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Urbana Alderman Aaron Ammons announces run for County Clerk

From the press release:

FOR​ ​IMMEDIATE​ ​RELEASE​ ​-​ ​Monday,​ ​September​ ​4,​ ​2017
Contact: Michelle Jett | 217-766-9677 |
Alderman​ ​Aaron​ ​Ammons​ ​To​ ​Run​ ​For​ ​County​ ​Clerk
Vows to focus on equal access to the ballot and ensuring voter privacy
URBANA, IL: Following years of community organizing around the importance of voting, particularly in minority communities, Alderman Aaron Ammons has decided to take a more active role in ensuring Champaign County is a leader in resisting efforts of voter suppression and protecting voter privacy. Ammons will be running for Champaign County Clerk in the 2018 election cycle.
“The last eight months have been tumultuous and uncertain times for the United States, but one of the most unsettling events unfolding is the attack on our right to vote,” says Ammons. “Nationwide voter suppression is real and the biggest threat to our Democracy. As County Clerk my number one priority would be ensuring that anyone who is eligible to vote, can vote. Now more than ever Champaign County voters need a County Clerk who is going to prioritize the security and privacy of their right to vote.”
“In Champaign County, we have a very diverse electorate. Whether it’s a rural voter
concerned about the distance to their polling place, a newly arrived student who is still learning their way around campus, or a busy mom who needs the flexibility to vote when it’s convenient for her, I will strive to be a County Clerk for all voters,” states Ammons.
Aaron Ammons is currently the Alderman for Urbana City Council Ward 3. He works at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a Building Service Worker and serves as President of SEIU Local 73 Chapter 119. Aaron has lived in Champaign-Urbana for over thirty years. He is the proud father of three children, two grandchildren, and husband to state Representative Carol Ammons, D-103.

Annual ACE Awards now seeking nominations

Champaign's 40 North does a wonderful job of fostering the arts in C-U, most notably with their Friday Night Live series, which has an extremely ambitious programming schedule and is a fantastic resource for any musician in town. Another event they help put on every year, however, are the ACE Awards, which recognize community members for their contributions to C-U's art scene.

There are a ton of different categories, but if you know someone who might be a good fit, find instructions on how to nominate them (and for what category) below:

NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN for 13th Annual ACE Awards
Honoring the efforts of those who enrich the culture of Champaign County!

Champaign, IL - Nominations are now being accepted at for the 2017 ACE Awards. The deadline for submitting an ACE Award nomination is 11:59pm on Monday, September 11th.

The ACE (arts, culture, and education) Awards are presented annually by 40 North | 88 West as part of National Arts and Humanities Month, and honor the work of artists, teachers, businesses, individuals, organizations, volunteers, community and government leaders. Each award highlights a different part of the cultural life of our community and celebrates those that, through hard work, dedication, and creative energy, cultivate the arts of Champaign County. The seven ACE Award categories are: Advocate, Artist, Volunteer, Business, Teacher, Student, and Lifetime Achievement. Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of community- based judges representing a broad cross-section of Champaign County.

Anyone can submit a nomination for an ACE Award. You may nominate multiple candidates and self-nominations are accepted. Must be 14 years or older and a resident of Champaign County to be eligible to win an ACE Award.  Previous nominees may be resubmitted.

Last year’s winners were: Mike Ingram (Advocate ACE), Deke Weaver (Artist ACE), Pecha Kucha Night C-U (Volunteer ACE), CUMTD (Business ACE), Stacey Gross (Teacher ACE), Saskia Bakker (Student ACE), and Aurora Villacorta (Miss V) (Lifetime ACE).

Join us to honor all the nominees and celebrate the winners! The ACE Awards Celebration will take place at The City Center, next to Fat City in Champaign on Thursday, October 12th, starting at 5:30pm.

The ACE Awards categories:

Advocate ACE: This award will honor the individual, organization, or group that has advocated on behalf of the arts effectively and consistently, forged creative partnerships, or stimulated collaborations that result in broader awareness, accessibility and participation in the arts, culture and entertainment of Champaign County.

Artist ACE:  This award recognizes an individual artist for their creations and contributions to the excellence of the arts of Champaign County.

Volunteer ACE: This award will be presented to an individual or group that, through their volunteer efforts and service, has made a significant impact on the art and culture of this community.

Business ACE:  The award will celebrate the business that has demonstrated outstanding support of the arts. The winner will have cultivated opportunities and relationships that support local artists and/or organizations in Champaign County.

Teacher ACE:  This award recognizes an individual, organization, school, educator, or group that has demonstrated a unique and creative approach to merging the arts and education. The winner will have, through outstanding commitment and dedicated service to arts education, been an inspiration to students, teachers, and the community.

Student ACE:  This award will be presented to an individual student with outstanding artistic achievements who strives to promote understanding and appreciation of the local arts community.

Lifetime ACE: This award will honor the accumulated successes of an individual for continued, outstanding support of the arts in our community.

Tickets to 2017 ACE Awards Celebration:
Tickets to the 13th Annual ACE Awards are $10 each and are available at or by calling 40 North at 217.351.9841.Tickets will be available at the door for $15.

40 North | 88 West

40 North - Champaign County Arts Council - is dedicated to cultivating creativity in Champaign County. Through advocacy, information and collaboration, 40 North works to stimulate a vibrant, thriving environment for the arts, culture and education essential to the quality of life in Champaign County. For more info, visit

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.


Allerton Park announces new Director, Derek Peterson

Allerton Park in nearby Monticello has announced Derek Peterson as the new Director of the park. Peterson, who was previously the Assistant Director, replaces Dr. Bruce Branham, who is returning to teaching and research duties at the University of Illinois.

For the full story, read the press release below:

New leadership at Allerton, same direction
Monticello – Allerton Park and Retreat Center has announced that its Director, Dr. Bruce Branham, is returning to full-time teaching and research at the University of Illinois. Associate Director Derek Peterson will become the Director of Allerton, effective August 16, 2017.

In the Fall of 2010, as Allerton was experiencing some difficult budget and personnel issues, leadership on the U of I campus discussed a new approach to managing the unique facility, which consists of conference and event space, 1,500 acres of natural areas, and formal gardens.

Robert Easter, who was serving as the University’s Interim Chancellor at the time, suggested Branham as a candidate for Allerton’s Director. The two had worked together while Easter was Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and Branham was the interim Department Head for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES). Branham is currently a professor of Crop Sciences.

“I don’t think campus leadership felt that this was the best way to manage the Park,” Branham explained. “Rather, this approach was viewed as a way to get Allerton back on a more sustainable path.”

With a 20% appointment at Allerton, Branham has focused on that goal for the past seven years, while also continuing his teaching and research.

“Almost from the get-go, I was asked ‘what’s the best way to manage this in the future?’” Branham explained. “We’re not there yet, but we’re pretty close. We need continued engagement with campus and the community.”

Allerton’s accessibility and engagement has increased under Branham, with the return of programs like the concert series, the Holiday Showcase, and youth day camps, plus the addition of new activities like Mansion dinners, the Family Campout, a lighted winter wellness walk, and overnight lodging.

“The more we become a unique destination, the better it will be for Allerton, the University, and the whole region,” Branham continued. “Allerton must to be run like a business from this point forward. (Asking) not only ‘is this good for the community?’, but ‘is it good for Allerton?’”

Branham notes that one of the most significant accomplishments achieved during his tenure was the completion of the Master Plan, which was approved by the University’s Board of Trustees in January 2015.

“The Master Plan is a blueprint for the responsible growth and development of this unique resource, and has sparked a significant increase in giving,” Branham said, noting that private giving has increased exponentially in recent years, and that the Park is on a path to be completely self-supporting. “I think that’s an important piece, particularly now with the way the state economy has gone.”

Even with the state budget in flux, Branham feels the timing is right to make a change, noting that the Park would benefit with a full-time Director and that, while there is still more to be accomplished, Allerton is in a “good spot.”

“I’m extremely proud of the staff that has been assembled and the leadership that Derek (Peterson) has provided. There are a lot of dedicated people, and very good momentum there now,” Branham said. “Derek is deserving of being the Director. He’s ready for this.”

Peterson, a U of I horticulture grad, began working at Allerton as a Park Attendant in 2007. After serving as Associate Director of Park Operations, he was promoted to Associate Director in 2014, overseeing both the Park and Retreat Center.  Now, he will take on the role of Director, continuing Bruce’s vision of engagement and accessibility.

“It’s going to be hard to fill Bruce’s shoes,” Peterson said. “Fortunately for me, and for the people of central Illinois, Bruce has built up an amazing staff around me to keep things moving in the right direction.”


Ellnora announces Grand Letar lecture/demonstration

From the press release

ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival at Krannert Center has always celebrated the contributions of female artists on global guitar legacies. In April 2016 the University of Illinois’ Sousa Archives and Center for American Music acquired a truly one-of-a-kind electric guitar that was created in 1937 for Chicago’s Letritia Kandle. Illinois-based steel guitar collector/historian Paul Warnik generously donated Kandle’s Grand Letar as well as personal papers and photographs documenting her career as a leading Midwest steel guitar performer and teacher during the 1930s and 40s. The Grand Letar is a 26-string, five-necked instrument that has a one-piece fretboard with three six-string necks and two four-string necks. The instrument, which was built collaboratively by Kandle, her father Charles, and National Guitar, is tuned similarly to a piano and sits inside a cabinet covered in cast aluminum that features two 12-inch Lansing Field Coil speakers, a tube amp, and a dimmer (to light up its translucent fretboard and front panel, and change the colors of 120 bulbs as different tones are produced on the instrument). At 400 pounds, the Grand Letar doesn’t travel lightly, but it will be making its way across the University of Illinois campus for a special exhibit and lecture/demonstration during ELLNORA 2017.

On Friday, September 15 at 1:30pm, audiences are invited to a free lecture/demonstration in the Foellinger Great Hall where Sousa Archivist Scott Schwartz will join Paul Warnik in conversation about the life and impact of Letritia Kandle, while T.C. Furlong will provide a demonstration of her signature instrument. Following the event, the Grand Letar will be moved to the ELLNORA Store at Promenade in Krannert Center’s Lobby where it and other materials from this unique music collection will be on display for the remainder of the festival.


U of I Community Credit Union announced 2017 scholarship winners

If you need any more convincing that the University of Illinois' Community Credit Union is a positive force in Champaign-Urbana (and beyond), today, they've released the list of area students who will receive $1,000 scholarships for in-state schools.

To get the full run-down, check out the press release below:

University of Illinois Community Credit Union Announces 2017 Orange & Blue Scholarship Recipients

CHAMPAIGN, IL — Each year, U of I Community Credit Union awards seven college-bound high school seniors a scholarship up to $1,000 based on the Illinois college of their choice. The Orange & Blue Scholarship Program is designed to benefit students who are U of I Community Credit Union members and will be attending the University of Illinois, Parkland College, and other Illinois colleges and universities.

Scholarship applications are reviewed by a team of volunteers at the U of I Community Credit Union and are given a score based on the information and documents submitted. Applicants are asked various questions including their favorite activities throughout high school, and any honors or awards they have received. They are also required to submit two letters of recommendation and an essay relating to the benefits of credit unions.

Giving back to the community is something UICCU feels very passionate about” UICCU Director of Marketing, explained. “We are dedicated to helping support students in our community financially so they can attend college and continue a higher education.”

The 2017 Orange & Blue Scholarship winners have been announced and were recognized at the Allerton Park Concert Series on Friday, August 4th.

UICCU is proud to announce the 2017 Orange & Blue Scholarship recipients:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

·         Jarrett Brunner – Mahomet-Seymour High School

·         Madeline Bolser – Covington High School

·         Kevin Hinders – High School of Saint Thomas More

·         Leah Roberts – Champaign Central High School

·         Alexandra Trauth – Centennial High School


·         Adam Manaster – Champaign Central High School

Augustana College

·         Ashley Bosch – Heritage High School

Details about the scholarship are available online at The scholarships are designed to benefit students attending the University of Illinois, Parkland College, and other Illinois colleges and universities.


Meadowbrook Park to gain two new statues on Tuesday

This coming Tuesday, two new statues will make their way to Urbana's Meadowbrook Park, one of the best places for statuary in Champaign-Urbana.

For the full scoop, check out this press release from the Urbana Park District:

“Surge” and “Transformation” on their way to Urbana

Two new sculptures will arrive at the Wandell Sculpture Garden in Urbana’s Meadowbrook Park on Tuesday, August 22. While each Peoria-based artist is bringing their own individual works to Urbana, the two have collaborated on sculpture before, including a bronze figure displayed at Bradley University and statues for the VFW memorial in Chillicothe, Illinois.

“Transformation” by artist Fisher Stolz is made of bronze and stainless steel.

“The sculpture invites you to experience both the exterior and the interior of the sculpture. A passageway invites the viewer inside. The work was originally created for a yearlong exhibition of sculpture in Chicago parks,” Stolz said.

“Surge” by artist Jaci Willis is constructed of stainless steel and glass.

Willis explained, “Surge was conceived thinking about Lake Michigan and its waves. This, in turn, developed the idealism of a relationship and how the closeness ebbs and flows with the environment around it.”

Both artists will join Urbana Park District staff members to install the pieces beginning at 10:00 a.m.

The Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park was dedicated in June 1999. The garden was named in honor of Celia and Willet Wandell, who owned a local plant nursery and established a trust to give trees to neighboring communities. Celia and Willet’s family saw the Urbana Park District’s plans for a sculpture garden in Urbana as a way to both honor their parents and support art in a natural setting.

A number of the garden’s sculptures are owned by the Urbana Park District as part of the permanent collection. Most of the exhibits are on a two-year loan from the artist and are available for purchase.


Common Ground Food Co-op announces new Interim General Manager

Tim Sullivan has been announced as Common-Ground Food Co-op's Interim General Manager, and as such, has released a statement to owners and the community.

Find the statement below:

Dear Common Ground Food Co-op Owners and Supporters,

Hello, from your new Interim General Manager. I am very happy and excited to be a part of Common Ground and the greater communities of Urbana and Champaign. I am enjoying getting to know both the Co-op and our community. I am amazed by the local food movement we have here and cannot wait to get out and visit some of the many farms we sell product for at Common Ground.

My mission for the next few months here is not just to hold down the fort while the board works to find and hire a great GM, but to use every bit of my energy, knowledge, and resources to ensure the Co-op is in the best possible place for the new GM. You can help! Please ask for me when you are in the store and let me know how you think we are doing.  We want to create an amazing food shopping experience for you every time you are in the store. Nothing less will do in today's competitive environment. Do not hesitate to call or email me with your thoughts.

Here is a little information about me. I grew up working in my dad's small town grocery store, also worked for an independent supermarket in Fort Collins, Colorado during college, and spent many years as a store director for an employee owned grocery chain. Farmers have always been some of my best friends and when I owned a restaurant operation for 5 years after my retirement, I did everything I coul
d to use local food. One of the more interesting things we did was buy whole hogs from a local organic farmer. Our primary business was wood fired pizzas, and we used the whole hog to make our in-house pepperoni, Canadian bacon, regular bacon, and sausage. It was a great adventure.

The last 3 years I have been volunteering. For example, I have lived in a shelter for refugees in El Paso Texas, did development work in Nicaragua, and this summer spent a couple of months in Montana volunteering for a Red Rocks Lakes Wildlife Refuge. I only do volunteer work that I strongly believe in, and the same is true for my work at Common Ground Food Co-op. I think Common Ground is an important part of The Urban Champaign community.

The staff at Common Ground are working hard to improve our Co-op each day, and we are committed to creating a fun and exciting shopping experience. We hope working with our local farmers can be a big part of that experience.

I look forward to visiting with you.

Here are a couple important dates to remember:
August 18: Tomorrow night, Morgan and I will be sampling some amazing beer and wine in the Co-op from 5:30-7:30pm. I hope to meet lots of owners.

Sept 1-13: Owner will be able to nominate up to 3 local organizations for Round Up For Good and see the current candidates running for the four open seats in our Board of Directors.

September 14-17: Our Owner Appreciation Days

September 14-21: Owner Elections for Round Up For Good and our Board of Directors

September 21: 7-9pm at the Urbana Civic Center: Our Annual Meeting of Owners Gathering!

It's great to be here.

Tim Sullivan


Emergency tree removal, lane closures happening tonight on 4th street

Traffic will be a little different at the corner of Kirby and 4th Street in Champaign, tonight, including lane closures. For the full details, check out the press release below:


(Intersection of Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue)

Champaign – Public Works staff will stabilize a large, potentially dangerous tree near the intersection of Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue. The work has begun and is expected to last into the night, partial lane closures will be required in order to facilitate access to the tree by the crews.

The City appreciates the cooperation of travelers in the area and encourages caution when travelling through this work zone.


Investigate Midwest to hold discussion on water use issues next Thursday

As many of you know, the Midwest (and any crop-growing region of the world) uses a ton of water - which could be concerning given recent water shortages on America's West Coast. Given that this is an essential component to our way of life, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting will be hosting a panel discussion next Thursday, August 24th, about this very issue, and how it may affect Central Illinois.

For more information, check out the description below. RSVP's can be found here, and are recommended. The panel will take place at the Champaign Public Library from 7 - 9 pm.

The State Water Survey estimates that Illinois could need between 20 percent and 50 percent more water in the coming decades. The number of irrigation pivots in Champaign County has already doubled in the last five years. Some experts worry that this rise, along with the absence of laws regulating groundwater resources in the state, could spell trouble during periods of drought.

Join the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and a panel of experts for a free community conversation about irrigation in Illinois, current regulations, and what it means for the future of farming as the state’s shifting climate becomes less predictable.

Brant Houston, Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting, Journalism Department at the College of Media, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will moderate.

The event is free but RSVP required. Light refreshments will be served.
For more information, contact Anna Casey at (217) 239-6617 or by email at

Did you know?

  • There are no laws regulating limited groundwater resources.
  • There are no laws governing any potential conflicts over groundwater.
  • Farmers were not required to report irrigation totals until 2015, and today, less than half of irrigation use is reported.
  • There are no restrictions on the installation of irrigation systems, meaning anyone can install a system without considering how it will impact groundwater supply.
  • No one knows exactly where the water is being extracted. There are about 500,000 documented wells in Illinois, even though there are likely between 800,000 and 1 million wells in use, according to the Illinois State Water Survey. There are less than 8,000 irrigation wells.

Read our series on irrigation issues here.


George Roadcap, hydrogeologist at Illinois State Water Survey

John N. Ferguson, plant biologist at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois

Jack Paxton, professor emeritus of plant pathology at the University of Illinois, and past instructor of "Agricultural Ethics" and "Human Impact on the Environment"


Brant Houston, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois


The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Illinois Humanities, CU-CitizenAccess and Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting, Journalism Department at the College of Media, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Illinois Humanities engagement fellowship at the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting aims to strengthen connections and build collaboration between journalists and the communities they cover.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting is a non-profit newsroom based in Champaign that covers agribusiness and related topics such as government, environment and energy.

CU-CitizenAccess is a community online news and information project based at the University of Illinois College of Media devoted to investigative and enterprise coverage of social, justice and economic issues in east central Illinois.