Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Community That Leads By Example--The 43rd Annual Sheffield Garden Walk

By R. A. Monaco
July 24, 2011

Despite the Sunday morning rain that brought with it even more rain to "The Summer's Best Festival," the 43rd Annual Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival continued its traditions and commitment to the Sheffield community.

Following Friday night's storm that dumped between 5 and 7 inches of rain on the Chicago area and forced the closure of several flooded expressways, and blacked out nearly 90,000 Com Ed customers, the Sheffield Neighborhood Association and their dedicated volunteers saved the day and kept the day long activities on schedule.

On Saturday afternoon, the Revivalists band kicked off the Festival's music to the survivalists who ventured into the unpredictable Chicago weather to support the annual community effort and enjoy the traditions which have continued since 1969.

The rain surpassed the previous record high single-day rainfall total of 6.64 as recorded by the Chicago Weather Service while flooding countless basements including that at Kelly's Pub directly across the street from the event, whose owners Polly and John Kelly are long time patrons of the Garden Walk.

After discovering that the flooding had short circuited the buildings air conditioning at Kelly's Pub, long time relationships prevailed. An early Saturday A.M. call to their trusted heating and air conditioning vendor, Bob McCann Heating and Cooling came to the rescue, so that festival patrons seeking air conditioned relief nearby would be available if needed. It seems the perfect example of the type of community spirit which says more about what has made this festival an enduring part of Chicago's heritage.

For the third day in a row, showers and thunderstorms were unable to discourage the Sheffield Neighborhood Association and their patrons commitment to the event. The non-profit community volunteer-managed festival provides support for neighborhood schools, local institutions, and community projects. Event proceeds are critically important to SNA's Award-Winning Beautification Program, a plan that has continued to give recognition to the Sheffield neighborhood as the Garden District of Chicago.

Garden and Architecture tours went on as scheduled, as did the food, music and good times. Little more needs to be said about a community that leads by example.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Coolest Place in Chicago

By R.A. Monaco
July 8, 2011

For kids like these, this was—not to sound too feverish—a truly eye-opening experience, and for each of the 46 young men the hopeful beginning of an inevitable sequel to a life-long commitment. These up-and-coming hockey prospects were gathered at literally the coolest place in Chicago on an 82° Friday in July—Johnny’s Icehouse, Practice Home of The Chicago Blackhawks for the 2011 Prospects Camp.

While Johnny’s Icehouse was surely the coolest place on earth for 2011 NHL Entry Draft Selections, Mark McNeil (18th overall), Phillip Danault (26th overall), Adam Clendening (36th overall), Brandon Saad (46th overall) and Michael Paliotta (70th overall), it was too for life-long Blackhawks fan Jim Sorce, owner of Jim and Pete’s restaurant in Elmwood Park, now in its 70th year and a favorite haunt of hockey and Italian food buffs. There to see the prospects on-ice sessions and to have a firsthand look at Mark McNeil, the Blackhawks number one pick, the team’s first home game couldn’t come soon enough for Jerry Pontteralli, Sam Anzaldi, and Jim Sorce who may be equally well known for his Blackhawk enthusiasm as he is for Italian cuisine and pizza.

Concurring with early scouting reports, Jim, Sam and Jerry avidly approve of the 19 year old NHL-ready physique of 6’2”, 210 pound Mark McNeil who they hope to see make the Blackhawks this year. While overtly pumped about this new crop of Blackhawk prospects, Mr. Sorce was also enthused about the recent free agent signings of Andrew Brunette #15 (6'1", 210 lbs), Daniel Carcillo #13 (6'0", 205 lbs), Jamal Mayers #22 (6'1", 215 lbs) and defenseman Sean O’Donnell #6 (6'2", 237 lbs) who he believes will improve the team’s physical presence on the ice, deliver plenty of bruises and some much needed pain to their rivals on their way to helping his 11th team to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Come September 28th the coolest place in Chicago moves to the United Center for the 2011-2012 season and when the Blackhawks go on the road, judging from their banter in the stands at Johnny’s Icehouse, you’ll most likely find the hottest fans in town at Jim and Pete’s.