We did this column for the first time last year, which was a lot of fun. We were celebrating the turn of the decade for SP, and now as we're almost done with year 11, it is wild to think about how many articles and SPlogs we've published over the course of that time. Tens of thousands, if you can believe it. While we don't typically cover breaking news here at SP in the truest sense — meaning, we're not reporters on the ground going to scenes and interviewing people — we do have the ability to post things at a moment's notice, which is fun and exciting for us behind the scenes. Sure, we're not reporters, but we pay attention to what's going on in our community best we can, and move quickly.
The SPlog has become such an integral part of the magazine, and especially with our redesign launching earlier this year, the section has become even more vital and visible now that it mixes with the rest of the Editorial content. A lot of these articles you see below are indeed SPlog posts, which showcases the power of social media these days and how quickly things escalate when they are launched into that space.
We have a ton of incredible writers that chip in each and every week, and we're always thankful for what they bring to the table. We, like you, the reader, are engaged with Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding community, and we have a lot of fun doing this magazine — we hope that you'll see this overview of what made a splash this year traffic-wise and enjoy what you've helped create over the course of our lifetime. — Patrick Singer, Executive Editor
20. DeLuxe's famed Fish Sandwich is returning for a limited time :: February 7th
Bottom line is that what made the DeLuxe fish sandwich so legendary when it was being served in house back in the 1970s and 80s had less to do with what was being served, but rather, who it was being served by, and to whom, and when it was being served.
I never ate it at the original location, and I am quite certain that had been able to, I would have loved it.
And while it wasn't awful or anything, the idea of a a piece of frozen fish deep fried in beer batter, laying on an untoasted piece of limp white bread and served with yellow mustard, is sort of just... not all that appealing. And I love fish sandwiches, like, really love them. This just isn't how it is best served.
Nevertheless, its rebirth caused quite a stir, and for good reason: DeLuxe was revered, and its memory is worthy of reverance. (SF)
19. Hot air balloon to success: An interview with Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers :: September 25th
Admittedly, I was a bit surprised when this article ended up earning as much traffic as it did — but then I realized that the band’s social media accounts pushed this over the top. The Avett Brothers are a very popular band, and they performed in September at State Farm Center, and we were fortunate enough to interview them beforehand. The band’s Twitter account has over 200K followers, so that certainly reaches a lot of eyes. Our writer James Scherer did a great job with this interview. (PS) Photo from the band’s website
18. Takeaways from an evolving campus: The UIUC Master Plan :: August 8th
Culture writer Andrew Dunham has spent the past year or so examining local urban development, city planning, and the historical significance of buildings and businesses and such in a way that really epitomizes this magazine’s hyper-local focus. And it doesn’t get any more hyper-local than the University of Illinois. His breakdown and analysis of the university’s future infrastructure plans was a super interesting look where the UIUC campus has been, and where it is looking to go. (JM) Photo from Master Plan technical support
17. BEST Burgers: The Top 8 :: September 20th
This was obviously one of our more important journalistic endeavors this year, so it’s great to see it crack the top 20. Really though, it was a lot of work, as there are a good many quality burgers on menus throughout C-U. There were tastings, numeric rating systems, intense debates (okay that might be an exaggeration), and probably a few added pounds — all in service to you, our readers. You’re welcome. (JM)
16. Flying Machine Coffee in Urbana is closing :: January 18th
What a bummer. I think that half of the working crowd who liked to hang at FMC with espresso and anxiety has not actually noticed that anything in that Downtown Urbana space has changed. For those who truly appreciated the coffee and the FMC vibe, you can find them at Avionics, which is one of my favorite spots in C-U. So while losing FMC was a major bummer, gaining and keeping Avionics is the best. (JH) Photo from Flying Machine Coffee
15. Here are your 2018 Illinois Primary Election results :: March 20th
In C-U, the race to watch was the primary for IL-13, with a collection of genuinely likeable candidates for the Democratic nod. Betsy Dirksen Londrigan and hometown candidate Jon Ebel took the most votes here in Champaign County, but Londrigan won the district overwhelmingly. (JM)
14. The newest iteration of the Illini Inn opens August 22nd :: July 30th
What a goddamned disappointment. In 2018, in the midst of the final demise of a tired old racist emblem defining our community, Green St. Realty had an amazing opportunity to turn a corner when they demolished and rebuilt the old (and memorably endearing) Illini Inn on 4th and Daniel in Campustown.
Instead, they revived their own version of a Native American carictature and planted it on the front of the fucking building, and adorned the rest of the staff in t-shirts that bear it, and a huge painting of it in the basement, as well.
No matter how hard people try to deny it, they will end up on the wrong side of history. Young people, especially on a college campus like this, are not down with the minstrel show. They want equality for women and people of color. They want to see progress, not the opposite.
It's hard to know just how much business they will lose from this, but over the course of time, it will be significant, and ultimately, will lead to their demise. Not sure when, but it will happen. (SF) Photo from Illini Inn's Facebook page
13. Midterm Election 2018: Results for Champaign County and more :: November 6th
November 6th was an interesting night for sure, with a whole lot of surprising local results — the Dems took control of a whole bunch of counties offices that have been Republican since the beginning of time. The IL-13 Congressional race was a nail-biter that toyed with our emotions (damn you, CNN) but ultimately, and unfortunately, swung Rodney’s way yet again. But Champaign County sure sent a message, giving Londrigan 70 percent of the vote, so basically we won’t see Rodney for the next two years. Can we be our own district? Please? (JM)
12. Merry Ann’s Diner’s Downtown Champaign location has closed :: July 30th
Like many others, I enjoyed a lot of good times, and drunken times, over the greasy spoon food inside of these walls for the 13 years or so that it was open. It anchored the One Main building when it opened alongside Jim Gould, KoFusion, and Exile on Main St. It became the only defacto taxi stand in town, before Uber and Lyft arrived.
Whether it was the costly rent or the advent of food trucks or — dare I say it — the homogenous downtown that it surrounds, something led to Merry Ann's closing, and it's a bummer.
Let's hope that something yummy and unique moves in soon enough. It's a wonderful spot to dine in, to be sure, and this community isn't done defining itself yet. (SF) Photo by Sean O'Connor.
11. Someone made a photo cheat-sheet for ordering at Golden Harbor :: February 8th
Well isn’t this just the greatest idea? I’m pissed I didn’t start the doc myself, but will continue to reference and thank the universe for Ashley Buerkett. (JH) Photo by Jess Hammie
10. There’s a new YouTube show called Champaign ILL and things are already dramatic :: November 9th
I watched the first two episodes of this the other night. I really wanted to like it. I was genuinly hoping that they wouldn't treat Champaign like it was some Anywheresville, USA and totally marginalize the best part of doing a show named after a city, no matter how small it is.
But they did, and beyond that, it's disorienting, and the characters are not sympathetic at all, not even when they are trying to be.
You can watch the first episode for free here:
Huge bummer, indeed. (SF)
9. Surprising to no one, Dublin’s Pub is closing July 28th :: July 11th
Dub’s Pub was riddled with issues across the board — lack of brand transition being one of them from Dublin O’Neil’s to Dublin’s Pub. When the news broke that the restaurant would be closing at the end of the month, we hopped on it… and it definitely lit a fire under a lot of people. Mostly because of how direct we were with our criticism of the restaurant, of course. We don’t wish bad things for businesses at all, they employ local folks just trying to earn a living and pay bills, doing the best they can. With it being a local establishment that many visited, the news that the joint was closing blew up. (PS) Photo by Patrick Singer
8. Trace Adkins to headline 2018 Champaign County Fair :: January 29th
I didn’t know who Trace Adkins was until I started to write this entry. Oh, look, he’s a white dude with a cowboy hat and ill-fitting clothes, a rat tail, and a snarl that makes me assume he may have just smelled a fart.
No, but seriously, I guess he sings country music and some people like that sort of thing. (JH)
7. Here’s your voting guide for the 2018 primary :: March 13th
Wow, this primary already seems like a zillion years ago, because that’s just how time works now. Every day is like eight years. I’m not sure my math is right here. Anyhoo, this primary kicked off a doozy of a midterm election, one that inspired record turnouts across our county and the nation as well. It makes my heart happy to see this is in the top ten; I feel like maybe I did some small part to contribute to a more informed local electorate. (JM)
6. ICE on Main Street: Undocumented immigrants arrested in Urbana :: April 24th
It’s easy to make jokes about how fucked up the Trump Administration and its policies are, and lol/eye roll/sigh when something truly outrageous breaks in the news.
But those laughable policies? They have real world, actual, serious, life and death consequences for our community, our families, our neighbors, our friends. ICE’s hunting and culling of brown people in our neighborhoods is real. (JH)
5. Suburban Express owner Dennis Toeppen literally went to China :: January 4th
As I mentioned in WORST, Dennis Toeppen finds a way to worm his way back into the spotlight because of the shit that he spews out of his mouth about the people that utilize the service he owns and operates, Suburban Express. Someone thought that it would be a great idea to send Toeppen directly to China to showcase how he’s not a racist, which… is hilarious and amazing because they probably thought it would do wonders for his image. On the contrary — it only made this whole thing more laughable. (PS) Photo from Suburban Express’ Facebook page
4. Here’s a better photo of Professor Jay Rosenstein, who wasn’t charged with any crime last night :: January 23rd
I am tired of writing about this.
Needless to say, people were very interested to read about this, and for good reason. Everyone loves to see people at their lowest. Shame on all of us. (SF)
3. This is a very accurate News-Gazette headline about Trump :: January 17th
2018 felt like it was 10 years long, not just one single calendar year. Most of that has to do with the Trump Administration, and all of the things that have happened since the date this SPlog was posted. I think I’ve aged 20 years since it was published back in January. This headline came out after Trump was given his first physical since entering office in early 2017. Of course, this reads straightforward in one way — the President does not have any heart issues, nor does he have any cognitive issues (well, per this report, though many might beg to differ on the latter). If you read over it, it is pretty funny because one could say that Trump doesn’t have a heart, and actually does have cognitive issues. As does most news about Trump, this one went pretty viral for us back 21372 months ago… in January of this year. (PS) Photo provided by a reader
2. Memphis on Main closing November 1st :: October 30th
While the building next door to Memphis on Main has taken on a few forms/ownership in the last few years (The Highdive, The Accord, and now as it exists, 51 Main), Memphis on Main has remained despite a few changes in lease ownership. Back in October, word started to get around that Memphis would be closing, but there wasn’t a specific reason as to why that was happening exactly. We found out a bit more from owner Rod Sickler, which uncovered a bit more about the disputes between the owners of the building and the business owners that operate the bar. The news made a huge splash on social media because it was seemingly out of the blue, and the news came just a few days before their final day of business. (PS) Photo by Patrick Singer
1. News-Gazette surprises no one by publishing gross cartoon :: September 25th
Well, I think this headline still speaks for itself, quite frankly. The News-Gazette may be the only rag in town that has consistent local "news" coverage, but it has often been tone deaf, willfully ignorant, and at times, outright disgusting and dangerous in the way it refers to historically marginalized people. There are plenty of people working in those offices who know better, and yet still choose to do the dirt.
Here’s hoping that in the future, they’ll check themselves before they wreck themselves, as angsty teens used to say. And maybe, one day, hopefully, please dear god let them see they should take seriously the systemic abuses of power and disenfranchisement affecting women and people of color and LGBTQ+ people. (JH)