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C-U Climate March to take place Saturday in West Side Park

C-U marches on this Saturday in conjunction with the larger People's Climate March taking place in D.C. and around the world. The local version looks to be less of a march, more of a rally, with local speakers and opportunities to take action. See the full press release below:

Citizens of Champaign-Urbana to Join in Global Climate March

Saturday, April 29 2017
2–4 PM

West Side Park
400 W. University Ave, Champaign, IL

Champaign, IL -  Concerned citizens of the Champaign area are
gathering in West Side Park in downtown Champaign, on April 29th, from
2-4 PM, to demand action on greenhouse gas emissions and climate
issues. With three straight years of record global temperatures and
increasing dangerous weather events, the time to act on climate is
now. "It is an issue of justice," says Lan Richart of Eco-Justice
Collaborative, one of the event's speakers. "The consequences of
climate change will be felt by today’s children and the generations
that follow. One day our children’s children will ask 'What did they
do once they knew?'"

All are welcome to join in demonstrating to leaders in Illinois and
worldwide that there will be resistance to attacks on our people, our
communities and our planet. The march will be in solidarity with the
worldwide Peoples Climate Movement, which will see people around the
world gather together on April 29th to protect our climate.

The C-U march will feature inspirational speeches and calls to action
from speakers including State Representative Carol Ammons and State
Senator Scott Bennett, music by local string band Meadowhawk, and
informational tables from Prairie Rivers Network, Eco-Justice
Collaborative, and others. Marchers will be called to take a variety
of direct actions, such as purchasing solar power with Solar
Urbana-Champaign 2.0, building bee-friendly gardens with the
University of Illinois Pollinatarium, or buying compost bins from the
City of Urbana.

The Champaign-Urbana People's Climate March is sponsored by the
Prairie Group of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club and by Food
and Water Watch.

For more information contact or visit


Krannert Museum announces Art Remastered, a solo showcase

Looking for a way to support our local musicians? Well you're in luck because Krannert Art Museum has announced a one-day exhibit that will showcase their artwork and local musicians.

Throughout April, each musician visited the museum and chose a piece that they wished to respond to, musically. To hear what they've come up with, the showcase will take place on Friday, May 19th and guests will be able to tour the museum while each musician performs in front of their selected piece. 

For the when's and where's of the event, check out the poster below:

For more information, visit the event page. 

Poster courtesy of Krannert Art Museum. 


Smile Politely seeking Arts writers

Smile Politely is always welcoming new writers into the fold, and that, of course, includes our ever-vibrant Arts section. There are constantly new artistic endeavors happening all over Champaign-Urbana, and as an Arts writer, you'll be able to have your finger on the pulse of the local art scene.

We're looking for some writers for this particular section, and in order for this to really work, you must have at least a mild grasp what's happening locally, and preferably a grasp on art as a whole, as well. Don't worry, you don't have to be a perfect writer — we'll help with that part.

Perks of being an Arts writer include, but are not limited to:

  • Being involved in a wide variety of art-based events
  • A little extra spending money.
  • Valuable writing experience.
  • Sometimes people recognize you at the bar.

If this sounds like something you're interested in, fire an email off to


Mark Smith, four-star recruit and Illinois Mr. Basketball 2017, commits to Illini

One of the best recruits in the country has committed to play at the University of Illinois — Mark Smith — a four-star guard and 2017's Illinois Mr. Basketball.

Per the Champaign Room:

Michigan State and Kentucky were reportedly closest to earning a commitment from Smith going into his announcement. Others including Ohio State, Indiana, and Missouri were at one point involved.

But the 2017 state of Illinois Mr. Basketball winner decided to stay home and play for the Fighting Illini. Smith is rated as the No. 74 overall prospect in the country by 247Sports after experiencing a meteoric rise during his senior season.


UHS gets a trim on Fleet Street this weekend

There are those who might say that Sweeney Todd isn't appropriate for a high school musical. 

On the other hand, there are those who might say that Sondheim isn't appropriate for anyone's ears. 

But these kids probably read worse during their Shakespeare unit, so let's stop listening to judgey people and instead talk about what the kids are actually doing. 

Saskia Bakker, after learning the role of Mrs. Lovett ('s meat pies, savory and sweet pies) has been doing a lot of thinking about her part in both the play and the world. 

“On the surface it’s a story about a serial killer, but it discusses complex ideas like good and evil, revenge, innocence, and love,” said Bakker. “It’s very relevant today in terms of issues of poverty, justice, mental illness, and the corruption of power.”

The demon barber himself, as played by Jackson Smart, has been rising to the technical difficulty of the composition. “Sondheim seems to write every note just to mess you up, but the genius is apparent. Every line, music, and note works with the aura of the show, creating such a dark and cynical atmosphere."

I have been to a few shows at UMS, and been impressed by the challenges director Tim Broeker throws at these kids and how readily those challenges are met. I haven't seen this production, but for my money, I like the weird notes, the dark tones, and always have a bloody good time when I see Sweeney Todd.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street will be performed at 7:00 pm April 26 – 29 and at 2:30 pm on Sunday April 30. All performances will be in the Urbana High School Cobb Auditorium, 1002 S. Race Street. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults, and are available at the box office, which opens 30 minutes prior to each performance.


Finalists announced for 2017 Illinois Innovation Prize

Every year, the College of Engeneering and Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) honor students with the Illinois Innovation Prize. This prize recognizes students who stand out as passionate and creative innovators and entrepreneurs, who are working with world changing technology, and are seen as a role models to others.

The finalists for this prestigious award have been announce, and a award of $20,000 will be distributed among the four finalsts. 

Read on to learn more about this years finalists:

Bilge Acun; Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science
Bilge is the main inventor of three patent-pending technologies and the author of nine peer-reviewed papers. She is working to create awareness about the massive energy consumption and environmental impact that goes along with using computing technologies. As well as creating innovations outside her Ph.D. research field, she is developing a human computer interaction device for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome patients and people with wrist, arm, and shoulder injuries.

Olaoluwapo Ajala; Ph.D. Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Olaoluwapo’s research is focused on energy resource optimization technology. His passion for energy stems from his childhood in Nigeria where the lack of constant power supply creates major problems for homes and businesses. Because of these problems, owners have to purchase small-scale diesel generators, battery-storage systems, solar photovoltaic systems, and other small-scale power generators to meet their electricity needs. Olaoluwapo’s innovation connects homes and businesses within a small geographical area electrically to create stand-alone power systems—technically known as micro grids. The micro grid concept is a common one, but Olaoluwapo’s technology will allow systems is these areas to interconnect and for home and business owners to share electricity from various sources.

Lucas Frye; MBA Candidate
Lucas is the co-founder and CEO of Amber Agriculture, a startup that helps farmers monitor and manage the condition of their crops in storage  through a system of wireless sensors communicating information connected to a phone app, so the farmers can capture the highest possible price per bushel. Lucas utilized his Bachelors of Science in Agricultural and Consumer Economics along with his co-founders engineering skills to win the 2016 Cozad New Venture Competition. Since then, Amber Agriculture has taken part in the iVenture Accelerator and was named the Best Startup at the Consumer Electronics Show by Engadget.

Daniel Gardner; Senior in Electrical Engineering
Daniel is the co-founder and CEO of Mesh++, a startup that uses low-cost Wi-Fi transceivers to bring affordable wireless communication to developing countries. Daniel thinks of innovation as being able to see something in a new light, to bring out a solution that was not clear before. That is how he came up with the idea for Mesh++. Taking an idea that was standard and expanding on it to bring Wi-Fi to remote areas around the world. And, with Wi-Fi comes educational materials, e-commerce, and many other life-changing technologies. Daniel and his work on Mesh++ won the top prize at the largest ever ECE Senior Design competition at Illinois and a spot in the iVenture Accelerator.

The Illinois Innovation Prize, administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, is awarded on an annual basis to the most innovative student on campus. This year, TEC will reward and recognize the most innovative student on campus with up to $20,000. This student is a passionate innovator, working with world changing technology, entrepreneurially minded and a role model for others.

This two-day event allows attendees to participate in hands-on workshops and panel discussions to learn: how to validate your idea for industry, entrepreneurial resources available on campus, funding, and protecting your intellectual property. Faculty and students will be able to provide their feedback on the new Siebel Center for Design on Tuesday morning before lunch and panel discussions. On Wednesday, April 26, all Cozad New Venture Competition finalists will showcase their ideas and compete for prizes during the finals competition at 2:15 p.m. in addition to the awarding of the 2017 Illinois Innovation Prize. More information and the schedule of events can be found at

For more information on the Illinois Innovation Prize, check out their website.


“Hogchute Sessions” video series debuts with The Bashful Youngens

The Hogchute Collective is the name for the group of people who bring you The Hogchute Opry Festival, and they have had a rather prolific year. After the success of another great Opry in early summer, they decided to continue the fun into the fall, and introduced Hogchute Opry Harvest, a one-day event that took place last October. Now, they’ve rolled out the first of their “Hogchute Sessions,” or live recordings of Hogchute Collective bands' performances. This first video of the series features folk group Bashful Youngens playing a stripped down set in the Kalyx Center Barn, the site where the original Hogchute Opry occurs each year.

Watch the video below, and check out our coverage of Hogchute Opry 2016 here.


Courage Connection may be closing due to budget crisis

The Illinois budget crisis strikes again, and Courage Connection, a local women's domestic violence shelter, is in danger of having to close its doors. They are reaching out with an emergency donation campaign to stay open. Their closure would affect the lives of women and children who are in dangerous and vulnerable situations. See the full press release below:

Courage Connection Launches Emergency Campaign

As a result of the State of Illinois’ budget crisis, Courage Connection is launching an emergency fundraising initiative. Courage Connection is in danger of closing its doors due to cuts in federal funding and the State of Illinois budget crisis – a combined deficit of more than $350,000. The organization is reaching out to the Champaign-Urbana community seeking financial support to preserve the social service agency.

“We have been pushed to the breaking point,” said Isak Griffiths, executive director of Courage Connection. “There are no other human services agencies in the community to bear the burden of the women and children that we could sadly be putting on the streets, or agencies that have the capacity to help so many families seeking the safety and support they need.”

The State of Illinois’ continued budget impasse has resulted in the loss of more than $250,000 in funding to date – a figure that will rise to $350,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June 2017. Federal funding cuts from the Department of Housing and Urban Development resulted in the loss of $100,000 in 2016 as changes in that department’s priorities shifted away from transitional housing.

Social service agencies across the State of Illinois are being affected by the lack of a state budget. Agencies addressing domestic violence in Aurora, Macomb and Carbondale have been forced to reduce services or close entirely. When one agency closes, others in the area are stressed by the increase in need.

Courage Connections, which traces its roots to A Woman’s Place founded in 1971, was arguably the nation’s first domestic violence shelter and the only organization of its kind in the community. The services provided by Courage Connection are not available anywhere else in Champaign County.

The services provided are successful in improving the lives of those affected by domestic violence. Prior to entering transitional housing with Courage Connection, 55 percent of those served were staying temporarily with friends or family; eighteen percent were living in a place not meant for human habitation. After entering transitional housing, 86 percent exited into permanent housing and 88 percent had new or increased income.

Community members are asked to
1. Consider a meaningful gift.  Courage Connection reports, “If we go away, we will never come back.”  Donations can be made at
2. Rally friends and civic organizations to get involved in collecting monetary donations and hosting third-party fundraising events.
3. Celebrating Mother’s Day and the women in your life with a donation to Courage Connection. As a thank you, they will send a woman in your life a card and inform her that a donation has been made in her honor.

About the organization:
Courage Connection provides housing and supportive services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness or who are victims of domestic violence. These services include a domestic violence hotline, secure housing, support groups, counseling, job, life skills training, and more.  In 2010, A Woman’s Place and the Center for Women in Transition combined to become one agency now known as Courage Connection.  The agency also operates a resale store in Lincoln Square Mall called Connections.

Courage Connection by the numbers for FY16:
·         1,472 people served
·         24,190 shelter night provided
·         819 hotline call
·         261 women and 17 men utilized court advocacy services
·         153 orders of protection granted
·         181 women and 180 children received shelter
·         230 people received domestic violence counseling
·         74 women received professional development training


Watson’s to host first pop-up farmers’ market May 2nd

For those of us who are anxiously awaiting the opening of Champaign's Farmers' Market, you're in luck, because Watson's is kicking off the season by hosting the first pop-up farmers market on May 2nd.

The event will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Check out the info from the Facebook event:

Get ready for the new season of the Champaign Farmers' Market and Meet Your Farmers at The Land Connection first Downtown Pop-Up Farmers' Market located in the alley adjacent to Watson's Shack & Rail.

Enjoy Watson's housemade cocktails & slushies while you peruse a selection of fresh spring veggies from Sola Gratia Farm, breads from Central Illinois Bakehouse, and flowers from Old Town Flowers to take home for later.


Chat with your local farmers and learn more about what's on tap for the coming season.

****The Champaign Farmers' Market returns May 16th in the parking lot at Neil & Main. EVERY Tuesday from 3:30 PM - 6:30 PM****

The Land Connection brings fresh, local fruit, vegetables, cheese, grains, fish, meat, honey, herbs, flowers, popsicles, and more right to the heart of Downtown Champaign every Tuesday through the end of October.