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The Belvidere Daily Republican Featured News
  • bcb election photo.jpg
    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.

  • Twp Aggregation photo.jpg
    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.

  • nathalie lyford photo.jpg
    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.

  • State of the Schools photo.jpg
    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.

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    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.

  • casa photo 1.jpg
    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.

  • obstacle course photo.JPG
    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.”

  • poultry photo 2.jpg
    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.

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    Seven local Granges combine to form Pomona Grange
    Aug. 5, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BOONE COUNTY – In the hierarchy of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, subordinate community Granges are grouped together within a county to form a Pomona Grange. In Boone County there are seven subordinate Granges. They are Beaver Valley, Big Thunder, Capron, County Line, Flora, Leroy and Prairie.
    “We represent all of the Granges in the county. We are a place where all of the Grange members can come and network and find out what the other 6 Granges are doing,” Pomona president Tom Ratcliffe said. “We can get together on a county wide level.”
    “Members from each Grange can join Pomona Grange. All you have to do is be a member of a supporting Grange,” Jo Ellen Coleman explained. “Most people who attend Pomona are active members of their Grange.”
    There are approximately 500 Grange members of the seven subordinate Granges. Of those individuals, approximately 175 also belong to Pomona Grange.
    In Boone County, the Granges own and operate Boone County Fair. Members of the Granges serve as the officers and directors of the Boone County Fair board. Grange members work countless hours maintaining the fairgrounds and running the fair.  Of the 1,000 volunteers who work to make the Boone County Fair a success, approximately 500 of the volunteers come from the Granges.
    The Granges form an interesting dichotomy.  As public in their endeavors as Grange is in running of the Boone County Fair, they are as equally private in their community service.  “As a whole the Granges do a lot of good things for the community. We don’t brag about it we just go about and do it. We don’t care about the attention or applause,” Coleman said.
    The supporting Granges are heavily involved in community service activities. Many Granges will purchase a Christmas tree and adopt a family during Hometown Christmas, adopt sections or roadways for clean-up, donate thousands of dollars worth of food through the Food Cart Frenzy, organize Boone County’s Relay for Life, serve food at community events, donate time to the Salvation Army, host Safety Town, and help their neighbors in need.
    At every Pomona Grange meeting after the speaker has completed their presentation and the subordinate Granges have presented their reports, the question is asked if the Grange members know of anyone in the County is sick or in distress.  “A lot of times we send people or money to people in a need,” Coleman said
    Following the Jan. 2008 tornado that struck Boone County, many Grange members turned out to help tornado victims clean up and salvage many of their belongings. Other Grange members served meals and drinks to the volunteers who showed up.
    The Granges were first organized following the Civil War when President Andrew Johnson turned to Oliver Kelley to develop an organization to help rebuild the country. “Back then the United States was an agricultural society.  Agriculture played an important role in the United States economy,” Ratcliffe said.
    A member of the Masons, Kelley enlisted the assistance of William Saunders, .Francis McDowell, John Trimble, Aaron Grosh, John Thompson, William Ireland and Caroline Hall to form the first Grange in Freedonia, NY. With several Masons as members amongst their ranks, they built an organization that was similar in structure and ritual to the Masons.
    Because of its historical connection to the Masons, the Granges has degrees of membership, each with its own theme, a secret handshake and knock, and rituals.  The initiation ceremony was similar to a four act play in which the officers and members play roles.
    “When Jim and I first joined in the 1990s I thought hmmm did we get in the wrong place here or what because they had that heavy of a ritual,” Ruth Blasingame said.  She is the president-elect of the Pomona Grange and will take the helm from Ratcliffe on Sep. 3. “Over the years we figured out we could get more members if we changed it a bit.  They used to take a password. We don’t do that anymore. Anyone is welcome to attend our meetings without being a member to see what we’re about and if they want to join us. It is not like it was before.”
    The Pomona Grange holds a chili supper fundraiser on the last Sunday in February. “It is biggest team effort outside of Fair,” Ratcliffe said.
    To join any of the Boone County Granges, inquire from any Grange member.

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    Junior Grange members learn a love of community
    Aug. 3, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BOONE COUNTY – The youngest Grange members can be as young as five years old. Both Flora and Prairie Granges have Junior Granges for children from ages 5 – 14. During Grange meetings, the Junior Grangers have their own meeting and they work on projects and community service activities.
    A favorite community service activity among members of Prairie Junior Grange is the Words for Thirds. Prairie Grange donates dictionaries to each third grade student in Boone County. “They really enjoy doing the dictionaries. They think that is a fantastic thing to do. Each of the kids that I have right now are older kids and they have received that dictionary from the Grange,” Prairie Junior Grange leader Kimberly Robin explained. “They think that is a cool thing that they can give that dictionary to the kids who are younger than them.”
    “They are always willing to put the labels in the front of the dictionary,” Prairie Grange president Ruth Blasingame said.
    Flora Junior Grange members hold a duck race fundraiser. Participants pay $1 for a numbered rubber duck that is floated down the creek. The fundraiser helps support the Oliver Kelly Farm in Elk River, Minn. An 1860s working farm, it is a living museum dedicated to the founder of the nation’s first Grange. The money raised helps to support the feeding of the animals during the winter months.
    “Another thing we do is the Cherry Valley kids’ parade on the Fourth of July and toss out small gifts instead of candy,” Kathee Frazer said. “We are trying to do something a little different. We have a trailer that we decorate and advertise the Boone County Fair at the parade.”
    Members of both Junior Granges participate in a wide variety of community service activities from pulling weeds at the fairgrounds, decorating and sponsoring a tree in Hometown Christmas, and collecting donations for the needy.
    “If the adults have a project that is going on that we can help out, we do. They help clean up, paint, pull weeds, set up chairs, and serve food,” Frazer said. “We try to do a lot of things together. It is a family thing.”
    “My dad is a Fair Board director so we help him. We help my grandma at the ticket office,” Rebbeca Meyers said. Her dad is Jeremy Meyers who is the diesel superintendent of the truck pull. The girl’s grandmother is Blasingame.
    “I feel that our community. service is not just helping someone out. It is participating and learning about our community,” Robin said. “It is what learning what a good patriot is supposed to be.’
    “It is a learning experience for everyone and helps them grow in the community,” Blasingame added.
    Prairie Junior Grange members participated in the Food Cart Frenzy. With their youth and boundless energy, the Prairie Junior Grange traditionally fills their shopping cart with the most number of items each year. This year they were unseated by Prairie Grange.
    “It was fun,” Rebbeca Meyers said of the Food Cart Frenzy.
    “Not really, because we did not win this year,” her twin sister Sammantha.
    Junior Grange members work on a variety of craft projects that they work on for the state convention. “We have a project that we are going to do for state session,” Rebbeca said. “We are going to build a shoe box diorama of things that that we do on a rainy day.”
    “We do a lot of arts and crafts. There is a theme that is set by the state each year,” Frazer said. “This year we made bird houses, stepping stones, wind chimes.”
    Although the parents of most of the Junior Grangers are also Grange members, Grange membership by the parents is not a requirement.
    “I always tell the kids to bring a friend. The more the merrier,” Frazer said.  “Everybody is welcome. We would love to have more kids come.”
    “It is a great opportunity for new families who move into the area to get involved in the community and see what our community is all about,” Robin added. “If they have children, I would be more than happy to take them into this Grange and teach them what this community is and how they can help this community.”
    “It has everything to do with putting back in our community,” Robin said.  “We enjoy having these kids realize that there is something out there better than a video game.” “There is something out there better than worrying about where you are going to get your next video game.”
    For anyone who is interested in joining a Grange, all they need to do is ask any Grange member.

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    A century plus of family history in one blue ribbon
    July 31, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    This article is part of the Belvidere Daily Republican’s Throwback Thursday to update readers on an item that was covered by the Belvidere Daily Republican.
    BELVIDERE-Upon entering Mrs. Louise Miles home in Belvidere, a blue rectangular frame resides just as one enters.  Protected within the frame is a blue ribbon.  Upon closer examination, it is a Boone County First Premium Agricultural Society blue ribbon from 1914 earned at the Boone County Fair.  Held in high regards, it maintains its proper place of distinction as it is hung to be visible and prominent for all to see who enter.
    “My father won this blue ribbon for Poland-China Hogs in 1914 when the fair was still being held at the old fairgrounds”, said Louise Miles.  A century ago Lewis R. Hawkey (1900-1985) entered into the 1914 Boone County Fair.  His family farm had an address of Cherry Valley; however the farm was located on Grant Hwy within Boone County.
    His story and that of the Hawkey family began long before 1914.  At the age of 8 or 9, Lewis Hawkey began helping his father Robert by preparing animals for exhibit, “barely big enough to hang onto the rope” Hawkey was quoted as saying. 
    At that time, animals were transported by railroad stock cars.  Hawkey and his father traveled to Beloit, Janesville, Elkhorn, Kane and Winnebago fairs.  Showing on his own, Hawkey first entered the Boone County Fair in 1912 with poultry and later hogs.  By 1914 at the age of 14 he won a blue ribbon for Poland China Hogs.
    Upon investigation on Louise’s dining room table, there are binders full of newspaper articles related to her father in regards to either hogs or sheep.  One must wonder if this single blue ribbon from 1914 that hangs on the wall inspired a young man in his future fair and community involvement.   
    It was reported that Hawkey would continue to show hogs until 1918 when the flu epidemic occurred.   According to a Belvidere Daily Republican newspaper article published August 15, 1977, “…in the flu epidemic of 1918, the hogs were all lost. ‘and I nearly died too.’  He remembers he was laid up for a full month that year with the flu.”
    It was after the flu epidemic, Hawkey switched his interest into raising sheep. “‘I was always interested in sheep.  First I showed Shropshires, but then I showed Cheviots and have for the past 30 years.’”
    The flu is still an issue at fairs today.  Hogs are auctioned at the fair and are not permitted to return home to avoid any possible outbreak of disease for a hog farmer.  You will not find baby piglets at the “Wee Farm” for this very reason.  A century later, it is still a major concern.
    Hawkey would enlist his knowledge and enthusiasm by eventually becoming director and superintendent of the sheep department at the Boone County Fair as well as continuing as an exhibitor.  “My Grandfather Robert Hawkey was President of the Boone County Fair.  We have a long family tradition.  When my father began as superintendent, there was only 30-40 head entered.  With his leadership it expanded to about 450.  He encouraged the continued interest of young 4-H members in exhibiting sheep.  In 1982 the Dorset Flock Trophy was established and after my father’s death in 1985 I have continued it in my father’s memory and it is awarded each year at the Boone County Fair”, concluded Miles. 
    Lewis Hawkey would continue to participate in the Boone County Fair and other circuits for decades to follow.  He also would serve 30 years on the Boone County Board and was a member of the former Townline Grange.  Honors included but not limited are a silver trophy presented in 1977 for 65 years of continuous exhibiting at the Boone County Fair and too many blue ribbons to count.  He also won two first place winning plus one grand champion ribbon on his Cheviot Ram at the National Cheviot Sheep show held at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA in 1972.  Hawkey would also receive the National Trophy for the Ram.
    The experience of the preparation and anticipation of winning and being awarded a ribbon will last lifetime. 
    So whom will we be writing about 25, 50 or in the next century?  Which young 4-H entrant will make a lifelong impact on our Boone County Fair by winning their first blue ribbon?  It could be a young man or even a young woman that could be the next great breeder following decades of tradition right here in Boone County.

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    Carnival business is a family affair
    July 30, 2014
    By Rhonda Anderson
    MARENGO - Have you ever wondered who manages and maintains all those amusement park-style rides at the Boone County Fair?
    Providing carnival attractions for local fairs has been part of the Skinner family for more than 100 years and five generations. DRS Skinners' Amusements Inc. originated in Crystal Lake in 1910.
    “We're what you call forty milers,” said business owner Pat Skinner, as she shared how the operation works. Skinners' Amusements will travel up to 40 miles with its carnival ensemble, but will not venture out much beyond that so the company's more than 20 employees can remain close to home.
    The business serves sponsored events and community celebration fundraisers throughout McHenry, Boone, DeKalb, Grundy, Lake, Ogle and Winnebago counties. Services offered include a complete carnival midway with customized programing, as well as resources for food concessions, games, security, tents, disposal, cleanup and portalets.
    “One advantage we have over other amusement companies is that we are a family-owned business and we all operate on location,” said Skinner. “We don't just send the rides off to be set up by other people. This enables us to be there to maintain everything.”
    New to the Boone County Fair this year will be a ride called the Cliff Hanger, as well as an automated ticket machine – which will come in handy for individuals who don't like to stand in line and wait on other people to serve them.
    “[The machine] has its definite benefits and it doesn't have to go to the bathroom” laughed Skinner.
    She added that a good majority of the fair rides are newer models that were purchased in 2012 and 2013. The rides are fully insured and are state inspected; staff members also inspect each ride daily with check sheet requirements.
    Skinner believes many fairgoers still appreciate traditional carnival rides, such as the Ferris wheel. However, she said, younger generations gravitate toward the more cosmetically appealing and “sophisticated” rides.
    “They like the colorful machines that go up and down. Rides like the merry-go-round are [now] geared toward parents and grandparents, who grew up with them. But people still love the Ferris wheel and the slide, all are pretty equal.”
    One great part of having a traveling family business, Skinner reflected, is meeting new people and making friends.
    “I love working with the different communities and fair boards,” she said. “Each location we go back to is like meeting old friends again. Boone County Fair is one of the finest, most well-run fairs in the state, and it's also one of the largest. Each day working there is as good as the next. And the Fair Board does a wonderful job providing entertainment for everybody.”
    Skinners' Amusements is affiliated with the Out Door Amusement Association, National Association of Ride Safety, Showmen's League of America, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Association of Agricultural Faris, IISA and the Mental Health Resource League Board of McHenry County.
    For more information, visit

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    Garden Prairie chicken broasts attracts a loyal following
    July 29, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    GARDEN PRAIRIE – For anyone who missed the Garden Prairie chicken broast on July 20, you still have a second opportunity this summer for delicious chicken, corn, cucumber and tomato salad, and old fashioned country fun.
    The Garden Prairie Prairie Improvement Association (GPIA) held the first of its two chicken broasts on July 20. The next chicken broast will be on Aug. 24 at the Garden Prairie Park.
    In its 60th year since the GPIA took over the property when the town’s small grade school was shuttered and a new school was built, the GPIA has held annual fundraisers to make property improvements, pay for maintenance of the property and pay the property taxes.
    Originally, the group held a carnival on the site. Skinner Amusements from Marengo brought in amusement park rides which they set up on the adjacent softball field. Skinner Amusements runs the Midway at the Boone County Fair. After an initial rental fee, the GPIA received a percentage of the proceeds from the amusement park rides. 
    “We had a couple of years where it rained for two or three days, and it almost cost us more than we made,” longtime Garden Prairie resident Ruth Ross explained the chicken broast’s history. “Ed Green used to have Patterson Lumber Yard. He said ‘why don’t we have a chicken broast.’ So we quit doing the carnivals and went to the chicken broasts.”
    “At the beginning they had a charcoal pit where they were cooking their chicken over. They have made it easier over a period of years.”
    Curt Holz and Keith Nevel fired up the charcoal on the brick grill at 7:30 in the morning and cooked 350 chickens for the over 600 customers and workers. With the confidence of a pair who were not in their first rodeo, they put on the grill an additional 30 dinners on the grill late in the afternoon and received an additional shipment of fresh sweet corn.  Amid concerns that they would have leftover cooked chicken and corn, the pair was confident that the chicken which would not complete cooking until the fundraiser’s last half hour, Holz and Nevel worked to make sure that everyone who wanted a chicken was able to purchase one.
    “We have to cook more chicken. People kept coming,” Nevel explained of the decision to cook the chickens that would not be ready until the last half hour of the fundraiser.
    “We had to go get some more corn. You have to have what the customer wants,” Cathy Curtis added.
    One customer arrived shortly before 5 p.m. and was relieved that some chickens were still available for purchase. “I was coming from Mendota and I had some riders. My wife called and said ‘get me some chicken’. I said ‘I cannot stop like that.’ I dropped them off and I came back,” the Marengo man explained.
    Although the Garden Prairie chicken broasts are popular among people in the area, it is beginning to develop a following from far beyond the area.  “I was selling tickets and a family came through who last year came through for the first time. They told me they planned their vacation this year around making sure they could make it to our chicken broast,” Kathy McKnight. The out-of-state family took a detour on Rt. 20 to avoid the ever-present Tollway construction and happened upon the Garden Prairie chicken broast.
    Former residents and extended family members come from throughout the region to attend the chicken broasts. “It is a good old fashioned time in the park with friends and family,” Mary Brubach said. “We have people who used to live on the Prairie who come back for it. You feel like you have known someone your whole life.”
    Ross’ homemade pies were a huge success at the chicken broast. She put her grandchildren to work in the kitchen to make a variety of pies for the fundraiser.  Besides the high volume of pies needed for the chicken broast, it is not the first time that Ross has enlisted the assistance from her grandchildren.
    “If they want to earn money for one of their trips, they come and make a deal with me. I purchase the ingredients, but have to get the orders and make the pies,” Ross explained. 
    Grandson Patrick McKnight took an entrepreneur class at Beloit College. “He had to take the $20 and try to make money on it. So he started making pies,” Ross said. “Now he still keeps getting pie orders and he comes and bakes pies for people. He loves doing it. He is quite the baker.”
    When not baking her pies for the Garden Prairie chicken broasts, Ross makes pies that are sold at Steam Plant Restaurant and Uncle John’s Restaurant in Garden Prairie.
    The chicken broast was the first time the community was able to see the improvements to the playground from Eagle Scout candidate Jesse Shambo and Boy Scout Troop 141.  Shortly before the July chicken broast, an army of volunteers organized by Shambo to install playground mulch around the playground equipment.
    Shambo plans to give the playground equipment a facelift before the August fundraiser by adding a fresh coat of paint.  The group will have a ceremony to celebrate Shambo’s efforts at the next chicken broast.
    “It is important to our town. It is worth coming down here to have the chicken,” Holtz said. “It is a worthwhile thing.”

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    What’s in a Grange?
    July 27, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Upon entering the Boone County Fairgrounds, visitors will take note that the Boone County Fair is owned and operated by the Granges.
    Throughout the United States, there are 200,000 Grange members. There are 200,000 local Grange organizations in 30 states. Boone County has seven granges and approximately 1,000 Grange members volunteer their time to make the Boone County Fair a success.
    The organization is a perfect example of a grass-roots, bottom-up group. The backbone of the Grange is the more than 3,000 local "subordinate" Granges which are located in more than 30 states. These Granges offer a wide range of locally-oriented programs and activities for children, youth and adults. Each holds regular meetings where issues of community concern are often discussed. There are social events, contests and community service projects sponsored by the Granges.
     On the county or regional level these local Granges band together into units known as Pomona Granges, primarily for discussion of concerns which affect a larger territory. On the statewide level Granges cooperate by supporting a State Grange organization which oversees the activities of all subordinate Granges as well as conducts lobbying and other activities on behalf of all members in the state.
    The National Grange supports legislative efforts that are important to agriculture and rural communities.
    In Boone County, the supporting Granges that combine to form the Boone County Pomona Grange are
    Beaver Valley, Big Thunder, Capron, County Line, Flora, LeRoy, Prairie and Pomona. Members of each Grange serve on the Boone County Fair Association.
    Although the Granges are officially known as The Order of Patrons of Husbandry and has its historic roots in agriculture, the Granges in Boone County are integral organizations of volunteerism and neighbors helping neighbors. Many civic and business leaders belong to a Grange. Grange members volunteer their time throughout the county. Other members belong to volunteer fire departments, are active in their churches, donate their time to the Salvation Army, donate Christmas presents to veterans, adopt highways, serve meals at community events, and help struggling families in the county.
    “We are groups of people that help and try to do good for our town,” Linda Mullins said. Mullins is a member of both County Line Grange and Boone County Pomona Grange.
    Flora Grange hosts Safety Town day camp each June. “We host this for kids ages five to eight years old,” said Tom Ratcliffe, president of the Boone County Pomona Grange and Flora Grange. “Every day we hold different safety workshops.”
    Prairie Grange sponsors an annual Food Cart Frenzy in which members of each of the seven Granges and the Fair Board race through Packemaker’s grocery store to fill shopping carts with food. The teams have two minutes to fill a shopping cart.  Bragging rights goes to the team that fill their cart with the greatest number and highest dollar value of groceries. The food is donated to local food pantries.
    When a tornado hit the northern part of the County, Grange members came out in droves to volunteer their efforts. Some Grange members helped to sort debris so those affected by the tornado could find some of their belongings. Other Grange members made meals and hot drinks to nourish the other volunteers.
    Although the granges got their start in the farming community and still support agricultural initiatives, grange members do not need to have a farming background.
    “As a whole the granges do a lot of good things for the community. We don’t brag about it. We just go about and do it,” Jo Ellen Coleman explained.
    “Grangers are some of the best people,” Mullins added.

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    Area canoeists gather to clean Kishwaukee River
    July 24, 2014
    BELVIDERE – Area canoeists are uniquely positioned to help clean up the Kishwaukee River by participating in the Boone County Conservation District’s (BCCD) Kishwaukee River Clean up on July 26 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. They will be able to spend a pleasant day on the river and help the environment.
    The event is sponsored by a $500 grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Streambank Clean Up and Lakeshore Enhancement Program.
    The BCCD has organized the annual clean-up for nearly 15 years. Canoeists will gather at Hickory Bills Island on Appleton Road near the Belvidere Park at 9 a.m. The group will make their way down the river to the Distillery.  During the journey, volunteers will pick up trash from the river and its banks.
    Because of the limited parking near Hickory Bills Island, many canoeists will drop off their canoe near the starting point before parking their car at neighboring Belvidere Park. BCCD will shuttle drivers from the take out point at the Distillery back to their vehicles at Hickory Bills Island.
    “We have been doing this for about 14 years,” Dan Kane, executive director of BCCD explained.  “We will only go if the river level is at an acceptable level and there are good weather conditions.”
    In case of inclement weather during the week, volunteers will be at the put in site before 9 a.m. on Saturday morning to alert volunteers if the event has been canceled. For additional information on the clean-up or to register, call (815) 547-7935.

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    Wheels Festival brings a little bit of everything to airport
    July 23, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - About the only thing missing from the annual Wheels Festival at Poplar Grove Airport was a smattering of carnival rides.
    There was plenty of most everything else, from a piece of history tied to an event that shocked Americans, to an airplane once flown by Charles Lindberg to tractors briefly trading work in the field for dragging sleds.
    Oldies music played in the background July 19 and there were two concerts that night.
    The event, sponsored by the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum at the airport, was a fund-raiser for the museum and scholarship program.
    A steady stream of visitors checked out Rescue 4 from the New York Fire Department, which is being restored as a permanent reminder of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
    Rockford firefighter Rory Blanchard was with the truck and explained what happened that fateful day. New York City has five rescue trucks, covering the five boroughs. Their firefighters are trained in dives, extrications and other specialties.
    Trucks 1 and 2 responded immediately to the World Trade Center that morning. Rescue 3 was next, then Rescues 4 and 5. Trucks 1 and 2 were stationed near the Twin Towers and were crushed, he said. Trucks 3 and 5 were damaged while Rescue 4 was the least affected. "It was parked three blocks away," he said.
    Remembrance Rescue Project is based in Schaumburg; most of the firefighters who acquired Rescue 4 are from the Chicagoland area.
    "This is a mobile memorial," Blanchard explained. "Education (about 9-11) is lacking so that's the big push now. The goal is to keep it (Rescue 4) on the road as long as possible. The day will come when that can't be done any more. We're not discussing where it will go, should that day arrive."
    So far, he said Rescue 4 has appeared in more than 30 states and has been seen by 7-to-10 million people. Donations and sales of T-shirts are helping fund the project.
    Regulars at tractor pull
    There was another nice turnout for the annual tractor pull among a variety of farm vehicles, of varying weights, which pull a sled for distance.
    There was a North Boone School District 200 connection on one of the tractors, a 1959, 5,500-pound Oliver 770. Recent graduate Josh Herrmann was in the driver's seat while In back, operating the sled, was Don Ward, president of the District 200 school board and himself a driver in several of the events.
    Josh had finished fifth in the 5,000-pound and had his Oliver in the 5,500-pound competition as well. He was first up and dragged the sled just over 200 feet. "I'm happy to be there," he said of the pull.
    The next competitor reached 156 feet so there only were five more to go. But four of them also exceeded feet, with Brad Morelock winning by reaching 286 feet. That meant another fifth-place finish for Josh. Cash prizes go to the first three place winners in each category.
    Josh will be attending Bradley University, with classes starting Aug. 29. An athlete during his four years at North Boone, he plans to be in the running and baseball clubs at Bradley, so he can stay close to cross country and baseball.
    Car show, rebuilt plane
    A car show as situated near a static display of airplanes.
    In between was a display of seven tow trucks, fashioned by Denny's in Belvidere. Nearby two convertibles sat side-by-side, a 1982 Excalibur and a 1922 Model T Ford.
    The row of airplanes included the original square-tailed Model 4 Speedmail, one of 40 made, a single prop plane used to promote the Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen radio show in the 1930s. He was billed as "a high-flying, crime-solving international air racing 16-year-old ready to embark on any adventure" individual. 
    Lake Geneva, Wis., resident Sarah Wilson, who stores the plane at Poplar Grove Airport, said she was flying it on Friday.
    "It took two years to restore," she said. "It had been just a box of parts."
    Richfield Oil, sponsor of Allen's radio show, originally bought the plane and Allen flew it around the country to promote his show. But the show eventually went off the air and she the plane was used as a crop duster in the 1940s.
    Wilson said she was informed by Lindberg's historian that the pilot had flown that plane on April 2, 1930, which would have been after the trans-Atlantic flight. Richfield Oil was one of his sponsors so he may have used it for a promotional flight of some kind.

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    “Remnant Church” Declares First Presbyterian Church of Belvidere
    July 22, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE: Approved by its 12 elders unanimously and enthusiastically to become a “Remnant Church”, the following approved statement was read on June 22 at both services of the First Presbyterian Church of Belvidere. 
    “You've probably heard disturbing news in recent days from Detroit about our denomination. Our elders remain steadfast in declaring, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' While our denomination increasingly drifts from Jesus by the book, we will, depending upon God's grace, order our life and ministry on the corner of Lincoln and Main with prayer, proclamation, and passion for Jesus by the book. While confessing our sins against our Lord and each other, we will not affirm, condone, or cooperate with any actions of our denomination that insult God's holiness as personified by Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture. When we are wrong about Jesus by the book, we will confess and repent. When we are right about Jesus by the book, we will remain steadfast. Please join us in praying for the knowledge, wisdom, strength, and courage to look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus alone as above all others.”
    First Presbyterian Church is the first in the denomination to declare itself a ‘Remnant Church’ within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or PCUSA.  The response is a direct result of the 221st General Assembly of the PCUSA that was held from June 14 to 21 at the COBO Center in downtown Detroit, Michigan. The biennial meeting gathers together commissioners and advisory delegates from all 172 presbyteries, as well as other delegates and observers from around the world.  The declaration during June 22 worship services was an encouragement to sister churches and judicatories within the PCUSA who are called to remain in the denomination and faithfully serve Jesus Christ.
     The congregation is led by the Rev. Dr. Robert Kopp who has served as Senior Pastor for over ten years.  “A ‘Remnant Church’ is what is left in the denomination of believers in ‘Jesus by the Bible’ or ‘Jesus by the Book.’  It means we do not twist scripture or makeup theology to suit our own personal agenda. ‘The agenda for the church is to discover what was originally meant before it was covered with the dust and debris of 2000 years of church history and tradition.’ is a quote from Hans Küng who is a Swiss Theologian, Priest and author.  ‘Jesus by the Book’ is the simplest form of worship and obedience,” Kopp said.  “It is not forsaking its roots.  One just needs to read and for a crash course just read a Bible with the red letters.” 
    “We are the first to declare ourselves ‘remnant’.  It’s been a tough time for all of us, and these issues date back a long time.  From my perspective, the seeds were planted back in 1979 at the General Assembly in San Diego, CA.   In my 35 years of ministry I have watched the subtle changes occur,” Kopp continued. “I am already getting emails and phones calls from other churches across the nation inquiring for further information.  On so many levels, churches are embarrassed in their own denomination.  Our congregation is not seeking to evoke change in the PCUSA but is trying to witness to the saints who remain in a denomination irretrievably apostate under its current management. ”
     “Paul wrote in Romans 11:5 (NIV Translation) ‘So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.’  Paul was encouraging Christians back then and now to remember God always elects/chooses/calls a remnant to remain faithful to Him.  Simply, God's people, often a remnant in times of increasing national and ecclesiastical apostasy, will catch a lot of hell on the way to heaven; yet triumph in the end because the remnant is cut from the King of kings' cloth and ‘every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord’ in the end,” concluded Kopp.
    For additional information, contact Pastor Kopp at or call (815) 544-6402.

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    Rauner meets with area leaders at Ag breakfast
    July 20, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Approximately 400 people attended a community Ag breakfast at the Boone County Fairgrounds on July 15 to meet Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner and his running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti.
    Rauner started the day in Boone County and met with many of the area’s leaders including State Senator Dave Syverson, State Representative Joe Sosnowski, County Board Chairman Bob Walberg, Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain, Chief of Police Jan Noble, Sheriff-elect Dave Ernest, Gary and Ann Turner, and Tom Ratcliffe.  Jim Turner introduced Rauner the crowd before the pancake breakfast.
    Rauner and Sanguinetti spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the stateline area and met with area residents and business leaders. After the Ag Breakfast at the Boone County Fairgrounds, Rauner toured Central Grain Company before moving up to Rockford to attend a luncheon with Rockford-area women before touring Ingersoll Machine Tools in Rockford.
    “Our message is more jobs, lower taxes, better schools, term limits,” Rauner said. “Unfortunately we have lost our way as a state. Our governor is failing on jobs, unemployment, rising taxes, deteriorating schools, social services being shredded.”
    At Ingersoll Machine Tools, Rauner cited the need to improve technical and vocational training for high school students in Illinois. “We do not have technical training in our public high schools. As a result, great employers are frustrated and have to recruit people from Iowa and Wisconsin. We have taken vocational and technical training out of our high schools and expect all of our young people to go to four year colleges,” Rauner said. “Many of the best jobs do not require four year college. They require some technical training. One of the things that Evelyn and I want to do is bring vocational and technical training back to the high school.”
    Rauner spoke of the state of Illinois’ unemployment rate. “We have lost 23000 in Illinois jobs just this year. Our unemployment rate has risen so it is the highest in the entire Midwest and one of the worst in America,” Rauner said.
    According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for Illinois is 7.5% as of May 2014. Illinois has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the United States. The average unemployment rate for the United States is 6.3%.  According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Boone County is 7.9%. The unemployment rate in neighboring DeKalb, Ogle and Winnebago counties are 6.4%, 8.3% and 9.1% respectively.
    “Our tax burden is too high. We have become anti-business. Our number one priority for Illinois has to be economic growth and job creation. Nothing else is more important,” Rauner said. “We need to become a growth state and pro job creation. We have to turn that around.”
    “The key to long term economic growth is to have freedom for companies to grow and run their businesses as they see fit. If Illinois provides a competitive environment where we have reduced regulations, reduced taxation, and we have an education system that is equipping the young people to fill the jobs that are available and giving them technical training, then companies will relocate to Illinois where they will grow and thrive.”
     The general election is Nov.4.

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    Organizing 4-H events at county fair takes time, patience
    July 17, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - There are many 4-H events before and during the Boone County Fair, being held Aug. 5-10 this year.
    When the fair is under way the first few days are especially busy, with 13 shows held at differing venues around the fairgrounds. Then, at 5 p.m. Aug. 8, comes the livestock auction, what many young 4-Hers have been looking forward to for a long time.
    Organizing all of that takes a lot of time and patience for those involved in the planning and execution. And the same goes for 4-H club members, some as young as 8 years of age, who participate in the pre-fair general projects competition and the shows during fair week.
    Time management is the key ingredient for all of them.
    Planning for next year's fair comes right after the current fair is over, explained Melissa Irwin, 4-H program director for the University of Illinois Extension Office in Belvidere. Step No. 1 is evaluating the fair that just ended, looking at what went right and what went wrong.
    Shows are pretty much the same from year to year but the judges change, she said. Working with the various event superintendents starts right away to line up judges for the coming year.
    "We like ours to be different than those doing the open and junior shows," she said, referring to the events sponsored by the fair association board. "It's important to have them secured early."
    Judge selection can be a balancing act. 4-H officials don't want them to be too close, so they know most everyone in the shows, or too far away, when there can be traveling issues.
    "We look for people who interact well with the kids," Irwin said. But even when they're all lined up a cancellation can occur, as just happened, she said.
    Putting together the 4-H book, full of rules and regulations, is a massive undertaking during the winter months.
    Weigh-ins for beef and dairy cattle are in February, with sheep and goats in May. They're re-weighed at the fair, with awards going to those that gained the most weight. "That goes to level of care," she said of how the animals fare.
    There's coordinating who's participating in which shows, with involves both the adults and kids. In all, there are 28 volunteers for the general projects event, which was held July 12, and close to 50 for the fair itself.
    Office staff consists of Irwin, Kelli Morrow and Johanna Jennings.
    They work with fair officials on participant passes along with parking passes for families. "There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work," Irwin said.
    Then there's the shows themselves, making sure the schedule is followed. "If they're not on time, we can't wait for them," she said of participants. "Some go on about the same time so there is a real balancing act. There is continuing coordination between us and the kids."
    The Ellingson girls
    Organizing their time is a constant for Genna and Ella Ellingson, who participate in both the general projects and fair competitions.
    Genna is 12, an incoming eighth grader at North Boone Middle School, and the list of projects she entered in the July 12 general projects event was as long as her arm.
    The list included cooking, sewing, art, clay, photography, leadership, photo editing, digital art, animation, promotional video and water color. She will work with horses at the fair and prefers driving over riding. For that, she likely will use wagons, carts and carriages.
    She also has done public speaking through 4-H and has appeared at the state fair. When it comes to ribbons, she has won lots of them.
    The family has Haflinger horses, native to the Austrian mountains. While they are a bit smaller than what normally is seen on a farm, they are more versatile. She has been driving since she was 5 and when it comes to the fair, her goal is to do better every year.
    Genna is very busy, especially during the spring when she has to balance school, athletics, chores around the form, general projects and the fair itself. "The trick is knowing what you have to do and being accountable for that," she said. Having a list also is important. But with all that planning she acknowledged "it can be hard to manage my time."
    Still, by the week of July 7 all of her general projects were in shape to be shown and discussed during the interviews on July 12.
    Nine-year-old Ella, in fourth grade at Manchester Elementary School, is enjoying her brief experience with 4-H. But she's familiar with the county fair, having competed there since she was 3 or 4.
    Her general projects this year were clay, photography, photo editing, leadership and art.
    "Their grandmother is an artist," said their mom, Toni Ellingson.
    When thinking about all her projects, Ella observed, "I think that's enough for this year." And on top of that she's a candidate in the Little Miss pageant, using her given name of Eleanor. That event is at 7 p.m. Aug. 5, opening night of the fair.
    4-H is a family activity for the Ellingsons with the girls' dad, John, accompanying them to the general projects event on July 12.
    Elly isn't concerned about all she will be doing in the coming weeks. She follows her list, saying, "It's not that hard. These are things I like to do."
    She also will be working with horses during the fair but divide her time between riding and driving. 

  • pg - wings and wheels Chopper lift off half size photo.jpg
    FDNY Rescue 4 to be special guest at Wheels Festival
    July 16, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - FDNY Rescue 4, one of the first vehicles to respond to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, will be at the Vintage Wheels and Wings Museum on Saturday July 19 for the annual Wheels Festival.
    The truck was damaged while at the scene of the terrorist attack on America and now is being restored and preserved, along with Rescue 5, as an educational project.
    Primary focus of the Remembrance Rescue Project is on children who were too young to actually understand the events of that day, as well as what it meant to members of the fire service and the country as a whole.
    Steve Terry is coordinating this year's fund-raiser for the museum and scholarship program. He said he was elated to be able to have Rescue 4, the sixth or seventh truck to respond to the twin towers, in town for the festival. Trucks 4 and 5 were purchased by a group of firemen in New York for the project.
    There also will be photographs showing Rescue 4, and other New York Fire Department vehicles, in action on Sept. 11.
    Gates for the festival will open at 9 a.m. and activities will continue to 11 p.m., with live entertainment starting at 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person; children under 11 are free; the concerts together cost another $10 per person. .
    A 105-mile Scholarship Fund Run will leave the starting point, Prairie Street Brewery, 200 Prairie St. in Rockford, at 11 a.m. Continental breakfast will be served from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at a cost of $5.
    Stops will be at Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe and the Volo Auto Museum in Volo. The run will end at the site of the festival, 5151 Orth Road in Poplar Grove.
    Cars and more cars
    The 36,000-square-foot Roscoe attraction, owned by Wayne Lensing of Poplar Grove, houses a large collection of vehicles that carried presidents of the United States along with European dictators. Three vehicles are closely tied to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, while others were owned by famous entertainers or appeared in motion pictures and television series.
    The Volo museum has many classic cars on display, most of which are for sale, along with vehicles from movies and TV series.
    Motorcycles, motorcycle enthusiasts, hotrods and antique cars are welcome to participate in the run. Admission is a $35 donation. Direct questions to Pete at (815) 218-2419.
    Scholarships are awarded each year to area high school graduates by the Poplar Grove Aviation Education Association and the museum. Recently, $8,000 in scholarships were given to eight grads looking to pursue careers in aviation, three of them from Boone County.
    Daytime activities at the airport include a tractor pull and car show, static displays of airplanes, antique fire trucks, motorcycles, new fire trucks and tractors. Bi-plane rides will be available for a fee, sponsored by
    A petting zoo for children will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Two musical groups will appear in concert, with a $10 admission charge and gates opening at 3 p.m. Jamie Campbell and his Redneck Romeos will perform at 4 p.m.; Miles Neilson & the Rusted Hearts appear at 8 p.m.
    Judi Zangs, general manager of the museum, said hot air balloon launches may occur about 7 p.m., between the two performances, weather permitting.

  • road to fair - art show photo.jpg
    Calling all artists
    July 15, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BOONE COUNTY - Do you find yourself wiling away the hours painting, drawing, taking pictures, sewing, working with flowers or sculpting?
    Are you ready to show off your creative talents to the world?
    If you have recently created a piece of artwork you are proud of, you might want to consider entering your project into the arts exhibit at the Boone County Fair. The fair will run from Tuesday, August 5, through Saturday, August 10.
    People interested in showing off their creative works and potentially receiving awards for their pieces can enter projects that encompass a wide variety of art areas, including painting, textiles, drawing, scrapbooking, jewelry, ceramics, mixed media and more.
    Categories are available for adults and children between the ages of 5 and 18.
    Entries are submitted and placed in several different departments. Each entry will then be reviewed by a panel of judges and awards will follow.
    Though many people come to the Boone County Fair to take a look at animals, eat tasty treats and enjoy the rides, there are a number of fair-goers who also enjoy taking strolls around the arts exhibit and checking out local talent.
    Jan July, a Belvidere resident who said she has entered artwork in the fair for several years, took Best of Show for her painting “The Tree on Newburg Road,”  during last year's fair.
    She entered the painting she captured of a dead tree into the Dept M-1 Adult Paintings and Drawings category.
    “I was thrilled,” she said, reflecting on her win last year. “I've gotten ribbons of all different colors before, but this was a big purple one.
    “I think the fair offers a great opportunity for amateur artists to display their work,” she added. “It not only gives amateur artists a place to show [it off], but [the arts exhibit] enhances the fair and gives people additional nice things to look at. I always enjoy looking around at all the entries.”
    July encouraged people to enter their work, but cautioned that entrants should be sure to follow directions when submitting pieces. If not submitted properly, people risk not having their work displayed. Specific rules and entry fees apply to each category.
    For more information, visit and click on the link “81-100” under the 2014 fair book heading.
    Walk-in entries can be dropped off until Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20, at the Boone County Fair Administrative Office, located on the fair grounds.

  • road to fair - home ec deadlines photo.jpg
    Deadlines approach for Boone County Fair Home Economic entries
    July 13, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE -The Boone County Fair is less than a month away.  The dates are August 5-10.  Owned and operated by the Granges of Boone County since 1963, this year marks their 51th Anniversary at the Rt. 76 location.  In the course of this time, many queens have been crowned, fair food consumed, animals judged, and ribbons/premium money distributed.  The “Queen’s Pageant” is all you have to say to those who grew up in Boone County.  Without missing a beat many will tell you that in 1969 Judy Ford-Nash won Boone County Fair Queen and went on to become Miss America.  Her crown and gown can be seen at the Boone County Historical Museum. 
    However, as important an event and tradition the “Queen Pageant’ is to the fair, there is so much more to see and to participate in.  Participants may have a year invested in an animal to be judged or an afternoon of baking or sewing.  But for those who enter, it is an investment in time and commitment.  Many are already planning for 2015.  The Boone County Fair is serious business and those ribbons mean a great deal.  The Boone County Fair is not just about livestock, pageants or tractor pulls, and you do not need to be a farmer to participate.  City folks (Urbanites) can enter the fair just like the farmers do.  And they can win ribbons and prize money too.  The Boone County Fair is about community and so much more. 
    The good news is you do not need make a huge financial investment to enter into the Boone County Fair.  There are entry selections to choose from for all ages; especially in the Home Economics Building.  $0.25 Cents will enter you into a Jr. Bakery Category and then be eligible for an Exhibitor Ticket to the Boone County Fair at a cost of $14. A season ticket purchased in advance runs $18 so by entering you already saved a few dollars.  Should you be the winner of such a category there is enough premium money to spend elsewhere at the fair.  
    In the Home Economic Building, four ribbons are awarded per category.  1st place is a Blue Ribbon and a $5 premium paid.  2nd Place is a Red Ribbon and a $3 premium, 3rd Place is a White Ribbon and a $2 premium and 4th Place is a Pink Ribbon and a $1 premium paid to each winner. 
    If baking is not up your alley there is sewing, photography, gardening, flowers and a host of other entries.  There is something for everyone to enter at the fair as the Home Economic Building houses nearly 6,000 entries.  However, the deadline for entries is quickly approaching.  The mailed entry deadline has passed so if you are a procrastinator and still desire to enter, you may enter in person at the Administration Bldg. on the fairgrounds.  The building will be open on Saturday July 19th, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday July 20th, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. only.   Please use the forms included in the fair catalog to enter.    Exhibitor tickets must be purchased at the time entries are made.
    See you at the 2014 Boone County Fair.
    For more information call 815-544-2900 or visit

  • fire and iron photo 1.jpg
    Motorcycle clubs join forces for fallen heroes
    July 10, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – With the deafening roar of a Lifeline helicopter hovering over the Boone County Fairgrounds and the engines of approximately 200 motorcycles, the second annual Guns –N- Axes Benefit Ride headed north to the Rockton Fire Station on July 5.
    As the 200 bikers and their riders left the Boone County Fairgrounds, they were escorted out of town by Sheriff Duane Wirth and a city of Belvidere fire truck.  Riders and their passengers reached up to touch the enormous American flag that was suspended over the parking lot entrance.
    As the group left Boone County and made its way into Winnebago County, the escort transferred from Wirth to members of the Winnebago Sheriff’s Department.  In addition to being escorted by the police and fire departments throughout the Stateline area, many of the riders were law enforcement officers and fire fighters in the fundraiser to support the families of fallen police and fire heroes.
    The ride was sponsored by Fire & Iron Station 53, Blue Iron Illinois and Public Guardians motorcycle clubs. Fire & Iron is a motorcycle club comprised of firefighters. Blue Iron and Public Guardians are law enforcement motorcycle clubs.
    “The purpose of the ride money goes to fallen firefighter or law enforcement families,” retired Rockford firefighter and director of Fire & Iron Lanny Wong explained.  “This is a small way of helping the families of a fallen firefighter or law enforcement.”
    Within 24 – 48 hours of a north central Illinois firefighter or law enforcement member dying in the line of duty or during a call, the motorcycle clubs will give the family a check to get past the initial expenses.
    “There is no way to truly take away the shock and loss. But there is a way to at least support the families with guidance and help them out,” Rochelle patrol officer and president of the Public Guardians Motorcycle Club Jason Bergeron said.
    Fire fighters and law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line each day they report for duty. They can be killed while responding to a domestic violence call. While directing traffic around an accident on an icy stretch of road, a passing vehicle can lose control and hit them. A roof can collapse while they are responding to a house fire.  “When I was working I never thought about dying in the line of duty because I thought it would prevent me from doing my job,” Wong said.
    “It is about supporting the people who support us,”   the father of four Bergeron added.  “Families, significant others, relatives worry about us on a daily basis. Something could possibly happen to us in the line of duty.”
    “It is a tight brotherhood that is unique in itself,” Wong explained. “We do and see things that the general public will never see and do not want to see.”
    As a result of their duty, the law enforcement and fire fighters rely on their families for support. “It means everything. You get frustrated at work it is good to have some people to absorb some of that and help get through it,” the former Belvidere resident Bergeron said. “You go home your family is there and waiting for you. They look forward to seeing you when you get home. And it helps buffer some of the stuff you deal with.”
    “It is a great spirit of cooperation,” Bergeron said of the camaraderie between the law enforcement personnel and fire fighters. “That is what I really appreciate about the whole event.”
    “We have a great cooperation. This also helps to show if something happens disaster-wise everyone would work together well to help the public to get everything back on track as quickly as possible.”
    Although the Guns –N- Axes Benefit Ride raised funds to support the families of fallen law enforcement and fire fighters, the clubs also take part and sponsor other benefit rides throughout the summer months. Fire & Iron is sponsoring burn benefit rides on July 19 and Aug. 23.  “The money goes to I Am Me burn camp and also to the burn unit at OSF,” Wong explained.
    Through the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, the group helps children who experienced significant burn injuries by sending them to the YMCA’s Camp Duncan in Ingleside, Ill. The weeklong camp helps the children to experience camp in a non-judgmental atmosphere as they participate in camp activities and share their survivor stories.
    “It is very humbling feeling. I saw one child who lost both legs and was disfigured and my inside was tearing up. Here was this young guy but you could see that he was so traumatized,” Wong recalled. “You want to do more for this kid. Hopefully the money we generate helps them to some extent.”
    In addition to supporting Camp I Am Me, Fire & Iron motorcycle club raises funds for the OSF burn unit. “We felt we should do something more local,” Wong explained. “Not to minimize that the kids deserve more support, but the burn ward at OSF works with this year-round.”
    Members of the Public Guardian and Blue Iron will participate in numerous benefit rides throughout the summer. “These same guys and girls support other causes. We appreciate their support in this cause. We are people who want to work with the public and help out wherever we can,” Bergeron said.

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    Motorcycle run raises funds for Wounded Warriors, local Veterans
    July 9, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – James Gosnell of Belvidere wanted nothing more than to be a Marine.  Concerned that he would be short some classes to graduate high school, he took night courses and correspondence courses to ensure keep him on track. The 1998 Belvidere High School graduate convinced his mother Linda Lieber to sign the paperwork so that he could enlist in the Marines when he was 17 years old.
    “I had to sign the paperwork when he was 17. He was absolutely adamant that he was going to be a Marine. He wanted to be the first one in if there was a war. The Marines were the toughest and that is what he wanted to be. The best of the best,” Lieber explained. “He graduated in June and went to basic training in July,”
    The deeply patriotic Gosnell joined the Marines and served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of Special Forces. “9/11 made him furious. He instantly wanted to go. When they caught Saddam Hussein he was happy they caught him but he was upset that he was not there to help,” Lieber said.
    After leaving the military, Gosnell was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a traumatic brain injury as a result of repeated concussions. “He had good days and bad days,” Lieber said.
    The weeks around the fourth of July were difficult for Gosnell and he would dive under the table when neighbors lit fireworks. “You would not believe how it affects them,” Lieber explained. “To the veterans, it is the same sound as a bomb.”
    A carpenter by trade, Gosnell struggled to find employment after he left the military. He received assistance from the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). The WWP helped Gosnell and his wife Jaclin to meet their financial obligations so they could keep their Poplar Grove home.
    The WWP helps veterans and service members who have incurred a physical or mental injury or illness. In addition to financial assistance, the WWP offers a wide variety of activities to help wounded warriors to rehabilitate and transition into daily activities and life so they can maintain meaningful relationships with family and friends. The WWP offers outdoor retreats, peer support and professional services. “They are absolutely a wonderful organization,” Lieber said.
    Gosnell was inspired by the help that he received from the WWP. “Our son was going to Rock Valley College. His goal was to be a counselor to help people coming back with problems,” Walter Lieber said. “He was doing very well.”
    On April 28, 2012, he and a fellow veteran traveled to Schaumburg to help another veteran who was struggling with PTSD. Gosnell was stabbed and was killed. “When they are overseas you expect it,” Linda Lieber said of the tragedy. “When they come home, you think they will be relatively safe.”
    In addition to his parents and wife, Gosnell left behind his seven year old daughter Devan.
    “He was very proud to be a Marine until the day he died,” Lieber said.
    Out of the tragedy of Gosnell’s death, the Liebers decided to hold a motorcycle benefit ride to honor his memory and to raise funds for the Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County and the WWP.  “We want to show support to the vets who are coming back and (extend) a thank you for the help they (WWP) gave my son,” Walter Lieber explained. “He was very proud to be a Boone County vet.”
    The second annual run for the vets will be held Sunday July 13. Sign up is at 9 a.m. and the first bike out is at 10 a.m. from the American Legion Post at 900 W. Chrysler in Belvidere. The ride is open to all vehicles and will traverse 100 miles through the region. After its last stop, the group will return with a police escort to the American Legion by 4 p.m. for food, music and a bucket raffle. Raffle prizes have been donated by Ice Hawks, Aviators, Culvers, Doc’s Upholstery, Farm and Fleet, Jack Wolf, and Harley-Davidson.
    “I don’t think we could do enough for our veterans,” Linda Lieber added. “We would not be the same country without them.”
    Linda Lieber cried last year when she saw the support that they received from the motorcycle community in their first annual ride. “Motorcycle riders are the most giving people in the world. If there is a good cause, they are right there,” she said.
    They (the American Legion) have been absolutely wonderful to us,” Lieber said. “God bless you.”
    For additional information call (815) 505-2730 or (815) 543-6727.

  • road to the fair flora grange photo.jpg
    Flora Grange in 2nd century of service to community
    July 8, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BOONE COUNTY - Flora Grange is in the fourth year of a new century of community service. But it actually had three beginnings: in 1873, 1893 and 1910.
    They initially met in a schoolhouse but soon outgrew it and built a new, larger hall for $729. The lower level was used by horses while their owners met upstairs. This probably was one of the first Grange halls in Illinois.
    But Flora Grange 526 disbanded in 1889 for nonpayment of dues to the state office.
    It reorganized in 1893, using the original Grange hall, just south of the current building, on Stone Quarry Road. It disbanded again, this time in 1906, again for nonpayment of dues.
    The third and final new beginning occurred in 1910 when Flora Grange 1726 was created. The original hall continued to be used until about 1948, when it was agreed to build a new one. Fifty pancake breakfasts, held almost every week, helped pay for the new hall that was dedicated in 1950, a little bit north of the site of the original building.
    During those breakfasts it was estimated that 78,000 pancakes were served to some 8,000 visitors, along with 6 1/2 tons of sausage, many gallons of syrup, and a good-sized lake of coffee.
    That hall lasted until 1978, when it burned down, a victim of arsonists. The current hall was built on the same location and dedicated in the spring of 1980. Steady rental income helped add air conditioning, new furnaces and improvements to the kitchen. Most recently a new, blue metal roof was added, making the hall hard to miss.
    National recognition
    Flora Grange has been noticed nationally for a long time.
    In 1973, Jack Ratcliffe and his wife, Laurel, were runner-up in the National Grange Young Couple of the Year competition. One year later Flora Junior Grange took first place in in the nation in community service, with Emalee Hegge named Junior Matron of the Nation.
    More recently, in 2011, Flora Grange once again won first place nationally in community service.
    Flora Grange has grown over the years and currently has about 170 members. Big Thunder and Prairie are about as large; Leroy Grange has about 40 members; Beaver Valley and County Line have about 50 each and Capron has 25.
    The annual Boone County Fair is owned and operated by Pomona Grange, overseer of the seven Granges with four representatives from each organization on its board of directors.
    Each Grange has chores it must tend to at the far, this year to be held Aug. 5-10 at the fairgrounds off Illinois 76, just north of Bypass 20.
    Members of Flora Grange work Gate No. 6, off McKinley Avenue, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Thursday is Tractor Pull day, meaning a busy time at that gate because it is the primary access point to the track where the event is held.
    Also on Thursday, Flora Grange members prepare and serve more than 300 baked ham dinners at the dining pavilion.
    Dedicate Memorial Park
    Two years ago Flora Grange Memorial Park was dedicated in front of Exhibit Hall No. 3. That was a $7,000 project including benches, trees and signage.
    The organization also helped install a new fire suppression system in the dining pavilion. And it helped improve buildings in the track infield, such as the judges stand, track operations center, while maintaining the infield, flag pole and stage area.
    This year Flora Grange will be painting picnic tables in the dining pavilion while effecting needed repairs. It also will be involved with general cleanup and maintenance of the two dining pavilion kitchens.
    "It's definitely a labor of love for the fair by the Flora Grange members," organization President Tom Ratcliffe said. "Several of us have been involved since 1967. Some are the next generation or two carrying on the tradition of helping make the Boone County Fair one of the best, if not the best, county fair possible."
    On the heels of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the Flora Grange in 2001 started planning the first local version of the national Safety Town summer program for children 5-8 years of age.
    The 13th four-day event was just held at the fairgrounds with 75 children attending. They learned about safety on a variety of fronts from professionals in those areas.

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    General 4-H projects to be judged, displayed July 12
    July 6, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Last-minute preparations for this year's Boone County Fair continue to go on behind the scenes.
    But those who want to see an early collection of the works of 4-H members 8-18 years of age may come to the downtown community building, 111 W. First St., between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. July 12. Admission is free.
    There they will see a wide range of "non-livestock" projects in such categories as cooking, sewing, electronics, welding, robotics, horticulture, health, leadership, photography, tractors, visual arts and veterinary science.
    A few members of the local 4-H robotics clubs, Flaming Monkeys (high school) and Atomic Chimps (ages 9-13), are expected to have entries in that category.
    Creators first will meet one-on-one that morning with judges and talk about what about their project, how they put it together and what they learned.
    "It's not an interrogation," explained Melissa Irwin, 4-H program coordinator. "It's more of an easy going, fact-finding session.
    That interview and the project itself will determine who wins a ribbon. There will be the usual three - blue, red and white - but this competition is different than others because there may be more than one blue ribbon in a category.
    Entries don't compete against one another, she explained. Judging is based on whether the projects have met the requirements of each category.
    Judges also will decide who continues on to compete in the state fair, which starts Aug. 11, the day after the Boone County Fair. To be eligible, one must be at least 10 years of age and win a state fair ribbon.
    The process will be the same in Springfield, with an interview and judging based on meeting category requirements.
    Irwin encouraged people who are interested in 4-H to take advantage of the opportunity to see so many non-livestock projects under one roof.
    It is a great time to see some of what 4-H is all about, she said. "There is this whole other side of 4-H, the non-livestock side," she said.
    Some members find the time to compete in both disciplines, raising animals while coming up with project ideas and then seeing them to completion.
    This year's fair will run from Aug. 5-10 at the fairgrounds off Illinois 76, just north of the Route 20 bypass.
    4-H competition actually begins before the traditional flag raising ceremony, which is at noon Aug. 5. There will be a poultry show at 7:30 a.m., in the poultry building, and a horse show at 8:30 a.m. in the outdoor horse arena.
    In all there will be 13 4-H livestock shows along with the big event of fair week, the livestock auction, at 5 p.m. Aug. 7 in the livestock arena.

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    “Belvidere’s Hero” a comedic silent movie returns for local screening
    July 3, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    This article is part of an ongoing series of Throwback Thursday articles. This series will cover items from the Belvidere Daily Republican’s archives and provide an update.
    BELVIDERE – On Saturday, March 20, 1926 the Belvidere Daily Republican published an article titled “Republican To Offer Local Girl Chance To Star In Comedy”.  The article stated, “Moving pictures producers coming to Belvidere to film for the Daily Republican a two-reel comedy called ‘Belvidere’s Hero’-Belvidere girl wanted for leading role-studio equipment being brought here…
    …By special arrangements there has been obtained the services of a well known picture company from Hollywood, California, the home of the great picture industry…
    Supervised and directed by Don O. Newland, a director of national repute.  Considerable equipment is being brought to Belvidere including studio sets and a battery of powerful studio lights, capable of developing 250,000 candle power…”
    Ida Public Library Local History Room invites the community to attend their continuing summer Local History Lecture series with a showing of the silent movie “Belvidere’s Hero”  that was filmed right here in Belvidere in 1926.  The program to be held on Thursday, July 17 at 6:30 p.m. will feature discussion of the history of the movie beforehand, including details about the actors, where the movie scenes were shot, and how Belvidere reacted to the filming and release of the movie.  Admission is free and popcorn will be provided.
    “Back in the early days of movies, many film companies went around the country filming in small towns with standard boilerplate scripts that would be adapted to fit the town it was filmed in,” local history and genealogy librarian at Ida Public Library Jillian Fuller said. “One newspaper article says they wanted the Hollywood motion picture company to film a movie here in order to show the people of Belvidere how movies were made, since many were not familiar with it.”
    “Belvidere’s Hero” is a comedy about a misunderstanding between a husband and wife that goes slightly awry. It involves a lost baby, several car chases, and new romance. The movie runs about 25 minutes.  It’s silly and funny and is accompanied by some great music. All of the actors in the movie were Belvidere residents.
     “The film was shot in various locations around Belvidere, as well as onstage at the Apollo Theater for the indoor scenes,” Fuller added. “Residents were invited to sit in the audience to watch the filming. The cast of characters were: Fred L. Gilman, Charlotte Allason, Darlene Brainard, Gene Hawk, Bob Goodrich, and Ilo Emmerson played the main roles. There were hundreds of extras as well as Belvidere residents. The choosing of the lead female was of special interest. There were newspaper accounts every day leading up to the decision about who would represent Belvidere and show off the ‘charm of Belvidere women’.”
    “Our idea behind this program was that we wanted to give residents the chance to see this movie first hand.  Last summer, we converted the movie from a VHS tape to DVD so that it can be shown to modern audiences. It’s one of the only ways for people to be able to see what Belvidere looked like almost 100 years ago such as the buildings, fashions, and cars,” Fuller stated enthusiastically. “It’s exciting to be able to share this piece of our past in such a fun way. The program is as an old-fashioned movie night, complete with popcorn! We hope everyone enjoys the show and also learns a bit from it too.”
    For more information contact Jillian Fuller at (815) 544-3838 or  Ida Public Library is located at 320 N. State St. in Belvidere.

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    Go-karts, art show bring variety to Belvidere Heritage Days
    July 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - More than 100 racing fans were kept on the edge of their seats Saturday as go-kart racing made its inaugural appearance on a State Street parking lot.
    Contrast that with the more docile scene a few blocks away, where more than two dozen artists had set up booths for The Brick Art Show.
    In between, covering four-plus city blocks, more than 65 cars and trucks of all ages and styles were on display for many hundreds of visitors.
    And the Hometown Market also was open, for its second weekend of the summer.
    Add those together and you have the wide variety of entertainment that brought many people to downtown Belvidere for the opening day of city's annual Heritage Days.
    The parking lot in front of the Salvation Army Thrift Store had been transformed into a racing oval with an infield consisting of pits and tents. And the racers didn't disappoint, competing in three different categories for trophies and cash money.
    Adding go-karts to the two-day festival was encouraged by Police Chief Jan Noble and he was there, watching the action with everyone else. He couldn't have been happier with the way things turned out.
    Already there is talk about there being a second year of racing and the possibility of moving the competition to the streets of Belvidere. A possible course could begin on State Street at the railroad tracks, make a U-turn at State and First Street and return.
    "I am very pleased by the turnout," Chief Noble said. "That's an indication that there is interest. This was a very good start."
    Belvidere was represented directly and indirectly in the racing.
    Skyler Morrall's No. 16 car in the Senior competition for those 16 and older was sponsored by Jack Wolf's Chrysler, Dodge & Jeep. Skyler's grandparents live in Belvidere with his grandfather, Mike, working in the parts department at the dealership. Mike Morrall was the crew chief with Skyler's dad part of the pit crew.
    Skyler, who lives in Cambridge, Wis., won the trophy race and took third in the final 30-lap race of the day - for money.
    He has been racing for a long time and, as grandmother Mary Obligato put it, "We've spent a lot of weekends at the track.
    Max Kahler, 13, of Belvidere, competed in the 12-16 class and finished fourth in his race. 
    Blue-ribbon winner
    Belvidere resident Bob Coleman won the blue ribbon for his wood carvings at The Brick Art Show. The self-taught artist has been hand-carving wood creations for the past five years.
    At the Heritage Days show he unveiled his latest work - carvings in old dictionaries and student handbooks that he acquired from the Ida Public Library in Belvidere.
    He also shows at two other Belvidere celebrations - Harvest Fest and Pioneer Day later in the season.
    In addition, Jack Hantsch was the second-place winner with Katie Ollmann receiving the People's Choice award.
    One of the more unusual artistic offerings at the vast collection of booths outside The Brick was a number of creative gourds fashioned by Barb Taylor of Belvidere.
    "They're for all occasions," she said. Among the hand-made creation was a canoe, bouquet of flowers and birdhouse.
    She said she retired about six years ago and while in Texas, visited a garden store. She was intrigued by the gourds and brought some back to Illinois. "That's how I got started," she said.
    She's no stranger to growing things as she is both a master gardener and master naturalist through the University of Illinois. While she and her husband farm outside of Belvidere, she said she worked off the farm for her entire career.
    Watching the gourds grow was exciting, she said, because each one has a different shape. Gourds have an interesting history, she said, having been used for storage for many centuries.

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    City, county begin to remove diseased ash trees
    July 1, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – In June 2002, the first emerald ash borer was found in Michigan. The nickel-sized shiny green bug that resembles a small cricket most likely hitched a ride on a wooden crate or pallet on a journey that brought it from Asia to Michigan.
    From that pair of interlopers, began a wave of destruction that has quickly decimated the ash tree population throughout much of the Midwest and threatens to wipe out the trees entirely.
    The emerald ash borer is as devastating to the ash trees as Dutch elm disease was to the elm trees in the 1970s.
    The first emerald ash borers in Illinois were discovered in June 2006 in Kane County.  Since that time, they have come and gone from Boone County, and killed nearly every ash tree in the county.
    “There are hundreds of ash trees in Belvidere that have been infected,” Belvidere public works superintendent Danny Anderson said. “It has already been through here.”
    “I think they have already infected every ash tree that I’ve seen. They were infected some time ago.”
    Although the mature emerald ash borer gently nibbles on leaves, it lays its eggs on the bark of ash trees.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae bore through the bark to the cambium layer of the tree which is where the devastation occurs. The larvae feeds on the layer of the tree through which the tree receives nutrients.  Each female emerald ash borer can lay as many as 100 eggs. The cumulative effect of thousands of larvae feeding on this layer robs the tree of nutrients and strangles it.
    In addition to the telltale D-shaped exit holes in the bark, the dead branches are a telltale sign that the tree succumbed to the emerald ash borer.  “The damage is done. The only course of action is removal as they deteriorate,” Anderson stated. “They are going to start rotting and shed branches.”
    Last year Anderson graded many of the trees in the public right of way and slated them for removal for the next few years.
    The city of Belvidere and Boone County have begun to remove the dead or dying trees. On June 23 workers removed six trees from Big Thunder Park in Belvidere as well as several trees on Main St. and State St.

  • road to fair - Planning a Fair photo 1.jpg
    Planning county fair a year-round job - and then some
    June 29, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    This article is part of a continuing series leading up to the Boone County Fair on Aug. 5 – 10.
    BELVIDERE - Jack Ratcliffe and his wife, Laurel, were in Florida last winter to briefly enjoy some warmer, snow-free weather.
    But the trip wasn't strictly R&R. Entertainment for this year's Boone County Fair had pretty well been lined up. So while they were visiting attractions in Orlando and the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, they were on the lookout for acts that would fit in at the county fair - for 2015.
    "You never stop thinking about it," Jack Ratcliffe, vice president of the fair board, said of the fair. Get an idea "and you write it down." That's because the goal always has been to bring top-caliber entertainment to the various stages at varying times of the day.
    "All of our events are state fair-quality events," he said. "They come from all over the country."
    "We look for variety, for something different," said Tom Ratcliffe, a member of the fair board and president of both the overseeing Pomona Grange and Flora Grange.
    Among the new acts this year is American English, a Beatles tribute band that will play at 7 p.m. Aug. 6, second night of the fair. Tickets are $8 each. Last year there were tributes to the 1970s and '80s of Rock 'n Roll. . 
    While most fairs don't open until late in the afternoon, the Boone County Fair is raring to go at noon each day. And the entertainment starts right then, this year leading off with Dueling Pianos Music & Comedy.
    The Magic and Illusion of Lance Gifford follows at 1 p.m., Mama's Wranglers Family Country Band at 2 p.m. Those acts repeat until 6 p.m.
    There is a change Aug. 8-9, when the Lance Gifford Hypnosis Show plays at 8 p.m. each night.
    Then they'll be returning on Aug. 10, the final day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    There will be more free entertainment starting at noon each day in the Entertainment Pavilion, next to Exhibit Hall No. 1, and featuring a variety of bands. Groups include Dale Rhode and the Crossroads Band, Kevin Burns Good Vibrations Beachside Music Show, Looking for Treble, Silver Creek Band and Missing Links Band.
    On Aug. 10 Rockin' Horse Band will wrap up things at 6 p.m.
    Beyond all of the music there will be a talent show for amateurs ages 21 and younger on Aug. 9, also in the Entertainment Pavilion. Registration is free starting at 9:30 a.m. Age categories are 14 and younger and those 15-21. Contests will begin at 10:30 a.m. 
    This year's headliner, Easton Corbin, will appear at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Grandstand. Tickets are $15 or $18 each.
    A volunteer fair
    Putting together the six-day county fair is a massive job involving many people. And they're mostly volunteers.
    The fair typically ends the second Sunday in August. There's a brief break before the volunteer appreciation luncheon in September. Then they're back at it again, even though the next fair is more than 10 months away.
    This is a $1-million-plus, non-profit operation and attention to detail - because there so many, many details - is a must. Entertainment, from acts to the many carnival rides on the Midway, costs money. So does security. Maintaining the grounds, streets, buildings and infrastructure is a major expense. And don't forget about prize money for the many, many competitions that take place during the week.
    Revenue comes from admissions, booth rentals, entry fees and tickets to rides and activities on the Midway. The fair is a 501(c)(3) so donations are potentially tax-deductible.
    The Boone County Fair is known for continuing to remember its agricultural roots. It's a showplace for boys and girls, for young men and women, and the animals they've been raising for the last year or longer.
    Animals are on display the entire week in a series of open-air buildings on the south side of the fairgrounds.
    Prize money was increased substantial in the fair-ending demolition derby to be held at 1 and 6 p.m. Aug. 10. The problem was the federal cars for clunkers program of a few years ago eliminated a lot of cars for that competition, making it more expensive for someone to enter the event.
    Again this year the top Boone County finishers in each of the derbies will receive $1,000, instead of the $500 they got up until 2013. Feature winners at 1 and 6 will receive $2,000 apiece with runners-up getting $1,000 each and $500 going to those finishing third, fourth and fifth respectively.
    Other details are available at
    In all, this fair hands out $175,000 in prize money to the various competitions.
    Some examples are $37,000 for harness racing, $26,000 for draft horses, $31,000 for dairy cattle, $31,000 for beef cattle and $12,000 for sheep.
    ATV racing will be free to spectators this year, being held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 8. Anyone with an ATV who would like to race should go to for details and rules.
    A complete schedule for this year's fair, running from Aug. 5-10, is at

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    Henningers celebrate a century of family farming
    June 26, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    GARDEN PRAIRIE – When John and Lena Henninger downsized his farming operations from Beloit Rd. and moved to a 40 acre farm on Lawrenceville Rd. in 1909, he most likely never imagined that his family would still own the farm more than 100 years later.  It is even more unlikely that he imagined that the Turner family would still be the neighbors of their great-great grandchildren.
    On June 9 the Illinois Department of Agriculture recently designated the Henninger Homestead as a centennial farm.  The property is one of approximately 9,400 farms that have been recognized through the Centennial Farm program. “I am pleased to recognize the Henninger family,” said Agriculture director Robert Flider. “The Centennial Farm programs help to reinforce that family farming remains a viable entity in Illinois agriculture."I think it is an honor to agriculture that people try to stay with their agriculture background and do the things that I think are going to be important in the future,” agreed Henninger’s grandson Al Henninger who owns the farm with his wife Darlene. Their son and daughter in-law John and Pat and their children currently live on the farm.
    Henninger has seen a watched a major transformation in farming in his lifetime.  As a boy, he lived on the farm with his grandparents.  The combines and tractors of today were not yet invented.  “When I was a boy we used to do things with horses. We planted corn with horses,” Henninger said.
    On the 40 acre farm, Henninger’s father and grandfather raised dairy “milch cows,” corn, hay and oats.  With modern farming machinery, the smaller farms are becoming more scarce. “You cannot farm on 40 acres any more. You need hundreds of acres to make it work,” Henninger said.
    “This designation honors them today and their ancestors of yesterday who labored through prosperity and adversity to maintain their family farm.”
    The Henninger Homestead has seen its share of adversity and challenges.  The family struggled to maintain the farm during the Great Depression.  Between 1930 and 1935, 750,000 farms were lost to bankruptcy and foreclosure. “We didn’t know we were poor. I guess we didn’t know any different. We had a good family life,” Henninger said. “A lot of times we had to have a lot of pancakes and eggs because we had that on the farm.”
    The worst day on the farm was April 21, 1967 when the tornado struck the farm and destroyed the house, barn and all of the outbuildings.  Henninger’s father Irving was home at the time of the tornado. “It took all of the antiques out of the attic including his mother’s high chair,” Darlene Henninger said. “They never found it.”
    Al Henninger grew up with Jim and Gary Turner who also live on neighboring century farms. They were classmates together, along with Bob Mickey, at the one room Lawrenceville School. Between 25-30 students attended class with a teacher who taught all eight grades. Lilian Hall and Hazel Wesson were their teachers.
    “When Lilian Hall was the teacher, Al and Jim Turner had a thing for jumping over the back of their seat to sit down instead of walking over to sit in their seats,” Darlene recalled. “So Lilian Hall, the teacher, made them stay after school one night and jump over the backs of the seats.”
    “That broke us of jumping over the seats,” Al Henninger laughed. “She made us do 100 of them. Or it seemed that way.”
    The Henningers have long supported farming and agriculture in Boone County. Henninger’s name is synonymous with the Boone County Fair. Originally, the Boone County Fair was held at Spencer Park and the Granges ran the food stand.  In 1957, Frieda Spencer asked the Pomona Grange to take over the administration of the county fair.
    “We took it over in 1957, and I was one of the original directors. I was vice president for 8 years and president for 20 years, and I have been a regular director for 16 years,” Henninger said. “I have been an honorary director for 4 years.”
    Darlene Henninger was the concession manager for 22 years.

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    Rain doesn't dampen spirits at Midnight Flea Market
    June 25, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Plenty of vendors were still on the outdoor midway at 9 o'clock Saturday June 21 hawking their wares during the seventh Midnight Flea Market at the Boone County Fairgrounds.
    There were quite a few visitors around, too, looking for bargains. And judging from the noise in the distance, the tractor pull was still in full swing.
    The rain that fell at 4 p.m. that day, right about the time the flea market opened, didn't scare them away from this rain or shine event.
    "Just like last year," said Bob Rogus, who was helping Evelyn Aikman at her spread of collectibles along the midway. "But it's a nice night."
    The Elgin residents arrived early that day and by 11 a.m. were partially set up. "It's a way of life," Rogus said. "Evelyn has been doing this for 36 years. E-bay ruined her business, but she still does it. It keeps her going."
    He gathered some of the memorabilia through his part-time job of removing a wide variety of items from houses that are being sold or that have become part of an estate. He stores a lot of the stuff at his farm. 
    "Garage sales don't do it anymore," Aikman said.
    The biggest challenge, Rogus said, is knowing what to bring to an event such as this. "Every year it's a different crowd," he said.
    Show expands
    Shawno, Wis. resident Bob Zurko also was there early, as one would expect, because this is his business and has been for many years. He pointed out it had expanded this year, with vendors now setting up inside three of the Boone County Fair's exhibit halls.
    Booths inside those halls were pretty regular except for one. That was occupied by Deadgar Winter, taking on the appearance of a colorful vampire, and his two associates, Victoria Bathory and Sorceress Celeste, the resident witch.
    The table in front of them was filled with items of the macabre, including skulls and copies of classic horror motion pictures.
    They're television personalities with a two-hour show, Darkman's Dark Coffin Classics, on two Milwaukee stations. They show mostly classic horror movies though they throw in a modern-day film every once in a while. And they break up the somber atmosphere with some comedy routines.
    "It's family-oriented, but there is some tasteful adult humor," he said. "We ad-lib a lot."
    You also can find them on You Tube. And in the not-too-distant future, they're hoping to land a spot on an independent Chicago television station.
    He's been the host for the past four years, fulfilling a childhood dream of "growing up to be just like Sven Goolie. So here I am."
    The three enjoyed their time at the Midnight Flea Market, talking with fans of the supernatural and signing autographs. "It's been a blast," he said. "We have enjoyed the people."
    Lots of old toys
    Antiques are one of the staples of this flea market and Gary Anderson from Marengo had a spot filled with toys from the 1960s and '60s. There also were old cars, pennants, games, tools, old posters, comics, and a recognizable Shoney's
    Big Boy doll.
    One item that seemed out of place was a 1735 Book of Sermons, which had a secret compartment in the back. He said he bought it at an old schoolhouse in Antioch, during an antique show.
    Anderson has been in the business for about 15 years and just keeps adding to his collection that's steeped in the past. He does a show every couple of months; this was his second year at the Midnight Flea Market.
    On the way out was one of the new additions to the Zurko Promotions' family - Perfect Pop Kettle Corn. Jim Zei, wife Aileen and son Johnny, all from Woodstock, were in a perfect location to appeal to those who couldn't do without a bag of kettle corn to take home.
    He even had a new offering, with a hint of cinnamon.
    "I think we'll follow him to Wheaton," Jim Zei said, referring to Zurko who will have his 38th All-Nighter from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Aug. 16 at the DuPage County Fairgrounds. It will feature Ernie Hudson, one of the stars from the popular 1984 motion picture, "Ghostbusters," and 1989 sequel.
    Also appearing will be Jon Provost, who portrayed Timmy in the 1950s television series, "Lassie." The jeans and checkered shirt Provost wore hang in the Smithsonian next to Archie Bunker's chair.

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    Hyser, Wilcox receive promotions with fire department
    June 24, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Family, friends, officials and members of the Belvidere Fire Department gathered at Belvidere City Hall to attend the promotion ceremony of Lt. Al Hyser to captain and the promotion of firefighter Craig Wilcox to lieutenant on June 16.
    “I am very honored and excited to have them as part of the officer rank,” Fire Chief Dave Worrell said at the swearing in ceremony.
    “I see our firefighters who have come up through the department like Al and Craig and that is what Belvidere fire is all about. We are happy for your promotions,” Belvidere mayor Mike Chamberlain said. “We appreciate all of the service of all the years. We appreciate their families standing behind them.”
    City clerk Shauna Arco swore in Hyser to the position of captain in the fire department. Hyser replaces Captain Jeff Schulte who retired on June 15 after 33 years of service to the Belvidere Fire Department.
    Schulte was in charge of fire investigations, fire prevention and emergency medical operations.
    “He (Schulte) would analyze the situation and come up with a solution to the problem at hand, whether at an emergency scene or in the firehouse,” Worrell said. “Jeff had a calming presence at an emergency that helped everyone to remain focused on the task at hand.”
     Following the taking of his oath to the rank of captain, Hyser’s wife Lisa pinned his new badge on his Class A uniform jacket. Hyser’s mother Linda Daluga and mother in-law Fern Schumaker pinned the double bugle lapel pin on his jacket. In addition to his wife, Daluga and Schumaker, Hyser was joined by his son Garrett, and his brother Jeff Hyser and sister in-law Rhonda Hyser.
    “It is awesome to be here in the public safety field,” said the 20 year veteran of the fire department. “It is a wonderful opportunity to work with this department.”
    With Hyser’s promotion to captain, it left a vacancy in the lieutenant’s rank which was immediately filled by Wilcox. Arco swore in Wilcox.  Wilcox’s wife Cindy pinned his new badge on his uniform. His children Erin and Zak pinned the single bugle lapel pin on his uniform. He was also joined by his mom, brother, sister in-law and nephew. Wilcox’ brother Mark is a member of the DeKalb fire department.
    Wilcox first joined the Belvidere Fire Department 25 years ago as a fire fighter.  He has served on the department’s inspection bureau for the last 20 years.
    “It was exhilarating that my whole family and everybody could be here with me,” Wilcox said. “It was a big thing.”
    “It is a long time coming and I worked hard at it for many years. I worked diligently throughout my entire career and kept focus .It finally came around.”
     “I am excited for both of them. I’ve worked with both of them for many years and to come up through the ranks and worked really hard to prepare themselves for this day,” Worrell said. “They have done a wonderful job and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
    “Congratulations to the new lieutenant in the department,” Hyser added.
    Both Hyser and Wilcox expressed interest in advancing the fire department. “I approach every day since I have been on the fire department to make the fire department advance further,” Hyser said.  “Every day is an opportunity for me to make us better”
    “I am looking to take the department to the next level and move forward,” Wilcox added.
    “Nothing makes me happier than days like today,” Chamberlain said. “I look and see families in this community that have helped to build this into a strong community.”

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    Go-kart races to make an appearance at Heritage Days
    June 22, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - For the first time, Belvidere's Heritage Days will have some go-kart races.
    They will take from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. June 28, a Saturday, in the Salvation Army parking lot on Main Street. Registration starts at 8 a.m. for the various categories of racing on a tri-oval track.
    The entry fee will depend on the class but generally it will be $25. Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers. Age groupings will be 8-12-years old, 12-15 and 15 and up, with no age cap.
    "We're hoping to see 40 or more karts," said the coordinator, Lance Anderson. Not long ago 67 entered races held at Durand.
    Locally, there are a handful of racers. More so they come from Machesney Park, Loves Park, Rockford, Mineral Point, Wis. and the Chicago area.  "They are aware of the various events and go to them," he explained.
    There probably are half-a-dozen such races in the area, he said.
    A Rockford resident, Anderson said he had organized kart races before. He previously did indoor races in Sharon, Wis., in 1998 and 2000. He co-produced races in Durand and how he's in charge of them in that village.
    The idea for having kart races during Heritage Days came from Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble.
    He said the village of Cherry Valley was looking for events for its Cherry Valley Days while he the police chief. He checked to see what other area municipalities did and found go-kart races in downtowns at such places as Beloit Township, Fort Atkinson, Wis., Durand and Sharon, Wis.
    Cherry Valley had such races for two consecutive years and attracted thousands of visitors, he said. "So I thought, why not try it here," he said.
    Also June 28 Heritage Days will have an art show at The Brick Restaurant from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and a car show next to the Boone County Historic Museum, also from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be music all day at the Dari-Ripple.
    A cruise from 5 p.m. to dusk will wrap up the first day.
    On June 29, there will be bed races at 2 p.m. on the State Street Bridge followed by a parade at 4 p.m., music at 7 p.m. at the Boone County Fairgrounds and event-concluding fireworks at dark, also at the fairgrounds.

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    Heritage Days is sure to be an action packed weekend
    June 19, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Heritage Days will return to historic downtown Belvidere on June 28 and 29. This year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever. Heritage Days will include an art show, go cart races, car show, cruise night, music, bed races. And of course, the parade and fireworks.
    Activities will begin on Friday night when Aaron Wilson, of Aaron and Andy fame on Channel 23 visits Belvidere to do a series of live remotes to describe the weekend’s activities. The Salvation Army parking lot will begin to be transformed into a go cart track for a new addition to Heritage Days.
    “There will be a lot of stuff going on,” Mayor Mike Chamberlain said.
    On Saturday, June 28, the fifth annual art show will be held from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.  Thirty exhibitors will display their crafts and participate in the art show held outside of the Brick Restaurant at 615 S. State Street.  In addition to exhibitors, the show will include music and face painting.
    For visitors who are looking for fresh produce, baked goods or crafts, the Farmers Market will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Dodge Lanes, 1940 N. State St. or at The Hometown Market from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Hub Plaza.
    Go cart races will take place between 9:30 and 3:30 at the Salvation Army Parking lot. At the same time, a car show will be held next to the Boone County Historic Museum. The car show will celebrate 50 years of the Mustang and will include a 1964 ½ Mustang. The car show will also include music provided by the disc jockey Car Tunes.
    The Boone County Historical Museum will hold a Veterans Appreciation Day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Veterans will be on hand to share their stories and receive appreciation from visitors to the museum. In addition to the sharing of stories by area veterans, a special program is planned for attendees.  Veterans are encouraged to attend the event and share their stories and memories.
    All day long, there will be music outside of the Dairy Ripple.
    “This year there will be a cruise night on Saturday night and they will just cruise,” Chamberlain said of the return of cruise night to downtown Belvidere.  The cruise night will be held from 5 p.m. until dusk.
    Activities on Sunday will include the city’s first annual bed races at 2 p.m. The Kishwaukee Kup participants will race across the Kishwaukee River with beds of their own creation or one provided by the City. Prizes will be awarded based on creativity and best time. Entrants are being sought for the races.
    According to Danny Anderson, the rules for the bed design are similar to NASCAR, as they are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.  Anderson said that one of the teams is planning a cup design for its entry.  With no limit on wheel size on the beds, it is up to each team’s imagination and creativity.
    At 4 p.m., the parade will begin at Logan Avenue and proceed down State Street to Harrison Street.  At press time, there are 52 entries for the parade. The parade’s marshals will be the six SwedishAmerican Belvidere employees who won the Pillar of Excellence Award. The parade marshals were recognized for their commitment of concern, respect and professionalism. They will ride in Mustang convertibles provided by Manley Motor Sales. The bed racers can participate in the parade and push or pull their entry in the race.
    On Sunday evening, the Heritage Days activities will move to the Boone County Fairgrounds.  The fairground gates will open up at 6:30 p.m. Visitors can listen to Silver Creek Band at the fairgrounds at 7 p.m. as they stake out their favorite firework watching spot. 
    The Silver Creek Band is a family band whose style ranges from traditional and current country to bluegrass, southern rock and alternative country music.
    The fireworks show will begin at dusk. According to the Belvidere Heritage Days’ Facebook page, the fireworks show will be shot off from the grandstand and viewers can sit in carnival area of the fairgrounds.
    Jack Wolf Auto Group and SwedishAmerican Hospital are festival sponsors.
    For additional information on Heritage Days or to register for the bed races, visit their Facebook page at Belvidere Heritage Days.

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    Free mini library opens in Poplar Grove
    June 19, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    POPLAR GROVE - Poplar Grove children can now experience the joys of checking out a library book any time, without a library card.
    The community's first Little Free Library opened May 31 in the Oak Lawn Mobile Home Park.
    The Little Free Library is an important addition to the community since the only public library in the area, which is located in Belvidere, requires people living outside the city to pay a fee for use.
    Dozens of parents and children turned up for the grand-opening of the miniature library.
    Jill Grove, Reading Specialist at Poplar Grove Elementary School, initiated the project after she came across an article about the Little Free Library concept in a magazine. She said she was eager to bring the free library to the Poplar Grove community and the project was just what she had been looking for.
    In addition to bringing an easily accessible library to the children of the village, Grove also wanted to encourage reading growth in children over the summer and help prevent the “summer slide.” Statistics show that children who do not read over the summer lose valuable skills that must be relearned in the new school year. The library will help keep kids reading all summer long and will potentially improve reading skills.
    Grove recruited Jim Peplos, an aspiring Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 57, to build the mini library, which came complete with a cedar bench. She also enlisted retired Poplar Grove Elementary School art teacher Arlene Cook to paint the tiny building.
    “She did a wonderful job,” Grove said. “She made it so incredibly enticing and inviting. It draws kids to it because of her beautiful artwork. I'm thrilled she decided to do that and she's been a great, great asset.”
    Grove also gave accolades and credit to Meg Hodge from the Andy's Books For Kids ... Sounds Like A Plan! program. Hodge donated 165 new children's books geared toward kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.
    “The kids can get [the books] on their own schedule,” Grove said. “We have three levels of bookshelves mounted low. The kindergarten books are on the lowest level. This gives kids free access to books any time of day and any time of year.”
    There are no rules as to how many books a child may check out, but Grove suggests no more than three at a time so kids can keep track of what they have. There are also no due dates and usage is completely based on an honor system. Hodge has plans to revisit the library on a regular basis to add new books. Both she and Grove said that another goal of the program is to encourage children to donate their own books as contributions.
    Some measures have been taken to prevent theft – such as the labeling of 'Little Free Library' in every book to prevent people from attempting to steal them and sell them at bookstores. Another goal, Grove said, is to make children proud of and responsible for the library.
    “We try to instill a sense of 'this is your library, you have to protect and respect it,'” Grove said. “We want them to say 'hey, we deserve this,' and encourage each other to be appropriate.”
    Hodge agreed that responsibility is an important aspect of the project.
     “By making the kids feel like they have ownership over their Little Free Library and its contents, they develop a sense of responsibility by remembering to return the books they have borrowed and by treating the borrowed books with respect,” she said.
    She added that she has enjoyed being part of the project and opening day was exciting.
    “Within minutes, all the kids were swarming around the library, picking out 'their books' and then sitting down on a blanket,” she said. “I hope their excitement carries them beyond the summer and they visit the library often, exchanging the books they have read for new ones.”
    The idea for the first official Little Free Library originated in Wisconsin in 2009. The concept quickly took off, and states around the nation – as well as countries around the world – began participating. By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries across the globe was estimated to be close to 15,000 and growing.
    For information, visit

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    Search for great-grandfather ends at Belvidere Cemetery
    June 18, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - John Fritz's search for his great-great- grandfather started about two years ago after the death of his father.
    In going through his dad's things he discovered a box with Genealogy Information written on it. Among the contents was a lengthy obituary for a Christopher Charles Fritz, who died July 4, 1903. Much of the obituary was about the man he deduced to be his great-great-grandfather's service in the Civil War.
    That piqued his interest and sent him on a journey that started at home, near Phoenix, Ariz., continued to Atlanta, Ga. and ended, for the time being, anyway, on Saturday June 14 at Belvidere Cemetery.
    The obituary stated Christopher Fritz was buried in Belvidere, so that part of the search was relatively easy. John Fritz called the cemetery and talked with the sexton, Sam Larson.
    There was a bit of a glitch, however, when he learned there were three Charles Fritzes buried there. On top of that, his great-great-grandfather's name was Christopher Charles Fritz. But the birth and death dates of Christopher Charles Fritz were the same as one of the Charles Fritzes, so that part of the mystery was solved.
    One of the two remaining Charles Fritzes, who was buried next to Christopher Charles, must have been a son.
    John Fritz then asked for a photograph of his great great grandfather's headstone and learned there wasn't one. Larson believes there once was a wooden marker, but that it disintegrated over time.
    Takes a year
    Still, Fritz said the lack of a headstone "was shocking to me." So he ordered one through the Veterans Affairs department. The process took a year to complete and Larson said the stone arrived last winter.
    Two Rockford-area veterans organizations participated in a ceremony Saturday morning.
    Moments before it began John Fritz, dressed in the uniform of a Union private, saw his great great grandfather's final resting place for the first time.
    "There was a feeling inside my heart - it's hard to explain," he said afterward. "It had been a long journey. Now I was there, where he ended up physically."
    He came to know his great great grandfather through researching the battles he had fought in and tracing what he did after the war.
    In researching documents he discovered Christopher Fritz should have not been in the Army to begin with. He lied on his application stating he was born in 1839, not 1829, so he wouldn't be declared too old to serve.
    After training at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Pvt. Fritz was assigned to the 105th Illinois Regiment and wound up in Georgia, in the middle of some of the most intense battles of the war.
    He fought at Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek and in the Seige of Atlanta. He continued on to Savannah, on the Left Wing of Gen. William T. Sherman's Army, and from there moved into North Carolina, for the major engagement at Bentonville.
    Pvt. Fritz was there at the end, too, near Durham Station, N.C., where Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 26, 1865. That was two weeks after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.
    This lengthy sojourn through time was a family affair, with help provided by son Michael, 26, who did a lot of research at Arizona State University; along with son Andrew, 19, and wife, Kandi. Andrew and Kandi accompanied John to the June 14 ceremony.
    But the journey isn't over.
    Christopher Charles Fritz lived in Belvidere after the war and worked as a carpenter. Since he comes from a big family, John Fritz believes he has relatives in this area and hopes to contact them.
    Anyone who thinks they may share the same ancestry may contact John Fritz at

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    Eagle Scout continues project to honor Civil War Soldiers
    June 17, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    CALEDONIA-Fate happened February 2012 when a tall white headstone peered from winter’s grip.  “My mom and I were leaving our subdivision when I saw it on the top of a bank, behind a fence. I asked my mom what was in there.  She replied, “An old cemetery.”  Stopping on our return trip home we discovered it was in terrible condition.” said Andrew Geyer who is now an Assistant Jr. Scoutmaster for Troop 141 St. James, Belvidere.  Andrew will be at junior at Belvidere North High School in the fall.
    “Fences were cut, 4-Wheelers cutting through; alcohol bottles everywhere, headstones knocked over, broken and displayed graffiti.  People were buried there and no respect. I told my mom ‘This cemetery is what I want to do for my Eagle Badge Project.”  As warmer weather arrived “There was a heavy, depressing feeling when in the cemetery at that time.” continued Geyer.   
    Drake Cemetery resides on Dawson Lake Road in Caledonia Township with the embankment being in the Village of Timberlane.  With approval, Geyer began the removal of forest infestation.  The cemetery is approximately a football field in length.  Geyer’s hope was to keep people out who didn't visit for respectful reasons.  
    Boone County Historical Museum, Ida Public Library Local History Room, Boone County Clerk’s Office, Boone County Coroner's Office along with research provided details of 20 buried and included three were Civil War Veterans.  “I love history and it made me want to do it even more,” Geyer explained.  “I wanted to make Drake Cemetery a place worthy of these soldiers as well as for the others buried there.  Some were families that pretty much helped start our county.  They held various positions in our community and they deserved to have a peaceful, respectful resting place. Almost all of the names in the cemetery can be found in our county today.  Sadly, there are only a few headstones left.”
    The completed project included upkeep of the grounds, installation of an Information Kiosk, replacement of roadside and repair of existing fencing, installation of a walk-thru gate, and new sign identifying Drake Cemetery was installed.  Geyer raised money to buy memorial markers with names of the identified buried. 
    On November 27, 2012 Andrew Geyer was awarded his Eagle Scout Badge.  But the story does not end here.  “It’s the project that keeps going.” Geyer said. 
    Upon completion, Geyer began the process of replacement headstones from the Veterans Administration.  However, permission from descendants was required and Geyer’s initial applications were denied.  Enlisting the help of fellow troop member Paul Zeien. Zeien is a genealogy merit badge counselor at Boy Scouts of America Blackhawk Council and a member of Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War John Logan Camp 26. Zeien was able to locate a Great-Great Niece of the two Veterans who were brothers.  “Headstones for Private Alanson T. Knox, 95th Illinois US Infantry, Grand Army of the Republic Company K and Private Oscar O. Knox, 153rd Illinois US Infantry, Company A has been approved.  We expect arrival sometime in July with installation shortly after.  The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, John Logan Camp 26 and I will then plan a ceremony/dedication this fall.” 
    “We are still searching for descendants of Private Nelson P. Rice 18th Cavalry, 163rd Regiment, Company B, Pennsylvania Volunteers,” Geyer said.  “I am hoping to find his descendants.  Even though my project itself has been completed I keep on looking.  Then my mission will be complete.”

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    Olympic torch passes through Belvidere
    June 15, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – On June 9 the Special Olympic torch run passed through Belvidere.  Approximately 30 runners, two squad cars and a fire engine and several support vehicles accompanied the Special Olympic torch as it stepped off from Jack Wolf Auto Group and proceeded down State Street on its way to the track at Belvidere High School.
    Once the group arrived at Belvidere High School, they were met by area Special Olympians and their families, comfort dogs Bekah, Lily and Kye, and other supporters.
    Patrol Officer Rob Kozlowski approached Carter Fridly and asked him if he would like to carry the torch.  Fridly readily agreed and the group ran the quarter mile lap around the football field. Fridly carried the torch high in the air as he and Kozlowski led the pack.
    Fridley wore a Special Olympic t-shirt that said “courage without fear, respect without opposition, acceptance without limits” that described the event.
    “As a parent I was very proud to see all of our kids run and come out and support the torch run,” Carter’s mom, Becky Fridly said. “Our other kids play sports. You cannot explain the feeling to see your child and all of those other children finally competing and winning and getting the medal and being so proud of their accomplishment.”
    After completing the lap and stopping for photographs, the runners made their way up Main Street and State Street back towards Jack Wolf Auto Group.
    “You cannot help but smile when you watch it as a parent or law enforcement officer,” remarked former Hoffman Estates police officer Denny Jones. He organized the torch run through Hoffman Estates and neighboring northwest suburbs for over 20 years.
    The Illinois Special Olympics is held this weekend in Bloomington, IL. The event is expected to bring over 4,000 athletes from around the state in addition to their families, coaches and supporters. The event is largely supported through fundraising efforts by police and sheriff departments throughout the state.
    “The police officers are amazing,” Pam Spurgeon said. Her daughter Hailey will be competing in the Special Olympics in running, throwing and relay events with a team from NASR Belvidere Park District. “They make tons of money for Special Olympics. When we go to Special Olympics pretty much everything is paid for.”
    “We tried to get as many donations as we could. All of the money goes to the Special Olympics,” Koslowski explained. “The donations pay for the events, food and hotel and local events that lead up to the games.”
    A marathon runner, Koslowski has organized the torch run for the Belvidere Police Department and Boone County Sheriff’s Department for the past three years. Kozlowski was joined on the six mile run through the streets of Belvidere with fellow police officers and sheriff deputies as well as fire fighters and members of the high school track teams and their families.
    When Koslowski took the reins from Detective Dave Dammon in organizing the torch run and fundraising efforts for the Special Olympics, he travelled to Bloomington to attend the games. He contacted Jamie Beutsch who coaches a group of Special Olympians from the Belvidere area. “I wanted to make sure I saw the Belvidere participants. I hung out with them for Friday and Saturday,” Koslowski said. “I wanted to make sure that people who were from Belvidere saw me in my Belvidere uniform.”
    “I took a new squad car down there and parked it in the midway. My squad car was brand new and only had 100 miles on it,” Koslowski explained. Everyone was taking photos in my squad car and around my squad car, taking photos with me. They were taking photos of themselves as if they were driving it. They had a good time.”
    The experience at the Special Olympic games was a refreshing change for Koslowski from his daily routine. “Although I’ve run though burning buildings and assisted in horrible car accidents, people don’t remember that,” Koslowski related. “They identify me as the person who arrested them or their parents.”
    At the games, “parents were telling their kids that police are good people.”
    Fundraising efforts from area law enforcement is continuing for the Special Olympics. The police and sheriff deputies are selling raffle tickets for a drawing that will be held on Oct. 17 including a 2014 Harley Davidson motorcycle and other prizes including 5 big screen TVs.
    Contact Koslowski at or (815) 547-6444 to donate to the Special Olympics or to purchase a raffle ticket.

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    Farmers Market returns for another season at Dodge Lanes
    June 12, 2104
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Belvidere Farmers Market is back for another summer in the parking lot at Dodge Lanes, 1940 N. State St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from now until Oct. 25.
    It's a place of variety, with friendly folks ready to sell some produce or homemade wares, discuss planting flowers and produce, or talk about most any subject.
    A Master Gardener is here twice a month as a community outreach and to answer questions related to tilling the soil. Barbara Johnston was first up for this summer and she had a wealth of information about upcoming programs.
    How about the correct way to raise chickens in your back yard? Assuming that's allowed in your neighborhood. A program on that subject will be held from 6-8 p.m. July 2 at the University of Illinois, Boone County Extension office, 205 Cadillac Court, Suite 5. Cost is $5 per person, payable in advance. Direct questions to the extension office at (815) 547-3710.
    Want to know "The Truth About Carbs?" The Keen Age Center, 2141 Henry Lucklow Lane, will have that program from 1-2 p.m. July 18. Cost is $5 per person and registration is encouraged either in person or by phone at 815-544-9893.
    There's a three-part series on healthy living coming up July 21, Aug. 4 and Aug. 18 at Ida Public Library, 320 N. State St. Each program is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event is free but registration is needed to be certain there are enough materials for participants. More details are available at the extension office phone number.
    And a Seed Saving & Seed Exchange workshop is on tap for 4-5:30 p.m. Aug. 11 at the extension office on Cadillac Court. Cost is $5 per person.
    The horticulture help desk is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the extension office, where you can "ask a Master Gardener" for advice or information.
    That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to information that's available at this table. There's plenty of material for kids, too.
    A special visitor to the table on opening day was Martha Dague, who recently turned 90 years of age. The market is one of her favorite places to visit, she said, and she tries to make it every Saturday.
    "I like the things they have," she said of the various vendors. And she likes the proprietors, too.
    She was given her choice of items among the fruits, vegetables and plants at the booth next door, and chose a container of strawberries.
    Plenty of produce
    While it's early in the growing season (no corn on the cob yet), the vendors at the market had a variety of produce from which to select.
    The Orchard from the Roscoe section that's in Boone County had bags of dried beans - pinto and kidney - this particular Saturday.
    That's a family business said the current owner, Roger Peucker, started by his dad in 1937. Apples, pears, cherries and grapes - plenty of grapes - are grown there, he said.
    Susie's Garden Patch in Garden Prairie had a table, under the watchful eye of Mary Brubach, with a variety of vegetables. Strawberries are expected on Saturday June 14.
    Not every booth had things to eat.
    Esther the Quilt Lady from Poplar Grove displayed a vast array of quilts, baby clothes, doll dresses and pillows. All homemade, something she's been doing for 25 years.
    Across the way was the Gnome Lady, a nickname given Lorrie Vargas by her customers at Wal-Mart. While she preferred another name Gnome Lady stuck, to which she said, "I'll take it."
    I make 'em, bake 'em and paint 'em, all by hand," she said of her craft, which largely consists of colorful sports gnomes. "They're weatherized so they can be outside. My yard is full of them." That outdoor collection includes a fairy, which has been in her yard for 15 years "and still looks good," she said.
    Of her craft, she said it was "a hobby that became a business."
    Don Long's table is nearby, featuring lawn furniture and garden accessories. The economy mandated that he expand and now his repertoire includes birdhouses. Everything is handmade.
    "I always made it but didn't really get into it until I retired in 2010," he said.
    The number of vendors at the market is expected to increase as the month goes by. 

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    Pancakes, free airplane rides bring Sunday crowd to airport
    June 11, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - Ron Johnson has traveled to plenty of fly-in breakfasts over the years, but not to this one. That's because all he has to do was taxi across the grass infield to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) hangar at Poplar Grove Airport, for a bite to eat.
    The occasion was the monthly Sunday morning pancake breakfast fly-in, drive-in, and free airplane rides for kids sponsored by EAA Chapter 1414, which is based at the airport.
    Johnson did wind up in the air shortly after eating, taking another Rockford resident, Larry Ackerman, for a spin in his open cockpit, two-seat 1941 Ryan PT.
    The plane, situated among lots of others at the fly-in, drew quite a bit of attention. Youngsters in particular seemed to like the open cockpit with a seat in front for the passenger.
    "It was a primary trainer during World War II," Johnson explained. It was based in California, built to prepare flyers for the type of plane they would be commanding during the war. "I've been told they had a very easy transition to the other planes," he said.
    He's been flying this historic craft, which he acquired in 1978, quite a bit. A favorite location is Oshkosh, Wis., every year, for the big EAA Fly-In that draws hundreds of planes from throughout the country. Having flown there for 36 consecutive summers he said his goal is to reach 50. "I'll be 84 that year," he said.
    Some 300 breakfasts were served June 8, with proceeds going to benefit the EAA chapter's myriad of programs.
    A big mission is to acquaint people, especially young people, with aviation. That's the reason for the free rides for youngsters 8-17 years of age during every breakfast.
    Chuck Pazdzioch, a member of Chapter 1414, said there can be as many as 45 riders. "Several have gone on to become pilots and now they're giving rides themselves," he said.
    The free rides are provided courtesy of the pilots, who supply the plane, fuel and their time. "No obligation," Pazdzioch was quick to add. "We're one leg of the (national) Young Eagle's program."
    Since the inception of the program, more than 1.8 million flights have been taken.
    Young Eagles' flights are available from 7 to 11:30 a.m., the same time as breakfast, on the second Sunday of each month from now through October.
    One of the more identifiable officials of the national EAA organization is Jeff Skiles. He was second officer on the U.S. Airways flight, which was forced to land in the Hudson River after encountering a flock of birds upon takeoff Jan. 15, 2009.
    The brief flight became known as the "Miracle on the Hudson" because all passengers and crew survived. Skiles was here in May 2013 for the dedication of the new EAA hangar at the airport. He remains with the national organization as vice president of chapters and youth education.

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    Museum’s veteran exhibit elicits many thank yous, stories
    June 10, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When the Boone County Historical Museum created the Boone County Veterans Remembered exhibit, an unusual scene began to routinely unfold that surprised and touched museum staff. 
    As veterans visit the exhibit and wear the military baseball caps that they frequently wear, other museum guests of all ages will stop to thank them for their service and they will start talking to each other.
    “It made me feel proud that people were taking the time to thank these veterans because sometimes they do not get thanked enough,” Lonna Bentley, Boone County Historical Society’s archivist, said. “Someone thanked a Vietnam vet and he immediately welled up with tears and said ‘you don’t know how much that means to me.’ A thank you to them means so much. It gave me goose bumps.”
    The community will have the opportunity to thank veterans on June 28 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Boone County Historical Museum. “This is the last big event to close out our Boone County Veterans Remembered exhibit,” Bentley explained. “What we are going to do is have the local veterans. People can come in and thank them and hear some of their stories.”
    Veterans are also invited to attend the museum to share their stories. “Some of them have funny stories. Bob Lear has a hysterical story about when he was transferred and had to go to another base,” Bentley laughed. “It is hard to get veterans to talk about their service. They like to tell stories. There is so much to learn from a veteran.”
    The exhibit has received positive attention since it opened on May 24. “The response has been phenomenal. It is going to be sad to take it down,” Bentley said. The exhibit will close on July 5.
    “We have seen lots of tears. A lot of it is the response when people read what Harold Hammond went through,” Bentley said. “People who didn’t even know him; it chokes them up when they read what he went through.”
    The Belvidere native served during the Korean War was captured and held as a POW twice. He suffered numerous atrocities including being buried alive for three weeks. After being held in a POW camp for two and a half years, he was included in a prisoner exchange. At the time of his July 27, 1953 release, he was 6 foot tall and weighed 89 pounds. Hammond was awarded 14 Bronze Stars, 3 Silver Medals and 2 Purple hearts.
    In 1995, Hammond began to collect flags of the United States and NATO nations. Prior to his 2009 death, Hammond shared his collection and love of flags with veteran groups, schools, Boy Scouts, and others.
    The Hammond Flag display includes several United States flags as well as a walking path with the flags of all 50 states.
    “It has been so much fun to watch kids come in here especially with the flags as they try to guess which state. I have had parents try to quiz the kids,” Bentley said. “I can hear the parents say ‘which is this one.’”
    The exhibit includes items from the Civil War through the Iraqi War.  In addition to military memorabilia, the exhibit includes the veterans’ post-military community service. “We have individual uniforms with stories that go along with them. One of them is Rueben Hernandez who left a big legacy in Boone County,” Bentley said. “He was the first Hispanic alderman to be elected in the county and he was elected to the school board. He is the founder of Alerta.”
    The exhibit includes a display of German “souvenirs” that were brought home with the veterans. “And they call them ‘souvenirs,’” Bentley added.
    Among the souvenirs is a German officer’s helmet, a Nazi flag, patches removed from soldiers’ uniforms and rifles.
    The younger visitors to the exhibit are attracted to the civil defense table. “They can turn the siren on and off,” Bentley explained. “The interaction between the parents and the kids is great to see. It is amazing to watch the parents answer the questions that the kids have.”
    The Boone County Historical Museum is located at 314 S. State St. in Belvidere. Their phone number is (815) 544-2580.
    The Veterans Appreciation Day will be held on June 28 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

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    Pool opening kicks off the start of summer
    June 8, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The end of the school season signals the opening of the William Grady Pool at Belvidere Park on May 28.
    “We are excited to be open after a long winter,” Josiah Buss, special events and guest services coordinator said. “It is great to see all of the faces out here.”
    “It is always fun to see the kids and families out here to make memories,”
    There is quite a buzz,” Angelyn Hyland, Recreation supervisor, said. “We always have certain kids who are waiting to be the first ones in for the day. They are excited to be at the pool again.
    “We try to come for a little bit every day to get out of the house,” Jana Leafboro said.  She was at the pool with her five year old daughter Emmaline. “I grew up here at the pool. I couldn’t imagine not coming to the pool.”
    The pool has 350 to 1,000 guests each day. The sound of happy voices filled the air as children and adults played and swam in the pool. At the deep end of the pool, lines formed at the three diving boards as patrons jumped in, dove or perfected their cannon ball technique under the watchful eye of the lifeguards.
    In anticipation of the pool opening, more than 45 life guards spent nine hours training with all three shifts of the Belvidere Fire Department. The training took place at both the fire station and the pool.
    “I am always amazed at how well they know their jobs,” Lt. Al Hyser from the Belvidere Fire Department said. “It is amazing to watch them work. They are right on and very efficient.”
    The life guards worked with the fire department on their Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and learned how to use an AED (automated extended defibrillator) and perform CPR.
    “During the EAP training we run through different drills and scenarios, Hyland said. “It is a very in depth training program. They are prepared for anything to happen. They practice real life situations. The staff will simulate an emergency.”
     “We do this every year with fire department. It helps build that trust and the team mentality with the fire department. It gives them the opportunity to practice if an emergency should occur.”
    As part of the lifeguard training, the lifeguards learn their roles during an emergency and the hand off process between pool personnel and the fire department “We know what they’re doing; they know what we’re doing and then the transition,” Hyser explained. “They are in good hands.”
    To minimize the incidence or severity of emergency situations, the life guards follow a 10/20 protection rule. “We have 10 seconds to recognize a guest in distress and an additional 20 seconds to start rendering aid,” Hyland explained. “Typically someone in distress will start to have issues in the water after the 30 seconds. We want to get to them within those 30 seconds.”
    “Essentially they are doing a bottom scan every 10 seconds. Every minute have six bottom scans that you will achieve. They have to look through their entire zone of protection.”
    “We have a lot of fun things planned,” Buss said of the pool season.
    “This year park district is celebrating 95. We are offering three days that are 95 cent days” Hyland. “June 15, July 18 and Aug. 8.”
    On June 28 and July 26, the pool will open after hours and provide inner tubes for Flick n’ Float family movie night. The movies this year are Finding Nemo and Dispicable Me 2
    “We have an inflatable movie screen and it is angled so people can watch from the pool,” Hyland explained.
    “I want to try to come this year,” Leafboro said.
    On July 12, patrons’ boat making skills will be put to the test. Teams of four will make boats made out of cardboard and duct tape and race across the pool and back.
    The William Grady Pool will have four special event theme days. Patrons will have the opportunity to play theme-related games and win prizes. The theme related games are Minute to win it on June 16, R.O.C.K. in the USA on July 4, Jingle Bell Rock on July 21 and Double Dar on Aug. 4.
    The pool will be open after hours on June 21 and July 19 for Noodle nights. The park district will provide the noodles for guests to use during a late night swim.
    The William Grady Pool, located at Belvidere Park at 916 W Lincoln Avenue is open 12 p.m. -6 p.m. Sunday through Friday. On Saturday, the pool remains open until 8 p.m.

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    Ida Public Library kicks off summer reading program
    June 5, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The Ida Public Library kicked off a successful start to their summer reading program on May 31. The library held their Paws to Read party in the library parking lot with a bounce house, juggler, community tables, and games. Approximately 300 people signed up to participate in the summer reading program.
    The kickoff party included a bounce house, community tables with Immanuel Lutheran comfort dogs, Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau, University of Illinois Extension 4-H, Belvidere Fire Department, Mayor Mike Chamberlain, and a comedic juggling show by Truly Remarkable Loon.
    “The turnout was great,” Deborah Bloom, director of the Ida Public Library said. “The goal was to get as many people here to experience the library and have fun.”
    “We have age appropriate programs for every level,” Emily Klonicki, Assistant director and head of youth services, said. The reading program has categories from babies through adults. The pre-reader program is for ages 0 – 5 and logs are submitted for the amount of time spent reading with an adult. Children ages 5 – 12 can participate in the readers program. Participants turn in a log that lists the books they read. The library offers a teen program that is a point based system in which teens earn points for reading books as well as familiarizing themselves with library services such as checking out e-books or attending library programs. Teens can earn prizes as they reach milestones. The library offers a summer reading program for adults. For each reading log that adults turn in, they are entered into a drawing for prizes.
    “The summer reading program has been around for forever. A few years ago we changed the way we do the program. We have had a good response to it,” Klonicki said. “We have had a lot more people sign up for it and complete the program.”
    “We have a pool party at the end of the summer at the William Grady pool for those who do the reading log and reach their reading goals for the summer,” Klonicki added.
    Third grade Washington Academy student Ruby Herrera attended the kick-off party with her family and signed up for the summer reading program. “They like the reading program,” Araceli Herrera, Ruby’s mom, explained. “They like the prizes and the pool party.”
    The summer reading program is open to all Boone County residents. Participants do not need to have a library card to participate in the programs.
    “We hope everyone signs up,” Klonicki added.

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    “Faces Never Forgotten” project remembers Vietnam casualties
    June 4, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE- On May 22, the Illinois Press Association sent out a press release stating, “Illinois newspapers’ support asked in locating missing Vietnam soldiers’ photos… Newspapers and newspaper associations across the country are being asked for help in locating missing photos.” 
    Upon investigation by the Belvidere Daily Republican discovery was made no photos of our two Boone County’s Vietnam Veterans who had died as a result of the war had been submitted.  The paper reached out to Boone County Historical Museum Archivist Lonna Bentley and Ida Public Library Local History & Genealogy Librarian Jillian Fuller and family members.
    Marine Pfc. Jeffery Earl Smith (Belvidere) and Marine Cpl. Walter L. McIntosh Jr. (Poplar Grove) were brave men and casualties of the Vietnam War. With combined efforts from Boone County Historical Museum Archivist Lonna Bentley and Ida Public Library Local History & Genealogy Librarian Jillian Fuller and family members, the photos of Pfc. Smith and Cpl. McIntosh have been forwarded to the Illinois Press Association for submission to the “Faces Never Forgotten” project.
    “A few months ago, the Vietnam Vet Memorial Fund issued a news release about their efforts to locate the photo of all 58,286 soldiers listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. They are building a new Education Center right near the existing memorial wall on the National Mall,” Barry Locher, director of Illinois Press Foundation said. “Construction for the facility is planned to start in 2016 and be completed for a grand opening in 2019. The new building will include an electronic “Wall of Faces” corresponding to the names on the wall.”
    “So far, the VVMF has collected 34,000 of the photos and still needs to find approximately 24,000 photos of soldiers listed on the wall. Soldiers since 9/11 will also be honored in the new center.”
    Fuller utilized the newly digitized Belvidere newspapers (1851-1977) on to locate the obituary for Cpl. McIntosh Jr. and used that provided his military photo.  Bentley provided contact information for the families based on records retained at the museum.  
    Every attempt to contact family members was made in regards to this article. Jim McIntosh is two of four brothers’ still living from a military family.  “My Dad served in the Navy and we moved around.  All my brothers, including myself also served in the military.”  McIntosh explained.
    When McIntosh was contacted and asked if he had a brother Walter there was a pause and then “yes”.   He was told his brothers’ photo would be submitted on his behalf.  “Thank you for not forgetting my brother Walter.  It has been so long ago.  Nearly 47 years.” McIntosh said.  He was grateful for the efforts from everyone involved and that there would be a permanent photo of his brother Walter for the “Wall of Faces” project.
    Cpl. Walter L. McIntosh Jr. served for a year and a half prior to his death.  Injured in Vietnam, he was flown home to Great Lakes Naval hospital where he was kept in isolation for about two months prior to his death.  He died on July 25, 1967 from a rare blood disease contracted in Vietnam and not from his injuries.  Cpl. McIntosh won the Honorman Award, a set of blues which were given to him in San Diego and was made a Private first class and leader of a squad.
    Cpl. McIntosh was a graduate of North Boone High School class of 1965.  According to his high school yearbook photo, he had a desire to go into law enforcement.
    Pfc. Smith enlisted in the Marines in April 1967 in Chicago, IL, completed boot camp at Camp Pendleton and was then sent to Quang Tri, Vietnam on November 18, 1967.  He served in Fox Company 2nd Battalion 4th Marines/3rd Marine Division.  Pfc. Smith was killed in action in Vietnam March 7, 1968.  Pfc. Smith was a graduate of Belvidere High School class of 1966.    Currently a remembrance display to Pfc. Jeffery Earl Smith is on display until July 5 at the Boone County Historical Museum during the “Remembering Boone County Veterans” exhibit. 
    “Member newspapers of the Illinois Press Association have already responded, and photographs of our soldiers who were killed and whose photographs are missing are beginning to come in.”  Locher stated.  “We are pleased to play a small role in honoring these soldiers who gave their lives when their country called.”
    “You may view the gallery in progress at,” Locher added.

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    Friendly goats welcome visitors to farm breakfast
    June 3, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BDR Editor
    POPLAR GROVE – The site of the 17th Annual Boone County Farm Bureau Foundation Farm Breakfast is appropriately named. The dairy goats at the Friendly Franseen Acres are very friendly. During a recent visit to the Friendly Franseen Acres, the goats rushed to the front of their pens to be petted much to the delight of the children.
    The Boone County Farm Bureau Foundation Farm Breakfast will be held on June 14 from 6:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. at 22799 Hwy 76, Poplar Grove, IL.  Visitors may want to arrive early as milking demonstrations will run from 6 a.m. until 8 a.m. The Franseens milk 130 dairy goats which each produce approximately eight pounds of milk a day. The farm has a total of 220 goats. Some of the goats will be as young as three weeks old at the time of the farm breakfast. “We have a few stragglers,” Jeremy Franseen said.
    The 240 acre farm has been in the Franseen family for three generations. Ken Franseen purchased the farm in 1949. Since then the land has been worked by his son Rick and now his grandsons Jeremy and Josh Franseen.
    After selling the dairy cows in 1997, Jeremy and his father, Rick, converted their dairy operation over to dairy goats.  They sell their milk commercially to a cheese plant.  Jeremy and his wife, Kristen, also make and sell goat milk soap and lotion.  Josh produces corn and beans on the land.
    “Our goal is to educate students and consumers about the importance of agriculture. As more consumers are further removed from the farm, it is important for them to know how their food is raised and where it comes from,” Ann Marie Cain, manager of the Boone County Farm Bureau Foundation said. “The farm breakfast provides consumers with the opportunity to see first-hand a local farm operation.”
    “It is a great opportunity for families to visit a farm, to see the different animals and experience a little bit of farm life.”
    This year’s activities include a craft show featuring some of the area’s most-talented crafters and venders; goat milking demonstrations (6-8 a.m.); horse drawn wagon rides provided by local team drivers; educational activities provided by Winnebago-Boone Agriculture in the Classroom; cheese tasting;  children's games; a petting zoo; Cow Pie Bingo; antique tractor, farm equipment,  and Model T car displays, and more.
    “They will be able to climb up the combines and see what goes into a farm,” Franseen said.
    The menu consists of all-you-can-eat pancakes, whole hog sausage, applesauce, ice cream, milk and coffee. Prices are $6 for adults, $3 children ages 6-10, and children 5 and under are free.
    All proceeds of the Breakfast and the Cow Pie Bingo will go to the Boone County Farm Bureau Foundation.  The Foundation was established for the purpose of providing scholarships and increasing agriculture awareness through educational means, such as Agriculture in the Classroom and Summer Ag Institute. The foundation will award a total of $4,000 in scholarships to five students in June to graduating and collegiate students who are majoring in agriculture.
    The Friendly Franseen Acres is one of only two dairy farms in Boone County. “We are hoping that since it is on a goat farm, other goat farmers will come to see our farm.”
    The Franseens hope that they set the record for the number of visitors at the Boone County Farm Bureau Foundation sponsored event.  “Weather permitting, I hope to set the record,” Jeremy Franseen said. He hoped that people from Boone, Winnebago and McHenry counties would attend as well as others from Clinton, Wisconsin as well as from outlying areas.
    For more information, call the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau office at (815) 962-0653 or
    If the opinion of a four year old girl has any merit, Jahzara Goecks loved seeing the farm and interacting with the goats at the Friendly Franseen Acres. She was all giggles during her visit and was reluctant to leave.

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    Ida Public Library puts vintage area newspapers online
    June 1, 2014
    By Lisa Rodgers
    BELVIDERE -The Ida Public Library Local History Room announced that complete issues from 1851-1977 from the library's collectionof Belvidere newspapers are now online and searchable on  Papers included are the Belvidere Standard (1851-1899), the Boone County Republican (1901-1903), the Republican-Northwestern (1903-1947), and the Belvidere Daily Republican (1900-1977). 
     “Getting the newspapers digitized was a goal of mine since I started working at Ida Public Library.  I first contacted last September to see if they would be interested in digitizing the papers we had here. I got an immediate response informing me they were definitely interested in adding the Belvidere papers to their collection,” localhistory andgenealogy librarian at Ida Public Library Jillian Fuller said.“The entire process took about six months. We sent the microfilm to them this past April and it took only about two months to get the papers digitized.”
    “Digitization allows the library to offer better access to these amazing historic resources both in and outside of our community; it also equals longer life for the newspapers,” Fuller explained. “With technology changing so rapidly, this is a huge issue.”
    “There are many benefits to the community, to genealogists all over the country, and to the library. Over 1,000 visitors came to the Local History Room last year. Many of those visitors are people looking for information on their families, their homes, or local businesses or events.”
    “The most popular resource here is our collection of Belvidere newspapers. Until now, our collection of historic Belvidere newspapers was only available at the library on microfilm. The microfilm can be hard to read, difficult to print, and you have to scroll page after page to try to find what you want,” Fuller added. “Now the newspapers are available online, which means people can access them better here at the library and in their own homes. The papers are clearer to read and print.  You may search by name or keyword, just like a Google search.  And, Ida Public Library will have copies of all of the digital files, so if something happens to Newspapers.comsomeday, the library will still have all of the digitized papers.”
    One of the features of the website is its ease of use. “It is very easy to use and it's also really interesting to see what you'll find. I tested it by putting in my mother's maiden name and found an article from 1903 discussing my great-great-grandfather's dairy farm,” Fuller added. “I would probably never have found that if I hadn't been able to search the name on the database.”“ is a subscription website, but for those who don't have a subscription, the library offers free access from any library computer which will be available the first part of June. It is also available in the Local History Room for people from out-of-town who do not have library cards.You can also contact me at the library with research requests, if needed.”
    “We are very excited to be able to offer theseresources.  I encourage people to come to the library to check out the digital newspapers for themselves.  You never know what you can discover in an old newspaper.We hope this opportunity proves beneficial for all those researching their Belvidere and Boone County history.”
    For more information please contact Jillian Fuller at (815) 544-3838 or

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    Belvidere honors Memorial Day with parade, ceremony
    May 29, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The country paused on May 26 to remember the ultimate sacrifice that over a million men and women made since the Civil War to fight for America’s freedom.
    Belvidere remembered and celebrated Memorial Day with a parade and ceremony at Big Thunder Park. The parade kicked off from City Hall and made its way down State Street. The parade was led by police chief Jan Noble, Boone County sheriff Duane Wirth and fire chief Dave Worrell. They were followed by members of VFW Post 1461.  The veterans received applause and salutes throughout their journey.
    The parade paused at the bridge for a brief ceremony. VFW Commander Greg Kelm read the poem It is the Soldier. Kelm also introduced gold star sister Ann Castro. As a young girl, Castro was handed a telegram and told to hurry straight home and deliver the telegram to her parents. The telegram contained the news that her brother Jesse Hernandez was killed in the Battle of the Rhine on February 25, 1945, a scant 2 ½ months before V-E Day. Castro cast a wreath into the Kishwaukee River to symbolize the over 1,200,000 men and women who gave their lives.
    As the parade neared Big Thunder Park, a light rain began to fall as if symbolizing the tears that the parents, siblings and others shed for their loved ones who were killed in battle. Pastor Alan Buss from Immanuel Lutheran Church spoke at the ceremony at Big Thunder Park. He told the tale of a young boy who learned that his grandfather participated in the D Day invasion. The boy asked his grandfather if he were a hero.  The grandfather told the boy he was not a hero, but he served in the company of heroes.
    “Remember heroes who made great sacrifices. Our heroes are the men and women we honor today,” Buss said. “They made sacrifices for a cause greater than themselves.”

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    Area fire fighters participate in extrication competition
    May 28, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks, Editor
     Nic Thornton, Guest Contributor
    CHERRY VALLEY – The Cherry Valley Fire Department hosted a field of nine teams of firefighters in the 22nd Annual Midwest Regional Extrication Competition on May 17.
    The competition 
    is an opportunity for area departments to try out new tools and 
    techniques that they can take back and use in their area. Cherry Valley, 
    North Park and Kirkland are among many local teams that came out to 
    Southern Kane County Training Association came in first place overall, as well as winning the limited pit competition. Southern Kane
    The teams drew numbers the evening before that determined the extrication set up that they would receive. Members of the team were sequestered immediately preceding their competition while members of the Cherry Valley fire department prepared the vehicles. Each team had 20 minutes to compete.
    The teams competed in limited pit, which involved the use of hand tools. Southern Kane County Training Academy came in first place, followed by Byron and North Park. In the unlimited pit completion, which involved the use of hand tools, Aurora team 1 came in first. They were followed by Aurora team 2 and Kirkland. Aurora team 1 came in second place in the overall team competition, and Byron came in third place overall.
    The event is more than a way for fire districts to compete against each other. “It is a learning symposium,” Wilt said. “If a team that knows a particular way that is unique to them, other teams are watching and take it back to their departments.”
    Southern Kane will have a chance to compete 
    in the National competition later this year.

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    BNHS student heads to Broadway, gives thanks
    May 27, 2104
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - On April 25, Belvidere North High School senior Julia Lindsey Whitcomb received the Illinois High School Musical Theater Award, which will give her a chance to perform on Broadway in New York this summer.
    Whitcomb received the award at the end of a “Broadway In Chicago” event at the Water Tower Palace Broadway Playhouse. Twenty-four students from around the state attended a full day of workshops with theater professionals in Chicago. The day ended with students auditioning in front of a panel of casting agents and theater professionals, who handed out the final two awards.
    On June 30, Whitcomb, as the sole female winner, will head to New York to represent Illinois in the National High School Musical Theater Awards – otherwise known as The Jimmy Awards. She will receive an all-expense paid trip. Weeklong activities will include group rehearsals and individual vocal and acting coaching by Broadway industry professionals, visits from special guests, discussions with working actors, a night out in Times Square for dinner and a Broadway show and session with casting agency, Telsey & Co.
    At the end of the session, a panel of judges will select two students for Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress.
    “I feel so honored,” Whitcomb said. “I've wanted to apply for this award since my sophomore year, so even being able to apply was a blessing in and of itself. It also feels too good to be true. Broadway has been my dream and goal since I was nine, and I've worked so incredibly hard for so long, that I've made this so out of reach in my mind,” she added. “I just can't believe that it's actually happening. It still hasn't sunk in yet....I will be making my Broadway debut at the end of the week. [It will be] a very stressful, rewarding and unforgettable week.”
    Music has always been a part of Whitcomb’s life. She said she began singing at the age of 4.
    “I used to secretly sing in my garage, so the first time my parents knew I could sing, I was 9,” she said.
    During her four years at BNHS she has been deeply involved in choir, and she said the choir room is her “home away from home.”  She has held a number of roles in stage productions and also performs in the top concert choir, A Cappella, and show choir, Choraliers.
    In November she played the leading role of 'Drowsy' in the BNHS production of "The Drowsy Chaperone." The role opened up the opportunity for her to participate in the Broadway In Chicago event.
    Phillip Vermillion, director of choral activities and vocal music education at BNHS, has worked with Whitcomb since her freshman year.
    “Julia is dedicated to her craft,” he said. “She eats, sleeps and breathes musical theater.”
    He shared his thoughts on the importance of music in the classroom.
    “Music theater is the culmination of all of the arts,” he said. “In addition to drama, vocal music, instrumental music, dance, visual arts – costumes and sets – it incorporates architecture, history and literature, just to name a few. In a high-stakes testing, media-driven society that trains our students to be apathetic – or anesthetic – the arts are crucial to help students as humans be able to feel, to express, to live and to be human. Without the aesthetic experiences, the creative human element will be lost, and our innovative spirit will suffer. Arts education is crucial.”
    For Whitcomb, music is her passion. She is not afraid to share how deeply and personally the musical arts have impacted her own life, and said she believes music education is still important for young people.
    “Keeping music in high schools and in schools in general is crucial,” she said. “When things were really hard for me and I wanted to give up, the lyrics 'The sun will come out tomorrow,' were sung to me from the musical “Annie,” and it completely changed my attitude. I can honestly say that I would not be alive without [music]. Music is a last resort for so many people because it's so powerful. It breaks my heart to know that music programs have been taken out of schools. I've witnessed it completely change people's lives for the better,” she continued. “My choir class was the only reason and my only motivation to get out of bed a majority of the four years I've spent at North. The youth and the world need music. I will speak on this till the day I die.”
    Whitcomb also said she wanted to thank other people for helping contribute to her success.
    “Dr. Phillip Vermillion has been so generous to me of opportunities, his time, attention, support and his belief,” she said. “I will forever be grateful to him. There's no way I would have gotten this award without him. I would just like to add how grateful I am to those that believed in me,” she continued.
    “My parents have always been supportive and have helped me pursue theatrical opportunities however they could. They have made so many sacrifices and I fully intend to make them proud. My friends have stood by my side and rejoiced when I rejoiced, and cried when I cried. They have been so true,” she said. “My teacher and mentor Ellen Mahan of Gateway Performing arts Studio, located in Rockford –  who I highly recommend - who consistently gave me chance after chance and opportunity after opportunity. She just always believed in me. And God for his unconditional love and for the Arts in general; I certainly haven't gotten where I am by myself.”

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    Take time to remember our fallen veterans this Memorial Day
    May 25, 2014
    By Ashley C. “Dave” Davis
    Superintendent, Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County
    Guest Contributor
    Three cemeteries . . .  three carefully folded flags . . . three times Taps plays . . . three times the rifles “crack” . . . And, three times someone says “On behalf of ….”
    Great-Aunt Elizabeth was an Army Nurse serving overseas during World War II.  She helped hundreds of wounded Soldiers recover so they could return to their loved ones back in the United States.  She also had young warriors die in her arms at the quickly-erected Field Hospital on that island in the Pacific.  …Twenty-three to be exact….  Great-Aunt Betty saw all twenty three faces every night for almost sixty-years as the Soldiers gasped their last breaths in her loving arms.  At least now Great-Aunt Betty won’t wake up sobbing at 2:00 a.m. in the morning….  Every morning.   …Rest in Peace Great-Aunt Betty.
    …A bugle softly echoes Taps in the distance as an aging Veteran from the local American Legion hands Betty’s Great-Niece Elizabeth a carefully folded flag and says… “On behalf of the President of the United States of America, the United States Army and…”
    Grand-Papa George was a Sailor off the coast of Korea in 1953 and again off the coast of Vietnam from 1966 through 1968.  His ship delivered much-needed supplies, food and medications to the brave souls fighting on shore.  He was extremely proud of his twenty-seven years of U.S Navy service to his Nation.  He would tell stories to his three children and his five grand-children about his multiple trips around the world.  (Most of them were even true).  Grand-Papa George lived a long life and died peacefully in his sleep at his home near the ocean …Rest in Peace Grand-Papa George.
    …A bugle softly echoes Taps in the distance as a young Naval Officer from the nearby Naval Base hands George Jr. a carefully folded flag and says… “On behalf of the President of the United States of America, the United States Navy and a grateful Nation, please accept…”
    Terrance was a twenty year old Marine Infantryman Killed-in-Action while on his second tour in Afghanistan.  He last saw the United States while on leave in April of last year.  His mother, father, three sisters and one very lonely nineteen year old young lady, who would now “never” be a member of their family, sobbed helplessly as the flag draping Terry’s coffin in Arlington National Cemetery was carefully folded.  Taps starts echoing eerily in the distance as a tall, erect young Marine in his Dress Uniform solemnly hands Terry’s mother, Jean, the recently folded flag… Rest in Peace Terrance.
    …The young Marine, through tears of his own, says… “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Marine Corp, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
    Hundreds of thousands of deceased Veterans.  Thousands of Cemeteries in thousands of villages, towns, cities, and even overseas.  Thousands of times the lonely, soulful playing of Taps.  Thousands of times the “crack” of rifles firing.  Thousands of carefully folded flags to thousands of grieving family members…
    Please pause at least once this Memorial Day Weekend and silently thank our deceased Service Members and Veterans for their “honorable and faithful service” to our Great Nation…. May you all Rest in Peace.

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    Memorial Day observed at Lawrenceville Cemetery
    May 22, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - For more than 50 years Garden Prairie Grasshoppers/Sweet Clover 4-H Club has put on a Memorial Day service at Lawrenceville Cemetery.
    It's always early and that tradition was continued Sunday, May 18 with more than 30 people turning out on a picture-perfect spring afternoon.
    As everyone got settled members of the 4-H club walked along the various rows of the historic cemetery, placing flowers and a small American flag at each veteran's gravesite.
    Longtime 4-H leader and emcee Gary Turner made the introductions and asked for a moment of silence for Bob Mickey, a member of the cemetery association who died last year and is buried there.
    The history of Memorial Day was presented by 4-H club member Garrett Hulstedt, who read Gen. Logan's Orders. They were issued May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan and proclaimed that Americans set aside one day a year to remember those who served, or who were serving, in the military. By 1890, all the northern states were observing Memorial Day.
    Logan was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and fought with the Union Army during the Civil War. He also served in Congress.
    Traditional Memorial Day continues to be May 30. But Congress in 1968 passed the Uniform Holidays Bill that designated the last Monday in May as the federal Memorial Day. This year that falls on May 26.
    Lee Gardner followed by strumming his guitar and singing "America the Beautiful."
    Gettysburg Address
    Then another 4-H club member, Sam Knaup, read President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Turner recalled that Lincoln didn't think much of what he said that day, yet "we still talk about it today."
    Lincoln gave the address Nov. 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa., after one of the most decisive battles of the Civl War.
    The Rev. Amy Poust, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Belvidere, was the guest speaker. She called Memorial Day "a day of remembrance" while looking on memory "as a tricky thing."
    There are some things we should never forget, she said, among them the sacrifice made by others on our behalf and loved ones who no longer are with us.
    Memorial Day is not obvious as one of our major holidays, she said, but we need to remember. In addition to those who served, and continue to serve, she said it's important to remember the followers of Jesus Christ, who died in a battle between light and dark. And people must remember "the Lamb himself," she said, who died for us.
    Gardner returned with another tune, "Someday," which he said was not a traditional patriotic song but in keeping with the pastor's message.
    Poust closed with a prayer and the benediction, before Rick Mansala could be heard sounding Taps from a distant corner of the cemetery.
    Lawrence Cemetery was established in 1869 and named for John Lawrence (1788-1876), who settled in this area with his family in the early 1800s. He fought in the American Revolution and also was a member of Congress.
    He and his family are buried in this cemetery as are four who fought in the Civil War: Albert Slafter (1810-83), his son, Albert (1841-1903), Daniel Newton Clark, who died Sept. 23, 1863, and Charles Woods, who died Oct. 3, 1864. 

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    A friend in crisis: Vickers retires from fire department
    May 22, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Ted Vickers retired from the Belvidere Fire Department on after 28 years on May 12, the city of Belvidere lost more than a fire fighter. Belvidere lost a friend to many who was a comfort in their time of need.
    “The residents of Belvidere were fortunate to have him as a part of their fire department for nearly three decades. I wish him well in the next phase of his life, and thank him for his service,” fire chief Dave Worrell said.
    As a fire and arson investigator, Vickers remained at the home or business after the other fighters returned to the station. I think I helped a lot of people. It is not always arson. In the end, after the fire if I was on duty I did the fire investigations, Vickers said.
    “I got to the point where I figured out it was more crisis intervention. People’s houses just burn up or their bedroom. I felt like I got really good at helping people after fires,” Vickers added. “I got to know which ones were good to people after a fire and which ones treat you poorly. It really helps if you have a local agent instead of having a 1-800 number.”
    “If they wanted a priest or a pastor, I had all of those connections where I could get those people to help them.”
    As union president for six years and a member of the union’s executive committee, Vickers was responsible for giving $100 on behalf of the fire fighters to people who just had a fire in their home. “You need money right away after a fire just for the little things. So I always made sure I had $100 cash on me.” 
    Vickers began a fire starters program in Belvidere. The program works with youths throughout the County who set fires or play with matches. Parents would bring their children to talk to him.
    Vickers saw many improvements to fire and vehicle safety since he first joined the fire department. When Vickers first joined the fire service, the firefighters had to share air masks between the crew. Because of the state of the equipment; there were many fires at which the fire fighters could not enter because of the poisonous gases and heat. “Nowadays we have better equipment where you don’t get hurt from the heat or smoke or gases that could give you cancer later down the road,” Vickers said.
    Vickers praised improvements to extrication equipment and changes that the auto industry made to reduce the rate and severity of injuries.” We used to go to so many bad car accidents where you would call in the helicopter and people would be bleeding and have broken femurs and bones out their skin,” Vickers recalled. “Now that the cars are changed, they crumple so the people don’t get hurt.”
    “It all evolves. It was good timing where I was at because I could watch it. People say ‘they don’t build them like they used to,’ and I say good because people are standing there and they are fine.”
    Vickers was selected to be part of a team of fire fighters that traveled to New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As fire fighters and their equipment made their way south to New Orleans, they became a convoy of over 500 fire trucks to help extinguish the fires that were breaking out throughout the city and to provide backup assistance. Some images of the dead in the streets of New Orleans continue to haunt Vickers.
    As a member of the Belvidere fire department, Vickers specialized in automobile extrications and roof ventilations.
    “Each and every firefighter has special talents, special traits that can’t be duplicated or taught. Ted was never one to back down from a challenge,” said fire chief Dave Worrell. “Ted specialized in fire investigations and enjoyed teaching extrication. He organized and led many extrication teams for local competitions.”
    For nine years, Vickers led a team from the Belvidere Fire Department to compete in the Midwest Regional Extrication Competition in Cherry Valley.
    On his last official day as a fire fighter, Vickers spent part of the day in auto extrication training. “I like doing it. I figured might as well go for it,” Vickers said. “If we would have had a house to practice training on, I probably would have picked roof ventilation.”
    For every ambulance call, the fire department responds with a truck. Every member of the Belvidere fire department is a paramedic or EMT. At times, the fire department arrives before the ambulance. Vickers delivered five babies during his tenure at the fire department.
    He spent the first day of his retirement building a community garden for Christ The Rock, Lutheran church in Rockford. “We just started a garden 50 x 70. We pick tomatoes and green beans. The group gives 80 percent of their bounty to Rockford rescue mission and the rest to the Salvation Army.”
    He also volunteers several times each month driving a van from Rockford to the VA hospital in Madison. Vickers sought a way to help veterans after the care that his Korean War veteran father received at the VA Hospital in La Salle.
    “They were so nice to him at the VA Home in LaSalle. I spent a lot of time visiting my dad and then he was gone,” Vickers said. “How can I help the Veterans Administration? Then I saw the van.”
    For a man who spent his career helping his community, it seems natural that he spends his retirement helping his community.
    A retirement party for Ted Vickers will be held July 12 at the Moose Lodge in Belvidere.

  • Default image
    Political Briefs Democrats have candidates for Boone County Board seats
    May 21, 2014
    Bob Balgemann



    BOONE COUNTY - The Boone County Democratic Party is busy lining up candidates for upcoming vacancies in three county board districts.

    Chairman Mike Guthrie said he's 99 percent sure he has candidates for the two four-year seats in District 2. Republicans currently in that race are incumbent Karl Johnson and newcomer Jeffrey Carlisle.

    So far there is one Democratic candidate for certain in District 3, where two four-year terms have drawn Republican newcomers Sherry Branson and Brad Stark.

    Democrats are hoping to land a running mate in District 1 for incumbent Bill Pysson. Republicans in that competition are newcomers Sherry Giesecke and Raymond Larson. Incumbent Republican Brad Fidder chose not to seek re-election.

    So far there are no Democratic candidates for the two-year seat in county board District 3, which now only has incumbent Republican Kenny Freeman in the running. Nor is there a Democrat candidate for sheriff (Republican newcomer Dave Ernest), county clerk (incumbent Republican Mary Steurer) or county treasurer (incumbent Republican Curt Newport).

    Guthrie said the party would be caucusing soon so it can file the list of candidates by the June 2 deadline.

    Independent candidates are able to circulate petitions now and must file from June 16-23.


    Constitutional changes may be on Nov. ballot


    BOONE COUNTY - Two petition drives that obtained more than the minimum 500,000 signatures may lead to constitutional amendments being placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot in Illinois.

    One would limit terms in elected state office to eight years.

    The other would require redistricting maps to be drawn by an independent commission, rather than by the political party that happens to be in control of Illinois at that particular time. Boundaries must be redrawn after each census, now conducted every 10 years, to reflect population changes.

    Both are being challenged in the court system, with the main scrutiny focusing on the validity of signatures, according to state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore.

    The term limits drive was led by gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, a Republican. This issue also would change from three-fifths to two-thirds the number of House and Senate votes that would be required to override a governor's veto.

    Further it would reduce the number of state senators from 59 to 41 and the overall General Assembly would decrease from 177 members to 164.

    "Yes for Independent Maps" filed the petitions to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians. The commission

  • pheasants forever photo.jpg
    Pheasants Forever assists landowners, farmers in creating habititats.
    May 20, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – Area hunters, landowners, farmers and conservationists gathered at Edwards Conservation Park in Poplar Grove on May 3 to take part in annual seed giveaway program designed to increase food plots and coverage for pheasants and other wildlife. The seed giveaway was sponsored by the Kishwaukee chapter of Pheasants Forever and is held the first Saturday of May each year.
    The Kishwaukee chapter of Pheasants Forever has about 240 members. “Our chapter is truly a conservation and habitat organization,” habitat chairman Jan Noble said. “More time, money and energy is spent on conservation issues and improving habitat than on the sporting side.”
    “I am a charter member back from 1985 when landowners and farmers realized there was a declining pheasant population,” Noble added.
    He remembers from his childhood when pheasants were plentiful throughout the area and wanted to help protect the pheasant population. “We realized that pheasants and all wildlife could be preserved through this,” Noble stated.
    Approximately two dozen farmers and landowners from Boone, McHenry, and Rock counties received 50 to 200 pounds of seed corn, soybean, winter wheat, sorghum, and pasture mixes. Some of the seed recipients wanted to plant food plots while others wished to plant grassy areas for nesting. “It is amazing how much habitat can be held in a 10 food wide fence row. A one acre field can a supply a lot of food for wildlife,” Noble said. “Fence rows with tall grasses left in place leave an ideal area for nesting and cover during severe snow storms.”
    “During the coldest winter months it is amazing how much food value that can be left by landowners if they do not harvest an outside row of crops or to plant a food plot and let it stand through the winter,” Noble added.  The ground cover helps the pheasants stay warm to survive the winter. In addition, in the spring, it helps protect the nests from predators such as coyotes and hawks or other raptors.
    The seed was donated by the DeLong Company in Clinton and Conserv FS in Caledonia. “We try to support local organizations that deal with agriculture and the environment,” Steve Quade, seed manager at the DeLong Company, said.  “Every year we get some seed left over that we have from test plots or other areas. We cannot use it. It works out well for them to use it as habitat for a wildlife plot.”
    “We have a unique situation where our company can benefit an organization like Pheasants Forever. We have a nice synergy with them when we have excess seed,” Quade added. “It is good for the environment and the habitat.”
    The DeLong Company sells wildlife mixes specifically to attract deer, wildlife turkey. The company began to carry the mix based on customer demand as farmers began to create habitats on their land.
    In addition to the seed giveaway, the Kishwaukee Chapter of Pheasants Forever has a Tye no till drill available for landowners to utilize in the planting of food plots and habitat area.
    For further information on Pheasants Forever or the seed giveaway or, contact local habitat chairman Jan Noble (815) 765-2070.

  • cte photo 1.JPG
    Belvidere North honors career-minded students
    May 18, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Nearly 250 students at Belvidere North High School were invited to the school’s first annual Career and Technical Education Banquet. In addition to being the honorees, the students helped plan and organize the awards ceremony and banquet.
    Students from BPA, DECA, Engine Team, FFA clubs as well as students from career-track courses such as accounting, business, child development, clothing, computer operations, interior design, and teaching were honored.
    “This started as a way for us to work together for all of our career and technical education classes,” Business education teacher Candy Bloome said.  “It was a way to honor students who have taken a series of courses so they can be proud of themselves.”
    “This is a chance to showcase what they’ve done well and we’re proud of them.”
    “It is the biggest student recognition event we have had at Belvidere North High School, and we are really excited about it,” Belvidere North principal Marc Eckmann said.
    “I think it is amazing that we got recognized along with the other students,” FFA chapter president Chelsey Huntington said. “It meant a lot to some of the students that we did get recognized.”
    “We were shocked that we were invited because we have never been involved with anything like this before.”
    “They really are doing some amazing things. We have students in national competitions and they are just doing incredibly awesome things. It is nice to have this opportunity to give them this recognition,” Marjorie Hartfiel assistant director from Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois (CEANCI) said
    Members of the Engine Team were at the awards ceremony in force and wore their team t-shirts. The group brought the trophy that they won at the Race and Performance Expo state competition in late February. The group took first and third place at the state competition. In teams of five members, the students took apart and rebuilt a Chevy 350 V8 engine in 23:11 for the first place team and 29:56 for the third place team.
    FFA members wore their distinctive blue corduroy jackets to the awards night. “We are given opportunity to obtain knowledge through classroom material and compete in career development events,” said Huntington who participates in as many of the FFA career development experiences that she can. “What we learn in the classroom helps with the competitions”
    Huntington added that she feels more confident and outgoing when she is at FFA events and wearing the blue jacket. “We are more upbeat because we know what expectations are for us.”
    “We know that from labor market information that 20 percent of the occupations actually require a bachelor’s degree. There is an 80 percent club that we have to prepare for,” Hartfiel said. “I believe schools are the opportunity to serve the community with the labor force that we need.”
    Students from the school’s food and culinary arts programs spent a week planning and preparing the banquet. “It is a really good feeling that a lot of people enjoyed it,” Josh Gracia said. “It is pretty exciting.”
    Through the planning and execution of such a large banquet, Gracia said that he and his fellow students developed an appreciation for the lunchroom staff who prepare hundreds of meals every day. Although he plans to go to Rock Valley College and UW-Madison to study business, he encouraged other students to consider taking the culinary courses.
    Ashlyi Tucker, a freshman who takes computer application courses at Belvidere North, enjoyed learning
    PowerPoint and Excel this year. “I thought it was pretty cool because I will be working with technology.  It helps you to use the computer and learn what apps you would use,” Tucker said.
    “It is nice to see what we have set forth in our vision for the school district to prepare students for careers and the job market, Belvidere CUSD100 school board member Jason Colson observed. “It is nice to see it come to fruition and see how well they put this together on their own.”
    “I think it is a great opportunity to find people who are already trained to put them in technical fields.”
    “Everyone is in love with it.,” Huntington summed up the students’ sentiments of the Career and Technical Education Banquet. ‘I hope next year we can have more of our students who get recognized through it.”

  • academy expo photo.jpg
    Belvidere joins Rockford students with career expo
    May 15, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Community and school leaders from Rockford and Belvidere met at the Boone County Community Building to announce a joint initiative to sponsor an Academy Expo at BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford this fall.
    In 2011, a pilot program began at Jefferson High School in Rockford to redesign the school into academies. First year students are enrolled in the freshman academy. Beginning in the students’ sophomore year, they are enrolled in one of four career academies. The career academies are organized around a specific interest.  Electives that sophomores, juniors and seniors take allows the students to earn college credit or career certification and makes them immediately marketable or employable in that area.
    The program was subsequently rolled out to all Rockford high schools.
    Before rolling out the program, the Rockford Public School District surveyed seventh and eighth grade students on their career and workplace knowledge.  From that survey, 75 percent of students indicated that they knew about 100 percent of the available jobs and marketplace.  Subsequent discussion and classroom activities revealed the students’ overconfidence.
    The decision was made to support and engage students and provide them with more experience.  From that, Academy Expos were organized at BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford so that freshman students could learn about career paths and make a more informed decision. The 2013 Academy Expo for Rockford freshmen included 150 employers and 750 community volunteers.
    Area employers staff booths with career professionals who demonstrate what they do, how they got where they are, what they like about their job, what they do not like about their job,” explained Dave Carsons, executive director of college and career readiness at the Rockford Public Schools.
    “It is great to connect their learning in a contextual way,” Rockford Public School superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett added.
    Belvidere freshmen will have the opportunity to attend the 2014 Career Expo on Sept. 16.
    “We are focused on a tiered rollout of regional collaborators. We really think this will be better if we can make this a regional endeavor,” Jarrett said. “Employers do not look to hire students from one specific school district. They look to our region for high quality work force. Belvidere is where we wanted to go next.”
    The participation by Belvidere students in Align Rockford and the Academy Expo is in line with a greater vision for the school district. “Our board has challenged us to come up with 5 magnet schools by 2017,” Belvidere Community Unit School District superintendent Michael Houselog said. “One of the things that we are talking about is a career vocational high school. The capstone activity for us would be graduating from high school with certificates for employment.”
    “We see a lot of things on the horizon and we see this as the first step.”
    The specifics of a career vocational high school are still being decided. “We have space in our high school. At the same time, there is manufacturing space in our community because of the downturn in the economy.”
     “Technology and automation have brought about the huge change in the economic marketplace today,” George Mutert, president of Franklin Wire said. “Manufacturing jobs are so much different than what they were 35 years ago.”
    Currently 42 percent of working adults in Illinois hold a 2 or 4 year degree.  “By 2018, the Center on Workforce and Education from Georgetown University estimates that 64 percent of job vacancies will require post-secondary credentials,” Kelly Galluzzo, executive director of Growth Dimensions said.
    The time is ready for the schools and business communities to work together to prepare students for the workplace demands.
    “How can we help? What is it that you need from us?” Mutert asked. “We are very happy to get involved.”

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    Difrent and compleatly happy!
    May 14, 2014
    By Stephanie Hyzer
    Dyslexia… an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read and write and for some to spell. Ever since I was in third grade I have known that I have a form of dyslexia.
    For me reading and spelling are the things that affect me the most. I read at a low reading level for my age, and I am a terrible speller. My journey through school has been very different from most. I have been in special education classes as long as I can remember.
    For most kids when a reading assignment is assigned in class, it is no big deal; they read what was assigned and answer the questions. But for me, it is more like a job than an assignment. I often leave class to find a teacher that can sit down and read the assignment to me. If I were to try and do the assignment on my own, I would probably not even attempt to read it. I would just sit and stare at the words hoping that when it came to answering the questions I would somehow answer them correctly.
    When I read something I don’t comprehend it and, many times, I will read it three or four times to make sure I know what it said. When it comes to writing things, like this article for instance, I write it all down on paper first and then give it to my mom and she will sit down and try to decipher my spelling and type it up for me. She has done this for me my entire school career. My disability is something I don’t talk about because I feel like people are going to judge me.
    If you know me well enough, you know I can’t spell. My close friends have learned to just accept it, but there are a few people in my life that could not accept that I am different and have made fun of me.
    I have been cyber-bullied regarding my spelling on social media. The person that said things did not know about my disability, but I am a prime example of how you should not judge someone when you don’t know what they are dealing with. Up until my junior year, I tried not to let it bother me, but, in this specific case, the thing that bothered me the most was that this person has no clue all the things I have had to go through to get to where I am today.
    For years I have worried about how I am going to get through my whole life with my disability. I have worried about if I would ever find someone to be with that could accept me for me (thankfully I have). What happens when I have kids and they want me to read to them and teach them how to read and write? Even before kids, will I find a job that I am comfortable in that does not overwhelm me?
    All these things are things I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember and will have to deal with for the rest of my life. But at the end of the day, I know this is the way God made me and this is how I am meant to be.
    I have learned to accept it. Can you?

  • belvidere Historic photo 2.JPG
    Historic Preservation Commission honors achievement
    May 13, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission has presented its annual achievement awards to property owners who through building renovations have paid tribute to the city's past with an eye on the future.
    In addition, the second Priem Award was handed out while the downtown Boone County Historical Museum was recognized for its recent $1-million-plus expansion.
    Members of the Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission board presented the awards May 8 during a gathering at the museum, 314 S. State St.
    Mayor Mike Chamberlain welcomed those who turned out for the special occasion. Of the award recipients, he said, "Kudos to you for preserving the past for future generations."
    And of the historic preservation commission itself, he said it was tapping people's imaginations when it came to the various restoration projects.
    Renovations to the building at 419 S. State were recognized. Ed Winter's father purchased it in the 1950s during a time when it housed a Walgreen's, complete with a soda foundation.
    Offices on the second floor have been renovated and the building now is being sold to Tom Lewis.
    Attorney Nathan Noble is moving his law office into the building at 504 N. State, which once served as a gas station as evidenced by 25-cent gas tickets that were found. More recently it housed Globetrotter Travel. He was cited for keeping his building in concert with the historic integrity of the neighborhood 
    The project became an instant hit when he said he would accept suggestions from the commission as to the ultimate design.
    A historic, 104-year-old home at 505 N. State is being renovated by Donald and Cheryl Van Abbema. Of improving the 3 bedroom, 2,600-square-foot residence, co-owner Donald Van Abbema said it was the most work and money he'd ever put into a house.
    Saved from demolition
    John Ahrens saved a picturesque three-story house at 809 S. State St. from demolition and now is renovating it. He thanked Ed Marx for providing the opportunity to do the improvements. "Without him it wouldn't have happened," he said.
    The Millie Priem award was given out for the second year after initially going to its namesake, who now is 97 years of age and wasn't able to be at the presentations;. This year's award went to George Williams, who fits the description as one who is dedicated to preservation of the community.
    Interim City-County Planning Director Kathy Miller said he was known for his knowledge of home construction and love for historic preservation. He has lived in Belvidere since 1944, she said, and has a wealth of knowledge about the city.
    Williams was there and said it was "a real honor" to receive the award bearing Millie Priem's name. He said he had worked with her on many committees over the years.
    A plaque with the name of each year's recipient will hang in the museum.
    The Boone County Historic Museum itself was honored for being a focal point of the downtown and for its recently completed expansion, linking the museum with the adjacent research center.
    And the Boone County Journal received the Organizational Recognition award for its weekly series of historic feature stories that run on the front page of the newspaper.

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    Area mothers and their children reflect on motherhood
    May 11, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - There is a passage in the book “For One More Day,” by Mitch Albom, that reads:
    “But there's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin.”
    While we may not remember exactly when our first cries rang out and the first pages of our stories were written, our mothers are indeed continually present with us. Whether physically or in spirit, over the course of our entire lives, our mothers are often in some way imprinted on our hearts and personalities.
    Our mothers shape us and we also shape them.
    In honor of Mother's Day, I  recently interviewed a couple of local mothers to see what they had to say about motherhood. I  also interviewed their grown-up children to see what they had to say about how their mothers have helped make them into the people they are today.
    Here's what they shared.
    Phylis and Brad Morelock are Boone County residents who run a dairy farm. They have three children, Chad Morelock, 34; Christa Morelock Morris, 40; and Brian Morelock, 38.
    “I think one really rewarding thing about motherhood has been watching your kids grow up and become their own person – having individuality,” Phylis said. “It has been challenging watching them grow up and biting your tongue, letting them learn their own lessons from their mistakes.”
    But, she added, every moment of motherhood has been memorable and she said she has been lucky to have her children living in such close proximity to her.
    “I couldn't live much better than that,” she said.
    She also shared some words of wisdom for new mothers and mothers-to-be.
    “Watch your children and don't let them just be gone,” she said. “You want them to have family time where they can learn your values. Try to teach them by example.”
    Chad admires the fact his mom has been a hard worker throughout his life and said she has set a great example.
    “You always know where you can find her. She has been a good role model – being a dairy farmer is a big commitment and a lot of work,” he said. “I grew up watching that.”
    His mom's dedication also has had an effect on the way he lives his life.
    “When I was three or four, we'd play ball,” he said. “She was getting me to swing a bat at a ball and would always say 'keep your eye on the ball. Just keep your eye on the ball.'”
    Christa and Brian share their younger brother's sentiments.
    “All moms are special, but there's something extraordinary about mine. She is the hardest working person I know,” said Christa. “Being a farmer is hard work. And raising three children is hard work. But she has managed to do both amazingly without ever falling short for any of us kids …. My mom has taught me to be a fair, open-minded, and selfless person [and] has always put others' needs before hers,” she continued. “That's just what mothers do.  And you can't fully appreciate and understand that sacrifice until you become a mother yourself. Then it all makes sense.”
    “I admire her dedication to her work and her family,” added Brian. “No matter what, she has and will always be there for her family. She is a wonderful mother and grandmother and her children and grandchild love her very much.”
    Boone County resident Debbie Anderson and her two children also shared some thoughts. Debbie Anderson said that one of the most rewarding aspects of motherhood has been having the privilege of watching her two children, Steve Anderson, 35, and Jennifer Anderson, 39, grow into caring people who love God.
    “And also sharing in their happiness together as a family, [with my husband, Nils]  –  it has been a joy,” she said. “There have been some challenges watching them struggle, while being able to have the discernment to step back and let them learn, and to learn not to do everything for them. Part of growing up is having those struggles and learning from them,” she reflected. “As a mom, it is your responsibility to let your children go through the challenges and be there for support. One of the biggest lessons was that I had to accept that it was 'OK'  when things don't go absolutely perfect in your child's life.”
    Her words of advice for new mothers?
    “We will have challenges no matter how old we are. Realize it is part of growing and help your children become the people they are meant to be.”
    Steve and Jennifer have been appreciative of all their mother has done in their lives.
    “She's taught me a lot,” Steve said. “She's kind-hearted and has always been there for me. She taught me to work hard at whatever I do and not give up. She taught me to treat others how I'd want to be treated and to be there for my friends.”
    Jennifer Anderson said she admires Debbie for “living what she believes.”
    “She also possesses qualities anyone would want in a mother,” she said. “She's there no matter what, and loves you no matter what. She supports me in whatever I do and is not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong. She is compassionate, intelligent, has integrity and leads by example. I can't imagine my life without my mom.”
    When it comes to my own mother, I am privileged to have enjoyed and continue to enjoy many happy times with her. Even during the years when we weren't physically present together – when thousands of miles existed between us when I lived on the opposite side of the planet – she was, and always is, with me. I've carried the lessons she taught me as a child, the love she shared and the faith she instilled, through all the chapters in my life story so far. I've been very blessed and I hope I have been a blessing to her as well.
    How has your mother shared in your own story?
    Now may be the perfect time to tell her.
    Happy Mother's Day!

  • pantry parking lot photo 1.jpg
    Parking lot for food pantry patrons becomes a reality
    May 7, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    CAPRON - Spring finally has returned and with it has come a new parking lot to serve patrons of the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry.
    Heavy equipment was at work the morning of Saturday May 3, clearing the land for the anticipated coat of ground-up asphalt. There should be room for 30-40 vehicles.
    Linda Clark, executive director of the pantry, thanked everyone who helped make the project happen.
    N-Track Group in Loves Park provided the equipment that was on the scene Saturday morning.
    Company officials included Brooke Anderson, chief operating officer of the company and Danielle Schlichting, chief administrative officer. Assistance also came from Ronald Schlichting, Gary Wright, Kyle Markhardt and Noah Schlichting.
    In addition, help with the project was provided by Riley View Transport in Marengo, Penny Berschet, owner-operator; Brad Watson & Son Excavation in Capron; Ayre Excavating in Clinton, Wis., Prain Ayre, third-generation owner and driver, Randy Taylor; and Rhodes Ray Excavating & Landscaping in Rockford, drivers Keith and Lora Lee. 
    Having this new place for pantry clients to park while they are across the street getting food and other assistance removes the possibility that their vehicles will be issued a ticket for parking on the streets of Capron.
    "It seems that Capron has an ordinance that states you are not allowed to park on streets that do not have curbs," Clark said. "Even though there are only two blocks in the whole village that have curbs, they (village officials) are standing behind this ordinance.”
    "Giving our clients tickets for parking on the streets when they come to the pantry to get food for themselves and their families just seems a bit above and beyond cruel and unusual punishment. Our clients are going through enough heartaches without being ticketed for parking on the streets of Capron."
    Deadline is given
    The pantry was given until spring to show progress was being made toward construction of the new parking lot.
    Clark said the portion being worked on May 3 represented about three-fourths of the entire project, which has an estimated cost is $65,000-$68,000. The rest will be completed "when we have more money," she said.
    "So we are thanking Woodward Governor and the Boone County Foundation for donating to this parking lot project," she said.
    The food pantry opened in 2005 and does much more than provide food and other assistance to qualified families.
    One of its newest services is supplying the food for community meals that now are being served every Thursday at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church and the third Wednesday of each month at St. John's United Church of Christ in Belvidere.
    Starting in June, the Apostolic Church on Town Hall Road also will be providing a meal once a month.
    The pantry also provides snacks for children in elementary schools in North Boone Community Unit School District 200.
    In addition to weekly food distribution Tuesday mornings at the pantry, 200 Fifth Ave. in Capron, qualified clients are able to choose non-food items such as personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies and vitamins, plus much more.
    Clients may shop for clothing and household items as well as furniture and appliances, which Clark said "go very fast." The pantry also is an established Kibble Korner for those with pets.
    Volunteers are important at the pantry. Last year 203 worked 19,661 hours there. They came from RSVP, the probation department, local schools, churches and scout groups.
    Beyond that, the pantry has five full-time staff and three part-time workers.
    The pantry only receives government assistance from Poplar Grove Township. As of March 2014, the unemployment rate in all of Boone County was 12.3 percent and is the highest unemployment rate in the state of Illinois. In July 2013, the rate was 10.9 percent.
    Reports show more than half of the people served are from Belvidere Township.

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    Candlewick Lake manages geese population with addling program
    May 6, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – If you ask many people what is their least favorite Canadian import, the answer is likely to be geese.  As the Canadian geese population has increased to excessively large numbers around suburban lakes and ponds, steps have been taken to keep the population in check.
    Candlewick Lake Association has implemented several programs to manage the geese population in the subdivision.  For six weeks every spring, volunteers participate in an addling program. The group also herds geese for humane slaughter. Buffer zones around the lake discourage geese from using the lake. In addition, solar lights have been installed near the beach and marina.
    For 6 consecutive weekends in April and May, 5 to 12 volunteers search for nests and coat the eggs with cooking oil. The oil seals the pores on the eggs and prevents the embryos from developing and hatching. The eggs are left in the nest until the end of the mating season. After that time, the eggs are removed from the nests and buried. If the eggs were removed from the nest too soon, the goose may lay additional eggs.”
    The addling program, in its seventh year at Candlewick Lake subdivision, operates under a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The volunteers keep track of where the nests are located and check on them throughout the mating season and attempt to identify any nests that were missed on previous outings. “The first week there might only be one egg,” Jim Brefeld explained. “She might lay five or six eggs.”
     “You might find broken eggs from around the area where some animal got in and at them. If it is early enough in the season, she might lay more eggs.”
    “Since we started this program since 7 years; decreased 50-75 percent,” Brefeld said.
    Each year the group finds an average of 25 nests. After the first weekend, the group found 50 eggs. The number of eggs in each nest varies from one to seven eggs. Despite the group’s best efforts to identify all nests in the area the group misses a few nests each year. “In the end of May someone will call and say there are 5 babies or 6 babies,” Brefeld said. “You do the best you can.”
    This year, Candlewick Lake will also attempt a herding program under an IDNR permit. “For a certain period of time there is a molting season when the birds cannot fly,” Brefeld said. “What they do is they herd them into a channel with boats and they collect them.”
    The geese are humanely slaughtered and given to the needy.
    Candlewick Lake residents should contact Theresa Balk at (815) 765 2827 x208 to report any nests on their property.

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    RAMP Wheel-a-thon raises money, awareness
    May 4, 2014
     By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Boone County RAMP held their ninth annual Wheel-a-thon on April 26, the event was more about raising money to support their mission.
    “The purpose of it is so that able-bodied people can get an experience what it is like to have a disability as they try to navigate through town and see the challenges that people with wheelchairs face,” Kim Johnson, Boone County RAMP manager, said. “We bring in wheelchairs and we encourage our participants who do not currently use a wheelchair to pick a wheelchair and travel through our route.”
    Participants walked a two mile course through Belvidere that began and ended at the Boone County Community Building. Many returned from the course and said that they didn’t realize how difficult it would be to push a wheelchair through the city. Others were surprised by the difficulty they faced crossing streets or pushing the wheelchair up inclines on the sidewalks. “Hopefully it makes them more aware of people with disabilities and the challenges they go through,” Johnson said.
    “It is to show what these barriers are like so working together we can help remove these barriers for equal access.”
    The Boone County State’s Attorney’s office was among the teams that participated in the Wheel-a-thon.
    “We really enjoyed it. The weather was beautiful,” State’s Attorney Michelle Courier said. “It was a great event for a great cause.”“The money earned at the event stays within Boone County to provide services and advocacy here.”
    In addition to promoting accessibility for the disabled, RAMP offers a variety of programs to assist the disabled. “We are more than out there building ramps. We are helping people build their independent life,” Johnson said. “Whatever that means to them.”
    “We serve anyone with a disability no matter what their age or what their disability is,” Johnson said. “We have programs such as independent living skills whether that be finding an apartment and living on their own. I will help them with that. We also have an employment network for people who want to go back to work or even start employment. We also have youth education advocacy where we help parents in school through the IEP special education process.”
    RAMP counselors offers a course called Teens in Transition for Belvidere and Belvidere North High School special education sophomores and juniors. The program helps the students develop a plan as they transition from high school to adulthood.
    “We look at post-secondary education, and help them with resumes, mock interviews. We provide that feedback for them. They find it really helpful,” Johnson said. “We move on to what housing is going to look like for them. We are trying to give them a heads up on these expectations for when they hit adulthood.
    RAMP counselors help their consumers find employment and affordable accessible housing. Matthew Sherman was one of their consumers. Sherman was living at home and had mental health issues. Through RAMP, he was able to find full-time employment at Walgreens. He has since found his own apartment, purchased a car and got married. “He has come a long way. I am very proud of him,” Johnson said. 

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    Health department likes new wording in Plote Quarry permit
    May 4, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Overall, the Boone County Health Department is pleased with revised wording in documents, relating to a request by Beverly Materials for a five-year extension of the special use permit needed to mine the 220-acre Plote Quarry on Town Hall Road.
    Now officials are waiting to be certain the county board includes the revisions at its May 21 meeting.
    The department has come under scrutiny in some quarry-related issues, and initially was criticized for not paying closer attention to quarterly reports on groundwater tests conducted at three monitoring wells on the 220-acre property. Later, it was revealed that the original agreement attached to the special use permit stated only that those reports were to be sent to the county.
    More recently, accuracy in wording in one of the conditions attached to the special use permit came into question.
    It stated the location of those monitoring wells had been agreed upon with the advice and consent of the health department. But Bill Hatfield, director of environmental health for the department, said that was not correct. And he received concurrence from Dave Zumbrunn, general manager for the petitioner, Beverly Materials. He said Patrick Engineering, hired to take water samples from the monitoring wells, had decided where the original wells should be located.
    So that sentence was removed and now reads that the location of future monitoring wells "shall be established with the advice and consent of the Boone County Health Department."
    That wording was approved by the county zoning board of appeals (ZBA) April 22, when it voted 3-1 to recommend approval of the extension. The county board is expected to consider the recommendation at its May 21 meeting.
    Cynthia Frank, current administrator of the health department, stressed that she wanted the department's responsibilities to be clearly defined when it came to the quarry. "I want to be sure that in 10 years, when this comes up again, that the health department isn't persecuted for not monitoring these wells," she said.
    “The department is not qualified, nor does it have the equipment, to monitor the wells,” she said. Further, the department tests water from residential wells. “Monitoring well tests are far more extensive than those conducted on residential wells,” she said.
    An update on wording in conditions related to the quarry's special use request was provided for the county board of health, which oversees the health department, at its April 28 meeting.
    Hatfield said the department's responsibilities were clarified in the special use conditions. And while that was approved by the ZBA, changes could be made during the upcoming county board meeting.
    The question of how often the monitoring wells would be tested was resolved, he told the board. While there was some talk about tests being conducted twice a year, he said they would continue to be done quarterly, as spelled out in the original agreement.
    Criticism revisited
    Also April 28 board Vice President Jim Cox said he had to "find fault" with statements made during the March 6 meeting of the county health and human services committee. Questions about wording in the Plote special use permit conditions prompted two committee members to say having health department representatives present would have gone a long way toward providing answers.
    "They (health department officials) were told (in February) that they didn't have to be there," Cox said. "Then they were criticized for not being there."
    He directed his comments to District 2 county board member Ron Wait, who also sits on the board of health.
    He added that committee Chairman Paul Larson and county Administrator Ken Terrinoni both said health department officials did not have to be at the March 6 meeting.
    Wait's response was this: "Well, at least we're consistent. There are five members on the committee and we'll have five different opinions."
    County board Chairman Bob Walberg sat in on a few minutes of the board of health meeting, then left after receiving a cell phone call. Cox said he was sorry to see the chairman leave.
    Referring to the criticisms that were leveled at the March 6 HHS committee meeting, he said, "I'm concerned Bob Walberg as (county board) chairman didn't stop it."
    "I think an apology would be appropriate," board of health member Kathleen Taylor said.
    To which Wait replied, "Don't count on that."

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    Young Athletes program brings a school together
    May 1, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – Students at Poplar Grove Elementary participated in the Young Athletes program for Special Olympics. Competing in the program were pre-k students from Capron Elementary and kindergarten through second grade students. Third and fourth grade students and parents were on hand to cheer on the athletes. Fourth grade students and high school students from North Boone High School volunteered to help with the event.
    The athletes were split into seven teams and included students from each of the lower grade levels as well as special education students.
    “We mixed up the teams so there were different kids on every team so they had to meet new people,” Kelly Lough, special education teacher at Poplar Grove Elementary, said. “They had to expand what they are used to in their class.”
    “Young athletes is a fully inclusive program. It is for students with and without intellectual disabilities,” Jennifer Marcello, director of the Young Athletes Program for Special Olympics of Illinois, said.
    One of the concepts of the program is perfect peer modeling. Direction is given to an older child or a child without an intellectual disability. “You can say ‘Johnny jump with two feet over the bar.’ So Johnny can jump with two feet and be a perfect peer model for his peer with an intellectual disability so he can then follow him,” Marcello explained.
    “I think today went great. It turned out better than I expected,” Lough said. She was impressed with “the way that all of the students came together and helped each other - even the older students helping the pre-schoolers and the kindergarteners helping out my students.”
    “It was nice to see everyone cheering each other out and helping each other out even though they didn’t know each other.”
    Third and fourth grade students filled the bleachers and cheered the younger students as they competed at the various stations. “They made signs. Some of them had pompoms. We tried to make it a fun event for them,” Lough said. “Even though they couldn’t participate in the actual event we wanted them to participate in some way.”
    And they did. Loudly and enthusiastically.
    “We built awareness for special education students,” Lough added. “We had a lot of good helpers with our students and they loved helping our students so that was really great to see.”
    “I think it brings the school as a whole closer together.”

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    More criticism from county irks Boone board of health
    April 30, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Five members of the Boone County Board of Health, sitting as finance committee, were meeting Thursday April 24 to discuss budgetary and personnel matters.
    But they also took time to express their displeasure over continued criticism from the county - specifically from the health and human services committee (HHS).
    This time the grousing dealt with no one from the county health department being at the March 6 committee meeting. Yet minutes of the meeting showed department representatives had been told the month before that they need not be present at the March 6 session.
    Once again the Plote Quarry issue was the focal point.
    According to the minutes it was HHS committee member Bill Pysson who raised the issue of confusion over whether the county health department had approved the location of three monitoring wells at the Town Hall Road quarry.
    Pysson said had Bill Hatfield, director of environmental of health for the department, been at the March 6 committee meeting Hatfield would have been able to address the misunderstanding.
    There also was a question of whether wells were to be tested quarterly or twice a month.
    Discussion continued, the minutes stated, over frustration of communication on those issues between the city-county planning department, health department and HHS committee.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni suggested the health department attend an upcoming county board meeting to address communication issues, and the HHS committee agreed.
    HHS committee member Kenny Freeman again stated, as he did earlier in the meeting, that when there is a topic involving the health department there should be someone in attendance. Other committee members agreed, according to the minutes.
    But committee Chairman Paul Larson reminded that at the last meeting it was stated the health department representatives did not need to be present at the March 6 meeting, as the agenda was focused on several other topics for discussion.
    "They clobbered us for not being there," Cox said of HHS committee members. "Criticized the heck out of us."Hatfield remembered being told in February that neither he nor the health department administrator, Cynthia Frank, needed to be at the March meeting. Monthly HHS committee meeting agendas typically have a slot for the health department to discuss its monthly report and financial matters.
    Board of health and finance committee Kathleen Taylor has been unhappy with continuous criticism from county officials. "It's time we started playing that game, too," she said.
    "We're an ethical group and we don't make up this stuff," said board president and committee chairman Kent Hess, M.D.
    The back and forth between the county and health department began in August, during the county fair.
    The department was criticized for requiring some fair vendors to obtain a $75 food license if they were handing out free, pre-packaged candy and bottled water. Yet health department officials pointed out they were merely following what was mandated in county code.

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    Community leaders celebrate local economic successes
    April 29, 2014
     By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Over 200 local business and civic leaders gathered at Belvidere High School to attend the Growth Dimensions 35th anniversary and annual meeting. The meeting focused on the past, present and future of economic development in Boone County.
    “Boone County welcomes all kinds of businesses, economic activity. Growth Dimensions has been here for 35 years,” Dick Van Evera, chairman of Growth Dimensions said. “We are here to help. We are here to make Belvidere and Boone County an attractive place to live and a great place to settle and raise kids.”
    Jean Loesch, plant manager at General Mills spoke regarding the company’s history and growth in Belvidere. “We went from a plant with 200 people now over 650. Plans are to bring in another line,” Loesch said. “When General Mills looks at putting in new lines and grow their business, Belvidere has been in the top of that list. The reasons are several. One is great support in the community. Growth Dimensions has been a great part in helping us be very competitive as a company in this area. As well as the support we get whether it is the fire department, the police department, and the Chamber. There are all great relationships there.”
    “And then there are the people. So that’s the culture we call in our plant is one of the best in the company.”
    Executive Director Kelly Galluzzo expressed her appreciation to the private and public partners for their time, energy and dedication that has been the fuel to keeping Growth Dimensions going. Galluzzo continued, “I’ve been around for roughly 10 of the 35 years and over the last decade, I’ve seen businesses expand, locate here and thrive in Boone County. I’ve also witnessed hard economic times hit our community. I’ve seen our community leaders, business leaders, elected officials bravely weather the storm and stay committed to the task of building an even stronger Belvidere-Boone County.”
    “I see our community and the communities that surround us work closer together to take strides in achieving common goals in an effort to build a stronger and true regional picture. With the Rockford Region Economic Development District leading the way, Boone, Winnebago, McHenry and Stephenson counties recently submitted an application for a federal grant, “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Program. If chosen, our counties will receive elevated consideration for federal dollars and assistance to support the implementation of strategies we’re all working on related to advance manufacturing. The financial incentive is the obvious benefit, however we believe our application is an illustration of these 4 counties coming together, identifying assets, common programs underway and the willingness to join hands to leverage resources that would benefit a true collaborative effort”, Galluzzo stated.
    Galluzzo celebrated the recent announcement Amtrak will include Belvidere as a stop on its Rockford to Chicago commuter route. “The recent announcement of Amtrak service returning has been and will be met with a great deal of enthusiasm here in Belvidere. The rail initiative first began her over 10 years ago. I saw much of the time and energy and a lot of blood sweat and tears that went into making that initiative a success. It is pretty promising to see that the vision that many of you had is now becoming a reality.”
    In addition to the expansion of Amtrak, Galluzzo focused on transportation infrastructure initiatives. We continue to work closely with the city of Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois Tollway Authority, Illinois Department of transportation in improving transportation infrastructure in our Boone County area,” Galluzzo said. “The projects that are underway are considered the catalyst for prime economic development in our area. These projects do not only benefit our area but also the communities around us. This activity will support our position to becoming the gateway to the gold corridor.”
    Rod Carey, head coach of the Northern Illinois University was the keynote speaker. He drew parallels of leadership on the field to leadership in business. The room filled with business and community leaders was challenged to develop champions and Carey laid out the game plan used by Northern Illinois Huskie coaches and student athletes to accomplish success in leadership.
    “You win with people,” Carey said. “Successful teams are people driven.”

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    Chrysler Group receives $1.3 million rebate from Nicor
    April 27, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE- Chrysler Group’s Belvidere Assembly plant received a $1.3 million rebate grant from Nicor Gas on April 22 before a ceremony of employees and area leaders. The Chrysler Group participated in the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program. Chrysler Group’s head of assembly operations, Zachary Leroux and Belvidere Plant manager Eric Schimmel accepted the check from Nicor Gas president Beth Reese.
    “We are pleased to recognize Chrysler Group for its commitment to saving energy and money through the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program,” Reese said. “We applaud their efforts, which have earned a $1.3 million return and also are helping to bring our program closer to reaching its energy goals.”
    “The good thing is that they found some really creative ways to do things like how they handle air in the facility how they control the building, the technology,” Hank Linginfelter, executive vice president of AGL said. AGL is the parent company of Nicor Gas. “They used the program that Nicor Gas offered to improve the efficiency of the plant. They saved energy and increased the productivity of what they do here.”
    “Big picture for environmental management we look at water, waste and energy. So this was our energy project,” Michael Keefe, Environmental Specialist from Chrysler said. “Our goal for 2013 was to reduce energy by 9.5% which is a significant amount, especially in a place this large.”
    Chrysler worked with its engineering department and Nicor Gas to develop three large scale projects. The projects were cascade air, installation of 34 variable drive motors, and upgrading hardware and software to control air supply units and exhaust fans. Through the implementation of these projects, Chrysler will save nearly 2.5 million therms annually which is the equivalent of the amount of energy used in 1,000 homes for a year.
    “Cascade Air is a simple concept which is reusing warm air instead of just one pass through and out. As simple as the concept is, the execution is very complex,” Keefe said. “Your duct work, your design work that is on the roof. It is all expensive to do. It was a big project.”
    “Historically they were continuously bringing in new air and letting old air go out,” Linginfelter explained. “Now the system lets them retain old air and recirculate it and not have to use as much heat for the outside air.” Chrysler received a $400,000 rebate from Nicor on this project.
    Chrysler installed 34 variable frequency drive motors on direct gas-fired air handling units. “A simple analogy is your dimmer switch at home you use to get just the amount of light you want depending on the setting. You may want less light at dinner than you want at breakfast so there is an industrial version of that you apply to motors,” Keefe said of the project that resulted in a $323,000 rebate. “Previously it was all on or all off. Well maybe we only needed 60% of that motor speed.”
    “You put that on 34 large, large motor, you use less of the motors. You use less motor to pull less air, you heat less air, and you use less gas.”
    The third project was an energy management system. “It is software that allows us to remotely control the airflow throughout the building. Better pressurization, better scheduling of our heating,” Keefe said. “The little electronic thermostat you can buy for your home, you can turn the heat down when you are at work or on weekends. Imagine that on an industrial scale. You manage your energy better.”
    The energy management system cost $1.3 million to install and upgrade the hardware and software to connect and control 25 air supply units and numerous general and process exhaust fans. Chrysler received a $500,000 incent from Nicor to defray the costs of the project.
    “The savings that have been generated through these projects are truly immeasurable and are representative of the dedication with which the Belvidere workforce tackles any challenge,” Schimmel said.
    “It is exciting from a business standpoint it is a great partnership,” State Senator Dave Syverson said. “You have Chrysler becoming more energy efficient. Because of that they are getting more grants and the result is that it reduces the cost of doing business here in Belvidere. That is crucial when you are trying to stay competitive in a national and international market.”
    “I believe Nicor has done a really good job in working with Chrysler for making this as efficient as it can be,” Linginfelter added.
    “One thing that I think is very important, any time a plant like this can do a number of things like save energy, help the environment but also save money, it is very good for employment at a place like Belvidere and Rockford. It really helps the economy and makes this place competitive with other manufacturers so it is really good for the region as well.”
    “It is a wonderful example for everybody. Individually we all make a small contribution,” Boone County Board president Bob Walberg said of the announcement that was made on Earth Day. “When you add up all our small contributions, we can have a super effect.”“It is not a matter of just taking care of it to preserve it (the environment), but there is a financial benefit as well.”

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    Group opens door for Alzheimer's support
    April 24, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - Memory loss can happen to anyone.
    And when it comes to dealing with and facing Alzheimer's disease, many people struggle to find the answers and support they need. According to the Alzheimer's Association website, an estimated 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease, including 200,000 individuals under the age of 65. In Boone County, there are a number of people dealing with this tragic illness as well as other memory-related illnesses.
    A group of organizations dubbed “Memory Cafes” have formed in recent years to support individuals and families facing down Alzheimer's. The Memory Cafe' is a national project wherein trained volunteers and professional mental health team members meet with any member of the public who feels that he or she or a friend or family member may have a memory problem, is dealing with dementia or struggling with Alzheimer's.
    The Boone County Council on Aging, in partnership with Northwoods Care Center/Maplewood Care Center, Rockford University, the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and Dr. Malgorzata Bach, M.D., of the Memory Clinic at Rockford Health System, have come together to form a Memory Cafe' group in Belvidere.
    Boone County Council on Aging Executive Director Joe Fortmann, one of four leaders of the Belvidere Memory Cafe' group, said there are a number of health issues rising with the “baby boom” generation; especially early onset dementia and Alzheimer's.
    “In the next 10 years, one out of every 11 men and one out of every eight women will experience memory loss,” he said, explaining why he felt it was necessary to organize a Memory Cafe' group in Belvidere.
    The goal of the Memory Cafe' is to create a relaxed environment in which people can share their stories while gaining education and understanding about memory loss.
    Fortmann said the first session began in October of 2013 and, on average, between nine and 15 people have attended the monthly meetings.
    The April 15 meeting brought in 16 people.
    Leading the group were Richard Apple of the Alzheimer's Association; Elaine Sharpe, a professor at Rockford University; and Fortmann.
    Apple led the main discussion, which focused on the subject of “resilience” and how people can move forward when dealing with Alzheimer's disease. He discussed the importance of making connections with those battling the disease, as well as techniques family members can use to help a loved one with memory loss. He also shared ideas for how family members can make peace of the situation, discussed stigmas about Alzheimer's and ways people can help the community can gain better understanding.
    Several attendees participated in the group discussion and offered advice to their peers.
    One Belvidere resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she is grateful for the support group. Her mother has been suffering with Alzheimer's for several years and she said the pressure has been difficult on her family. She said she attends meetings so she can better understand how to help her mother, as well as to provide advice for her father, who has struggled with the situation.
    “A lot of people have Alzheimer's and we have to learn how to deal with it,” she said. “I've learned through this group that [it's important to do things with people suffering with the disease] and keep them busy. I enjoy coming here and hearing everybody's stories.”
    Attendees clearly demonstrated the fact that memory loss not only affects people individually – it sometimes poses dramatic and emotional challenges to relationships.
    “Alzheimer's doesn't just happen to individuals, it happens to caregivers as well,” Fortmann said. “Memory Cafe' is a way for everyone to come and talk about these things. This starts a cascade of opportunity for people to find systems and support ….We hope it will provide a set of doorways for people to find information, diagnoses and assistance with caregiving,” he continued.
    “There is also a lot of stigma about Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. We are trying to get rid of that and get people to talk about it in a supportive environment.”
    The Memory Cafe' group meets at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month, at the Steam Plant Restaurant, 123 Meadow St., Belvidere.
    People are welcome to drop-in, registration is not required.
    For information, call the Boone County Council on Aging at (815) 544-9893.

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    Spreading the love of reading, one book at a time
    April 23, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - When Belvidere resident Meg Hodge lost her son Andy, 22, to a brain tumor in 2006, she said she wanted to do something to honor his memory.
    Even as a toddler Andy had been an avid reader and had always had a book in tow.
    Remembering her son's love of reading, Hodge created a simple book drive that would help children of all ages in under-served areas have access to books.
    In 2007, she started the drive, and in 2008, she said she started the nonprofit organization Andy's Books for Kids …
    Sounds like a plan! with the help of an Illinois Business Consultants program at the University of Illinois.
    Andy's Books for Kids … Sounds Like a Plan! was born on Aug. 25, 2008, Andy's birthday.
    In 2011, the organization was granted 501(c) status from the United States federal government, designating it as a tax exempt charitable organization.
    Andy's Books raises funds to purchase new children's books as well as arranges drives and projects for the donation of books. The books purchased or donated are distributed to elementary and high school school libraries, pre-K programs, after-school programs, homeless shelters and other community programs.
    Just providing a child with a book gives him the unique opportunity to be lifted out of his ordinary circumstances and vaulted into whatever exciting, fascinating, illuminating or scary situation the words of the author has conjured up, without ever having to leave the confines of his chair. The goal of Andy's Books for Kids is to provide access to books to those children who, without that access, might never have the opportunity to experience the pastime that Andy so loved,” Hodge wrote on her website.
    Andy's Books has worked on a number of donation projects with schools throughout the area as well as with groups such as the Community Cupboard Food Pantry, where Hodge began handing out books to area children in October 2013. She said she tries to be at the food pantry every Thursday between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. Children who come through the pantry are welcome to pick out three books during a visit. Hodge said she has enjoyed watching them receive the books.
    “Particularly, the little ones,” she said. “They get so excited and as they are walking along tagging after their families, they start reading. Some of them squeal. It's pretty much the excitement and it's very encouraging to see the kids reading.”
    Shannon Hanson, director of the pantry, is appreciative of all Hodge has done.
    “[Hodge] has been there passing multiple books to any child who passes through the food pantry,” she said. “She has been a great asset. Really encourages reading and families.”
    On average, Hodge distributes between 50 and 75 books per month. The titles and physical condition of the books are mostly new, though she said she has given out used books in fantastic condition.
    Andy's Books for Kids … Sounds Like A Plan! is made possible through both monetary and book donations. While used books in prime condition are welcomed, Hodge said with all the program's projects she tries to give out newer books that are relevant to what children want to read.
    “I want to make sure the books are attractive to kids and make them want to read,” she said. “If you present kids with books that are new and trendy, they are more likely to take them and read them.”
    Though the program was initially created in memory of Andy, Hodge said now her main goals are to stress the importance of reading and to allow reading material to be accessible to all children.
    “Reading is important educationally. Not only does it help develop vocabulary, but it also helps children learn about things and opens up the rest of the world to them. This is good for children who may not have had the opportunity to travel. Reading also can be a good way for children to share with each other.”
    For more information or to donate, visit

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    Resident asks Poplar Grove to adopt renter's ordinance
    April 22, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - Resident Melissa Johnson doesn't like what's happening in her neighborhood. So she has asked the village to adopt a renter's ordinance that in part would require annual inspections of the premises.
    Specifically, she told the village board on Monday April 14 that a single-family home in her subdivision has been turned into a four-unit apartment building. She said she thought that was bad for the community and for her family.
    Police have been called there, she said, and there was an ambulance there last weekend.
    The city of Rockford created a rental registry in 2013, she said. Such a registry has been discussed by the Belvidere City Council, but never went anywhere.
    Johnson said she would like to see accountability for landlords.
    Village Building Official Phil Long said he was looking into Johnson's concerns. But so far, he said, "We have not proven there is more than one family living there. The homeowner said only relatives are living there."
    He said neighbors have reported seeing multiple cars at that address. Yet when he has visited the neighborhood and "the most cars I've seen at that house is four."
    "No way," Johnson interjected.
    "That is correct," Long responded.
    "No way," Johnson insisted. 
    She said some neighbors were willing to come forward and provide information. But out of concern for possible reprisals, she added they didn't want their names to become public.
    "We can't do that," Long said of pursuing anonymous complaints.
    Village Trustee Ron Quimby said other communities are enforcing the kinds of rules Johnson was looking for. "We need to find out how they do this," he said.
    Village President John Neitzel suggested the issue be taken up by the administration committee, of which Quimby is chairman.
    But Long said that issue was brought to the administration committee one year ago. He said at that time he had not been able to prove more than one family was living in the house. "That's still the case," he said.
    Pacemaker plans to open restaurant POPLAR GROVE - Pacemaker Fine Foods is planning to open a restaurant in its store at the Countryside Mall.
    The village board voted 6-0 April 14 to approve an A/C liquor license so alcohol may be sold in both the store and in the restaurant.
    Co-owner Tony Dal Pra said the next step would be to design the restaurant space, which will replace Cuppa Joe's. "Then we will meet with the village to be sure the design meets with their approval," he said.
    The restaurant will be in an enclosed area, separate from the grocery store yet accessible from that part of the building. A relaxed atmosphere is envisioned; the cuisine and name have yet to be decided.
    "The village has been supportive," Dal Pra said. "They recognize the store as an important part of the growth of the community."
    Ninety-five percent of the store's employees are from Poplar Grove and immediate vicinity.
    While the Belvidere store is being remodeled, he said there are no current plans to operate a restaurant from that location.

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    A memory from the 1967 Belvidere tornado
    April 20, 2014
     By Pam Mason Skelnick
    Guest contributor
    I was 13, a freshman, and I was leaving the school to walk home with my best friend Marsha Schimenz and we had just reached the top of the horseshoe in the front of the building when Bob Popp yelled "It's a tornado, a tornado is coming".
    Marsha and I looked up and this enormous funnel cloud that filled the sky must have been over the Chrysler plant and we turned to run back to the school and the wind started to blow real hard. Marsha and I got to front door and ran into the foyer holding hands and by the time we got to the locker bays the wind was so fierce it blew our hands apart and we both went our separate ways to try and get to the sunken library.
    We both made it but by then the tornado had swept through and was dying down. We were told the stay in the library and wait for someone to come and get us, a family member. We were dumb founded but stayed there and watched as the 'jocks' and others helped carry people to safely and to the gym which doubled as the morgue.
    One by one our friends were picked up by their moms, dads, aunts, uncles. Marsha's dad and uncle came to pick her up and said they went by my parents’ house on the way to the school and it was fine. They were sparing my emotions because the house was destroyed. We lived about a block east of Highland Hospital.
    I waited and waited for my name to be called and it was late when I heard someone call my name. I looked up and saw my dad. When he saw me he sank to his knees in the library and I went running to him and we hung on to each other for dear life, tears streaming down our faces. He had run from Logan Avenue up to the school and said he saw a sparking electric cable in a puddle of water right below his foot as the lunged to take another step and in mid-step he thought he was a goner. He stepped right on the wire and kept on going. God worked in strange ways that day.
    I was uninjured but as we left the building together we saw my brother’s future wife, Sandy Cameron sitting in the well of one of the classrooms bleeding and in shock. We asked her if she was ok and she said yes and we should go on. Dad and I left the school and at my first vision of the devastation.
    I get weak-kneed and dad held me up. I think it wasn't so much the shock of the wreckage but the realization that this horrible monster had swept through and I was spared from any injury.
    It was a time of courage for all of us and I will never forget it.

  • tornado photo 1.jpg
    Still finding solace after the storm
    April 20, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - On April 21, 1967, Mother Nature rained her fury down on Belvidere.
    An F4 tornado – a storm with a violent rating on the Fujita scale – spun down in late afternoon, cutting a 10-mile swath of destruction through a number of commercial, manufacturing, residential and school areas.
    Twenty-four people were killed in Belvidere, including 17 children. Thirteen of these children were killed at Belvidere High School. The tornado caused one of the highest tornado-related death tolls in a single school building. Hundreds of people also were injured and many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
    Tornadoes of such epic proportions have not been uncommon in recent years.
    The Nov. 17, 2013 tornado, which severely impacted Washington, Illinois, was the deadliest and most violent tornado outbreak on record for the month of November.
    Proactive measures have been put in place throughout Belvidere to help ensure people are well-prepared for future natural disasters.
    “We remind ourselves that it did happen and it can happen here,” Todd Martens, principal of Belvidere High School, said. “Caledonia was hit by a tornado in the last recent 10 years. And it reminded us how each day is not to be taken for granted. Not to live in fear, but to be prepared as best we can. Our students take it seriously,” he continued. “In my tenure as principal, we have had a couple of incidents where we shelter, and things like that. It is something you have to be prepared for every minute of every day and hopefully it never happens. But if it does, we can persevere through it and come out the other end with minimal loss.”
    Patrick Murphy, supervisor of Belvidere Township, also attested to the fact Belvidere has been diligent in its safety measures.
    “I'm proud to say that Belvidere is covered completely,” he said.
    Tornado sirens have been installed throughout the city and emergency-awareness teams meet regularly to ensure that the community is well-prepared for potentially catastrophic events.
    “Going through these things teach us that we are vulnerable,” Murphy said. “Regardless of how sophisticated we may feel we are, how wealthy, et cetera. It can all change in a heartbeat. In literally seconds your life can be turned around. Money doesn't matter. The fact that Mother nature can change things is so humbling.”
    Michael Houselog, School District 100 superintendent, added that schools throughout the area are also well-prepared in case of future tornadoes or other disastrous events.
    As the anniversary of the 1967 tornado approaches, many of Belvidere's residents may recall with great clarity the day when one of the worst tornadoes in the state's history wreaked havoc on their lives.
    And yet, as the story often goes when the storms of life let loose, there are valuable lessons to be learned after the wreckage is swept away.
    Wisconsin resident Sandy Pease, a survivor of the 1967 tornado, is one person who has taken something valuable away from the experience. Tragically, she lost her brother in the tornado, but said that over the years the incident has helped her look at life differently.
    Pease was a senior at Belvidere High School in 1967. She was on a bus in the school parking lot when the tornado passed through.
    “The bus flew up in the air. I thought I was going to die,” she said.
    Eventually the students were able to evacuate the bus and they were ordered to line up in the gym.
    At that point, Pease said she had no idea of the extent of damage the tornado had caused. She did see several students covered in blood, gravel and mud. She tried looking for her brother, Theodore Nelson, who was a sophomore. She walked away with surface cuts, but as she learned later that evening, her brother had been killed.
    Pease said she struggled with the incident for several years. In 1967, schools didn't have counseling sessions or memorials for the dead like they do now, she said.
    “In a week we went back to school, like nothing had happened,” she said. “It impacts you for a long time.”
    Pease said she is happy there are now counselors in place for children who survive such disastrous events and she reiterated the fact that the experience made her think much more about the important things in life.
    “It can change in an instant,” she said. “Appreciate what is there when you have it. And I'm grateful to have such a strong faith – I knew my brother was in a better place.
    “You need to take time to grieve and process these things, but they do make you stronger and give you a more positive outlook on life,” she continued. “They teach you not to be wrapped up in the small irritations.”
    For more information about the tornado of 1967, visit the Boone County Historical Museum.
    An online memorial and photos can be found on Facebook on the page Remembering the 1967 Belvidere Tornado. 

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    Shambo prepares to begin Eagle Scout project
    April 17, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    GARDEN PRAIRIE – When Jesse Shambo decided to work on his Eagle Scout project, the Garden Prairie native did not have to look very far for inspiration. Shambo chose the neighboring park.
    “My Eagle project is to install a safety surface at the park,” Shambo explained of the second phase of his Eagle Scout project. The safety surface will consist of eight inches of state-approved playground mulch.
    “It is my community. Boy Scouts are supposed to help their community,” Shambo said of the reason why he chose the project.
    “It’s history,” he added. The Garden Prairie park was once the site of a one or two room school house that closed 60 years ago. The park also was the site of the town’s library and host of a Triple A league softball team. The Garden Prairie Improvement Association is in its 60th year of maintaining the park.
    The member of Boy Scout Troop 141 is in the initial stages of fundraising. At the recent Easter Egg Hunt at the Garden Prairie Park, Susie Silberhorn introduced Shambo to the crowd and encouraged residents to donate to Shambo’s project. “Right now I am trying to get donations from the church. We are throwing around ideas for fundraisers,” Shambo stated.
    In 2013, he installed a flag pole that was donated for the memory of Doug Silberhorn. Shambo and his fellow Boy Scouts held the flag raising dedication ceremony at the GPIA August chicken broast fundraiser at the Garden Prairie park on Aug. 25, 2013.
    Much of the work to dig the foundation for the playground mulch will be done by fellow Boy Scouts. Typically, Boy Scouts perform their community service hours by assisting in others’ Eagle Scout projects. The Eagle Scout candidate serves as a project manager to raise funds and manage supplies and resources. “I learned that organization is really a big part of it keeping track of all the paperwork.”
    Shambo said. “When you are in a Boy Scout troop, you always get a lot of help with your project.”Shambo is a junior at Belvidere High School and a graduate of the recently closed Kishwaukee Elementary School. He is on the Bucs’ football and track teams.
    Shambo estimates that the project will cost $2,000. To donate to Shambo’s project, checks can be made payable to the Garden Prairie Improvement Association. For additional details, contact GPIA treasurer Julie Pilgrim at at (815) 543-5714 or via e-mail at

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    New babies herald another new year at Summerfield Zoo
    April 17, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Spring usually means a raft of new babies as the folks at Summerfield Zoo and Farm get ready for another new year.
    The first-ever baby reindeer, born on April 8, commanded a lot of attention around the 3088 Flora Ave. complex as owners Rick and Tammy Anderson prepared to reopen April 26-27.
    Born to Angel and Donner (remember, some of them are Santa's reindeer) the youngster, already getting around on its own, had not been named as of April 10.
    A baby wallabee was seen peeking out from the security of its mother's pouch. There are new goats and bunnies, with more reindeer on the way and baby arctic wolves expected to be born in May.
    Rick Anderson used one word to describe the recently concluded winter: "Tough." Some days, he said, all they did was move snow around. It was piled over six-foot-tall fences on the property. Bitterly cold kept some of the animals from leaving the confines of their indoor accommidations.
    On the other hand he said, "The reindeer, arctic wolves and arctic foxes loved it."
    "We're running behind because of the winter; we have a lot of spring cleaning yet to do," he said. "We're hoping to have a new porcupine habitat open before the end of the month. And we're rehabbing the coatimundi enclosure, plus an addition to the wolf compound."
    Wolf habitat a goal
    But the Andersons' dream continues to be a two-to-three-acre wolf habitat complete with ponds, rocks and trees. "It's getting there," Rick Anderson said of the major project.
    Summerfield Zoo opened to the public about eight years ago though the animals, both the exotics and farmland varieties, were on the property before that.
    A place with everything from an alligator to a zebra, the zoo is a rescue mission of sorts, being home to surplus animals from larger zoos.
    The farm portion is home to the Arabian stallion Georgio AF, many of his successful babies and brookmares.
    A board of directors oversees the operation and, among other things, has a say in what kinds of events are held every year.
    The Wild West Weekend is a well attended event, usually held in June and providing a glimpse of life in another time. The gathering has included a mountain man of the 1830s, complete with a tee-pee.
    Winter Wonderland, starring the reindeer, is another popular gathering.
    After the reopening the zoo will be open weekends from April 27 through September. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
    Starting May 28, and continuing until Aug. 29, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
    Daily admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $5 for kids. Season passes also are available.
    Animal encounters are at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Saturdays; noon and 2 p.m. Sundays; and at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
    Additional activities include pony rides, bottles for feeding baby goats and a petting zoo. Prancer's Gift Shop and Carmen's Cafe also are on the grounds.
    The Pearl Street bridge over Interstate 90 is closed. An alternate route is taking Appleton Road (it changes to Stone Quarry Road at the Chrysler plant) south about three miles from the plant to Bates Road, left on Bates to Flora Road and then another left for a short distance to the zoo, which is on the left. Phone number is (815) 547-4852.

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    Fire District 3 serves breakfast, unveils new ambulance
    April 16, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - The North Boone Fire District 3 station was a busy place Sunday morning and into the early afternoon.
    The firefighters association put on its annual fund-raising pancake breakfast while in the adjacent parking gagage, the district's new ambulance was waiting for inspection by the public.
    An investment of more than $200,000, this advanced life support rig has state-of-the-art equipment needed to help stabilize a person from the scene of an emergency to the hospital.
    Equipping the inside of the ambulance alone cost more than $60,000.
    It's going to be a while before the ambulance is on the road.
    Some finishing touches need to be applied and the district has to get the necessary licensing from OSF St. Anthony Hospital. The ambulance will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a yet-to-be-secured staff of paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
    Personnel for the all-volunteer operation will be on call.
    Concerning the possibility of later having staff on-site Ray Morse, president of the District 3 Board of Trustees, said, "If it's necessary, it will happen."
    Once the ambulance is ready the Boone County 911 Dispatch Center in Belvidere will be notified. "We will be put on the tree for calls," he said. "We will respond when needed."
    District 3's role, he said, will continue to be backup, as needed.
    Jake Schoepski, district board member and treasurer, said the service would not include transfers. "That would tie up the personnel too long," he said.
    Community service
    Tickets for the breakfast were conveniently sold at a table adjacent to where the ambulance was parked. "There has been a lot of interest in it," Morse said.
    The firemen's association will use the proceeds for scholarships, which are awarded annually to seniors at North Boone and Belvidere North high schools. Money also goes for equipment and recently was used on a security system for the station.
    The addition of the Fire District 3 ambulance will bring to four the number of rigs serving 144 square miles in northern Boone County. The villages of Capron, Caledonia, Poplar Grove and Timberlane are part of the district, as is unincorporated Candlewick Lake.Three other ambulances are part of Capron Rescue Squad (CRS), which has been serving the area since 1957. Property owners in the ambulance district are taxed to help meet the cost of providing that service.
    The addition of the Fire District 3 ambulance will not bring any increase in taxes, officials have said.
    CRS currently has ambulances stationed in downtown Capron and on the west side of Poplar Grove Road, just south of Quail Trap Road. A third station is proposed to be built off Caledonia Road, on the south side of Candlewick Lake.
    The CRS board voted last year to change the name from Capron Rescue Squad to North Boone EMS. North Boone Fire District 3 asked them to come up with a different name, to avoid confusion in the community.
    Owen Costanza, president of the CRS Board of Trustees, said April 12 that the name change is on hold. That will continue "as long as they (District 3) do what they said they will do, and that is to serve as a back-up."

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    Jack Wolf celebrates 50 years in business
    April 15, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Jack Wolf was surprised with a recent reception to honor his 50 years in business as a General Motors dealer. Established in 1963, Jack Wolf Pontiac-Cadillac-GMC opened its doors on State Street in downtown Belvidere. The 12-acre Jack Wolf Auto Group dealerships sell Cadillac, GMC, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.
    "It's a wonderful thing to be recognized, but I certainly could not do it alone. It has taken a wonderful family and tremendous people working with us to accomplish all we have. I'm very thankful for everyone's hard work and commitment to our customers," Wolf said.
    “Obviously 50 years to be in business is remarkable,” Ron Meier, zone manager for Cadillac and GMC Chicago Rockford Milwaukee Madison, said. “It is rare for a family business to be in existence for that long in one location.”
    “When I got in business there were eight franchises in Belvidere,” Wolf said. “Throughout the years, the franchise dealers supplied almost 60% of the sales tax in Boone County.”
    Wolf was brought up in the automobile industry as his father CJ “Doc” Wolf started the Chevrolet dealership in 1924.
    “I started my first dealership in Genoa and sold that, and I came down here,” Wolf said. “I worked for my dad for all these years and then this dealership became available and I decided I wanted to branch off from old Chevrolet. We’ve been very competitive all these years.”
    Wolf’s first dealership had an inventory of three cars and he had three employees. The size of Jack Wolf Auto Group has grown significantly in the intervening years. “When I look at all of these people I think there are a lot of them,” Wolf added.
    Born and raised in Belvidere, Wolf is committed to the Belvidere community. “When we were in high school, they said we couldn’t be prouder than to be from Belvidere,” Wolf said. “And it stayed with us all our lives. Nice community. We do our best to advance it.”
    “I am very proud of Belvidere.”
    When asked what was his best day in business, Wolf did not cite the expansion of the Jeep dealership on their campus, nor being in business with his brother Bill, nor the day his daughter Amy Wilcox joined Jack Wolf Auto Group over 20 years ago.
    Instead he focused on the Belvidere community. “I suppose my best day was the day we opened the YMCA. Bob Funderburg and myself were on a committee and we raised that building,” he said proudly. “It was paid for.”
    Wolf and his wife Peggy have been strong supporters of the Keenage Center and the Boone County Historical Society. “Jack Wolf, has been, and continues to be a strong supporter of the Boone County Council on Aging. Since the very beginning, in the early ‘70s, both Jack and Peggy Wolf have been a cornerstone in the Council on Aging and the Keenage Center. They had the vision to see the community need and to support it,” Joe Fortmann, executive director at the Boone County Council on Aging said. “Jack has given a substantial gift. We are grateful!”
    Last year the Keenage Center drew more than 31,000 visitors.
    “His involvement means the world to the museum,” Mary Hale, director at the Boone County Museum added.
    A contributor to the Boone County Museum with his time and donations, Wolf recently contributed one of its most important items to its collection. Wolf visited the museum to participate in the Memory Project. Long-time residents of the community share their recollections and histories on video.
    Wolf has been married to his wife Peggy for 53 years. “We got married in 61 and have four kids,” Wolf said. “We have seven or eight grandchildren. I lose count.”
    “We like to be part of the community,” Wolf said. “It means a lot to us. We are glad to be here.”

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    April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
    April 15, 2014
     BELVIDERE - Join Boone County CASA’s commitment to helping victims of child abuse and neglect heal, and making sure all children feel safe and loved.
    “We are very much in need of volunteer advocates. In 2013, we served 86 children including 22 new cases throughout the year,” Boone County CASA executive director Charlotte Meier said. “We have already received 18 new child cases in 2014, which is well above the average from last year.”
    Anytime a child is abused or neglected, it’s a tragedy – one that all too often scars victims for a lifetime. The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are sobering:
    Child Protective Services agencies across the United States received some 3.4 million referrals of abuse or neglect involving 6.3 million children in 2012.
    An estimated 1,640 children died from child abuse or neglect in 2012, nearly three-quarters of them younger than age 3.
    “Research shows that abused children are more apt to grow up to abuse their own kids,” Meier said. “Research also shows that children with CASA volunteers get more help in the juvenile court system and more necessary services are ordered for the children.”
    “Many of the children that we serve have lived in various foster homes, transferred schools or daycares, and moved to different neighborhoods and even different cities. Our advocates are often times the only consistent person in these children’s lives,” Meier said. “Our CASA volunteers can be a strong, safe presence in their lives while these changes are happening. The CASA then represents the children in the court system so their voice is not lost. “
    “CASA’s volunteer representation is aimed at providing each child with a safe, permanent, nurturing environment.”
    During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we invite our community to learn more about the work we do and consider becoming a CASA volunteer. Information is available on our website ( or by calling the CASA office at (815) 547-6599.
    “We understand that the idea of advocating for abused and neglected children can seem a bit daunting but the CASA staff is readily available to help out. Many of our advocates work full time, go to school, or have their own family responsibilities but still find the time to be CASA advocates,” Meier said. “With the help of a CASA volunteer, they are more likely to find a safe, permanent home.”
    Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be an advocate by taking steps to make our community safer for our children:Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, such as a lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression or poor hygiene.
    Be aware of warning signs in parents, such as showing indifference or rarely touching or looking at their child, constant verbal criticism, demands for perfection, blaming the child for family problems or other irrational behaviors.
    If you think a child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate. Call 911.
    If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, report your suspicions confidentially to our state’s toll-free child abuse hotline at 800-25-ABUSE.
    Working together, we can end abuse and neglect so that every child has a chance to thrive.
    “We truly appreciate the time and effort that our advocates put in to represent the children’s best interest in the juvenile court system,” Meier added.

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    Committee divided on architect for animal services building
    April 13, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Health and Human Services Committee is recommending that Knapp Schmidt Architects be hired for the design and construction of a new 3,000-square-foot animal control services building.
    But it is a 3-2 vote, taken Wednesday April 9, which will go to the full county board at its April 16 meeting.
    Committee Chairman Paul Larson and members Bill Pysson and Marion Thornberry supported Knapp Schmidt, headquartered near Portage, Wis., north of Madison. Opposition came from members Kenny Freeman and Ron Wait, who liked Saavedra Gehlhausen Architects, based in Rockford.
    Support for Gehlhausen was tenuous, however. Wait said he didn't want the contract to go to an out-of-state company, while Freeman said he liked both companies.
    And there was a big concern about Knapp Schmidt because of the three-hour plus distance between Boone County and its base of operation.
    Beyond that, Freeman cautioned, "You bring in Knapp and he doesn't deal with the local trades, there will be problems."
    The committee recommended authorizing County Administrator Ken Terrinoni to negotiate a contract with Knapp Schmidt, should it be hired by the full board at the April 16 meeting. If no agreement is reached he was given the green light to begin discussions with Gehlhausen.
    There were four architectural firms in the running when the committee meeting began. But members quickly dismissed the Jenkins and Hagney companies for various reasons.
    Polling the committee
    After discussing the two remaining candidates Chairman Larson polled the committee to see where everyone stood. When it became clear that a 2-2 deadlock existed, Pysson called on Larson to declare his position.
    But Larson initially replied, "I won't force the issue. We are split."
    He said what he was hearing from the rest of the committee was that Knapp Schmidt was good at design with Gehlhausen good with construction. It was suggested that project responsibilities be split between the two firms, but it was quickly agreed that would not work.
    Still, Terrinoni said, "I don't know why you couldn't talk with both of them. Ask them to resubmit projects that are similar in nature."
    Freeman asked if the issue could just be moved on to the full county board. That could be done, Terrinoni answered, but he predicted the board "will be equally divided."
    Ultimately, the committee agreed with Larson's suggestion that it recommend Knapp Schmidt as its No. 1 choice, with the caveat that there were some concerns. Pysson authored a motion to that effect and it passed, 3-2, with Larson breaking the tie.The health and human services committee is one of seven standing committees of the county board. It consists of five of the 12 county board members.
    Members have agreed animal control staff and the animals themselves need to abandon the current building off Appleton Road, because of numerous structural deficiencies.
    The new building likely will be constructed on the east side of Illinois 76, just south of Spring Creek Road, where the county highway department currently is located.

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    Gustafson honored by Belvidere community’s philanthropy response
    April 10, 2014
     By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – DECA chapter president Hayley Gustafson presented Robin Fern from with a check for $15,300 on April 2. The money was raised from the Belvidere community through the recent Water Project.
    “The Water Project was a major success. There was a real sense of community throughout the day,” Gustafson said. “The Water Project brought out the best in us. Belvidere schools, organizations, businesses, and political leaders all came together for a common cause.”
    When Gustafson first embarked on the Water Project with the support of Belvidere McDonalds owner Maureen Koteles, Gustafson set three goals for herself. They were to increase awareness of the water crisis in developing countries; bring the Belvidere community together for a major event; and raise $10,000. With students at every school in the district participating in the Water Project, thousands of people attending the activities at the Boone County Community Building or Second City show, newspaper and television coverage of the cause spreading awareness throughout the entire Stateline area, and raising 50 percent more than her goal, Gustafson not only met her goal, she shattered her goal.
    “I am so greatly honored to be here to see what this young lady has accomplished on behalf of,” Robin Fern from stated. “She understands the need of water and how people are struggling and kids are not going to school and mothers do not have the ability to work because they are getting water. She is going to be able to touch so many lives and I am touched what Hayley has done on behalf of our organization.”
    Over the summer of 2013, Gustafson met with School District #100 superintendent Michael Houselog who encouraged her to “think big. Really big. We decided to give every school in the district an opportunity to participate,” Gustafson stated. “My excitement grew as I realized our potential and I had the full support of our school superintendent.”
    “She had a great idea. It was an awesome idea. She told me what she was thinking about doing,” Houselog stated. Having worked with Gustafson on previous projects and knowing the capabilities of DECA, “I challenged her to think big. I thought that this was a bigger project than she had envisioned. I actually had forgotten that until she mentioned it today.”
    With the marching orders to think big, Gustafson sent letters to all school administrators, art and music teachers, spoke before the Belvidere city council, met with the Boone County board, brainstormed with theater director Dan Holmes, and negotiated contracts with Second City and the Boone County Community Building. Gustafson’s enthusiasm was bolstered when elementary art teacher Katherine Urban stepped up to lead all the elementary schools in an art project on African animals and students from Seth Whitman Elementary School raised several hundred dollars through a penny drive.
    Belvidere high school principal Todd Martens took Gustafson under his protective wing to make sure that she was not overwhelmed by the project. “She is so independent and she is such a take-charge kind of a person that she needs that support to make sure she takes time for herself,” Martens stated. “Take a breath once in a while. So that was my role. Are you ok? What do you need?”
    Martens was encouraged by the success of the Water Project and Gustafson’s legacy to future projects in the community. “It opens up other doors for other kids to follow in her footsteps,” Marten said. “Nice thing about Hayley’s leadership is that it can just spread so other kids can step up to the plate to go along with it. As she graduates this year, other kids will see what Hayley did, what she accomplished.”
    “I can’t wait to see what comes from that. It incites that fire and ignites those things and gets kids involved in school and the community.”“She brings tears to my eyes,” Houselog added. “There will be great things from her.”
    “I am extremely extremely proud of what an 18 year old student could do. It is nothing short of amazing,” praised her mom Julie Gustafson.
    “This is an example of a community working together and what can happen when you listen,” Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain stated.
    While Hayley Gustafson received accolades for her accomplishments, she remained focused on what the Water Project was about. “There are 780 million people who lack access to clean water and 3.4 million people die each year from a water-related illness,” Gustafson reminded the crowd.

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    Students bring international air to April Foods fund-raiser
    April 9, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - A group of foreign exchange students attending Rockford Christian High School spent another Saturday afternoon helping out at the April Foods fund-raiser for the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry.
    Eight of the 14, who hail from China, Vietnam and Brazil, were in a rear room at the North Boone Fire District 3 station on April 5, which was filled with an assortment of games for youngsters.
    But at first they kept themselves busy, sending text messages from their cell phones and tinkering with their iPads.
    The lack of children puzzled Mary McClintock from DMD, the New York City-based company that provides public and private school placements for international students.
    She had been at last year's fund-raiser and remembered raising several hundred dollars through sales of 25-cent activity tickets.
    But her worries didn't last long because as if on cue, a handful of youngsters came through the door moments later. Most of them wanted to go into the bounce house and use up some of their seemingly boundless energy.
    One of the students, Nina, was from Beijing, China, and she was back for her second year of volunteering at the fund-raiser. She said she enjoyed helping out and liked community service in general.The bounce house was her responsibility, which ultimately exposed her to a lot of young children. That was especially nice, she said, because she doesn't have any brothers or sisters. But when asked if the experience made her want a sibling or two, she replied, "I have a little cousin. That's good enough."
    Next door, in a much larger room, a whole host of adults were having a different kind of fun. It included looking over tables filled with silent and live auction items, and having a picnic-style lunch of bratwurst and hotdogs.
    Board members help
    Kris Bryan, owner of Wooden-It-Be-Nice restoration business in Belvidere, was back as auctioneer for the live auction.
    Representatives of the food pantry's board of directors, including vice president Diann Helnore and member Skeeter Guthrie, with an assist from husband Mike, were busy during the auction bringing items to the front of the room for bidders to see.
    One of the newer board members, Poplar Grove Village Administrator Mark Lynch, had a special job. He was stationed at the main entrance to the station and responsible for making sure everyone leaving the building had a receipt for the item he or she was carrying.
    Last year, the fund-raiser was shorted hundreds of dollars by people who walked away without paying for what they had bid on.
    Pantry Executive Director Linda Clark was always on the move during Saturday's event, seeing to the myriad of details that accompany putting on a fund-raiser of this size.Despite the theft, last year's event brought in $15,000 and she said she was shooting for $20,000 this year.
    The pantry is under a deadline to show progress by this spring in creating a parking lot for its patrons. That would keep them from parking on village of Capron streets, primarily during Tuesday's food distribution.
    If that doesn't happen, Clark said Boone County sheriff's deputies may be called upon to begin ticketing patrons of the pantry.

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    Ness marches across America for poverty
    April 8, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE- Although a journey of a thousand miles begins with thousand miles begins with a single stop, the first rest stop is Belvidere. Or so it the case for Lou Ness as she embarked on April 2 on an 800 mile march from Rockford to Washington, DC. Ness’ Hear our cry march for America’s poor brought her to St. John’s United Church of Christ in Belvidere where she met with Mayor Mike Chamberlain and Rev. Muriel Morley Jahn. Chamberlain presented Ness with a lapel pin for the city in honor of her mission.
    Chamberlain, Ness and Morley Jahn engaged in a conversation of serving the needs of the poor in the community, and bringing the community together.
    “We need to give people a hand up. We need a progressive ladder of success for people,” Chamberlain said. “If you qualify we will make sure you get job training. Once you have job training we will make sure we have an opportunity for you.”
    Ness spoke of identifying local solutions to poverty and stressed that the needs of Boone County are different than Winnebago County or even McHenry County. To help address poverty, it requires coordination between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. “I believe there is a partnership between public money, private money and not for profits,” Ness said “I feel like as social service providers we have a responsibility to bring those (federal dollars) back to the community.”
    Ness and Chamberlain agreed that among the best ways to assist the poor involves engaging them in the process and helping them feel valued and important. Shelter Care Ministries where Ness is the executive director offers a program called Careers ETC that helps long-term unemployed individuals build job skills. As part of the four week training program, participants receive training and are told that they have potential and are important. “What we give them is hope. They say things to me like ‘we are people. We are capable,’” Ness said. “To give someone hope is powerful.”
    “Empowering people is the answer to everything,” Chamberlain agreed.
    “One of the programs that interested me greatly are people who come out of incarceration and try to fit back in. You have to help them stop that merry-go-round somehow. When you talk to those people who have addiction problems that result in incarceration, you find out that the programs that were supposed to help them do not really help them because people talk at them and not to them, and do not engage them in profitable and meaningful behavior,” Chamberlain agreed. “It is a merry-go-round and that is where we fail.”
    The trio spoke of working with the local government and religious community to help address the issues of poverty. “The seed I want to leave with people is to talk to their civic leaders and find out what their heart engaged. Do they have a very intentional document about how they will care for those who cannot care for themselves for whatever reason? And are the churches aligned? Find common ground where you can stand together in the spirit of Christ,” Ness stated. “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless. God has laid that on my heart and so I say it everywhere.”
    Although Belvidere does not have a formalized plan, Chamberlain has begun an initiative to work with the religious community to identify citizens who need help maintaining their property, clearing the snow, etc., and pairing them with teens completing community service requirements or other volunteers.
    “There are issues with organizations not working together as productively as we could,” Morley Jahn agreed.As Morley Jahn and Chamberlain began to exchange information to discuss ways that the City of Belvidere could work more closely together, Ness beamed with pride. “This is exactly the kinds of conversation that I hoped my march would inspire!”
    To follow Ness’ journey, read her daily Facebook blog under Shelter Care Ministries Rockford.

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    Construction project set to begin at St. James
    April 6, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Bishop Thomas Doran was a seminary student in the late 1950s, he was told by Bishop Loras Lane that Belvidere needed a new church. The need was unmet for over 50 years until Father Brian Geary arrived at St. James Catholic Church in July 2008 and Doran gave the go ahead for the project to begin in earnest. “There has been a great need for it for all these decades,” Geary said.
    The original plan was to tear down the church and rectory and build a larger church in its footprint. Following the retirement of Doran, Bishop David Malloy changed the scope of the project to add on to the existing church instead of tearing down and replacing the existing church.St.
    James conducted a capital campaign to solicit pledges from its parishioners. Among the churchgoers, they have a 90 percent participation rate in the capital campaign. “It is very encouraging that we have that level of support,” Geary said.
    Geary was encouraged and touched by the participation of the Catholic youth. “In the middle of our first campaign, three years ago there was a server. I think he was about 8th grade age and he said sheepishly he wanted to tell me something before Mass. For a kid it is hard to get up the nerve to ask the priest to ask a question or talk to him,” Geary said. “And he told me ‘Father I got $50 for my birthday party over the weekend and I want to give it all to the church.’ ”
    “Children can be so generous and they are not as worried as adults about how am I going to make it.”
    “There are people who live in very, very modest homes here in Belvidere and they have given very sacrificially and generously,” Geary added. “It tells there are people here who you wouldn’t think have the means or generosity and that this campaign and brought out this hidden virtue”“I am grateful for that. “
    Since Jan. 5, parishioners have volunteered their time and efforts to help prepare St. James for the construction project. In addition to demolition work, the pews, organ, Stations of the Cross, altar and relics were relocated and the carpeting torn up to the subflooring level. “It is going to save us a significant amount of money,” Geary stated. Due to the construction, Masses are being held in the gym.
    Once the construction is complete, the seating capacity will increase from 320 people to 900 people. “The bishop has determined that if we build on to this church we could serve all of Boone County,” Geary said.
    In addition to Geary, St. James is served by Father John Earl. Earl celebrates many of the Spanish language Masses at St. James. “His Spanish is much better than mine,” Geary added.
    Geary and Earl are joined by retired priest Thomas Bartolomeo and Deacon James Olson.
    The project that was over 50 years in the making will begin construction this week. 

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    What's in a name? Edson popular in Poplar Grove
    April 3, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - There's Edson Street, Edson Road, Edson Circle and Edson Court. While that name appears to be popular in this village, it's not much of a hit with Boone County 911 emergency radio dispatchers.
    Sheriff's Lt. Perry Gay, who supervises the 911 center, brought the concern to associate city-county planner Gina DelRose. He asked that something be done to ease confusion that could slow the response time of emergency vehicles.
    DelRose, in turn, reported the problem to Village Administrator Mark Lynch. And he brought the matter to the administration committee at its March 24 meeting.
    After considerable discussion the committee agreed to leave Edson Circle, a short stub of a street, as is. Members also agreed to recommend consolidating the other three names to one: Edson Road, on both sides of Poplar Grove Road. It will be East Edson Road on one side and West Edson Road on the other.
    Next stop will be the village board for action at its April 14 meeting.
    "We're not going to make everybody happy," said committee member Jeff Goings, presiding in the absence of committee Chairman Ron Quimby. "Let's do what we have to for the post office and 911. It was done wrong in the first place."
    Lynch said DelRose offered to send letters to all affected residents. And the village would have to pay for making changes to the county maps.
    But Village Engineer Chris Dopkins said he thought the village could avoid that expense through issuing an affidavit of correction.
    Legacy Park program
    In other action at the March 24 meeting the committee was advised by Village President John Neitzel that a letter had been sent to the developer of Sherman Oaks subdivision, informing him that he was responsible for maintaining grass in that area. So far there had been no response.
    Information about the village's new Legacy Park program was included in the letter.In a related matter the first batch of letters was about to be sent out to property owners who might be candidates for a Legacy Park donation to the village.
    The idea is to keep open space and not allow too much of it to be lost to development.
    Committee Chairman Ron Quimby said previously that the donation of land to the village "can be part of estate planning, special use as determined by the donor and is also a tax deduction."Part of the concept, he said, is to create a park system in the village "and keep our rural history alive."
    Those interested in the program should call village hall, (815) 765-3201.
    Administrator's hiring authority questioned BELVIDERE - Boone County Administrator Ken Terrinoni is in the process of hiring someone to replace Becky Tobin, who recently resigned as assistant county administrator.
    That has prompted District 1 Boone County Board member Bill Pysson to questioni whether the administrator has the authority to hire his (or her) assistant. He claimed that wasn't covered anywhere in the administrator's job description, approved in 1976-77 and reaffirmed in 1997.
    County State's Attorney Michelle Courier said in her opinion Terrinoni has that authority. She cited the following sentence under the administrator's job description from 1976-77: "Recruiting, selecting, placing, transferring, promoting and in training and development of employees."
    She said the word "selecting" also meant "hiring."
    Still, Pysson wanted more specific wording in the policies and procedures of the board.Another District 1 board member, Denny Ellingson, said he thought it was a matter of one person (Pysson) thinking this was a problem.
    But District 3 board member Kenny Freeman didn't think the board should be rubber-stamping who Terrinoni hires.
    "I think we should be providing input," he said.
    "Ken always asks for our input," said Chris Berner, also a District 3 board member.
    "I think we're doing that now."
    Ultimately, the board in a voice vote reaffirmed the administrator's job description of 1976-77. It also was agreed to have the administration and legislative committee, one of seven standing committees of the board, submit proposed wording to make the administrator's hiring authority more specific.
    Terrinoni said in a follow-up interview that he was continuing to interview candidates after his first choice decided he didn't want to move here.

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    Habitat for Humanity may create space for women's shelter
    April 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County chapter of Habitat for Humanity will not be building a house this year. But instead, the organization may remove an existing residence for use as a women's shelter.
    Carol Loveridge, president of the Habitat board of directors, said the board is interested in having that as its 2014 project. She said there would be more discussion of the possibility at its April meeting.
    The prospect of finally having a shelter for at-risk women brought a level of excitement to the March 21 meeting of the Boone County Homeless Project task force.
    "There is no safe place for women in Boone County," said Danice Loveridge, sister-in-law of Carol and chairperson of the task force. "So often they have to go to Rockford when they're fleeing an abusive situation."
    "We have a big gap in our community," Danice Loveridge added. "Habitat for Humanity has no money to build a house this year. Now they may rehab a house to serve as a shelter for women. I think we finally have a direction."
    She added the hope is that the housing would be somewhere in Belvidere, because "transportation is an issue for a lot of people."
    "There was a house for battered women years ago, but it went by the wayside," recalled John Fish, a Belvidere police officer and task force member.
    "I think they lost their funding," Danice Loveridge said.
    Housing in general has been a longstanding concern of the task force. There is plenty of need but an inadequate number of available places to live. Waiting lists are common; quite often applications aren't being accepted.
    The county chapter of Habitat for Humanity was formed in 2005. Since then it has built six three bedroom, one-bath homes in Belvidere. The most recent residence was for Lisa Waters and her three children at 735 Chicago St. It is near house No. 5, on Main Street near Fairgrounds Road.
    But those houses now cost in the area of $90,000 and after the main sponsor, Thrivent, decided to focus more on Rockford, getting that amount of money has been difficult.
    Officers needed
    Also at the March 21 task force meeting Loveridge reminded members of the need for new officers to serve at that level, and on the overseeing board of directors. Darren Ahlgren originally offered to serve as chairman of both the board and task force, but a job change forced him to take a different direction.
    In addition, she reported that a third church was in the planning stages of offering a monthly community meal. The Apostolic and Christian Church on Town Hall Road hopes to offer its first meal later this month or in May.
    "They have a van so they will pick up people," she said. "They're a little bit out in the country."
    Transportation continues to be a problem for some people and Loveridge said she still receives phone calls from those who have no way to get to Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, the first one to start offering meals every month.
    Poplar Grove UMC continues to provide meals every Wednesday, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with St. John's United Church of Christ on Main Street in Belvidere having a meal the third Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Between the two they are serving about 55 people per meal.

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    Flaming Monkeys prepare for regional tourney in Chicago
    April 1, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BOONE COUNTY - The Flaming Monkeys 4-H robotics club is in the final stages of preparing for the annual regional tournament, to be held April 3-5 in Chicago.
    Admission is free to the event, which will be at the University of Illiniois-Chicago Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave. Competition will start at 8:30 a.m. each day and is open to the public, free of charge. But it costs $10 to park.
    Qualifying teams will advance to national competition.
    The Monkeys recently held an open house on the second level of the Belvidere Township building, in space made available for them to build their robots and hold strategy meetings.
    Some 150 people turned out that Saturday afternoon so see this year's competition robot. In addition, the newest robotics team, Atomic Chimps for boys and girls 9-13 years of age, was on hand with some of its Lego creations.
    Adult advisor Dee Sternhagen reported a number of potential members signed up as did another adult mentor.
    The Monkeys have challenged themselves to improve on their recent showing at a regional tournament in downstate Pekin. The Chicago event will be their second and final opportunity to qualify for nationals.
    This will be the last competition for Belvidere High School senior Anthony Cruz. He joined the club two years ago after members of the organization came to BHS, with their robots, for a presentation.
    "I was interested and after a couple of months decided to join the team," he said. "This will be my third regional."
    Recognizes team
    He said he was impressed by what Pekin had done for the regional and to recognize its robotics team. Some streets have been renamed and some businesses put signs in their windows to welcome competitors. "I will never forget that," he said.
    The team continues to address some of the issues that arose during the Pekin event, in an attempt to qualify for the nationals. Robots have different designs and tasks each year. For the April 3-5 event the Monkeys' bot, as its called, will attempt to throw a large rubber ball into a space that's 10 feet wide and three feet high.
    The Monkeys' creation will compete with three other robots and that's where part of the problem arose at Pekin. "They were more aggressive," Anthony explained. "The lesson we learned is to be ready for that - and everything else, too. There will be surprises but we need to be ready for them."
    Overall, he said the time spent with the team designing, building, operating and marketing robots has been "one of the most fun experiences I've had in my life.
    "He's the team treasurer and said that involvement is helping him with the future, when he wants to become an accountant.
    And of the Chicago regional, he said, "All I hope is that we do the best we can."
    The Atomic Chimps showed some of the Lego robots they have built as they prepare for their own regional, to be held in May at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
    "We will be working on programming, on attachments to complete the missions," said adult adviser Mary Ann Hoegberg. Their creations are "very similar to the Flaming Monkeys, only on a smaller scale," she said.

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    Boone County shows it has heart in addition to talent
    March 30, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – If there were any question whether or not Boone County has talent, the answer is a resounding yes. The Boone County’s Got Talent show on March 21 at the Boone County Community Building showed the wide variety and depth of the county’s talent.
    The show was organized by the Belvidere Noon Rotary Club and was directed by Dan Holmes. Channel 23 News’ Mike Garrigan was the Master of Ceremonies for the show that raised funds for Boone County Homeless Project and New Horizons Day Program.
    The show featured 25 performers and was split into two acts. Emily Dahl led off the night with a song. She was followed by 13 year old Jackie Bozek who danced a ballet to Martina McBride’s In My Mother’s Eyes. Bozek, who studies with Lewis Dance Progressions in Argyle, danced in honor of her mother whose birthday coincided with the talent show.
    “I felt really good about it,” Bozek said. “Normally in competitions I am so nervous. With this I told myself I could have fun. I love dance completely. It is my whole life.”
    “The show can be renamed the Konieczki’s got talent,” joked Garrigan after a performances by Kayla, Riley and Chloe Konieczki. Chloe sang a pitch perfect and soulful rendition of Castle on a Cloud from Les Miserables. She was followed by Maria Elaine Larson who read from Act II of Les Miserable and sang On My Own. Larson evoked the emotion of the song in her performance.
    “Awesome, it brought tears to my eyes,” a woman told Larson in the lobby during intermission.
    “When I saw the audience, it was just like me talking to them. I just wanted to relay how I feel about it. I want them to know how this story amazed me,” Larson said. “I wanted them to be amazed and be into the story. The story conquers the heart.”
    Larson is a native of the Philippines and has been in the United States for three years. She lives in Belvidere with her husband Michael. Although she has never had professional voice training, she learned how to sing from her dad Erwin Macuha. “Even though they are not here, he was my inspiration,” Larson said. She was honored that her in-laws came from Elgin to attend the show.
    Glen Miller from NASR Belvidere Park District used a synthesized voice generator to share his love of comedy. He told a series of jokes such as “why do you walk quietly past the medicine cabinet.”“Why,” chimed the audience.“So you don’t wake up the sleeping pills,” he replied. “What happens when you throw a green rock into the Red Sea?”“What?”“It gets wet.”Following a brief intermission, the second act began with Open Bible Church. The group, all dressed in black, used a black light to illuminate their hands that slowed in the darkened theater to illustrate the song that accompanied their performance.
    They were followed by Serenity Brockman who sang Angel by Sarah McLaughlin. Brockman, 12, is a veteran stage performer. She will perform in Rockford’s Starlight Theater’s production of Angel in August.
    Following Brockman’s performance, she was joined on stage by her four year old brother Shance. If there were an award for cuteness, the prize would have gone to Shance and his rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
    Paul Bachelor told a series of groaners including “a horse walks into a bar and the bartender asks ‘why the long face.’” Bachelor also sang Love’s got nothing on you.
    As Bachelor exited the stage, Lorraine Kieffer entered the stage with a mop bucket and a feather duster. She mopped the floor in a performance that evoked memories of Carol Burnett’s washer woman. As Kieffer began to dust Garrigan, he took his cue and exited the stage.
    Kieffer played a medley that began with ragtime music and transitioned to Roll out the barrel. The audience sang along and clapped hands to keep time with the polka. She also played Besame Mucho, What a Wonderful World, and How Great Thou Art.
    The most emotional part of the night was when The New Horizons Grizzlies took the stage and danced to a mash up of Grease lightning, Hokie Pokie, Staying alive, YMCA, Thriller, Can’t touch this, You’ve got a friend in me, Bye-bye-bye, and Call me maybe. The group received a standing ovation from the audience.“
    “That was awesome. I’m glad I stayed,” one of the patrons said as she exited the theater.
    “It was a great show,” Holmes said. “Let’s do it again!”
    “I thought it was absolutely fabulous for such a wonderful, wonderful cause,” Clair Gierat president elect of Rotary Club, added.
    Sherry Majewski, whose 22 year old son Kyle participates in the New Horizons Program at NASR Belvidere Park District was touched by the audience’s response to the group from New Horizons. “They are being included in the community,” Majewski said. “A lot of times people look down on that. (Tonight) they liked seeing the kids go across the stage.”
    “Great job Kyle!” New Horizons participant Matt told Kyle as he left with his pal TJ. “Great job!”
    “Good job,” Kyle said in response.Yes it was.

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    DECA members think globally; act locally
    March 27, 2014
    By Tricia Goeck
    BELVIDERE – When DECA hosts is international career development conference in Atlanta on May 3-6, several Belvidere High School students will be in attendance with 16,000 others from around the globe. Four Belvidere students will participate in an international competition to present the results of their projects throughout the year.
    The Belvidere High School students thought globally and acted locally with their projects. Haley Gustafson advanced to the international competition with the Water Project which raised over $15,000 for Giavonna Kaspar and Veronica Gardner hosted a movie night at Meehan Elementary and raised awareness for scoliosis and raised over $1,000 for Scoliosis Research Society. Liz Gonzalez and Gustafson hosted a chess tournament to raise over $600 for the local DECA chapter. In addition, Gustafson is a finalist with an international scholarship that will be awarded in Atlanta.
    Gustafson brought an entire community together with the Water Project on March 1. The Water Project culminated in a day long festival at the Boone County Community Building with an art exhibit, concerts, book fair, and demonstrations.
    Along the way, Gustafson educated a community on the plight of people in developing countries who have limited access to water.
    “It brings you to a new level in recognizing how lucky you are,” Gustafson said. “You think that some people don’t go to school or have a nice home. Never do you really think that some kids don’t have enough water.”
    “I learned so much. The whole thing was a learning opportunity. Going out and speaking in front of the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce, the superintendent. I worked very closely with Dr. Houselog.”
    “We did the community service project on our media movie night for scoliosis,” Gardner said. Their project was inspired by Kaspar’s recent scoliosis diagnosis in which the sophomore learned that she had such a severe case of scoliosis that required emergency surgery.
    “When we presented our project before the judge, we made a point to say all it takes is 30 seconds to diagnose scoliosis. Because all you do is bend down. You can see if the spine is straight or crooked,” Kaspar said. “People just think it is just a crooked spine. It isn’t just crooked. But it is also twisted.”
    “It not only grows crooked but it twists. And that is the tricky part of scoliosis. And that is what causes a lot of pain because of the muscles in your back,” Kaspar said. Her condition caused pain and a loss of sensation in her arms and legs. “One side is pulled tighter and the other side is loose. It throws off your balance. I mean everything.”
    Previously, there was widespread screening of school children to check for the telltale curvature and twisting of the spine. Without the routine testing, there has been an increase in severe previously undiagnosed cases, similar to Kaspar’s.
    Kaspar was a freshman when she was diagnosed. She wore a purple brace that she on the outside of her clothing that was affixed with three velco straps on which she penned “beauty is imperfection.”
    “I decorated it,” Kaspar added. I had something for them to look at instead of staring at me like ‘what is she wearing.’”
    Kaspar and Gardner worked together to solicit donations for food and raffle prizes for the movie night at Meehan Elementary. Among the donors were Dean Foods and Pizza Hut. They set up posters to announce the event throughout the school, passed out pamphlets, and had display that showed how to test and detect scoliosis.
    Gonzalez advanced to the international competition in the Learn and Earn category. The DECA club was approached by Rockford Scholastic Chess who was in search of a larger facility for its chess tournament. Over 100 students participated in the tournament. Gonzalez and Gustafson solicited the assistance of ten students to help with registration, concessions and clean up. The money raised went into the chapter’s treasury.
    Over the last few months, the students competed in sectional and state competitions. At the competitions, the students presented their projects to a panel of judges and answered follow up questions about what they learned.
    Gustafson credits the Water Project for helping her learn “pretty much anything in regards to business and running an event,” she said. “I wish we would have promoted the Second City Comedy Night a little bit more. We still had a good attendance, but I feel like if we pushed the attendance a little bit more it would have been more successful.”
    “We learned how to work together more as a chapter. We also learned debriefing,” Gonzalez said of what the chapter learned in the Chess tournament project. “We had the project and then we discussed afterwards what went well and what did not go well.”
    “If we were to do this again, we learned what we could do better and to better ourselves as a chapter.”
    “It is wonderful how they take the initiative to identify and then coordinate. They go out and they do what is necessary to make it a success,” DECA advisor Ken Saam said of Gonzalez and Gustafson who worked together on both the Chess tournament project as well as the Water Project. “They have never felt restricted to go to people talk to them talk to them ask for them.”
    Saam praised Gonzalez’ deligation skills. “That is how they had the success that they did. They were not timid at all,” he said.
    The Meehan movie night for scoliosis project was complicated by Kaspar being sidelined due to her emergency surgery. Friends since kindergarten, Gardner picked up tasks that Kaspar could not complete.
    “It was critical for Veronica to pick up when Giavonna wasn’t accessible to do the things. She was really able to execute things that Giavonna couldn’t get to because of being sidelined due to her surgery. So that helped a lot,” DECA advisor Ken Saam said.
    “Especially with a first year DECA member which is what Veronica is. That is a sign of leadership. It was a great experience for her.”
    With their projects, the DECA members touched many lives. “It changes a lot of people. With me being in DECA it affected everyone in DECA,” Kaspar said. You grow closer with everyone because they begin to understand. Not only did we touch our DECA chapter, our family, but we touched others with the Meehan movie night.”
    “It is a project to most people but it means a lot more to me.”
    Saam credited Gustafson for creating a calling to others to get involved. “Her enthusiasm has flowed over to other people to want to do things for a purpose.”

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    Parents stand up for home schooling
    March 26, 2014
     By Rhonda Mix
    Across the country, home schooling is on the rise, and a number of families and organizations throughout Boone and Winnebago Counties are strong proponents of the movement. Statistics across the nation show home schooling continues to expand, and despite the fact that the alternative method of teaching has been outlawed in some countries – such as Germany – the movement is in no danger of slowing down in the U.S. any time soon.
    According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are currently around 2.2 million home-schooled students in the United States. Many parents, like Dan and Becky Reid of Belvidere, decide to home-school their children due to environmental factors or for religious reasons.
    “When we started having children, we knew we wanted to home-school,” Dan Reid said. “It was something we wanted to do so we could raise our children the way we wanted to and teach them the values we wanted them to have.”
    The Reids have five children, ages 10, 11, 14, 16 and 17.
    Becky Reid said another reason she and her husband chose to home-school was related to their Christian background and their desire to teach from a Christian perspective. Though she handles the bulk of the teaching, her husband also is involved.
    “I want to be a support for my wife,” Dan Reid said. “Even though I'm considered the principal and I can't come into the school room very much,” he added, laughing.
    The Reids believe Illinois is one of the best states for home schooling and said there is a good amount of support for families choosing this path.
    Groups such as Classical Conversations – a nationwide home schooling support organization – has offices in Rockford and Roscoe and provides tutoring for students ages 4 through 18 as well as teaching assistance for parents.
    Korey Wysocki, Foundations/Essentials Director at the Rockford branch, said the facility sees a number of families from Capron, Poplar Grove and Rockton. The facility helps home schooling families by linking them up with people in similar situations.
    “In Illinois, Classical Conversations has grown by over twenty percent each year over the past few years,” Wysocki said. “Rockford and the surrounding areas have a tremendous network of home schooling families. [Our goal] is to help support the home-school community in general, and help families find the approach that fits their style and goals for educating their children.”
    Wysocki home-schools her three daughters, ages 4, 5 and 7, and said she is an advocate the movement for several reasons.
    “I believe our traditional education system has divorced the love of learning and discovery from the actual content and subject matter of the education it wishes to impart,” she said. “The traditional system has caused us to rely on assessments – namely test scores – that in turn cause students to focus their attention on 'learning' enough content to produce a passing grade....Our traditional educational setting has now created generations of people who want to be told the correct answer, which has greatly impacted our abilities to think critically, logically and independently.”
    All home schooling parents will probably agree that the task comes with a good number of rewards and also many challenges. Teaching one's children full-time can be fun, but exhausting too.
    “Sometimes it gets frustrating when [the children] don't understand a concept, or they are not interested in the subject,” Becky Reid said.
    Sticking to a schedule and being disciplined also can be an issue, but the Reids said they “go by the book,” and take their children's education seriously. They also believe in providing adequate physical exercise and social opportunities. There are even sports teams available for home-schooled students, and though the Reids said their own children do not participate in such groups, enabling their children to be active members of the community is still crucial for them.
    “They are very involved,” Dan Reid said. “We taught them things like how to treat their neighbors, and how to help other people.”
    The couple is grateful for the opportunity to home-school and stand by their conviction that it is a wonderful alternative to the public school system.
    “I always tell Becky, 'You have taught our children to do all these things.' It's so satisfying,” Dan Reid said.
    “In America, at this time, home schooling is especially on the rise, with all the school shootings, et cetera,” said Becky Reid.
    “When we first started, there was an attitude about it, like how were our children going to adapt? But our kids constantly get comments on how well they are doing and how well they treat others,” Dan Reid said.
    Despite their decision to home-school, the Reids wanted people to know they do think there are a lot of good teachers in public schools, and maybe home schooling is not for everyone.
    “But if you really want to do it, give it a shot and go for it,” said Becky Reid. “You can do it. And give me a call when you're having a melt-down time,” she added. “We've all had them.”
    “Sometimes things like home-schooling are going to be a bit difficult to do, but sometimes those are the most rewarding things,” said Dan Reid. “The reward is so sweet. Your children are a gift from God, and they're worth it.”Wysocki agrees.
    “I want the best education my daughters can receive that best fits how they are wired to learn,” she said. “I want them to have a teacher who knows and loves them and wants the best for them, who can take whatever time is necessary to ensure they are 'getting it', who will encourage them and celebrate with them all the discoveries they make as they learn,” she continued. “As their mom, I know I'm the teacher who will be driven enough to do all those things with and for them. That's why I am a homeschooling mom.”

  • found dog tag photo 2.JPG
    The Saga of the Lost and Found Dog Tag
    March 25, 2014
    By Gwen Jones
    Guest contributor
    The day was Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. The next day would be Veteran's day. About an hour before church was to begin, Pastor Jessica Harren came to me and said, “I just received a message on the church's Facebook page (Capron Lutheran Church) from a fellow in France who says he found a World War II dog tag belonging to Floyd Newhouse.
    He wondered if anyone could help him locate Floyd's family.” My sister and I are part of Floyd's family; he was our father and had just died on Aug. 4 2013.
    So began the amazing story of a dog tag lost in 1944, found in 2011, and returned home in 2014. The saga of the dog tag is remarkable by itself, but the story contains an element of mystery as well.
    Francois Loivet is a 26 year old man who has spent much of his time, with his metal detector, combing the World War II battlefields in France and studying the details of the battles that were fought in his backyard as part of the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.
    In 1944, Floyd “Bud” Newhouse was a 26 year old driver of a tank recovery vehicle, otherwise known as a tank retriever. The job of Bud and his crew was to recover damaged Sherman tanks and repair them if possible so they could be returned to service.
    Bud was in the 3rd Armored Division, known as the Spearhead Division, 33rd Armored Regiment.
    His unit landed on Omaha beach 17 days after D-Day, and slowly proceeded inland, cutting their way through the dense hedgerows that surrounded the fields, pushing the Germans back and fending off their counter attacks as they went.
    We know from the history of the 3rd Armored Division, that the division was involved in a 5-6 day battle in mid July 1944 northwest of the city of St. Lo. Floyd was wounded by shrapnel from an air-burst on 13 July 1944.
    We know that is when he was wounded. He was likely sent to a field hospital or aid station where, as Floyd later wrote to his wife Shirley, they were unable to find the renegade fragment.
    The mystery became apparent when Francois told us that he found the dog tag, back in 2011, near the town of Le Bas Bois located almost straight south of St. Lo some 20 miles. Another battle had been fought there as well, but that happened on Aug. 2 1944.
    Floyd had been wounded about 3 weeks earlier. How was it that the probable place of Floyd's injury and the location of his dog tag were separated by some 20 miles? How did a dog tag manage to survive in relatively good condition for nearly 70 years in the soil of a French hedgerow? How did Francois manage to make contact with Floyd's family 3 months to the day after Floyd's funeral?
    The answers to two of those questions are speculative at best. Perhaps Floyd stayed with the field hospital for those 3 weeks because they couldn't find the fragment and he moved with the hospital as the division and the front moved. He was eventually flown to hospital in England for surgery to locate the wayward fragment. Perhaps it took 3 weeks to reach an airstrip capable of handling C-47 aircraft.
    He wouldn't return to his unit until Dec. 12, arriving just days before the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. Who knows how the dog tag survived for so long. Francois said he found it in a hedgerow, so it probably wasn't exposed to farm machinery doing field work or to grazing livestock.
    As to how Francois was able to contact Capron Lutheran Church, he told us that when he typed in Floyd's name on the Internet, his obituary came up, containing the name of the church.
    For Francois, this is more than a hobby. He has uncovered many ID bracelets, dog tags and other debris of war, both Allied and German. He has worked with the DPMO, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office near Washington.
    Part of the mission of this office is to “achieve the fullest possible accounting of our missing DoD (Department of Defense) personnel and to inform their families” (from the DPMO web page).
    He has said that he feels it is an honor for him to honor the soldiers who fought to liberate France and Europe from the Nazis. Francois sent us pictures of some of the other ID bracelets or dog tags he has found with the names of soldiers, missing or not, whose families he would like to locate.
    My brother-in-law, Jack Engelsen, was able to find the son, now living in Minnesota, of one of the missing soldiers from the Aug. 2 battle fought near Le Bas Bois. The soldier's son told Jack that he was a baby when his father was killed and so never knew him. He was thrilled at the possibility of having something that belonged to his father. That story is still a work in progress.
    This year marks 70 years since the D-Day landings on June 6, and also the Battle of the Bulge which began just before Christmas in December. For our family, the saga of Dad's dog tag, coming 3 months after his death; and then receiving the dog tag in January of the seventieth anniversary year of those two epic events of World War II has left us a bit breathless.
    As Pastor Jess said after Francois' initial contact, “Floyd is still with us; just in a new way.”