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Azuki: Manga as a Bridge Between Cultures opens at University YMCA this week

A recent press release from the University Y shared the following preview of this new exhibit from Kofi Bazzell-Smith, which opens at the Murphy Gallery on Thursday, September 22nd.

"The exhibit is an action-comedy about Azuki, a little girl who is a Rock, Paper, Scissors champion. She is a bilingual manga that imagines Black potential in a world where race does not exist. Pitted against a cast of tough, male opponents, Azuki only plays scissors, but always wins — speculating Black girl magic in a world without impediments as the universe bends toward her will."

A "US-Japan Bridging Scholar," Bazzell-Smith will also speak at the Friday Forum + Conversation Cafe on Friday, September 23rd at noon in the University Y’s Latzer Hall. Get more information here.

Top image from the University Y's website.


Ticket sales for Artisan Cup & Fork end this Friday

This Friday is the last chance to buy tickets for the annual Artisan Cup & Fork. Hosted by The Land Connection, this year's Artisan Cup & Fork will be Saturday, October 1st at the Orpheum in Downtown Champaign. Five culinary teams will make tapas-style dishes, and two bakers will each serve a dessert. Event guests will get to vote for their favorite to be crowned winner of this year's Artisan Cup & Fork.

The dishes for this year's event have been announced, and they sound delicious. 

Team Weird Meat Boyz:

pulled pork kimchi ramen

braised mushroom kimchi ramen

Team Homegrown:

roasted pork belly with pumpkin chutney + a herbed kefir sauce

roasted radish with pumpkin chutney + a herbed kefir sauce

Team VFW Post 630:

pork tenderloin roulade with crispy summer squash + creamy polenta

mushroom roulade with crispy summer squash + creamy polenta

Team Baldarotta's:

sparerib Osso Bucco

mushroom + tomato ragu over cheesy polenta

Team Harmony Korean BBQ:

chicken + black garlic dumplings

confit carrot + black garlic dumplings

Baker Heidi Leuszler will be making pear pockets. The dessert will have a local candied pear slice and a phyllo pastry with a pocket of local cheese, herbs, and a handcrafted pear paste using local pears, apples, ginger, spicebush berries, and prickly ash follicles. Hopscotch Bakery will also make a dessert for the event.

Beer will be available by Artesia Brewing and Riggs Beer Company. Award-winning kombucha company Cloud Mountain Kombucha will be serving some brews, and Hendrick House + Betsy's Bistro will offer bar service.

If this sounds delicious, get your tickets here by Friday, September 23rd at midnight.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.


Try to win a hot pepper contest at this year’s Flannel Fest

If you can handle the heat, you can sign up to be a contestant in Flannel Fest's hot pepper eating contest. The Champaign Parks District have opened the sign-ups online. The hot pepper contest will be on Saturday, October 15th at 2 p.m. It costs $10 to be a contestant, and a waiver must be signed prior to participation.  Register online here if you want to compete.

Flannel Fest is a celebration of flannel and fall activities, and this year it will be October 14th and 15th at Centennial Park. If you want a peek at what the Flannel Fest is all about, check out Sam's photos from the event in 2016

Flannel Fest
Centennial Park
2200 W Kirby Ave
Sa 2 to 3 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.


Read this touching tribute to Aaron “A-Rock” Davidson

If you knew Aaron "A-Rock" Davidson, you knew what he was all about. Suddently passing away at the age of 48, A-Rock was considered to be the heart and soul of the live music scene for many years through his exuberance and quite literally dancing like no one is watching. He was adored by so many and the loss has sent waves through the community. 

You should read Niko Dugan's piece in the News-Gazette which features stories and quotes about Davidson from longtime friends, a touching tribute indeed.

This Sunday, there's a show, Skid Fest, devoted to the celebration of A-Rock's life at the Brass Rail in Downtown Champaign. It is free to attend and starts at 7:30 p.m.

Top image by Troy Stanger.


Thrillist names C-U as an "unexpectedly great" place to visit

We know the C-U is pretty great, and at Smile Politely, at least, we do our best to highlight the best (and sometimes the worst) of what this area has on offer. 

The Thrillist article calls out Black Dog, Merry Ann’s, and Jupiter’s, as well as Exile on Main, Japan House, and Jane Addams Book Shop as must-visit stops. These are all excellent recommendations; if you’re looking for more, just take a look through the thousands of articles we’ve published. 

Top photo by Anna Longworth.

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C-U Theatre Company's Penguin Project launches Pure Imagination

The Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company's Penguin Project makes community theatre accessible to special-needs youth. Opening this weekend, Pure Imagination, is a family-friendly musical revue featuring music from Seussical, Shrek :The Musical, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen and more. Come out and be the audience these young thespians deserve. The show runs Thursday through Sunday at Urbana High School. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved online.  

Top photo from the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company's Facebook page.


CUPHD has COVID booster shot appointments for everyone 12 and up

The Champaign Urbana Public Health District has the new bivalent COVID booster, targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 versions of the Omicron strain, for anyone 12 and up. You can schedule your appointment online. If CUPHD’s availability doesn’t work for you, remember that you can also schedule your booster through CVS or Walgreens.  

Top photo from CUPHD Facebook page.

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Illinois Rare Book Library exhibit to spotlIght its Conde de Montemar collection

The University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library's fall exhibit will feature letters from its extensive Conde de Montemar collection, along with other books about the Spanish conquest and colonization of Perú. If you can't make the opening reception, which will take place from 3-5 p.m. on September 16th, don't worry. The exhibiti will be on view through mid-May of 2023. The curators remarks will also be available on the RBML's YouTube channel in the near future. 

Get more information about the exhibitband the opening recpetion here.

Top photo from The University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library Facebook page.


The Literary is screening The Princess Bride on Friday, September 16th

The Literary is hosting movie nights one Friday a month, featuring book-ish and adjacent films. This Friday, September 16th, you can watch one of the greatest movies of all time, The Princess Bride. The 1987 film stars very young and very good looking blondes Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, as well as national treasures Billy Crystal and Mandy Patinkin. Surely you have seen this movie many times. It’s always worth another watch. The Literary will have food and drink specials for the event.

If you need a refresher:

The Literary
122 N Neil St
F Sept 16th, 6 p.m.

Top image screenshot from the YouTube trailer.

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Healing Hearts Community Collage to be revealed on September 30th

Back in June, I interviewed Katie Snyder of the Museum of the Grand Prairie about the upcoming Healing Hearts Community Collage project, featuring community created images and text to be assembled by artist Cindy Blair Sampson. Well, the wait is almost over. On September 30th, the MGP will host an reception for the unveiling of the multi-panel collage. Find out more here.

Top photo from the Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page.