    With the loading complete, the pair advanced another 15 feet before the burrows came to a complete stop.
    “One of my guys wanted to eat one of the bales.  However we had to divert his attention and go back out on the side,” Greenlee explained. “I pulled his bridle off accidentally and he got back into the game.  Once he got down and more relaxed, he wanted to go then.”
    “Greenlee’s burrows have two speeds. Slow and none,” called the announcer.
    “’Merica!” shouted a fan from the sidelines in reference to Greenlee’s patriotic shirt.
    In the meanwhile, Ellingson and Brockman plodded their way through the course. Although each team is supposed to come to a complete stop to load and unload bales of hay, the pair threw their second bale of hay off of the sled without stopping.
    After the race, Ellingson was jokingly accused of cheating.
    “Oh we cheated? Well these guys have a mind of their own sometimes. So it is hard to stop them,” Ellingson explained. “I pulled back and they weren’t stopping so I told him to throw the bale.”
    “’They’re not stopping throw the bale’ were his exact words,” Brockmann added.
    “It is a fun event for people who do not show,” Sandy Brockmann said.”It is a camaraderie event.”

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    4-H Poultry Show teaches flocks of kids
    Aug. 10, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - Bright and early on opening day of the Boone County Fair, a chorus of cackles and screeches could be heard echoing throughout the misty fairgrounds. The commotion came from inside the poultry building, where energy was not only running high because it was opening day of the fair, but also because it was the day of the 4-H Poultry Show.
    Most children – and some parents – who participated in the show were literally “up with the birds” as they helped set up for the main event. An excited air lingered in the building as the prized varieties of poultry, ranging from turkeys to ducks to chickens and other assorted birds, grew increasingly vocal. A good number of young people walked to and fro between the rows of cages filled with their feathered friends and checked to make sure all was well. The birds put on quite a good show and proudly puffed up their feathers and strutted around as best as they could. However, some contenders sat quietly in children's arms, as if trying to model proper show behavior to their competitors. 
    Building Superintendent Dan Tuttle was interviewed prior to judging. He said he has enjoyed managing the building and working with the fair for more than 20 years and also enjoys the opportunity to oversee both the 4-Show and the Open Junior Poultry Show. The 4-H show in particular, means a lot to him.
    “My boys grew up showing in 4-H and FFA,” he said. “I've enjoyed the Boone County Fair since I was 8, I'm 65 now. I love to work with the kids,” he added. “4-H is for learning [and this show] explains judging categories such as coloring, et cetera. It teaches kids what to look for....Today is an important day for young kids to learn about breeds as there are hundreds of bird types.”
    He also shared that in both shows, the birds are judged on characteristics such as their feathers, conditioning, eye color and overall appearance.
    As the day progressed, numerous awards were given for different categories. Children accepted the awards graciously and with maturity.
    One such young person was Poplar Grove resident, Benjamin Hooker, 14. He had the pleasure of seeing his female East Indies Duck crowned the grand champion of her category.
    “It feels really good,” he said after receiving the award. “I kinda predicted she would win – I knew she was going to do good,” he added, proudly cradling the duck in his arms. “She is good in her cage.”
    When asked why he enjoys participating in 4-H, Hooker said that one big reason he enjoys the program is because he thinks it is fun and he likes the shows. “Kids who participate will probably have a lot of fun – it is fun to be in 4-H.”
    Parents of 4-Hers seem to think so too; they also enjoy the responsibility 4-H teaches.
    “It helps [my daughter] be responsible for the care of the animal and allows interaction with other children who have the same responsibilities as well,” said Rockford resident Brad Bowyer, gesturing to his daughter Sarah Grace as she prepped her bird. “She has a lot of fun with it and understands that is also work.”
    Whatever a child's reason for joining 4-H, this year's 4-H Poultry Show was a proud and successful day for participants and poultry alike.

  • road to fair - horse photo 4.JPG
    Horse shows hearken back to an era of yesteryear
    Aug. 7, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Throughout the summer, the horse arena complex at the Boone County Fairgrounds was host to a series of horse shows.
    Ladies and gentlemen dressed in their finest attire as they rode in carts and were pulled by horses and ponies.  “They want you to look classy,” said 4-H Driving Team coach Danielle Brotz.
    First year 4-H student Charlie Andres who competed in the in July was excited as she prepared for the Boone County Fair. She will be at the Boone County Fair with a horse named Wobbles that she received for her eighth birthday.
    While many children ask for a horse or puppy for birthdays and holidays only to be denied, Wobbles was a surprise gift for Andres. “I didn’t even want one then. I was very surprised,” Andres said.
    The Seth Whitman Elementary School student lives on a small farm that has ducks, horses and a goat named Earl. “He has his own pasture and he is a lot of fun even though he comes and rams us,” Andres said.
    Fourteen year old Elle Maculan does both cart and riding with her Welch pony named Jack.  Maculan first started competing when she was six years old. “We got to know the people who I got him from. They show drove and they asked me to drive for them,” Maculan explained. “Now I am driving my own.”
    In addition to Jack, Maculan has a blind miniature horse named Pico. “He found us,” Maculan said.
    A rescue horse, Pico was adopted by neighbors and put into a pasture with other horses. Because of his small size, Pico was able to walk through the electric fencing and escape and made his way across woods and pasture to the Maculan farm.
    By the time the Maculan family was able to locate Pico’s owners, he had become fast friends with the Maculan’s quarter horse. “He follows the quarter horse everywhere,” Maculan said.
    Although not yet being used in competitions Pico loves to pull the cart. “He drives like you wouldn’t believe,” Maculan said. “You have to hold him back.”
    Brotz will attend the Boone County Fair as the 4-H Driving Team coach.  Brotz is Andres’ coach and teaches her the fundamentals of riding and horse care with the team who range in age from 8 – 18.
    “You have to wear a helmet to protect your head when you are driving, smile, keep your arms and back straight,” Andres said. She sometimes found it difficult to smile throughout the time in the ring. “It’s hard to smile when you have to cluck to get the horse to go.”
    As each class is introduced into the ring, the horses and their drivers position themselves in the center of the track.  When the competition begins, the horses begin to circle the ring.  At varying intervals, the riders are given the commands to walk, trot and extend your trot.  An extended trot is simply a faster trot.
    “The judge looks for the horse that is the most pleasurable horse to drive. They want the horse to keep its head parallel with the ground and it needs to be low. They look during the transitions from a walk to a trot or a trot to a cantor,” Brotz explained. “They cannot raise their head. They want them to go very steady. They are looking for a little more speed driving.”
    “The judge is looking for the driver to sit tall and be looking where they are going. They should be looking straight ahead. Their arms should be straight with just a little bend in them.”
    After the field of horses completes its circuits around the ring, they line up in the center of the ring.
    “Once they call them in the center, she is looking at their back number and deciding what place she is going to put them in,” Brotz explained.  It takes a while for the judge to review his or her notes and to evaluate what mistakes were noted on the scoring sheet.  The horses and their drivers are simply waiting while the judge determines the scoring order.”
    The Boone County Fair has a strong reputation for its equestrian events. Since the horse was first built, several wings were added  to the building, additional barns were built. This year tents were brought in to accommodate all of the number of horses at the fair.

  • road to fair - year as queen photo 2.JPG
    Johnson, Wendell review their year as Boone County’s royalty
    Aug. 6, 2014
    BELVIDERE – It began with screams.
    The first words that Olivia Johnson and Tallory Wendell used to describe the moment that they realized that they would be crowned as Queen and Little Miss at the 2013 Miss Boone County pageant.
    Wendell could hear her mom, Jill Wendell, and brother Griffin screaming as she was announced as Little Miss.  “I was really excited during that moment,” Tallory Wendell said. “I was so excited and just couldn’t wait for the year to begin and find out who I was going to be with.”
    Moments later when the MC Chelsey Lee said the first few sounds of first runner-up Savanna Hansen’s name, the crowd erupted into such thunderous screams that it drowned out everything else. “I didn’t know what was coming from where. I just knew I had to go to the middle and get my crown,” Johnson said. “It was all so overwhelming.”
    In the moments after she was crowned, Johnson’s mind was racing. “I remember thinking. I was so excited. I had a bunch of thoughts going through my head. I cannot pinpoint them. I started thinking about the whole week I was going to have, or the whole year and all of the excitement. And my family - wondering where they were,” Johnson said. “At the same time I was trying to sit there still while the other Queen was pinning the crown on me.  Just in that moment I was so excited.”
    “I was really thankful, and I was thinking here is my opportunity to make a difference and talk to little girls. It was an exciting time all over.”
    After getting crowned as Boone County’s royalty at the pageant, the County’s first real view of the Queen and Little Miss is during fair week as they have a full schedule to attend many of the shows and events.  “I love the day after the pageant,” Johnson said. “Once you win, you get that first day and it was just Tallory and me. We were able to bond and get closer.”
    “It was fun being the Queen and the Princess, Wendell said. “There is the Queen and the Princess. Oh look there they go! I want a picture with you guys,” Wendell said of the crowd’s reaction to seeing her and Johnson as they moved throughout the Boone County Fairgrounds.
    “We went to a ton of animal shows. We got out hand out awards. We got a ride on a draft horse. We helped with the kids games and gave out awards and trophies. We participated in the watermelon eating contest,” Johnson recalled many of the events that she and Wendell attended during fair week. “We went to all of the shows at the grandstand. We got to drop the green flag for the derby.”
    “The egg throwing contest,” Wendell interjected.
    “We lost that right away,” Johnson laughed as Wendell smiled broadly at the memory.
    “During the fair week is when I started to see a whole other side of our community through the events I was taken to,” Johnson said.
    “I had no idea until I actually won the title. My eyes were completely opened to our community.”
    Their first Boone County public appearance after the Boone and Winnebago county fairs was the ice cream social at the Boone County Historical Society in mid-August. “I also loved that we have an ice cream social. I never knew that we had one before,” Johnson said. She and Wendell entertained the crowd by singing a duet together.
    “The pie was good,” Wendell added.
    “The pie was delicious!” Johnson exclaimed “Pie, ice cream, sing, and there are cars. It was great.”
    “Growing up I wished we had events like this. I wished our town did things like this or that.  And then I realized that we did. Now I want to go to these events more often.”
    Johnson made 35 public events during the course of the year.  During one weekend in February, she attended a Flora Grange spaghetti dinner, the Boone County Fire District #1 pancake breakfast and the Boone County Rural Fire District #3 pancake breakfast.  With a welcoming smile on her face, Johnson served meals to thousands of hungry diners.  Over the course of the weekend, the height of her heels decreased from high heels on Friday night to flats on Sunday.  “I was wearing heels for flipping pancakes. I learned how to dress for different events,” Johnson laughed.
    One of the most poignant events that Johnson attended was when she travelled with the Lutheran Emergency Response Team to Washington, Ill. after a devastating tornado. Wearing boots, jeans, a coat and her sash and crown, Johnson dug in to help separate rubble from the tornado victims’ precious belongings.
    The pair competed with Lyle Lee and Al Henninger to represent the Fair Board in the Food Cart Frenzy sponsored by Prairie Grange at Pacemakers. Johnson walked with the nine contestants for Miss Boone County 2014.
    Johnson travelled to Springfield in January to compete with 71 other contestants for the title of Miss Illinois County Fair Queen.  If Johnson thought that Boone County pageant director Sharyn Geske had strict rules for attire, she most likely appreciated Geske’s firm expectations by the time she reached the state pageant. The state pageant has strict rules regarding how low the neckline for a swimsuit or evening gown can plunge, how high of a slit can be on a contestant’s dress, and even the contestant’s cyber presence.
    “We have to be strict because the state is very strict about this.  Outfits are measured for modesty,” Geske said. “They have gown pictures and swimsuit pictures.  The gown you put on to go on stage had better be the one that goes on stage.”
    “We are portraying ladies.”
    Geske spoke of a contestant from another county who posted some questionable photos of herself on social media. A week before the state pageant, the contestant was brought before her pageant director and stripped of her title. The first runner-up assumed the post and had a week to prepare, learn the routines and be fitted for the original queen’s attire.
    Wendell traveled to Springfield to cheer on Johnson in the competition.  Megan Magee from neighboring Winnebago County was named as first runner-up of Miss Illinois State County Fair Queen. “It was really cool to see Miss Winnebago got first runner-up,” Johnson said. “I was really proud of her.”
    In May, Wendell, Johnson and Hansen participated in the Young at Hearts parade in Loves Park. The theme of the parade was America’s favorite past time – baseball.  Given the choice between dressing in their evening gowns or baseball attire, the trio decided to dress up in baseball uniforms.
    As they waited for the parade to get moving, Dave Geske’s 63 Bonneville convertible died. Rather than pulling out of the parade, the women made a last minute decision to walk the parade.
    “We heard a few remarks such as ‘Boone County doesn’t have a car,’” Geske said. Those astonished remarks quickly changed to “oh look there’s Boone County. They’re walking the parade! They’re baseball players. Isn’t that cute?”
    “It definitely made an impression we were here.”
    As their year as Queen and Little Miss, Johnson and Wendell began the process to prepare their replacements. At the Queen’s party, “I told them I did 35 events. I let them know this is a serious thing. I absolutely love it,” Johnson said. “
    “I am not ready to give up crown yet. I think whoever is going to be Miss Boone County is going to make a great Queen. But it is going to be really hard for me,” Johnson said. “I have this new love for my County and the people. It is going to be really hard to hand it over. I will still be friends with the Fair Board and the Granges, but it will not be the same. I will not see them as often and that is going to be really hard.”
    Both Johnson and Wendell looked forward to attending Boone County events in the future. “It has made me realize what goes on in our community. I am going to go to this event next year and this event because now I know about them,” Johnson said. “It definitely makes me think more about the future and if joining the Granges is what I want to do, being more aware of what is happening in our community, and seeing how many of our people in our community come together.”
    “I want to go to a bunch of events that we went to this year that I didn’t know our county had,” Wendell added.
    “They have both been excellent representatives of the county,” Geske praised Johnson and Wendell.
    As for Wendell, Boone County has not seen the last of her.  She has plans to run for Miss Boone County Fair when she is older. “Lyle said he wants me to do it too,” she said.