Monday, July 24, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Get Your Rear In Gear (Tinley Park)

The Get Your Rear In Gear 5k in Tinley Park is the Featured Running of the Event of the Week.  This event consists of a 5k Timed Run, a Kids Dash, and a 5k Untimed walk.  The 5k run starts the day at 8:00am, the Kids Dash at approximately 8:30am, and the 5k Walk at 9:00am.  The event is hosted by the Colon Cancer Coalition.

The course is an out and back style, starting in Tinley Park's Community Park - located right next door to White Water Canyon Water Park, Tinley Fitness, and the Tinley Park-Park District.  Plenty of parking is available. (I just wanted to say "park" one more time).

The course starts cross-country style with a wide starting line on grass, but after about 20 yards it narrows down to a paved bike/walking/running path.  That path is then used for the duration of the event.  Runners start off by circling all of the venues mentioned above and then head south on the bike path towards the water tower (which can be seen from the start).  At the water tower, runners make a u-turn - and also reach a water-station (how appropriate - do you think they planned the water stop and the foot of the water tower??).

Runners then return to Community Park and loop the venues mentioned again for a finish back at the park proper.  The path is smooth and quite new - it runs past backyards and open fields, along streets, around buildings and over a small wooden bridge.  And along this route are 2 or 3 locals who provided hoses to water down participants who wish to be watered down - and this summer, with humidity over 80% at start time (and an 82 degree temp) - that water was more than welcome!

But what really makes this course something special is "The Blue Mile".  After (or before) the loop around the Park Campus there is about a mile of blue signs on both sides of the path.  These signs are dedications to people who runners are running in memory of, or in dedication to, or in honor of.  The signs are a combination of survivors and those that did not win the battle with cancer.  Some signs have photos, others quotes, and others just names.  Each sign holding significance to all runners and special significance to selected runners (and walkers).

The event isn't just about the races/walks - before it even starts members of the Colon Cancer Coalition talk about colon cancer statistics, survivors, noticing the symptoms, prevention, and screenings.  There is a tent on-site which provides information on screenings.  There is literature related to this terrible disease all over the grounds.  This is truly an opportunity to raise awareness, not just funds, but actual awareness of the disease.  They do such a great job of intermixing the enjoyment of running and walking - with the raising of funds and awareness, that it all just blends together naturally to be an informative and enjoyable time all at once.  Special awards are given to the top survivor finishers as well.

Sponsorship, entry fees, and Blue Mile Donations are all reasonably priced and accessible to nearly everybody who is interested.  The race itself is on an enjoyable course - and the cause is an important one.

More information about the Colon Cancer Coalition can be found at

Monday, July 17, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Get Your Butt Kicked on 66

The Get Your Butt Kicked on 66 is, as the name implies, and event that takes place on Historic Route 66.  To be precise, it takes place at Route 66 State Park in Missouri, not far from St. Louis.  The park is the home of abandon portions of Route 66 as well as a now dismantled Route 66 bridge over the Meramac River.  The dismantled bridge is a harbinger of the tale of Route 66 State Park, which at one time was the populated town of Times Beach.  Quite the interesting, and sad, tale of Times Beach, which is best described by this Wikipedia article.   Now, this area is a picture perfect state park, with trees, and fields, and ponds, and walking and biking and equestrian paths.

So, that's the place, now here's the race.  The Get Your Butt Kicked on 66 is a 6-Hour Endurance Race.  The idea of an endurance race is to get as many miles in, during the 6 hour time period, as one can (or one wishes to attempt, as runners are free to stop at any time, they can also restarted at any time - within the 6 hour window).  Some people use this as a way to run a selected distance, some just want to stay "in motion" for the full 6 hours, some walk the entire time, some stop after a certain number of loops.  That's the beauty of Endurance Races - you can complete whatever you want (or try to accomplish whatever you want) as long as it is within the time window.

This particular race starts at 6:00pm and goes for 6 hours (catching a Route 66 theme here?).  The first 2.5 is in the sunlight.  Sunlight in Missouri in July is bad enough, however, the route sits in a valley near a river, so add humidity to the mixture.  This race is more about the conditions than the terrain.  The next 30 minutes is in the setting sun, and the remaining 3 hours is in the dark, requiring headlamps, flashlights, shoelights, or such other lighting concoctions.

The path itself is mostly flat, there is one rapid decline, a long nearly-flat incline, and some nearly-flat declines.  The track is about an even mixture of pavement, chip-n-seal, and crushed gravel.  The entire trail is plenty wide allowing for passing of quicker participants with ease, and no real choke points.  The final stretch gets a little narrow, especially during the final minutes when participants are on the short loop trying to get in those final miles - but it's not bad.

That short loop?  So, the main course is a 2.45 (ish) mile loop on the paths described above, which also includes the park streets.  Participants traverse this route for as long as they want.  But remember, in Endurance Racing, only completed laps count, so nobody wants to be caught out on the loop when time expires.  Thus, the "short loop".  Participants, during the final 60 minutes (some races it's final 30, 45, 15, depends) can run a "short loop".  In this case, it is a 1/3rd mile loop almost primarily on the streets and parking lots, and then on the same narrow final stretch.  Runners can apply strategy here, and decide how soon or how late to hit the short course.  Those final 15 minutes, the short loop is busy!!!

The course has a main aid station at the start/finish line, complete with water, sports drink, pretzels, pickles, M&Ms, fruits, and other assortments.  Mid-way (ish) through the course is a water & sports drink aid station.  Participants are actually able to park their vehicles right along the front stretch, and also right before the final stretch.  These can be used as personal aid stations, where participants can setup tents, drinks, food, chairs, etc etc.  The route makes this VERY easy to do - literally, cars are 2 feet from the running area.  Early arrivals get better spots.

A challenging race, the name sums it up!  The battle is with heat, humidity, nightfall, bugs, and one's inner strength.

Just for kicks - the photo below is a picture I took before the race of the dismantled Route 66 Bridge - from underneath.  (the course does not go under the bridge)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Run For Freedom 5k

The Run For Freedom 5k is the 2nd race in the H-F Summer Race Circuit, with 1 race in May, 1 in July, and 1 in September.  Each race starts/ends in a local park and traverses the local neighborhood.

This run is run on the morning of the 4th of July and the majority of the participants were dressed in some form of red/white/blue, and some even ran with miniature and regular size American flags.

This race starts outside the local school and begins with a long straightaway, then makes a few turns through the neighborhood and finishes back along the same straightaway - a combination out-and-back and loop race.  95% of the route is completely shaded (which is often needed for a July race in Chicagoland) as the course travels through established neighborhoods with many very large trees.  The course is relatively flat with probably a 15 foot total elevation gain, and that isn't even noticeable.

The race begins and ends at Lions Club Park and Pool - which is a wide open park, with plenty of room for summertime activities - and, as the name suggests - a pool.  The race ends in the park, after 3+ miles of pavement running - the final 100 yards or so is across the open field to the finish line.  A great way to finish as it lends itself to a Chariots of Fire type ending.

A well run smalltown Americana race on the 4th of July!  It starts at 8:00, still allowing plenty of time to get back home and enjoy the festivities of the day.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Reagan Run 5k

Fourth of July weekend/week - seems like the perfect time to write about the Reagan Run 5k  - and also the perfect time for the run itself to occur.

The Reagan Run took place on July 1st in Dixon, IL - the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.  The race starts right outside of the boyhood home of President Reagan, faithfully restored to its look when "Ronnie" lived there, back in the 1920s.  The current home owners, the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Society obtained the property in 1980 and fully restored it over the next 4 years - completing it just in time for then-President Reagan to visit it in 1984.  One neighboring home has been turned into the Visitor's Center and the other neighboring home has been removed and turned into the Ronald Reagan Park complete with benches and a statue.

The race starts at this historic site and runs down Hennepin Avenue towards the Rock River - passing other historic sites, including the very school President Reagan attended while living in Dixon - which has a room restored to its look when "Ronnie" attended.

There is a lot I want to say about this course, as it is VERY unique, but the discovery of the course is most of the fun - so I hesitate to give any detailed accounts of this course.  I will say one thing for certain - if you aren't going uphill - you are going downhill.  I don't recall much "flatness" on the course.  The start line is literally on an downhill slope and the finish line is literally on an uphill slope - and it's all VERY noticeable visually and when running.

So, as not to give anything away, I will not talk about the course itself - other than - this is unique - and they hint at that during the opening remarks before the start.

The town is fully supportive of this race with residents sitting on their porches or parkways cheering runners on for nearly the entire course - they love it!  Even some residents spraying a water hose into to air for runners to run under - and trust me - that was much appreciated!

The race drew somewhere around 1500 runners and walkers this year - and both are welcome (runners and walkers and joggers and woggers and everything in between - but no strollers or dogs).

This race is something to be experienced and if you are into unique races - this is a "must do" race.

Very well organized, very pleasant and peaceful town, very fun and interesting course, and lots of history.

Wow,  I really want to give a run-down of the course, but spoilers would spoil this run.  It's a must-do-yourself type thing.

Highly recommended!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Saw Wee Kee Spring Trail Challenge



The Saw Wee Kee Spring Challenge Race is a 5k Trail Race in Saw Wee Kee Park near Oswego, IL along the Fox River.  A challenging name to say, and a challenging course as well.  Most of the course is double (or triple wide) path, but there are some sections of single wide path.  The course consists mostly of hard dirt and rocky dirt, as it is very close to a rock quarry.  And parts of the course feel more like a Mountain Bike course with ups and downs and ups and downs (they have a word for that in motocross, but I can't remember it).  There are some steep inclines, and declines, as well.  In addition there are 3 creek crossings (well, 2 separate ones, one of which is crossed twice).  Both of these have steep entrances and exits.  It is unlikely a runner can successfully jump one, so most everybody will get wet.  The final stretch is run on grassy horse path alongside the Fox River.

This is definitely a trail for those who watch where they are running, between the rocks and the roots, there is unsure footing for 90% of the race.  Though, it is "hard dirt" it is still softer on the knees than asphalt or pavement.

The course is a combination of loop and out-back with about 50% of the trail being run only once - and 50% on the out-and-back portion.  The ever changing terrain and elevations definitely keeps the run interesting for the entire duration.  The race starts on one side of the road and ends on the other, finishing alongside the Fox River for a nice scenic view while rehydrating and recovering.

A unique aspect of this race is the 1-hour start window.  Participants can start the race any time between 4 and 5 PM.  It is chip timed, so the timing doesn't start until the runner crosses the start line.  If there is a line of runners waiting to start, runners are released one at a time in intervals - judged by the previous runner being out of visual sight before the next runner starts. 

The option to choose a start time does prevent an interesting twist to the race, though.  Are you the type of runner that uses a rabbit to pace yourself?  Then you should get in line and start with the crowd.  Are you the kind of runner that loses interest if you don't feel the challenge of runners behind (or in front of) you?  Then get in line and start with the crowd.  Are you a very fast trail runner?  Then start up front - OR - delay your start until you think the path is relatively clear and you won't catch much traffic.  Do you prefer to run alone at your own pace, and don't want to interfere with others?  Then start after a few minutes after the crowd starts.  Of course, weather could also play a factor, is it raining at the start?  Is it about to rain?  Is the sun out?  Will it go behind a cloud?   If the course was muddy, do you want to run it before it gets all trodden by other runners?  Or do you prefer it has been "worn" before you go out?

The one-hour window to start the race definitely puts some strategy into it - or if not strategy - at least some new twists.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Hypertension

Hypertension - or "Hypertension STL" as they are known on facebook to separate themselves from any other type of Hypertension - is a Saint Louis area-based 5-piece rock & roll band.  I don't want to call them a classic rock band or a cover band - because even though they do play covers of classic rock, they really are a good old fashioned true blue Rock & Roll Band.  They have a Rock & Roll look, Rock & Roll sound, and Rock & Roll Fun Attitude on stage.

The band features a female vocalist, however other members of the band do sing on harmonies and backup, and, when I saw them, the drummer also took lead vocals on some songs.  (The others might as well, I didn't catch the entire show).

The reason I didn't catch the entire show was because Hypertension was the featured band at the Route 66 10k in Edwardsville, IL, and because I'm not exactly a fast runner (by any definition), I did miss the opening of their act.  Though, I admit, I did hear them with about a 1/4 mile to go, and that helped speed up my pace, so I could see them as well!

The band played songs from the way-back classic rock catalog to songs that are still on popular radio today - and everything in between.  In addition to having that "Rock & Roll Look" - heck, the lead guitarist had a classic long ponytail - they also had talent.  More than just looks!  Watching the lead guitarist on solos from artists like GNR was amazing, nailing the rifs and solos.  The same can be said about the bass player who was laying down some grooves with some awesome fret work.  The drummer, not only could sing, but was setting the perfect beat for each song with some timely fills.  The vocalist had the voice - and also the ability to capture the crowd.  And the keyboardist, though quiet, like many keyboardists, played perfectly in every song - and really, can 80s music even be played without a quality keyboard player??

The band interacted with the audience the entire time, and even got the majority of the audience to "laugh out loud" with this quote - 'Wow - it IS a hot one today.....great day for a run'.

Another thing I noticed, and this doesn't hold true with all bands in the live music world, these guys were prompt.  They were asked to take a break so that race awards could be given, and they were off the stage and out of the way almost immediately.  When the awards were over, they were back on stage, and started playing immediately.  Always a joke in rock parody movies - but these guys (and gal) really ARE prompt.  Of course, in true Rock & Roll fashion, when told they had time for "one more short one" - they picked a 7 minute GNR song!  Much to the delight of the fans!!!

If you are in the St. Louis area - on either side of the Mighty Mississippi - check them out.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Kilbride Family Classic 5k

The Kilbride Family Classic 5k starts and ends along the banks of the Kankakee River, in Kankakee.  A pleasant, Midwestern, picturesque start/finish location right out of some book or Norman Rockwell print.

During the summer, after an all-night rain, this can lead to some added humidity, however that is countered by the fact that at least 95% of the course is in the shade.

The course starts by the river, at a park, and proceeds into the nearby neighborhood, returns to the park briefly, and then heads back into the neighborhood.  This is a long-established neighborhood with big houses, and even bigger trees.  The majority of the streets are tree-lined and tree-covered.  The areas that are not in the shade are few and far between.  So, even on a hot and humid day, at 8:00am, it's really not as noticeable as it could be.

Because the houses are older and bigger, it does provide some scenery for the runners, in addition, many of the residents sit outside in their front yards and cheer runners on and hold up signs or blow noise makers.  Something that 99.9999% of runners thoroughly enjoy and participate.

The course is primarily flat, with a slight incline during the first mile and that same decline during the final mile.  Basically as the runners leave the riverbanks and return to the riverbanks.

Starting in a park, along the river, and going through older neighborhoods, the best adjective for this race is "peaceful".  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Also, at the start and again shortly after the start, runners can catch a peak at Frank Lloyd Wright's Bradley House.  It's not on the course, but parts of it can be seen right after the start along the riverbanks and again within the first mile, if one remembers to glance down the right street at the right time.  Of course, being so close - runners could also walk over before or after the race to take a look, and still be close to the event.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Route 66 10k, Edwardsville

Reader warning - this is one of our longer posts - but the volunteers deserve the recognition.

As part of my running "bucket list", my goal is to run as many races in Route 66 towns or ON Route 66 (even better) in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, within reason.  We've already featured several of them on this blog over the past few years.  This week it is the Route 66 10k in Edwardsville, IL.

What drew me to the race was that it was part of the annual Route 66 Festival, which consists of a car show, vendors, live music, and Route 66 memorabilia.  What makes it one of my favorite races turned out to be not where it was located (Route 66), but what went on as part of the race.  So let's walk through it (or run).

The race itself starts at the Route 66 Festival at 8:00am, right about when most vendors are arriving and begin setting up.  Most "open" at 10:00am officially, but by the time I completed the race and got situated, many of them were already open for business.  The race also ends at the Route 66 Festival.

The course spends about 50% on city streets and 50% on wooded bike/walking paths.  Runners leave the Route 66 Festival and head through some side streets then across Route 66 itself, and then begin a winding process through the business and residential sidestreets of Edwardsville.  The course spends very little time on the larger streets, which makes sense as it would be difficult to close main streets, especially Route 66 during a Route 66 Festival. 

As part of the neighborhood portion of the course, there are quite a few blocks of red brick road (sorry, not yellow brick), but very reminiscent of older parts of Route 66 and just older neighborhoods in general.  These brick streets are well maintained, and although it does lead to a more cautious step, there were no ankle-twisters that I spotted.  Many don't care for brick roads during a race (as I have overheard some say here and in Dwight), but, personally I like the ever changing terrain.  Not only does it change things up, it adds to the historic atmosphere of a Route 66 race.

The course then exits the neighborhoods for a relatively steep and winding downhill consisting of almost the entire elevation loss of the entire race.  As it winds, it builds speed, adding another challenge to runners to successfully pace themselves and change their strides accordingly.  At the foot of the hill and after a few turns is a Nature Center and the first water stop - and the second spirit station. 

Wait - time for a break here - the second spirit station.  The first one was back around mile 1 if I am not mistaken and consisted of adults, teens, and children holding up signs, ringing bells, and cheering for complete strangers (and for friends they knew in the race).  And that marks the first of seven stations (I hope I counted that right), and those are what made this event so memorable for me - the spirit stations.  Each one was themed differently, and I hope I don't leave any out.  (This is what I referenced in the intro).

Back to the race, the next spirit station was also many kids, teens, and adults with all sorts of funny signs and bells and cheers and high-fives encouraging the runners, just before we headed of into the wooded path area.

The next 3 miles-ish is spent on a very gradual, but constant, uphill, making up for that giant steep downhill earlier.  All of the elevation loss is made up during the wooded path area, it is very very gradual, but it is constant.  Trees are on both sides of the path and provides a very scenic tour through nature.   The next spirit station was themed as a Pool Party - they even wrote on the path "Pool Party Ahead" in multi-colored chalk!  Once runners arrived there, they were greeted with volunteers in pool attire, and a decorated area with pool inflatables, beach items, beach umbrellas, and the like.  An oasis at in the woods. 

The race continued in the wooded area for another mile or so, when the next spirit station arrived and runners could hear it as they approached - the infamous sound of dueling banjos playing loud and proud.  Upon arriving at the spirit station, just past the underpass, runners were greeted with over-the-top "hillbillies" and water guns!  And those water guns were a welcome respite from the heat, as volunteers would water-down willing participants as they ran (or walked past) - front AND back!!!

Later, still in the woods came the next spirit station, which also acted as a guide or a directional sign, preventing runners from continuing straight on the path and massively increasing their total distance.  The volunteers lined up for high-fives, essentially blocking the wrong path and forcing runners to make the right turn (a left turn, actually).  At least a dozen young ladies cheering and high-fiving the runners as they passed.

Shortly after that, the course emerges from the wooded path and runs along side one of the main roads on a VERY wide concrete path.  The cars honking as they drove by - or waving - provided that necessary inspiration to complete the final mile of the race.  The drivers provided that extra adrenaline kick needed for the finish.  The course then turned back onto residential streets for the final 1/4 mile or so and a couple of turns - then a long finish line stretch of a few blocks which included the final spirit station, with mostly teens and adults cheering and high-fiving and yelling words of encouragement to the runners with .1 miles to go.  They also provided a nice hose to run under!!

And then it finished - with the Route 66 Festival straight ahead and live music already rocking the area!!

I remember so much detail of this race BECAUSE of the spirit stations - when racing, especially on longer distances, it becomes a mental challenge as well, not just physical, and those spirit stations really helped keep the spirits up!!!  By the way, I'm pretty sure I forgot one of them, as I thought there were 7, but can only remember 6.  I'm sure the one I'm forgetting was just as good, and my sincere apologizing for not remembering it.  When/if I do, I'll edit this post.  Even though I don't remember it now, I'm positive I appreciated it then!

AUTHOR'S EDIT : As promised, I'd edit them in, thank you to Erica who replied on our Facebook page,  jogging (pun intended) my memory.  The other spirit station was handing out giant soaking wet sponges!!!  Fortunately, it wasn't miserably hot outside, but I tell you those sponges sure did come in handy - and were much appreciated!!!  Not sure how in the world I could have forgotten them!!!!

One final note before concluding, this race takes place in June near St. Louis - it can be hot and humid, but between the mature neighborhoods and the wooded path, much of the race is spent in the shade - like almost 90% of it, if not more!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Final Say

This is Final Say.

A 5 piece band with male and female vocals, often interacting in the same songs, even those not written as duets.  Of course they also both solo as well, and the entire band takes part in the harmonies and choruses.  The band also features bass guitar, electric guitar, and drums.

The band is awesome with the crowd interaction - always making some sort of eye contact with the audience and bringing them into the show, often times even pointing out those dancing in the aisles (verbally or by gesture).   But, it's not just the audience with the moves - the two lead vocalists have got some moves too.  The dude is like Morris Day mixed with pitbull with some John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever all rolled into one -he's got the moves - and they are timed well.  The female vocalist is like Lady Gaga, Britney, and Olivia Newton-John from Grease all rolled into one - she's got the moves - and some great on-stage attitude to boot!

Visually, this band is a blast to watch.  It's a blast to watch them interacting with the audience (all of the band members take part in this) and it's fun to watch them entertain.  They truly understand that live music is also about entertaining the audience.

Musically, this band s a blast to listen to.  Their cover tunes are spot on with the originals, with just a touch of their own nuances, which make the songs different, but the same.  They don't change the original - but it's not just listening to repeats either.  They take the songs and own the songs, vocally and instrumentally.

And, I want to make sure I give props to the entire band, not just the two front-people.  It's the solidness and tightness of the band that allows the frontman and frontwoman the freedom to be the entertainers.  The band is able to back them up instantly and is excellent at improv! 

They are clearly accomplished musicians/vocalists with loads of talent, but at the same time, they don't take themselves too seriously.  They are up their having fun - and they want their audience to have fun with them.

Definitely a great band to listen to and watch!!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Soldier Field 10-Miles

"There is a time-out.....on the field."  Something one would hear at a Chicago Bears game.

This past May, this is what might be heard instead "There is a runner.....on the field."

The Soldier Field 10-Miler Starts AND Finishes ON THE FIELD.  Not outside the building, not in the streets nearby, not in a parking lot, not even in a concourse, but on the actual field - on the turf.

The start line is essentially somewhere within the endzone near the sideline.  Runners in corrals A-H line up ON THE FIELD.  Now, some of this area is covered in plastic, but Corrals A&B are directly on the turf - and the race begins on the turf itself.  Runners literally start - ON Soldier Field. 

Runners are allowed onto the field approximately 1 hour before race start time, and most participants took advantage of that hour to take selfies and other photographs.  For many of us, like me, who were never good at football, this was probably our only chance to do something athletic inside Soldier Field.

But wait, there's more!  The race also FINISHED on Soldier Field.  Runners entered the building and ran a portion of the concourse, and the headed onto the field out of the tunnel - just like players at the start of the game.  Each runner had the chance to "run out of the tunnel" and then finish on the 50 yard line.  On the turf for the entire finish sprint.  And most everybody did sprint.  I think I ran my fastest ever pace for those 50 yards!  What a rush!!!  What a way to finish!

The course itself, once it left the Soldier Field sidewalks and streets, went under (yes under) McCormick Place, then spent time on a Lake Shore Drive frontage road and headed south for quite some time.  LSD on the right and the Lake itself on the left.  At about 5 miles, runners turned around and headed north on the Lakefront Path, which Lake Shore Drive a distant memory, and just the lake to the right and Chicago's spectacular skyline straight-ahead, both providing incentive and encouragement!  At the halfway point there was a DJ playing music and cheering runners on.  Refreshment stands were plentiful and were staffed with enthusiastic volunteers cheering runners on.  At various points on the course, especially the final mile and first miles, there were plenty of spectators cheering on friends and family and random running strangers as well.  There was encouragement the entire 10 miles.

Folds Of Honor was the charity, which helps with scholarships for children of those lost in action as well as other forms of assistance.  The race itself is a salute to the Men & Women of the United States Armed Forces and there was a touching and impactful ceremony honoring these brave soldiers prior to the start of the race.  We are able to run and hold events like this because of our freedom - and that freedom comes from our brave Men & Women of the Armed Forces.

Local Live Music - SUMMERTIME

This will be updated often.  Also, remember to check with the venue or the band first, after all, this is live music - and things do change.

This IS live music - so always check with the band or the venue prior to traveling out to see them.  Things do change sometimes.

7/20 - Little Johnny & The HouseRockers - PickUps Bar & Grill, Chicago Heights, IL
7/20 - The Rush Tribute Project - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
7/21 - Paul McCartney - Wells Fargo Arena, Des Monies, IA
7/21 - Little Johnny & The HouseRockers - American Legion Riders Post 621, Cedar Lake, IN
7/21 - Ides Of March - Boji Bay Legacy Park, Milford, IA
7/21 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
7/21 - Kashmir - Music Fest, Forest Park, IL
7/21 - Low Voltage - Jersey's Bar & Grill - Inver Grove Heights, MN
7/21 - Mortals 2 - Fenn Valley Vineyards, Fennville, MI
7/21 - Festival Of The Witch II - Krew Rock Lounge, Berwyn, IL
7/22 - Festival Of The Witch II - Krew Rock Lounge, Berwyn, IL
7/22 - Big Boppers - 1977 Rich Central Reunion, Olympia Fields Country Club, Olympia Fields, IL
7/22 - Little Johnny & The HouseRockers - 2nd Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Motorcycle Ride, The Glass Tap, Steger, IL
7/23 - Big Boppers - Rich South/Rich Central Reunion Picnic, Memorial Park, Matteson, IL
7/23 - Kashmir - Sheffield Music Festival & Garden Walk, Chicago, IL
7/25 - Paul McCartney - Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, Tinley Park, IL
7/26 - Paul McCartney - Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, Tinley Park, IL
7/26 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Melody Mart, Homewood, IL
7/27 - Kashmir - Lake County Fair, Grayslake, IL
7/27 - The Atomic Punks - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
7/28 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
7/28 - Kashmir - Prairie Fest, Wood Dale, IL
7/29 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
7/29 - Kashmir - Broken Oar, Port Barrington, IL
7/30 - Little Johnny & The HouseRockers - New Corner Bar & Grill, Lynwood, IL
8/3 - Epic - Kankakee County Fair, Kankakee, IL
8/3 - Kashmir - Wicker Park Summer Concert Series, Highland, IN
8/3 - 52nd Street - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
8/4 - Kashmir - Post 502 Vet Fest, Valparaiso, IN
8/4 - Blast To The Past Band - Berwyn Seniors Picnic, Berwyn, IL
8/4 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
8/4 - Remedy - Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Davenport, IA
8/5 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
8/5 - High Anxiety - Aroma Park Boat Club, Aroma Park, IL
8/5 - Charlie Foxtrot - The Port, Bridgeport (Chicago), IL
8/5 - Kashmir - Edgewater Edge Fest, Chicago, IL
8/5 - Backdated - St. Donatus Carnival, Blue Island, IL
8/9 - Kashmir - Music In The Park, Bensenville, IL
8/10 - Epic - Veterans Memorial Park, Kenosha, WI
8/10 - Kashmir - Summer Rhapsody Music Fest, Valparaiso, IN
8/10 - American English - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
8/11 - High Anxiety - Gladiolus Festival, Momence, IL
8/11 - Liverpool 60s Dance Party - The Fest For Beatles Fans, Hyatt-Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, IL
8/12 - Liverpool Sgt. Pepper Side 1 - The Fest For Beatles Fans, Hyatt-Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, IL
8/13 - Megabeatles - The Fest For Beatles Fans, Hyatt-Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, IL
8/13 - Liverpool Sgt. Pepper Side 2 - The Fest For Beatles Fans, Hyatt-Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, IL
8/17 - Kashmir - River Rhythms - Waterford, WI
8/17 - Slippery When Wet - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
8/18 - Kashmir - Rock The Fox, Carpentersville, IL
8/19 - Him Who Reigns - Free Worship Concert, Trinity Lutheran Church, Crete, IL
8/19 - Epic - Village Commons, New Lenox, IL
8/19 - Sniper - Finnegans Pub, Dyer, IN
8/20 - Jim Peterik - Bolingbrok, IL
8/20 - Kashmir - Elburn Days Fest, Elburn, IL
8/22 - Jim Peterik - Hillside Commons Park, Hillside, IL
8/24 - Think Floyd - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
8/24 - Mortals 2 - Concert In The Park, Hartford, MI
8/25 - High Anxiety - Ashkum Homecoming, Ashkum IL
8/25 - Low Voltage - Doghouse Bar & Grill - Maplewood, MN
8/25 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
8/26 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
8/27 - Mortals 2 - Arcadia Ales, Kalamazoo, MI
8/30 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session - Melody Mart, Homewood, IL
8/31 - Hi Infidelity - MB Financial Park, Rosemont, IL
9/6 - Big Boppers - Michigan Plaza, 205 N Michigan, Chicago, IL

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Featured Music Artist of the Week - The Doors (an editorial)

Going to do something a little different this week - this is more of an OpEd piece than a review.  Just happened to be something I was thinking about one day while listening to my iPod, and then Facebook asked me "What's on your mind" - so here goes :

Facebook is asking "what's on your mind". Well, I'll tell ya. The Doors, to be specific.

This is NOT meant as a criticism to Robby, John, or Ray - just stating my opinion. Been listening to The Doors post-Morrison(two albums, "Other Voices" and "Full Circle"). There is NO question that Robby Krieger, John Densmore, and Ray Manzarek were EXPERTS at their craft. They were "musician's musicians". They more than had the chops and they could improvise better than most musici...ans - then and now. They were talented.

But, The Doors without Morrison proves that line from Eddie & The Cruisers - "words and music, words and music". Without Jim's songwriting, the songs just fell flat. Musically, they were very very good - and the words weren't bad - I've heard worse many times. And I'm not saying Jim's lyrics were always the most profound - "Hello, I love you won't you tell me your name, Hello I love you let me jump in your game" - not Shakespeare. But some of the lyrics were actually rather deep, some were filled (most actually) with deep and vivid imagery. And even on the most simplest of lyrics, Morrison's writing talent shined through. The rhymes without being a rhymin' Simon. The poetic beat, the meter (I think that's the right term), the choice of words, the setting of the mood, the darkness, the alliteration "Motel Money Murder Madness - let's change the mood from glad to sad-ness", and other poetic intangibles - made the songs more than just ordinary. The contrast, yet similarity of songs, like Wintertime Love and Summer's Almost Gone - both on the same album and from the same era - just something intangible.

As great as Robby, Ray, and John were musically, and they most definitely were, - it really is "words and music, words and music".

The end.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Essence of Freedom 5k/10k

Seeing how today is Memorial Day, it seems only fitting that the Featured Running Event should be a Memorial Day Tribute event.

This race takes place on Memorial Day morning in Deerfield, IL.  It is a 5k/10k run/walk event.  The 5k and the 10k start at the same time.  For the most part, the 10k runners run the 5k loop twice, but with a little "kickout" to make up for the fact they don't run the "finish line chute" twice.  The entire route is through an established neighborhood with plenty of trees for shade and established homes to look at for scenery.  There is even a portion of the course that runs next to an open field, almost making the runners feel as though they are out in the country.  The neighborhood has several rolling hills, nothing too steep, but if feels as if the entire race is going uphill or downhill.  The roads are well paved and there are no ankle-twisters on the course.

The runner's village takes place in a rather large parking lot and has a silent auction, race-day registration, athletic stretching, dog adoption agency, a DJ, and an "American breakfast" which consisted of quite a large variety of hot foods.  In addition, the finish line "runner's refresh" also had water and bananas and orange slices.  Participants would not go thirsty or hungry.

The finish line itself is in the parking lot, as runners make a 90 degree turn for a short 10 yard sprint, which is actually kinda cool, because of the layout, finishers and spectators are there at the finish line to encourage people as they approach.

In addition to the 5k and 10k, there is also a Memorial Parade leading down the main road from runner's village to the cemetery.  This is led by the Rolling Thunder motorcycle club. 

Speaking of which, Rolling Thunder led the runners at the start of the race, and eventually took up volunteer positions on the course to help direct runner traffic and provide runner safety from car traffic. 

A very will organized event with a well marked course.  And a great cause, with proceeds going to the SOS Freedom 501c3 charity (SOS = Support Or Soldiers).

The importance of the day was not lost in the event, as a matter of fact, at all times Memorial Day was the primary focus, with the race being secondary.  There were runners with flags, active military runners and volunteers, charitable giving opportunities, and of course a great rendition of the National Anthem. 

We run, because others have fought for our right to participate in such events.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Big D "Unplugged"

So, this is sort of a Throwback Thursday, or maybe it's Big D Redux, or maybe it's a sequel.

We've reviewed Big D here before, but it was primarily related to his appearances at The Fest For Beatles Fans and/or associated events.

This time we review Big D outside of the Beatles elements, in a regular weekend gig near his hometown near the downstate IL/IN border.

I had the pleasure of riding to/from the gig with Big D, and had a chance to just chat.  After some brief chat about past Beatles Fest experiences, some chat about the potential future of said Fest, and some general chit-chat, as expected, the topic switched to music.  And, as expected, Big D doesn't just play music, he KNOWS music.  We talked about everything from Elvis to Soundgarden, from Alice In Chains to Anthrax, from Ozzy to The Orleans, from Jim Croce to Julian Lennon, and from Kiss to The Kinks.  We even found out we are part of a small crowd of people that VERY DISTINCTLY remember "Meet Me On The Corner Down At Joe's CafĂ©" (by Peter Noone) from the legendary K-TEL album, "Dynamite".  Big D is a walking Wikipedia or music knowledge and history and trivia.  (Let's face it, at this point in time, K-Tel is in that "trivia" category)

Anyhow, the gig was in a Wine Store (Bella Vista) in downstate Illinois, and Big D was not sure what to expect, he has played outdoor gigs, concert venues, and of course bars - but never a wine bar.  He wasn't quite sure what to expect and what songs would "fit in" for such a setting and crowd.  To set the stage for our readers, Big D's "Unplugged" gig consists of Big D on vocals and Big D on 12-string acoustic guitar.  Throw in some effects pedals, tied to the microphone and the guitar, and the sound is big as well.  If you were outside, you'd think it was at least 2 people, perhaps more.

Turns out, it all went well, and Big D's expansive selection of music fit in perfectly - perfectly.  The owners are both huge 90s music fans, and it turns out one of them was even a singer in a band - that happened to be on the circuit as the same time as one of Big D's previous bands in the 90s - they actually crossed paths.  So, this definitely set the stage for the evening.

Early in the evening, the crowd was primarily and older crowd (of which I think I now fit into) and a more reserved crowd.  And Big D recognized this immediately and dug into the archives and played deep cut Elvis songs as well as many songs suited for acoustic guitar from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, including the well known "Chevy Van" which is the definition of campfire acoustic from the 1970s.  Naturally, probably due to our common theme of the Beatles, Big D also hit about 3 or 4 Beatles songs early in the evening as well.  The entire time, interacting with the crowd, taking requests, drinking, and telling stories, perfectly relatable to the crowd on hand.  At one point, he played, on 1 12-string and effects pedals, an amazing rendition of A Day In The Life, complete with the crescendos and "largeness" of that song.  And it got a loud ovation.  Not to spoil it, you have to hear it yourself.

As the evening progressed, the crowd shifted from older to younger - though most of the older crowd never left until closing time, to be perfectly honest.  And Big D read this shift perfectly, and started moving into heavier songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, including Soundgarden tributes and songs by their contemporaries (again, one man, 1 12-string, and pedals).  And, as he had done all evening, continuous interaction with the crowd, including story telling, jokes, drinks, and requests.  As the evening moved along, instead of sitting, everybody was standing, and rocking, and dancing, and, simply put - partying.  Big D later called this one of his Top 5 recent gigs!  The energy was intense and fun - and everybody became part of the music - everybody - the patrons, the owners, and of course Big D.  The owner even got up and sang on two songs, and was phenomenal on both. 

This became, basically, a giant party where everybody seemed to know each other, and the music was the glue that held it together and kept it moving along.  This wasn't a case of people talking and there happened to be a musician - this was a case of all eyes (and ears) focused on the musician.  This was exactly what live music is about!!!!

The evening "ended" several times with the grand finale, but never seemed to end.  The plan was to end with Piano Man, as long as everybody agreed to sing along with the chorus - and they did - every last person knew every last word.  Then it was the classic Freebird - and again, every single person from 21 to 81 knew every single word.  Then, the owner led the crowd in a giant sing-along of Don't Stop Believing - and again, everybody knew every word.  Then, in what I admit surprised me, a stirring rendition of Ozzy's Mama I'm Coming Home - to which every last person - male, female, 21, 81, and every age in between - belted out every single word to every single verse and chorus.  They rocked the house, with Big D as the ring leader.  Finally, it really was closing time, and as one of the owners said, before literally unplugging Big D unplugged, "Go home people".  But, it wasn't over yet - Big D rallied the troops for a grand finale of Sweet Caroline.  THIS is EXACTLY what live music is all about.  Every single person, regardless of age, background, etc - was singing along for the entire final 30 minutes of the evening.  This was a party that did not want to end - and Big D was the ring-leader!!!

By the way, Big D also performs a monthly "Big D Unplugged Beatles Night" at a local establishment and is a member of the band FoxTrot Charlie.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - CPD Run/Walk to Remember 5k

The CPD Run/Walk is held to honor and remember the 575 fallen officers in Chicago.  The money goes to a scholarship foundation which is used to put the children of the fallen through college.  The 2017 event had more than 5000 participants, and the event has raised over $8 MILLION throughout the years.

Many Chicago races start near Soldier Field, either at Stadium Green or the McCormick Place Tailgate Lot.  This starts near those places, but instead starts on the West Side of the CPD Gold Star Family Memorial Monument and finishes on the East Side of the same monument.  Giving participants plenty of opportunity to stop and pay their respects and show their appreciation.  The final 1/4 mile (a guess) of the course is lined with photographs of each fallen officer on each side of the course.  The entire event is presented with the highest level of respect and class.

Participants can register as walkers or runners.  The run is chip-timed start and finish.  The course itself heads north from the Soldier Field campus and winds through the Museum campus on route to a Lake Shore Drive bike/walking path.  The first half of the race is run with LSD to the left, and cars honking in support.  Participants pass Buckingham Fountain as well - and the Chicago skyline in sight the entire time.  As the course gets further north, it turns around, and the final half is run directly along the Lake Shore itself, down away from the noise of the Drive and with beautiful Lake Michigan on the left this time - literally 5-10 yards away.  The course finishes by going around the Aquarium, between the Oceanarium and the Lake - and the towards the finish line by the Gold Star Family Memorial. 

In addition to a truly scenic route, the race has a spectacular start as well, with a Prayer, the National Anthem (sung live), a bag pipe band at the start line, and a flyover.  Yes - honestly a flyover - as the Chicago Police Helicopter swoops down over the starting line just before the race.  The Helicopter is visible the entire race, which is not only cool, but also good in case there is some sort of injury or life threatening situation (hopefully not).  In addition, in the Lake, are the Police Boats, using their sirens as encouragement.

There is a post-race party, for a fee (which goes to the scholarship fund), which includes hot dogs and pizza (just like a Chicago event should), soft drinks, and beer.  Yes, beer.  There is also a live band as well, plus all the standard post-race amenities.

The race draws many First Responders from all departments (FD, PD, Ambulance, etc) - plus teams from far away, like NYPD, and other suburban departments.

A great event, a great course, a great view, and a great cause!!

If you decide to do this race - usually the first Saturday in May - be sure to get there early or stay late and take some time to reflect at the monument, it is truly moving.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - 4Cast

4Cast was the band performing immediately following the CPD Run To Remember on May 6 at Soldier Field, Stadium Green.

The weather was windy (being in the windy city and all), and a bit brisk for May. However, that didn't stop this band from entertaining the crowd. They immediately connected with the crowd by talking about the 5k and the cause - which is exactly what a good local band should do, especially when playing at such an event. And, and, they cleverly tied their name into a brief discussion about the weather, comparing it to last year's rainy race day.

The band is a 4-piece band with a lead/rhythm guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboards. Their primary genre, which was perfect for the audience, was 1980s rock and roll. The band switched lead vocal duties based on the song.

Though conditions were not ideal, and the band had to play wearing coats and dealing with a cold wind off of the lake, they still started right on time (maybe even early) and played without any issues with equipment or sound, which would have been acceptable given the conditions.

4Cast interacted with the crowd often, and during the race winner and sponsor announcements came out to the crowd and interacted one on one with the spectators.

The music itself, can't forget that, were faithful covers of the originals doing the originals justice and the sound was tight and spot on. The band not only sounded experienced and talented they also looked it on stage, playing the songs with ease, as if they had been doing it since the songs came out the first time. When being a cover band, renditions true to the original are a must, and this band succeeded.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - AshleyCan Mother's Day 5k run/2 mile walk

Some things are worth repeating - we post this every year at about this time - because this is a great race for a great charity.

All proceeds are used to help find a cure and to treat Pediatric Cancer.  Most of the money goes to St. Jude's Children's Hospital specifically for research towards find a cure and for treating those suffering from this terrible disease.  Some of the money is also used to assist eligible families with the tremendous costs associated with battling such a disease.

The primary goal of the AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation is to finally find a cure for Pediatric Cancer, and to assist treating those who currently are suffering from the disease until a cure is found.

The race is on Mother's Day - 5/14/17 at Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais.

The course is primarily run in the park, but does exit briefly for a small jaunt through a nearby neighborhood, and then back to the park for the finish.  There are some hills, so this course is challenging, but it is also scenic.

Registration for the race is at

The Foundation was the idea of Ashley Montgomery who had been diagnosed with Pediatric Cancer, then into remission, only to be diagnosed 3 more times.  Ashley fought each battle and won each battle, until this year, when she passed away from Pediatric Cancer.  Some say "she lost that battle" - but in reality, Ashley kicked cancer's butt - she beat it 3 times, and almost a 4th time.  But, she still kicked its butt, because she remained a positive inspirational light for everybody.  It was her idea to create a charity that would raise money to find a cure for this so other's did not have to go through it.  She never let cancer define her and always focused on living life and being positive and growing up as everybody else did.  Her battles were bumps in the road - big bumps - but she never saw it as a losing proposition.  She might have lost this battle, but she definitely put cancer in its place.  She proved that people are stronger than cancer - she was AshleyStrong.  Anybody who knew her, even if only from the various running events, was inspired and moved by her.  And the Foundation will continue on, as she would have wanted.

This is the first AshleyCan event since Ashley's passing, and it will definitely be emotional, and it will be a very special race, a race to continue to find a cure so that other families aren't going through what Ashley's family is going through now.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week : Go Run Washington Park

First, a little bit about "Go Run".  Go Run is a series of races, sponsored by CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association), which takes place on Saturdays from Spring through Autumn, at Chicago Parks.  The races are held each Saturday at 9:00am (with check-in beginning at 8:15am) at Washington Park, Warren Park, and Humboldt Park - at the actual parks that the neighborhoods are named after.  The three races literally occur simultaneously - each 5K run/walk (or 1 mile run/walk) kicks off at 9:00am at each park.  This goes on all Spring, Summer, and Autumn.  Pretty much rain or shine, unless the conditions are dangerous (pretty standard for running events).

What makes these events even more unique (aside from occurring every weekend and simultaneously) is that they are FREE.  Yes, 100% FREE.  CARA is a registered charitable organization and one of their methods of giving back is to encourage people to get out and run - or jog - or walk.  And to do it for 5K or 1-Mile, whichever.  These races are timed, but are non-competitive.  There are no awards for first place or for age groups.  It is stressed that people may choose to use this for a leisurely walk around these scenic parks, to jog, to begin or continue a healthy plan, or to run to try and get a fast time.  And every participant understands this and the camaraderie is amazing and healthy.  Just like most running events, participants encourage each other before - during - and after the race - regardless of time and speed.  The fact that this is non-competitive allows for shy newbies to take their first steps (pun intended) into the running event world.  Many people often are self-conscious about joining a crowd run or a competitive run - these events are the PERFECT welcome wagon for ALL levels of running and walking.  In addition, usually entering a running event costs money.  I've seen events as low as $10, but that's a rarity - most start at $30 and just go higher.  Again, another hurdle for the newer runners - or for people who WANT to run every weekend in a friendly group environment, but simply do not have the extra cash to that.

Go Run is also eco-friendly.  Results are not printed out on paper and posted at the event.  Instead they are uploaded to the Go Run webpage - usually within 60 minutes after the final participant crosses.  In addition, participants are given a bib with their assigned number written on it.  This bib can be used at EVERY Go Run event, regardless of which park or which week.  The computer system recognizes the number.  This doesn't sound like much, but the amount of paper that is saved over a 3-month season of 3 races per week adds up to a mound of paper saved!  (by the way, if a person forgets or loses their bib, they do get another one, no charge, no penalty)

Now, onto the Washington Park event.  The park itself is located just west of University of Chicago campus.  The 5k is 2-laps around the park on interior paths, and the 1-mile is an out-and-back on the same paths.  Both events start together.  The path itself is pavement for about 50 yards - and then is all crushed gravel - very soft crushed gravel and very easy on the feet and legs.  It almost feels spongey and bouncy.  It is also a very well-kept path, no large rocks, no garbage, few twigs, and very clean.  At one point, before the first mile, if participants look up to their left, the park trees frame Chicago's skyline perfectly!!!   The course crosses no streets and only crosses one parking lot entrance which is sparsely used at 9:00am.  The path also passes by several baseball diamonds, usually with youth teams playing or practicing.  And last, but most definitely not least, the volunteers are very friendly and very encouraging.  There is also water and Gatorade at the start/finish, which is also the half-way point.  Plenty of parking very close to the start/finish as well as other areas in the park.

As the band Chicago once sang : "Saturday In The Park".

Information about these events can be found on the CARA website at

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Local Live Music - May and June

This IS live music - so always check with the band or the venue prior to traveling out to see them.  Things do change sometimes.

This will be updated often.

5/19 - Big D Unplugged - Creole Lanes, Vincennes, IN
5/19 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
5/19 - HandGrenades - Audiotree Live, Chicago, IL
5/20 - Big D Unplugged - Bella Vista Wine Bar, Palestine, IL
5/20 - Epic - The Square Celt, Orland Park, IL
5/20 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
5/20 - Handgrenades - Martyr's, Chicago, IL
5/30 - Rockingbirds - Father Saylor Knights of Columbus, Allen Park, MI
5/20 - Oakwood Drive - Off The Vine, Momence, IL
5/20 - Kashmir - Fitz's Spare Keys, Elmhurst, IL
5/20 - Tynan - Mister Mo's, Palos Heights, IL
5/20 - Just Roll With It - Westside Bar, Watseka, IL
5/26 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
5/26 - Kashmir - Diamond Jo Casino Mississippi Moon Bar, Dubuque, IA
5/26 - Big D Unplugged - Sportman's Pub, Linton, IN
5/26 - Just Roll With It - Victory Lanes Lounge, Kankakee, IL
5/27 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
5/27 - HandGrenades - Footlight, Brooklyn, NY
5/27 - Train Wreck - Addy's Lounge, Manassas, VA
5/27 - Tynan - Jenny's Southside Tap, Mokena, IL
5/28 - Kashmir - Belmont & Sheffield Fest, Chicago, IL
5/31 - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session - Melody Mart, Homewood, IL
6/1 - Kashmir -St. Joe's Carnival, Summit, IL
6/1 - Big D Unplugged - Cutter's Way, Vincennes, IN
6/1 - Sgt. Peppers Experience : 50th Anniverary - Joe's Live, Rosemont, IL
6/2 - Handgrenades - MOTR, Cincinnati, OH
6/2 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/2 - Big D Unplugged - Red Skelton Days, Vincennes, IN
6/3 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/3 - Kashmir - Broken Oar, Port Barrington, IL
6/3 - Just Roll With It - Sit N Bull Saloon, Beecher, IL
6/3 - Charlie Foxtrot - Main Street Pub, Robinson, IL
6/3 - Tynan - Four Rivers Harley-Davidson, Paducah, KY
6/9 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/9 - Kashmir - Franklin Park Fest, Franklin Park, IL
6/10 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/10 - HandGrenades - Ghost Light, Hamtramck, MI
6/10 - Kashmir - Four Winds Casino & Resort, New Buffalo, MI
6/10 - WireSky - Cairo Ale House, West Chicago, IL
6/10 - Tynan - Hollywood Casino, Aurora, IL
6/15 - Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band : The Movie, Chicago Premier - Karolinka Club, Chicago, IL
6/15 - Mortals 2 - Fenn Valley Vineyards, Fennville, MI
6/16 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/16 - Just Roll With It - Victory Lanes, Kankakee
6/16 - Kashmir - Centennial Park, Munster, IN
6/16 - Tynan - Hampshire Music & Wine Fest, Hampshire, IL
6/17 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/17 - Kashmir - Taste of Des Plaines, Des Plaines, IL
6/17 - Just Roll With It - Mulligan's Pub, Monee, IL
6/22 - High Anxiety - Bourbonnais Friendship Festival, Bourbonnais, IL
6/23 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/23 - Johnny Burnett Band - Peggy Kinnane's Irish Pub, Arlington Heights, IL
6/24 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL
6/24 - Steel City Hearts/Crystal Killers - Star Bar, Chicago Ridge, IL
6/24 - Tynan - Wisconsin Dells Entertainment Series, Wisconsin Dells, WI
6/28 - Big Boppers - Michigan Plaza Lunchtime Concert Series, 205 N. Michigan, Chicago, IL
6/28 - Blast To The Past Band - Concert In The Park, Stickney, IL
6/30 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me's, Howewood, IL

Monday, April 24, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week : Pancake Pacer 5k

The Pancake Pacer 5k, presented by Illiana Christian High School is the Featured Running Event of the Week.  In addition to being a 5k, as hinted by the name of the event, it is also a Pancake Breakfast.  Proceeds help fund the private school's athletic programs.

This is a street course which starts and finishes outside the main entrance the school.  There are police patrols on the major intersections, and then student volunteers at each of the other intersections and turns throughout the course.

The course is primarily flat, but actually starts with a long gradual climb of nearly 20 feet (give or take), which takes place over nearly one mile.  It has an immediate drop though, which occurs across two blocks.  The course is a loop style with the first and last mile taking place on the same straightaway - which means a nice long downhill to the finish - definitely a fun way to finish any race!

The entire course is run on neighborhood side streets, with a few of the residents coming out to cheer runners on.  The race starts at 7:30am on a Saturday, so the number of spectators isn't super large, but every spectator is important and great for morale.

In addition to the run, each participant also receives a free pancake breakfast served inside the schools gymnasium.  The breakfast is quite bountiful as well, including all-you-can eat pancakes, sausage links, various pancake toppings (fruit, whip cream, syrup, etc), several diced fruits (cantaloupe and various melons), and bananas.  I believe there were also breakfast bars if I remember correctly.  In addition there is orange juice and of course, there was already finish line water in bottles.  There may have been coffee as well, but I'm not a coffee drinker, so I didn't notice.

The breakfast is also open to the public and spectators for a mere $5.00 donation.

Awards are announced about 1 hour after the race, or when all finishers have arrived.  Awards are overall and by age bracket, and get announced in front of the capacity crowd at the breakfast.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Run For Hope 10k

The Run For Hope 10k (and 5k) is held in Bloomington, IL - not far off of the Historic Route 66.  This race benefits the Home Sweet Home Ministries which provide assistance to the homeless.  At the start/finish line tent, runners can donate old running shirts and shoes (and any other forms of clothing).  The donation container filled up multiple times before the race started.

The race itself runs along the paved "Constitution Trail", going under I-55 and out for a ways and back.  10k runners also divert from the trail onto two country roads with a very steep downhill then turn around - unfortunately with all downhills, there is an uphill.  The 10k runners then rejoin the trail and continue to head out.

The Trail is smooth and flat, with the only real elevation change happening on the country road excursion.  The route primarily runs through open field, with the trail itself lined with trees on both sides, but only 1 row of trees, then open field.  The very start and end of the route takes place alongside Washington Street where cars would honk in support.  Aside from that area, it's pretty much the runners and nature - and volunteers.  There were plenty of volunteers along the way to guide runners to and from the country road excursion, to watch traffic at the only street crossing, and to provide water/Gatorade.  There were also some along the way mostly to provide support and encouragement.

Pretty much a straight line and flat, the only "conditions" of this particular day was the wind.  It happened to be a direct crosswind, so for the entire race, runners were dealing with a pretty strong cross-wind - both out and back.  But, that's what running is about - dealing with the conditions of the day.

A very well organized race along a farmland style paved path.  Good exercise and good scenery.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - 1 Day For The K.I.A.

1 Day For The K.I.A. recognizes and honors all members of the military who were Killed In Action, Missing In Action, and Prisoners of War.  The "day" consists of several strength competitions (sponsored by local military cadet organizations), a 5k, and a 12-hour Endurance Race.  The 12-Hour Endurance Race is what will be discussed in this article.

By the way, for those who are not familiar with an "endurance race", basically the fundamental idea is to get as many miles (or laps) in as possible within 12 hours.  The one with the most, wins.  But it's also about finishing and putting one's body through the test of being out there for 12 hours (or 6 or 8 or 24 or whatever) without quitting, while persevering and pushing personal limits.  There is no set distance - only and end-time.

The race takes place on "The Oval" at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.  "The Oval" is essentially what they call "The quad" in so many movies.  The course is mostly cement, with a touch of asphalt and a little bit of brick.  It's not a trail run, let's be clear about that.  It's basically flat, my GPS Watch showed a 12 foot total elevation gain, which of course also has a 12 foot elevation drop.  But there were no hills to speak of - this would be what they call "flat and fast".  It's a bullring though, to use a stock car term, it's only 0.711 miles per lap.  This means lots of laps and lots of repetition. 

BUT, it wasn't as repetitive as one would expect - at 4 hours and at 8 hours, the course changed directions.  Cross the start/finish line, circle a cone, and had back out the other way.  I guess that keeps us from getting loopy.  (always time for a bad pun)   What was cool about it though, as some runners were starting the new direction, some were finishing, so it allowed for those moments of high-fives between runners, which is always a great moment of any race.

BUT, that's not all that kept it from getting repetitive and/or monotonous.  Sure, the very cool architecture of the surrounding buildings is fun to look at, for a few laps, but then what?  Well, as mentioned earlier, there were also strength competitions going on during the day - and there would be a new one every 2 hours for 8 hours.  Weights, jumping, and stuff I can't even explain.  Anyhow, all of that took place right next to the course, so runners could check that out every lap.  Also, the cadets would cheer on participants quite often as well. 

BUT, that's not even all.  Because this took place on an active college campus, there was so much more going on.  The National Surveyors Association (or something like that) was on the oval performing surveying exercises.  No, not asking runners questions - but doing land surveys, so they were all over the place setting up gear and carrying these giant poles across the track and all sorts of stuff.  Then, then, the students discovered it was 65 degrees out, and they turned inside the oval to OSU Red in a matter of minutes.  Students playing Frisbee, whiffle ball, soccer, hackey sack, skateboarding, and just laying around in hammocks and beach blankets all day.  And, finally, it appeared it was also a "prospective student" day as well, as many parents with college aged kids and young ones were walking around with maps and such.  So, in short, even though the laps were short, there was always something going on.  In addition to just running the race and focusing on pace and conservation, and all the other stuff that goes into completing an endurance race.

BUT, if you thought that was all - you are mistaken.  A local medical school team of students was there conducting a study on endurance running.  Being part of the study was optional for runners, but the study was to track blood pressure and heart functions (using an ECG).  Measurements were taken before the race - at about 1/2 way - and at the end of the race.  It's always good to help out the medical field when possible.

Oh, there was also 12-hours of music from speakers at the start/finish line and at the strength competitions - and there was plenty of food.  Bananas, grapes, M&Ms, rice krispie treats, slim jims, pretzels, PB&J, and even cheese burgers - yes cheese burgers!!!

The volunteers at the food tent, the medical tent, and the scoring tent, were not just phenomenal, they were also polite and fun people!!!

And, the on-course encouragement from the other participants, was amazing, which is always helpful.  That encouragement goes a long way, whether someone is a fast runner or a slow runner. 

All-in-all a VERY VERY WELL run event, enjoyable, and challenging!!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - 95TH STREET BAND

This is a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post. This was one of the very first bands that we reviewed back in 2014 as part of this weekly feature. Since then I have seen them multiple times, and even got to know several of the band members. I'd like to add to this "rerun" review that this band is highly professional, extremely easy to work with, care deeply about putting on a great show, are dedicated musici...ans, and are fun people to be around!!!

(the following was originally posted in 2014)

95th Street Band - A true Chicago Southside name if there ever was one!! And the fact that "band" is part of the band's name really helps describe this band. This is a band, not a four-piece, not a three-piece, and certainly not a solo act!

This band is true to the Chicago Horn sound, covering selections from Ides Of March, Chicago, Tower of Power and the Blues Brothers Band, and all of the famous Chicago R&B artists of the past (James Brown, Blood, Sweat, & Tears, etc). However, their setlist is not limited to just these bands, they also throw in some Peter Gabriel and other "non-horn bands". I admit, I don't remember all of the different artists they covered, because I was too busy enjoying the shows to actually write down a set list.

The band consists of approximately 11 people (if I counted right) which enables them to deliver that full horn sound. The horn section consists of 6 or so players on instruments like trumpet, bari sax, sax, and trombone. The band also has drums (obviously), bass guitar, guitar, and keyboards (and of course various hand-held percussion instruments) and at least 3 band members who handle lead vocals.

Their on-stage presence is exactly what you'd hope to see from a Chicago Horn Band - an active horn section playing AND MOVING in-sync, along with an active frontman. When they play the horn songs, it is a full, room filling sound (but not loud or overbearing) - and when they play the R&B - they bring out the soul in the songs.

Visually and musically the band is exactly what you want to see and hear when going to check out a Chicago Horn band - they fit the roll perfectly and play the songs with utmost respect and tribute to the original artists. Close your eyes, and you might think you are actually listening to Chicago or Ides Of March - open your eyes and you are seeing a truthful tribute to that style of music.

In addition, a great bunch of guys who show up early and support the opening bands as well as stay late and support following bands (when they are not the headliners).

As mentioned above, but worth highlighting, you can tell these guys care about the music and about that style of music - and their reproduction of it is truthful and respectful and brings out the natural magnificence of that sound.

If you like R&B and/or Chicago Horns - this is a must-see band!!!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Cusack's Leprechaun Dash

The Leprechaun Dash is sponsored by Cusack's Hurling Club and takes place at the Chicago Gaelic Park.  Money raised goes towards Miracle For Marty, who is a 4-year old diagnosed with childhood cancer.

Many of the runners in the race are from the actual Hurling Club - and if you don't know what Hurling is, I recommend looking it up - it's pretty cool.  I honestly didn't know what it was prior to race day.

The race itself is a Cross Country Race, which differs slightly from a "trail race".  This particular CC race does not place in a forest and it's not filled with "technical" single-wide paths.  Instead this takes place on the sprawling grounds and Hurling field at Chicago Gaelic Park.  In traditional CC style, runners do run parts of the course more than once, so that the event equals a 5k.

Inherent in a CC style course, being on open fields, marking the course can be tricky, especially with portions ran twice.  However, the markings were superb throughout the course, and there were volunteers at key turning points.  Very well organized.

80% of the course was on grass and 20% on pavement/gravel.  Rough estimates.  The course was flat and would have been fast, except it was saturated from almost 24 hours of rain. 

The race starts behind the Tara Room building in a carport / covered patio area, which is a first for me.  The race ends with runners completing their final sprint the distance of the Hurling Field.  Similar to finishing on a track - but this was all grass.

Prior to the race, runners were able to relax and prepare inside the very cool and fancy Tara Room.  Post race, runners are able to wind down and enjoy some raffles and the awards presentation in this large banquet hall.  And - and - each runner over 21 was also treated to a free pint of Guinness, Harp, of Smithwicks!!! 

By far the most Irish "St Patrick's Themed" race I've ever attended.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Dick Diamond & The Dusters

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Dick Diamond & The Dusters

Well, with a name like that, you know you are in for something - you may not know what, but you know it will be something.

The band plays all the "hits" from the 1960s through now.  If it was played at the local roller rink - it's probably part of The Dusters' set-list.

The band is a 7-piece group, which allows them to play everything from Abba to Journey to Lorde to Bon Jovi.  But, with these guys - and gal - it's more than just the music.

Sure, Dick Diamond, Polly Ester, Vito Testosteroni, Walter Melon, Reginald Parker, Winston Stetson, Seamus Del Toro have the musical chops - there is no question of their talent - but it's even more than that.  The music is actually a faithful recreation of the hits many people roller skated to at some point in their life - but again, it's more than that.

Dick Diamond & The Dusters is a SHOW.  As you might have guessed by their names, these are quite the characters on stage.  Ever see a Duck Dunne looking bass guitar player - on roller skates?  Nuff said.

I could go into details about each person - but why spoil it?

This band can be summed up as extremely talented with a very wide variety of musical selections who perform the music as we all know and love it....................while being Dick Diamond & The Dusters!

A good indication of a band is the audience - and these guys - and gal - can get the crowd up and moving and smiling and dancing and laughing in no time flat!!!

A fun evening - to say the least!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Fox Valley Winter Challenge Race 3 - 10k

Featured Running Event of the Week - Fox Valley Winter Challenge Race 3 - 10k
The 3rd, and final, race in the Series occurs in March. There is one in January (5k), February (8k), and March (10k). Oddly, the March race was BY FAR the coldest day out of all of them.

The series is fun because each race builds in distance, which is good for new runners, new trail runners, and just runners returning after a Holidays break.

The 10k is the most technical of them all, as it is run primarily on single-wide paths with roots and rocks and low branches. There are also several "hurdle" opportunities - both of the man-made and nature-made kind. Much of this course is also used for Cyclocross riders and mountain bikers. Some some of the obstacles are man made ramps (made from rocks and trees) and some are just fallen trees or above ground roots. In addition, being only single wide in many parts, low branches also need to be accounted for. This is basically what trail runners love. The course also does have a few open fields with ultra wide paths and also a little bit of pavement, leading to the finish line, which allows for a great finish line kick on a relatively smooth surface.

The route is actually a 5k two times - so everything gets to be experienced twice - like it or not.

Due to a snow and thaw and rain during the week - the course also offered some other challenges, that trail runners enjoy. There was about a 50 meter section of ankle deep water. Runners could run through it - or go slightly off-trail and navigate through the brush and trees. I think timewise - it was a wash. There were also two areas of about 20 meters each of ankle deep MUD, sinking thick mud. Again, runners could navigate the brush instead, but I doubt that was any faster. But it's trail running - isn't this why trail runners run trails?

There was some elevation change in this course as well and the entire course was a mixture of open field, single wide path, a little pavement, switchbacks, winding tight curves, and rocks and roots and hurdles. "Technical" is the way trail runners would describe this course.

Oh by the way, the course was at Fabyan Windmill Preserve in Geneva - across the street from the flat riverside paths.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - The Cast of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"

A little different, live music theater this time.  This feature goes out to the cast of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" from Illiana Christian High School in Lansing, IL.

A comedy/musical performed by the Theater Club at Illiana Christian High School.  Though, you'd never guess these were high school students, even sitting in the 3rd row, you'd think you were watching professional actors and actresses - as well as professional makeup artists and prop designers and scene changers and directors - and the band in the orchestra pit.

It's one thing to get on stage and play fictitious human characters, as there is really no pre-defined "looks" of the characters, but to go on stage and have to play the iconic caricatures of Charles M Shulz is quite another thing.  Let's face it, the audience is expecting that big round head with 2 pieces of hair and goofy look - the heads that are larger than the bodies.  People know what Peanuts characters look like.  And guess what, real people don't look like that.

But, within minutes, it was easy to "see" the Charlie Brown characters due to the excellent performances by the actors and actresses.  Sure, they didn't have giant round heads, but they wore great costumes, and most importantly, they ACTED the part.  Charlie Brown was Charlie Brown, Snoopy was Snoopy, and Linus was Linus.  Even Pigpen actually walked around in a cloud of dust - no seriously, they managed to make sure he exuded dust when he appeared and disappeared. 

It was a musical, and the singing and dancing was phenomenal - again, it was hard to tell these were students and not professionals.  Strong voices across the entire range of songs.  Dance sequences that belonged at Radio City. 

Sitting close, one can really see what's going on - and none of the actors/actresses ever left character.  When their character sequenced to the background, they were still in character making facial expressions or hand gestures that were perfect for whatever was happening next to them on stage.  They understood that whenever they are on stage, no matter where on stage, they were still being watched.  It reached a point early on, where it felt more like watching the Peanuts kids in real life, than watching an actual play.  And that's a good thing.

Not to be overshadowed though, it's worth noting the excellent musical score coming from the "orchestra pit" as well as scenes and props painted and designed exactly with Peanuts in mind.  The stage crew that ran out in the dark, the Prop Ninjas, were amazing as they changed sets lightning fast - in the dark.

Excellent job by the co-student directors as well, who were given verbal kudos by the cast at the conclusion of the play.  Well earned.

This was quite a production from music to acting to sets to behind-the-scenes.  Impressive - simply impressive.