The easy way out would be to talk about how terrible 2020 was, and how our publishing reflected just how bad it was to be alive (well, if you're not in the 1%).

But the uncertainty of everything made us here at Smile Politely a bit more aware of the strength we have with this platform, and privilege to talk about so many different people, businesses, and incredible organizations worthy of propping up when everything has gone to shit. That's our duty, more than anything, to the community.

This responsibility is not lost on us as we went about our business week in and week out after March 13th. When the pandemic hit, we were a bit shellshocked like everyone else. But how do you operate a magazine that's so focused on the "what's going on" and "what do I go out and do" in C-U when it really isn't safe to do and gather? There's no perfect method, but we chose to focus on people, because the human beings in this community are quite resilient.

People aren't always great, though. We saw true colors of many in and around C-U, for better and worse.

Just as this year has thrown the entire bookshelf at us, and even though there's a lot to be upset about, we're awfully thankful to be able to be here, working alongside the community of engaged contrbutors and partners who banded with our crew of editors to make some noise. We published around 2,000 articles and SPlogs in 2020, so while "most visited" doesn't mean "best", it turned out to be a nice smattering of interesting pieces.

If you're curious about year's past, feel free to check out 2018's most visited, as well as our 2019 decade-end version.

As always, thank you for reading.

— Patrick Singer, Executive Editor

A building on a city street. The ground floor facade is white with a for lease sign on the wall. The rest of the three storey building is brick. Photo from Google Maps. Photo from Google Maps.

20. Sodo Theatre is closing, will become a "bar and axe-throwing venue" 

► Published March 5th / 11:00 am / Patrick Singer

SoDo Theatre’s closing is the final nail in the coffin for arts and culture programming in Downtown Champaign. That is a tragedy, and I, and SP’s Editorial Board, have discussed it before. Of course, the space was leased to yet another bar, but this time one that promises heavy, sharp projectiles! 

Looks like the pandemic has put this development on ice for now; they might need to use those axes to chop an escape. (JH)

A multi colored chalk drawing with the words Black Lives Matter in negative relief on a sidewalk. There is grass on either side of the sidewalk, and a black dog's head at the bottom of the image. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
Photo by Jessica Hammie.

19. City of Champaign doesn't want your graffiti

► Published July 30th / 3:43 p.m. / Jessica Hammie

The City of Champaign really dug itself into a hole this summer with its piss-poor responses to the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for racial justice here in C-U.

After initially failing to investigate a person who drove a car into a crowd of protestors, protestors used chalk on the sidewalks and street at the incident site. Shortly thereafter, the City issued a statement about how that sort of “graffiti” is a “blight” and graffiti is “unlawful,” yadda yadda yadda. Never mind that the graffiti was in response to a whole bunch of people having a near-miss with being maimed or murdered. (JH)

A brick high school with windows facing a green grassy lawn. Photo from Wikipedia commons.
Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

18. We must reopen schools in the safest possible way: A proposal for Unit 4 and District 116

► Published July 17th / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

We thought we had some pretty good ideas for providing some in person connection for students while keeping things relatively low risk. Alas, we are not the ones making decisions. (JM)

Screenshot of the News-Gazette's article called Screenshot from the News-Gazette's website.

17. Let's talk about white Republican women

► Published December 3rd / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

No, white Republican women are not the most silenced or oppressed or bullied group in the United States. (JH)

View of Dallas & Company from across the street. There are street lights and cars at the intersection.
Photo from Enjoy Illinois' website.

16. Dallas & Company allegedly closing after Halloween (but not due to the pandemic)

► Published October 26th / 8:38 a.m. / Patrick Singer

What a weird terrible time it is, and when you see a business closing right now, your first instinct is to think that it is a result of the pandemic. While it is certainly hard to imagine that Dallas & Co. wasn’t affected by the pandemic, now was the time that Andy Dallas and his crew were going to call it a day after decades of business. This gem will be missed, for all its oddities it housed and how many people it helped fulfill their awesome weirdo costumes through the years. (PS)

Bags and containers of edibles sit stacked on one another on a table.
Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

15. Six edibles that could enhance your calm

► Published April 20th / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

Everything sucks right now, so of course this made the list. We are all just trying to make it through, and this is one way to do it. (JM)

Maize at the Station's patio. There are a number of black metal patio tables and chairs. The patio is empty. Photo by Anna Longworth.
Photo by Anna Longworth.

14. The time is now for Champaign and Urbana to present a Phase 4 plan

► Published May 21st / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

Remember that time in college when you stayed up all night to research and write a paper due by 8 a.m. the following morning? Remember how you didn’t get a good grade on it?

Yeah, this is that, but with a pandemic and lives at stake. (JH)

A screenshot from Spotted in Chambana on Facebook.
Photo from Facebook.

13. For some reason, Dr. Tom Pliura is posting alleged COVID-19 test results to Facebook

► Published April 7th / 2:00 p.m. / Patrick Singer

Before we had U of I saliva tests and free-to-all nasal swab tests at Marketplace Mall, COVID-19 tests were only available if you had symptoms, and they were not free. Enter Tom Pliura, a doctor from Le Roy who runs Campustown Urgent Care, swooping in with thousands of tests he acquired himself, and planned to offer up to the public. Then, inexplicably, he started posting COVID-19 test results to his personal Facebook page, which is just slightly unethical. A quick peek at his latest FB posts show him minimizing the number COVID deaths by comparing them to abortions. Cool, cool. (JM)

Various bakery items sit on a wooden table with a grey backdrop. Photo provided by Suzu's.
Photo provided by Suzu's.

12. Suzu’s, a Japanese bakery, is coming to Downtown Champaign

► Published September 15th / 7:15 a.m. / Julie McClure

Opening a business is no small feat, particularly during a pandemic. But with Chef Suzuko Enomoto heading up the endeavor, bringing traditional Japanese flavors to the landscape of Downtown Champaign, it will surely do well. I’ve sampled a few items, and the miso brownie is life changing. (JM)

Aerial view of Scott Park in Champaign. Photo by Tim Bailey.
Photo by Tim Bailey.

11. Please, Mayors, protect us

► Published July 7th / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

In July, as COVID cases locally were creeping up and up after the lifting of mitigations, the Editorial Board wrote about the potential damage to the community if Greek Reunion Weekend took place.

The Greek system is, let’s just say, a little problematic. We shall not enumerate all the problems here, but suffice to say that a whole bunch of people with voracious appetites for alcohol who have historically displayed little respect for others were ready to descend on Campustown bars like locusts in a plague.

So we wrote an article asking the mayors of Champaign and Urbana to step in. And they did, finally, by closing the bars that weekend.

One 2020 crisis avoided. (JH)


A promotional poster featuring witchcraft drawings and The History of Witchcraft in white text.
Photo from Champaign Public Library's Facebook event page.

10. Explore the real history of witchcraft with the Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library

► Published October 27th / 7:00 a.m. / Debra Domal

What started as an interesting and timely online event sponsored by the Champaign and U of I libraries grew to a national viewing with an audience of over 50,000 people from all over the U.S., which is kind of amazing. (JM)

A view of Savoy 16's fascade. Photo from Google Maps.
Photo from Google Maps.

9. Goodrich Quality Theater parting ways with Savoy 16, potentially jeopardizing future 

► Published July 25th / 4:48 p.m. / Patrick Singer

COVID-19 has absolutely terrorized the arts community. It is so depressing to think about all of the theaters and concert venues that are facing the hardest challenges of a lifetime in 2020. Though Savoy 16 isn’t a boutique by any stretch, it was obvious that they were hit just as hard as anyone else. We don’t have many theaters to choose from in C-U, especially now that the Art Theater is gone, so when you see news that another one is potentially going to go away, that’s disappointing.

Thankfully, it looks like it will be saved by another company, but what it looks like and how it will navigate 2021 remains to be seen. (PS)

One empanada from Manolo's. The empanada is stamped with the letter M to indicate the flavor. Photo by Anthony Erlinger.
Photo by Anthony Erlinger.

8. Overlooked, under-appreciated foods in Champaign-Urbana

► Published October 2nd / 7:00 am / Anthony Erlinger

It’s no secret that SP’s Food and Drink section is our most visited. Readers like you (and me, frankly), are interested in what’s new and exciting and/or terrible and disappointing. We all get stuck in our patterns for take out, ordering the same beloved item over and over again. That’s why this article was so well received: it reminded us all that there are other restaurants and menu items that we should consider, because they are just as great as our favorites. (JH)

A view of a United States Postal Service building, there are green trees and a flag pole in the foreground. Photo from Google Maps.
Photo from Google Maps.

7. A mail sorting machine was removed from a Champaign U.S. Postal Service location 

► Published August 21st / 3:33 p.m. / Patrick Singer

I don’t read Mother Jones all too often, but in the midst of the USPS madness prior to the election, it was all anyone could talk about and they were doing some good reporting on the matter. It made me sick thinking about the nefarious behavior going on behind closed doors with Donald Trump and Louis DeJoy as they attempted to suppress mail-in voting. When Mother Jones reported on sorting machines in the U.S. that had been removed, the list of locations caught my eye. Lo and behold, there was a machine in Champaign that was removed. Thankfully, we have the most secure election of all time to thank for helping us get past this attack on the important USPS system. (PS)

A black graphic with a red half circle and the words
Photo by Smile Politely.

6. 2020 election results (with updates)

► Published November 4th / 6:00 p.m. / Smile Politely Editors

Well, this election was a doozy, huh? From the national level on down to the local level, the revealing of results lasted well beyond November 3rd. This was of course due to the massive wave of mail-in voting. Champaign County did not quite match the blue wave of 2018 in terms of county offices, but local Dems did increase their majority on the board and flip both the Recorder and Circuit Clerk offices in their favor. Rodney Davis is still here. Still. Here. (JM)

Graphic of the University of Illinois block
Photo from The Kingfisher at UIUC Facebook page.

5. U of I students vote to make kingfisher the new mascot; Administration says no 

► Published March 10th / 10:30 a.m. / Jessica Hammie

Make the kingfisher the mascot. (JH)

Three young girls look at the camera, two on the right are sitting atop bicycles.
Photo provided by Gottheil family.

4. Sen. Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s VP pick; Now remember she used to live in C-U

► Published August 11th / 3:18 p.m. / Patrick Singer

If you are reading this for the first time, and didn’t know Kamala Harris lived in Champaign-Urbana at one point in her life, we welcome you. Indeed, this SPlog is something of a combo. When Sen. Harris announced she’d be running for President in 2019, Seth busted out this gem, the original post, so kudos on that find for starters. After that, when President-elect Joe Biden announced Harris would be his running mate, we posted about it again because the internet is a place where things often get buried, and this was most certainly worth a resurfacing SPlog to say the least. (PS)

A street view of Zorba's fascade. PHoto from Google Maps.
Photo by Noshfolio.

3. Zorba’s has permanently closed

► Published May 5th / 1:23 p.m. / Patrick Singer

When it comes to Campustown restaurants, Zorba’s was a mainstay for a very long time. There aren’t many restaurants that remain from the pre-Campustown 2000 era, but this one kept on moving forward. So much has changed around the restaurant, closed after 47 years of business in late Spring. It is hard to say whether or not it was due to the pandemic, or if it was just time for them to hang it up after testing the waters a few times before. Readers love nostalgia, especially when it comes to eating and drinking in C-U, which is why this one soared. (PS)

Two images inside one image graphic: Left is the front view of Rogue Barber Company with chalking
Photo from Black Roose/Rosa Negra's Facebook post.

2. Rogue Barber Co. had a very bad week, and they deserve it

► Published July 26th / 9:54 a.m. / Patrick Singer

From time to time, we’re presented with opportunities to publicize about citizens behaving badly, which isn’t really what we’re built to do, and not something we’re usually interested in doing. When it came to the situation at Rogue Barber Co., where ownership was actively promoting racism and bigotry, there was an obvious line that was crossed. This was all happening at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, in the midst of all of such unity to fight for and support those members of the community that need allies the most. While we were disappointed to see how the owners were behaving, we were proud of the community that came together to point out how wrong it was. (PS)

Screenshot from Village of Mahomet website that says
Screenshot from Village of Mahomet website.

1. Maybe don't have an unofficial prom during a pandemic

► Published June 24th / 12:32 pm / Jessica Hammie

You know what would have been awesome? If these selfish asshats in Mahomet were the first and last to have a large, unmasked gathering of people that led to a super spreader event. 

They’re not. Over the course of the summer, we heard anecdotes and saw the evidence of massive weddings and parties, all of which led to COVID cases in Champaign County. And these people who contracted COVID at these parties and weddings went to work, where the spread their disease to others, further endangering all sorts of people who are just trying to get by in these difficult times. 

If there is one thing we have learned from all of this, it’s that people who feel entitled to their way of life have no regard for others. 

They can all fuck off. (JH)

Contributors to this article include Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.

Top image by Smile Politely.