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From the Editor’s Desk - page 5

Editorial: Elburn Herald to work with Kindness Campaign 2013

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If you’re one of the Elburn Herald’s regular readers, you know that most weeks we feature a Community Corner column authored by a local group, the likes of which include Kaneland Arts Initiative, Performing Arts Boosters, Sports Boosters and Blackberry Creek PTO.

The purpose of the Community Corner column is to provide local groups and causes with a space on Page 2A of the Elburn Herald so that they can get their respective messages out to local residents and the Kaneland community as a whole. So when we were first approached by the Kaneland area’s Knights Against Bullying (KAB), a group focused on solving the issue of bullying in the Kaneland School District and beyond, about the possibility of featuring Kindness Compaign 2013 content in the Elburn Herald, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.

We were there when Kaneland parents, students, faculty, staff and administration gathered at Harter Middle School in September 2012 to participate in a forum to discuss the issue of bullying in the School District. We heard testimonies from concerned parents, including Leigh Ann Reusche and Darlyne Dwyer—both of whom are KAB representatives. We helped report the news last fall that the Kaneland School District would work closely with KAB, a collaboration that resulted in the creation of a task force and district-wide bullying prevention plan. And we were able to check in on the group at its meeting in late July at the Elburn Town and Country Public Library.

And now the Elburn Herald during the next six weeks will feature plenty of material regarding Kindness Campaign 2013, the core of which will take place throughout October.

We look forward to featuring the campaign’s press releases and further information in our issues through the next six weeks and beyond as a way to further get the group’s message out. And as our Community Corner column continues to grow in popularity, we hope to feature commentary on the behalf of additional local groups in an attempt to get their respective messages out to the community, as well.

Editorial: America’s darkest day, 12 years later

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Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 8.35.28 AM

Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of the darkest day in American history. And as hard as it is to believe that it’s actually been more than a decade since we, as a nation, witnessed the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, it’s even harder to believe that a group of people was actually capable of carrying out the crimes that took place that day.

That last detail is something that goes through Sugar Grove Township Board member Mike Fagel’s head each and every day.

Fagel was a responder for the Department of Justice at the time of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and he witnessed firsthand the horror and carnage of Ground Zero when he arrived in New York City on Sept. 13, 2001. Fagel looks at 9-11 as a time to remember what happened back then, and that we must remain ever vigilant in the face of these uncertain times, and he believes it’s a must to recall that we are still at war with the unknown terrorist … be they domestic or international.

Fagel had been a member of the North Aurora Illinois Fire Protection District since 1975, working in Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Planning and disaster preparedness. He also served as a reservist with FEMA beginning in 1995, with his first deployment occurring during another terrorist-conceived American tragedy: the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

At 11 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Fagel’s pager went off to contact, and he was put on standby with travel orders to be forthcoming. He arrived at Ground Zero two days later. As Fagel recalls, “We were in the midst of extreme and utter destruction, the likes of which I have never witnessed before.”

Just about everyone remembers what they were doing that morning upon learning that American Airlines Flight 11 had crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Seventeen minutes later, American Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. The attacks resulted in the deaths of all 137 civilians on the two aircrafts, as well as 2,500 civilians who were in the World Trade Center buildings or near Ground Zero during the plane crashes and subsequent collapse of both towers.

Fagel can picture it: debris piled as high as you could see—the result of collapsed buildings 110 stories tall reduced to piles of twisted steel, cement, billowing smoke. In Fagel’s words, the piles were tombs, final resting places of nearly 3,000 souls that perished in this heinous attack on America, and the free world.

A similar assault on the Pentagon, resulting in the deaths of 179 innocents, as well as the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93, resulting in the deaths of 40 innocents, occurred soon after the initial World Trade Center attacks. In the following days, as America mourned and began to clean up the rubble in an attempt to make sense of all of the terrible things that happened on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, one thing was very clear: no one in this country would ever be the same.

“Every day, the emergency service personnel, the military and government workers sworn to protect the citizenry daily, are still fighting the battle on many fronts. We must be right 100 percent of the time, while the bad guys must only be right once,” Fagel said on Monday. “Look at the Boston Marathon bombing, self-radicalization and the things that are happening daily.”

While we continue to keep alive the memory of all those who perished during the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Fagel and those involved in Homeland Security in this country continue to do everything they can to ensure that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, aren’t repeated.

“We must remain vigilant, but not be vigilantes,” he said. “Support your local emergency response planners and staff, help them help you to be prepared and be safer.”

Words to live by as we look back on America’s darkest day, 12 years later.
As Fagel raised the 9-11 flag on his house yesterday morning, he took pause to think of what happened that fateful day 12 years ago.

“A blue sky, a normal day, that would forever change the destiny of many—change the world as we know it,” he said.

Fagel met many people at Ground Zero—many of whom are now deceased or dying of some illness they received from spending many months on the site.

“I was on site for 100 days, and I, too, have some long-term illness that came from my service,” Fagel said. “I would—and will—do it all over again. For the people we serve—for those that come after we are gone—I say, ‘Let’s do our best, and remember those who came before us.”

Words to live by as we look back on America’s darkest day, 12 years later.

Editorial: Toilet Bowl Races a staple at Maple Park Fun Fest

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Toilet_Courtesy

A big part of building up your brand is carving out a niche—something that is unique and immediately recognizable; something that defines your product.

A great example of “branding” can be found in the Kaneland community’s four local summer festivals, as they each possess a niche that compels members of the community and outside public to return to the festivities year after year. We associate Sugar Grove Corn Boil with fireworks, main stage entertainment and, well, corn. When we think of Elburn Days, truck pulls, mud volleyball and a maze of food vendors come to mind. Kaneville Fest triggers thoughts of cookouts, horse-drawn carriage rides and ice cream eating contests.

As for Maple Park Fun Fest, it features a little bit of everything: fireworks, craft and food vendors, a spectacular parade and a three-day-long men’s softball tournament. Those are great activities, but the heart and soul of Fun Fest may lie in a simple event that is a creativy tour-de-force and manages to draw a heavy crowd despite lasting only a half hour.

We’re talking about Fun Fest’s annual Toilet Bowl Races.

Yes, the Toilet Bowl Races concept is fairly straightforward: dress up a toilet with as much or as little decorations as you like, affix it to something with wheels, and then pilot it down Main Street in Maple Park with two teammates. Yet, therein lies the true magic of the event: it’s not just about how fast you can race a toilet bowl; it’s about how good (or ridiculous) you look while doing it (the smart teams emphasize the latter).

On Saturday afternoon, four teams took to Main Street, custom toilet bowl racers in tow, with hundreds of residents lined up on the sidewalks, ready to witness the action. One team, the Barbed Wire Betties, was decked out in all pink, while another team was dressed up as the cast of “Duck Dynasty.” A third team, Winning the Pooh, had its toilet bowl done up with Winnie the Pooh and friends, while the rear of the racer was covered up to look like Ashdown Forest.

The fourth team kept it simple: a toilet bowl, crudely emblazoned with “Rigged Up,” mounted to a skateboard.

Well, simplicity was indeed genius on that Saturday afternoon, as the “Rigged Up” racer proved too much for the other three toilet bowl contraptions, edging out Winning the Pooh in the final race to take home the title of Toilet Bowl Races 2013 champion.

The “Duck Dynasty” crew took home the award for most original racer, and rightfully so.

Toilet bowls as a niche? You bet. You’d be hard pressed to find an event that mixes such high levels of competition and creativity, and at different age levels. And it’s a niche that helps put the “fun” in Fun Fest.

courtesy photo

Editorial: Celebrate summer’s twilight at Maple Park Fun Fest

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We’ve used numerous editorials this summer to remind our readers that while summer in the Kaneland community begins in June, it reaches a different gear come late July with the kickoff of local festival season—the first of which is, of course, Sugar Grove’s beloved Corn Boil gala.

Festival season then pauses for a few weeks before ramping back up with Elburn Days and then Kaneville Fest, both of which offer plenty of entertainment and fun for all ages.

Last but not least is this weekend’s Maple Park Fun Fest—a festival that takes the summer out with a bang and provides the community with three days of activities (5k run/walk, vendors, street sales), a softball tournament (complete with customized hayrack seating just past the outfield wall), first-rate entertainment on the main stage and a spectacular fireworks display.

Sponsored by the Maple Park American Legion Post 312, the 2013 Maple Park Fun Fest will take place Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, Aug. 31, to Monday, Sept. 2. And this year’s event promises to be a great one.

If you are looking for some healthy competition, in addition to the Men’s Slo-Pitch Tournament, the Fun Fest weekend offers a “Romp in the Park” 5k Run/Walk, the second annual Bags Tournament, and the ever-popular Toilet Bowl Challenge. For the last nine years, residents have been dressing up toilet bowls and racing them down Main Street in Maple Park, making for one of Fun Fest’s most memorable moments. Cash prizes and bragging rights for “Most Original Team” will be awarded following the event.

Looking for a more low-key weekend? How about strolling around town enjoying the Craft and Vendor Show on Main and Pleasant streets, or indulging in the food and beer garden? Creative folk and fruit lovers alike will appreciate the first “Mel’n ball” watermelon decorating contest, sponsored by the Maple Park Lions Club. Residents can also kick back and enjoy the Fun Fest Parade on Main Street and entertainment on the main stage, including the “Just For Kix” dance group, the Knights of Columbus’ “Minute-To-Win-It” game show, and musical acts such as Chemically Imbalanced and Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm.

Children can burn off some energy at the zip line or on the inflatables by Jumpy Jumpers, or enjoy magic from Andrew Noyszewski of KIDZMAGIC. Kids can also decorate their bikes and wagons at the “decoration station” and show off their creativity by marching in the Bike and Wagon Parade.

Sunday festivities include the American Legion breakfast buffet and the Maple Park Car Show, sponsored by the Maple Park American Legion. The Frantic Fueler, a 250 mph front engine NITRO dragster, will be featured at the show. On the main stage Sunday will be musical acts Shooter Whiskey and Back Country Roads.

The Fun Fest fireworks show will take place on Sunday evening. Festivities will wind down on Monday—Labor Day—with the conclusion of the Slo-Pitch Softball Tournament.

Sure, this weekend will be summer 2013’s last gasp, but there isn’t a better way to celebrate Labor Day Weekend and the arrival of September than with Maple Park Fun Fest.

For more information or to view the Maple Park Fun Fest schedule, visit mapleparkfunfest.com.

Editorial: Check out Kaneville Fest this weekend

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One of the best things about living in the Kaneland community is that we’re rewarded with three straight weekends of festival entertainment. And following a very fun and very successful Elburn Days fest last weekend, we have Kaneville Fest 2013 to look forward to.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, the village of Kaneville will continue making memories and expanding upon its biography with its annual Kaneville Fest—a celebration made possible by generous donors of the community, and one that has been around for decades.

This year’s festival will begin on Thursday, Aug. 22, with a pre-book sale at the Kaneville Library located at the Dave Werdin Community Center, 2S101 Harter Road, Kaneville. Belgium horses will be on site from George Lawyer Belgium Horses, weather permitting. The community garage sale will run during the fest at various locations throughout the village. A complete list of addresses is available at Hill’s Country Store, 2S133 Harter Road in Kaneville.

You can also check out the movie night on Friday, Aug. 23, at Hill’s Country Store. Movie night takes place rain or shine, and always features a kid-friendly flick. Cartoons will begin at 8 p.m. The movie, “Epic,” will start at 8:30 p.m. Bring blankets and lawn chairs. Free pizza from Paisano’s and popcorn from Rich’s Auto Service will be available, as well as $1 slushies and ice cream, and free raffle prizes for kids.

Saturday, Aug. 24, is the “official” date for Kaneville Fest. And that means those in attendance will have plenty of activities to choose from.

Ready your spoons for an ice cream eating contest sponsored by Colonial Cafe and Ice Cream. Entry is free for all ages. Sign up is at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the contest kicking off at 3 p.m.

Dinner will be served from 5 to 7:30 p.m. by 5B’s Catering of Waterman, Ill. Cost for dinner is $5 for children and $11 for adults. Grilling up pork chops since 1975, 5 B’s Catering serves old-fashioned home cooking with a country flair.

Hill’s Country Store will also have a tent set up with drinks, slushies and ice cream available for fest attendees to enjoy.

Live music will be provided from 6 p.m. to dusk by the band Red Woody. Following the band will be the Kaneville Fest fireworks show, supplied and carried out by Maple Park resident Roger Kahl and his crew of pyrotechnicians.

All tickets related to the event are available for purchase prior to Aug. 24 at Hill’s Country Store. All money raised or donated by the many raffles, pork chop fundraiser and 50/50 contest is used to offset the cost of the event, fireworks and entertainment.

There isn’t a better way to follow up last weekend’s awesome Elburn Days event than with a festival like Kaneville Fest—an event that features literally something for everyone. We highly recommend you pay the festival a visit and get a look at the things that make Kaneville such a great village.

Editorial: Elburn Days week is upon us

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Time flies when you’re having fun, huh? It’s already mid-August; Kaneland students go back to school next week; the weather is getting cooler; and football (at every level) is just around the corner. Summer: blink and you’ll miss it.

Summer isn’t over just yet, however. In fact, three great local festivals stand between us and the harsh reality that autumn is en route: Kaneville Fest, Maple Park Fun Fest, and the festival that will bring countless people to Elburn Lions park this weekend, Elburn Days.

The 84th annual Elburn Days will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-18, at Elburn Lions Park, 500 Filmore St., Elburn.

Admission to the festival is free, and the food is tasty. Enjoy events and activities for everyone, be it the young or the young at heart, starting with the Elburn Days parade, which will kick off the festivities on Friday night, Aug. 16, and include bands, fire engines, antique cars, clowns, tractors, local business and club floats. The parade starts at Reader Street and Route 47 and continues southbound, ending on South Street at the Elburn Lions Park.

In addition to rides and traditional carnival merrymaking, the Elburn Lions Club has brought together the finest area vendors, businesses and talent to celebrate this year’s festival. Featured live on the Community Stage will be performances by young local community members and the “Elburn Idol” competition. Also on the stage will be the Ice Cream Eating Contest sponsored by Colonial Cafe, which has room for 84 participants. Free dance classes, a hula hoop contest and the Kaneland Cheer Team will entertain festival goers. A coloring area has been added this year to allow tired attendees to sit back, relax and enjoy the entertainment while indulging in some creative fun.

In the live music department, ‘80s rock specialist Arra will perform on Friday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturday, local country act Back Country Roads will perform from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Sunday, popular rock act 7th Heaven will perform from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Local artists will perform at the beer garden, hosted by the Elburn Lions Club, and will be adjacent to the main stage.

The Elburn Lions Club will raffle off a new 2013 Chevy Z SS Camaro 400 HP (or $30,000) on Sunday evening. On display at Bob Jass Chevrolet in Elburn, tickets are $20 and are available from local Elburn merchants, Lions Club members or at Elburn Days in the ticket booth.

While admission to the festival is free, the Elburn Lions Club is requesting a $2 per car donation for parking to help offset costs and maintain the 25-acre park.

Children ages 12 and up are invited to join in on the fun of the Truck and Tractor Pulls ($5 admission) on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For those over the age of 18, Bingo is sure to stir up some healthy competition.

Running and walking enthusiasts can look forward to the 24th annual 5k Run/1m Fun Run/Walk on Saturday at 8 a.m., and volleyball fans are invited to participate in the Mud Volleyball tournament on Sunday at noon. Check-in for mud volleyball is at 11:30 a.m.

If you are looking for treasures, the Rummage and Bake Sale at St. Gall Church will take place Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Proceeds will benefit St. Gall’s Parish needs. There will also be a craft show on Friday, 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A sidewalk sale and flea market will take place Thursday, Aug. 15, noon to 8 p.m., and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in downtown Elburn. The sale is based on local and home-based businesses. The craft show, sidewalk sale and flea market are sponsponsored by the Elburn Chamber of Commerce, and are sure to quench your thirst for a good find.

The Friends of the Town and Country Public Library will sponsor a book sale and HobbyTown USA will host the eighth annual St. Charles/Elburn Days Dirt Races on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Anticipate the pulled pork, friendly conversation and entertainment, sponsored by the Elburn Lions, during the 2013 Elburn Days. Profits acquired from this event will be donated to the Elburn Lions charity initiatives like glaucoma screenings, programs to aid the visually and hearing impaired, juvenile diabetes research, and local literacy campaigns.

“We Serve”, the Elburn Lions motto, is the perfect reflection of the 2013 strategy to educate community members about literacy. The Lions Reading Action Campaign Program stresses the importance of reading and is a grass roots effort to address the specific needs related to illiteracy in the Kaneland community.

For more information about Elburn Days visit www.ElburnLions.com.

Editorial: Kaneland looks to social media to connect with community

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The Elburn Herald on Monday had the privilege of attending a media breakfast hosted by Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler and School Board President Cheryl Krauspe. The friendly, informal get-together was a vehicle for the School District to present its new social media strategy to members of local media that were in attendance at the breakfast, including Hawkview, Aurora Beacon News and The Kane County Chronicle.

In case you haven’t already guessed, Kaneland’s social media strategy entails the School District distributing its information via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, with the name of strengthening communication by reaching a “broader community audience” and “increasing public engagement.”

In other words, this strategy will allow Kaneland parents, local residents and students to receive District 302-oriented news via some of their favorite social networking sites—not too shabby of an idea, considering the countless hours we spend on these sites during a given day. We might as well do something productive while we’re searching for Tweets confirming that Justin Bieber and his girlfriend are still together.

Here’s why the Kaneland social media strategy is a winner, though: social media has become a go-to information tool for those who crave breaking news. When people want to hear about specific news as it is breaking, they don’t turn on the television or the radio; they hop on the computer and comb Twitter for tweets (posts) from the news media members they follow on the site; they log on to Facebook and tab specific pages for information.

Say you follow Anderson Cooper on Twitter. That means your Twitter feed (the rolling post box that sits on the right of Twitter’s site page) will blossom into an oasis of breaking news from Anderson Cooper whenever something important happens in the world … or when he feels like tweeting his thoughts on popular culture, foods he likes and dislikes, whether he’s concerned about “sharknado,” etc. Essentially, Twitter allows you to take the information pipeline and customize it based on your personal interests. Therefore, you receive only what you want to see. Some people only subscribe to the Twitter feeds of sports beat writers so they can be among the first to know about breaking news; others are only interested in what Rush Limbaugh and Conan O’Brien tweet. And now in addition to your favorite media personalities, athletes and celebrities, you’ll be able to follow Kaneland School District 302 on Twitter, which will funnel any and all Kaneland-related news into your Twitter feed. Simple. Efficient. Effective.

And sure enough, we learned during the media breakfast that Twitter will serve as Kaneland’s go-to tool for disseminating important information and links posted elsewhere. Facebook will be used to share school achievement information, event announcements, deadline reminders and links to external coverage (perhaps from yours truly). Both sites will be used to disclose school closings and bus information.

Last but not least, Tumblr will serve as a way for parents, students and other members of the community to view items that stem from every school in District 302, including classroom projects, special events and student and staff successes. Consider it a personal look at the students and staff that make each and every Kaneland school unique.

And in case you’re wondering, the social media sites will support current district informational tools such as KCNewsletter and Konnect Mobile Application.

“We have been working on the development of a social media strategy since spring,” Schuler said following the breakfast. “It will allow us an additional avenue for delivering timely and relevant information to our families. This is consistent with our communications goal as we continue to look for opportunities to enhance two-way dialogue communications with our communities. As far as the next steps, we want to do what we are doing well and will then look at next steps.”

Editorial: An NFL rule change that would make sense

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Raise your hand if you like to watch football.

We’re guessing that most of the people reading this currently have their hand in the air, and for good reason: football is an incredible sport that blends brute strength with speed and fluidity; high drama with a level of grit that simply doesn’t exist in other sports.

And let’s face it: we love the big hits that often occur during a football game. Pregame and halftime shows have segments solely dedicated to showing the biggest hits of the week.

Problem is, those big hits—the ones that are so entertaining for us viewers —aren’t nearly as enjoyable for those who happen to be on the receiving end of them. Add in the fact that the NFL currently has a substantial problem regarding the use of human growth hormone (HGH) and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) among its players, and suddenly you’re talking about hits that just aren’t big.

They could be deadly.

Last week, we talked about how PEDs had nearly brought the game of baseball to ruin. Like Major League Baseball, the NFL has a long history of athletes who juiced to set themselves ahead of the pack in terms of strength, speed and durability. The big difference between the sports, obviously, is that one is a game in which guys try to hit a ball as hard and as far as possible, and the other is a game in which very large men try to hit each other, often at full speed and sometimes at angles that result in horrific injuries: torn knee ligaments, dislocated fingers and shoulders, broken bones, concussions and, if you’re former New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley, paralysis.

Now, don’t get us wrong—we’re not advocating less hitting in football, nor are we even suggesting that further rule changes should go into effect in order to protect players. Trust us, the NFL has done plenty to make the game safer, and some might say that the league has turned obsessive in its approach to take injuries out of the game. That’s a debate for another day, though.

Rather, what we’re simply suggesting is that, in a league built on bone-rattling hits, it might be a good idea to make sure players are playing up to their body’s full capability, not a superhuman level made possible by HGH use. It hurts enough to be tackled by a guy running full speed; imagine what it feels like to be hit by a guy running at a speed similar to that of an automobile.

Think about it: on any given Sunday you’ll see a 250-pound linebacker flattening a running back who was unfortunate enough to get to the second level of defense without any sort of blocking or protection. Let’s say that the linebacker runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and bench presses about, oh, 400 pounds or so. You’re basically talking about an automobile on cleats at that point. Humans aren’t supposed to be able to consistently absorb such an accelerated level of contact.

And we wonder why concussions are rampant in the modern NFL. We wonder why our favorite players can’t make it through an entire season without breaking their collarbone or tearing their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Accidents are a way of life when it comes to contact sports, but take the PEDs out of the game and watch how certain aspects of the game will change. Players will move slower and won’t look like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. They’ll also take longer to heal from their injuries. Will these results make the NFL more exciting? Of course not. But it will put the league’s players on a more-level playing field, so to speak.

Those players will also be much more likely to get up after taking one of those big hits that football fans love to see.

Editorial: Take the PEDs out of sports for good

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If you’re someone who regularly follows sports, you’re likely familiar with the Ryan Braun fiasco that reached its (likely) conclusion earlier this week. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow sports, well, you’re probably wondering who Braun is and what he did wrong.

Braun is a left fielder for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, and a pretty good one, at that—so good, in fact, that he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011—a season in which he batted .332, hit 33 homers and knocked in 111 runs. Only 27 years of age at the time, Braun looked the part of a budding MLB superstar and, more importantly, a role model.

Of course, reports of Braun using a “banned substance” began to find their way onto ESPN and the Internet. And just like that, an ultra-memorable season was reduced to a big “so what?” in the wake of a performance-enhancing drug scandal. It’s the same old song and dance for Major League Baseball—a league that has constantly searched for ways to up its marketability following a 1994 strike-shortened season that nearly turned off baseball fans for good. Of course, anger and resentment on the part of fans was cast aside in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa “resurrected” the game by flat-out destroying Roger Maris’ then-record of 61 home runs (McGwire pounded 70 HRs that year, Sosa with a more modest 66). As a result, baseball in the late 1990s turned into a virtual home run derby every night, and the fans ate it up with a spoon. It wasn’t long before we were all witnesses as Barry Bonds and his incredibly swollen cranium slammed 73 home runs in 2001.

Then we started to hear rumors that the fabulous home run displays brought to you by Big Mac, Slammin’ Sammy and Bonds weren’t simply the result of improved hand-eye coordination and countless, grueling hours spent in the weight room. Nope, those noteworthy campaigns were aided by something else.

Steroids.

After getting over their initial shock upon hearing the news that many of their heroes were cheaters, baseball fans eventually wised up and turned their backs on those who cheated the game in the name of the long ball and the fastball. Remember Eric Gagne? He converted 84 consecutive save opportunities for the Los Angeles Dodgers between 2002 and 2004, and picked up the 2003 Cy Young for his trouble. He was also named in the Mitchell Report, which documented the use of performance enhancers in baseball. If you’re a closing pitcher and you go practically two years without blowing a save, you should be considered a legend. Gagne, rather, is just another name listed on a report of players who indulged during baseball’s “bigger, faster, better” era. Sad, but not nearly as sad as how any of Gagne’s fans felt upon hearing the news that their idol is just another name on a long list of players who have disgraced the game of baseball.

The good news is that it feels like baseball is seeing progress in terms of getting human growth hormone out of the game. The league isn’t anywhere close to being considered “clean,” as evidenced by Braun’s 65-game suspension, as well as the upcoming suspension for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez (remember when A-Rod was considered a squeaky-clean kid who just so happened to be the youngest to reach the 400 HR club?), but the league’s current “deadball” era suggests that the game is on its way back to where it needs to be. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Next week, we’ll examine the HGH issue that currently exists in the NFL.

Guest Editorial: A return to the garden

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by Jill Pertler, Slices of Life columnist

The older I get, the more I realize life ebbs and flows like the tide—rising, receding, coming in, going out. What is possible at high tide is impossible at low tide, and so on. This rhythm and change remains with us as we traverse through our days, months, years and seasons.

This summer, I returned to the garden. I’d taken a respite from having the earth between my fingers for nearly a decade. I’ve always loved putzing in the soil and enjoyed a fair amount of success with the hobby in my younger years. Until, like a vigorous crop of weeds, the hobby of raising kids sort of took over and I found it necessary to put my gardens aside—for the time being.

All the earth’s a stage and this summer, I reprised my role of gardener; it’s a bit part, really. No more than a supporting character. Mother Nature is the true headliner. Still, it felt good to rehearse my lines and get my hands dirty.

This summer I returned to the garden. During my absence the Earth did not change; I did.

In my youth, I dreamed of long-stemmed, vibrant blossoms. Foxglove. Delphinium. Lupine. Hollyhock. I planned and planted elaborate perennial beds where flowers would bloom in harmony throughout the growing season, providing a spectacular and well-directed symphony of color. Ta dah!

The years have made me older and perhaps wiser, but certainly more practical. This summer I returned to the garden—not to one of exotic blossoms—but rather one of vegetables. Beans, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers stand sentry in the beautiful black dirt in my back yard. The stage is theirs and they’ve been cast as leads in this season’s production. The spotlight is on them.

Life ebbs and flows. I have returned to the garden, but it is different this time. I delight as my seeds sprout in simple, straight rows—radish, beets and spinach. I worry when a tomato plant droops. I thin seedlings, and mourn the tiny plants that must be written out of the script in order to make room for their neighboring co-stars’ growth.

I used to dream of a full-spectrum of colors decorating the yard; now my goal is filled mason jars stacked on the pantry shelves in the basement.

Youth is flashy. Thrilling. Trendy. All about the show. It is a good time—fun and exciting.

As life unfolds, youth gives way to experience. Showy transforms into something perhaps less ostentatious, but something worthwhile and just as satisfying. Putting a bouquet on the table is different than putting a salad on the table, but one is not more valued or valuable than the other. A 20-something me never would have predicted that pulling the first radish of the summer could be exhilarating. But it was.

Watching a show from the front row is different than watching from the nosebleed seats. Life is like that. Our perspective changes according to our current status and predicament. It is a newness we can count on, like the tide—a promise that tomorrow will be different from today.

Thank goodness. Think about how boring life would be if it weren’t.

Editorial: Here comes 2013 festival season

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It seems like just yesterday we were bidding adieu to a successful, memorable 2012 festival season here in the Kaneland community. It was a farewell to the days of cotton candy and carnivals, bands on the mainstage and vendors lined up for as far as the eye can see. Goodbye summer, hello fall (a season otherwise known as “winter jr.” if you happen to live in the Midwest).

Of course, the somber conclusion to last year’s festivals is long behind us. It’s now July. The humidity is borderline unbearable. Our grass looks overgrown moments after we’re finished mowing it. Gas prices are … well, they’re actually pretty reasonable right now. But aside from that little detail, the facts stated above can only mean one thing: summer festival season is almost here. And from the looks of it, this year’s offering will be a good one.

The first of the “big four” festivals, Sugar Grove Corn Boil, will kickoff two weeks from this Friday, and with it will come lots of corn, great live entertainment, activities for kids and, of course, a first-rate fireworks spectacle.

This year’s Corn Boil slate will include performances by 7th Heaven and Hi Infidelity, an appearance by former Chicago Bulls all-star Bob Love, a KidsZone to keep youngsters busy, and an endless supply of corn. There’s even a rumor that Lord Stanley’s Cup will make its way over to the Corn Boil, but we’ll see about that. Either way, the weekend of July 26-29 promises to be a memorable one for the Sugar Grove community.

Next up on the festival circuit will be Elburn Days, scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-18, at Lions Park, 500 Filmore St., Elburn. The three-day event will feature a Friday night parade, carnival and food vendors, beer garden, truck and tractor pulls, car raffle, mud volleyball tournament, RC car racing and demos, 5k run, craft show, commercial tent, pork chop and chicken dinner and more.

The classic rock cover band Arra will take the Elburn Days main stage on Friday, 8 to 11 p.m. Country band Back Country Roads will perform on Saturday, 7:30 to 11 p.m. The group 7th Heaven will perform on Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m.

Elburn Days festivities will be flanked by Kaneville Fest, which will take place Saturday, Aug. 24, in the park next to the Kaneville Community Center, and feature crafters, 50/50 raffles, a pork chop dinner fundraiser, fireworks and live entertainment. The village will also host garage and book sales Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22- 24. A movie night will take place on Friday, Aug. 23. The film will be shown on the side of Hill’s Country Store, 2S133 Harter Road, Kaneville. The event will feature donated pizza and popcorn, as well as prizes for children.

Last but not least, Maple Park’s 2013 Fun Fest will take place Saturday through Monday, Aug. 31-Sept. 2 (Labor Day weekend), and feature signature activities such as an arts and crafts show, car show, 5k fun run, parade, men’s softball tournament, toilet bowl races, food vendors and a beer garden. Kid activities will include a bike parade and fire station for Touch-A-Truck
There will also be a band stage set up in the heart of downtown Maple Park. Musical acts Chemically Imbalanced and Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm will take the stage on Saturday evening. Shooter Whiskey and local country act Back Country Roads will take the stage on Sunday afternoon.

There are so many great local events coming up, and we’ll be with you guys every step of the way, detailing each and every festival with its own guide. Here’s to a wonderful, fun-filled 2013 festival season.

Editorial: Happy Independence Day

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The Fourth of July. It’s a holiday that celebrates America’s independence, and it also serves as the ideal time to give in to our pyromaniac tendencies and light off some fireworks (safely, of course). It’s a day to get together with friends and family and suffer through oppressive heat and humidity while enjoying the finer things in life: cookouts, baseball, soccer, swimming, boat rides, etc. The term “summer” encompasses the bulk of three months, but no day within that time frame encompasses “summer” like July 4. It is the most identifiable holiday of the season, and rightfully so.

The Fourth of July is a holiday dressed up in red, white and blue, stars and stripes. But it’s easy to overlook just why America celebrates on July 4 each and every year: It was 237 years ago that America’s founding fathers put forth a statement declaring that the 13 American colonies would cease to be part of the British Empire and instead become actual states. Thus, July 4 is a day that represents the right of freedom in America; a day where we celebrate our independence as a country. And there’s a reason why many rights movements and campaigns have cited the Declaration of Independence as a prime source of inspiration: its signing is the ultimate example of a group taking a unified stand with the conviction that its beliefs were right and deserved to be acknowledged.

So enjoy this Independence Day with the knowledge it’s a holiday meant to celebrate America’s existence and its citizens’ right to enjoy freedom. And whatever activities you choose to partake in this Fourth of July, please make sure that they are of the safe variety. It’s what our founding fathers would’ve wanted.

Editorial: ‘Lemonade for life’

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by Mark Underwood
Neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience

On cold, dreary, overcast days, do you dream about trading the chilly weather for a gorgeous day under azure blue skies and perfect temperatures?

That wishful thinking is a positive way to look at the world. The good news is it’s more than wishing you had better weather—positive thoughts are good for your mental and physical health.

Wishful thinking can help you get through many challenges of everyday life. How we handle these challenges can affect our overall health. Use a positive approach by taking the bitter moments of life and mix them into your “lemonade pitcher.”

Make a virtual pitcher of lemonade out of bitter lemons and you’ll be doing yourself a favor in more ways than one. For one thing, you’ll be protecting yourself from the harmful effects of stress.

No fancy shoes or
special equipment needed

Stress is nearly impossible to avoid. As we age, the effects of stress take a greater toll on our health and can disrupt our sleep. Positive thinking is not just window dressing for a problem; it is a management technique and potentially a lifesaver.

Effective stress management is an important life skill for all of us to learn how to incorporate into our daily routines.

Why do positive thinkers often experience health benefits? Several studies have suggested that people with positive outlooks are able to cope better with stressful situations and that reduces the harmful effects of stress on your body.

It’s also thought that people who put a positive spin on life tend to live healthier lifestyles. They tend to get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

These are other direct benefits from optimistic thinking:
• Increased life span
• Greater resistance to common colds
• Lower rates of depression
• Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

One of the great things about thinking happy thoughts is that you can do it without special equipment or training. Anybody can focus on positive thinking. It takes some practice, but the more you make a conscious effort to think positively, the easier it becomes.

You can pull up a mental image of something whenever you need a quick antidote to the day’s stress —whether you are in the park, on the train, or in between meetings.

What you may be missing

In today’s world, many of us lead busy hectic lives. We’re running from one thing to another, and consequently, we may neglect our emotional well-being and that’s when we can start to feel rundown and negative.

It is common knowledge that inactivity, lack of exercise or poor sleep can lead to feeling down. Everyone feels overtired and sluggish at one time or another. You may even feel like your memory is slowing down.

“Call, email, text your mind”
with mental boosts

Optimistic thinking is about finding good in negative situations, keeping an open mind when things go wrong, and approaching challenges with a focus on positive outcomes.

We all have some narrative running in the back of our minds. If your internal dialogue is negatively based and often focused on failure, chart a new course.

Here are some ways you can do that:

• Listen for negativity. Find one place in your daily routine where you often run into negativity. Listen for the internal voice emerging with potential news of failure. Ignore it. Change the channel and find a new internal voice saying, “This could work.”
• Live for wellness. When you feel good you’re much more likely to want to avoid negativity and not get bogged down in muddy thoughts. Exercise has a profound effect on ability to cope with stress. It elevates our moods and helps fuel positive thinking.
• Learn to laugh. Laughter is one of the most enjoyable ways to let the day’s stressors melt away. Humor has been studied extensively for its major effect on our wellbeing. As social beings we thrive with positive contact with others. Positive people are contagious.

Editorial: Summer—84 days and counting

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by Jill Pertler
Columnist, “Slices of Life”

I love being a mom—365 days a year … or nearly that many.

Motherhood is a daily (and middle-of-the-nightly) event, but it’s right around this time each year I find myself contemplating the value of my role in providing guidance, direction, leadership and healthy snacks to my children. After decades of soul-searching, I think I finally understand why.

Summer vacation.

School let out last week. We are on the 10th day of summer break and I woke this morning with the realization we have a full 84 consecutive days remaining before this escapade of ours is over. One week down, 12 to go. I did the math and numbers don’t lie.

They’ll spend their mornings and afternoons here—24/7. Day in, day out. Eating in the family room. Playing basketball in the driveway. Eating in their bedrooms. Not flushing. Eating in the screen porch. Creating their own definition of what it means to make a bed. Eating—anywhere but the kitchen. Discarding various items of clothing in the yard because they got hot. Eating—again. Running outside in their stocking-feet because they can’t find their shoes. Eating—still. And so on.

For the next three months (84 days, but who’s counting?) I will be two steps behind them, trying to keep the refrigerator full and the laundry pile empty, while summer reading assignments pile up like cereal bowls in the sink, crumbs on the counter and flip flops by the back door. At first, I will make efforts to keep up with this entity called summer, but will gradually give in and come to accept a life that includes disheveled hair, disheveled beds and disheveled schedules.

The season is meant for fun. I understand this. I embrace this. I’m just not sure, sometimes, if I could ever be fully prepared for the unabashed, uninhibited warm weather glee that emanates from my offspring June through August. Better put, how many Reese’s wrappers found in the laundry is too many? Can there be too many? I guess I should be thankful they were empty. Chocolate stains are difficult. Then again, I could’ve used a little sugar pick-me-up.

While we’re still in the infant stages of summer (audible sigh), the excitement’s already started at our house and I’m not referring to the joy generated this morning when I discovered toothpaste globs in the sink.

This weekend while I was running errands, they called to say they’d broken a window. This honesty might have been perceived as virtuous in a different scenario. I wasn’t concerned with virtue; I was concerned with shards of glass. Every mother knows it isn’t summer until a window gets broken. At my house, the season has officially begun. I am proud I didn’t lose my cool or yell and scream into the phone. Instead, I asked the smart and savvy question: Interior or exterior pane? I didn’t inquire about bleeding or injury, because my mom-tuition told me it wasn’t necessary. (No one was screaming in the background.)

Good news. Turns out the crash site involved an interior window, which automatically puts the project at a lower priority for fixation. Bad news. It was the same window my husband replaced about a month ago – when the boys broke it the first time. I knew this latest collection of broken glass was going to make my husband appreciate being a father just as much as I love being a mother. God bless the children for reaching out and meeting our needs in such unexpected and unwarranted ways.

Lost shoes. Candy wrappers in the laundry. Unmade beds. Summer reading looming in the last dark corners of August. Broken windows. I don’t mind any of it—much. But don’t tell my kids. They think 84 days is a really long time, and although I pretend to agree, I understand this is all so fleeting.

Broken windows are easily fixed. You get a new pane of glass and put it where the old, broken one was and you’re good to go—sparkling and bright like new tennis shoes on the first day of school.

Children aren’t panes of glass (nor are they pains in the glass). They grow up. You can’t put them back to where they were again because that place is gone with the setting sun. Today is all you’ve got. So, you work to make it a good one—all 84 of them.

Editorial: It’s garage sale weekend in Sugar Grove

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GarageSaleSignC1206_8

What really signals the arrival of summer in the Kaneland community? Hot weather and barbecues? Inflated gas prices? The Chicago Cubs officially falling out of postseason contention? All three options are certainly valid, but a more accurate (and certainly more welcome) barometer might be Sugar Grove’s annual community-wide garage sales.

Coordinated by the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry the past two years, the community-wide, two-day garage sale event allows local residents to peruse numerous sales within the village. It’s a great opportunity to get outside and comb the area for great deals and special items.

This year’s Sugar Grove garage sales will take place Friday and Saturday, June 7-8, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone interested in obtaining a Sugar Grove garage sale map can find them at the following locations:
• Sugar Grove Community Building, 141 Main St.
• Castle Bank, 36 E. Galena Blvd.
• BP Gas Station, 109 S. Route 47

Those seeking further information should call (630) 466-7895 or visit the chamber website, www.sugargrovechamber.org.

The Sugar Grove garage sale two-day event is the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of June, the end of the school year, the start of the weekend and maybe, just maybe, the arrival of summer.

Why wait until June 21 when you can indulge in summer fun right now? After all, humidity and barbecues are already in season, and the Cubs are right on schedule.

Enjoy garage sale weekend in Sugar Grove, everyone.

Editorial: Hats off to the 2013 Kaneland High School graduating class

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It’s officially graduation season, and that means we’ve again reached the time of year where we bid farewell to Kaneland High School seniors as they toss their caps in the air, celebrate with friends and loved ones, and then embark on the next chapter of their young lives. These kids have the rest of their lives in front of them, and many are bound to make incredibly important contributions to society in some way, shape or form.

We’ve had the opportunity to feature many of these graduates in our newspaper during their time at Kaneland, and it’s been a sincere pleasure to write about their work in the community and the classroom, as well as their athletic achievements. The Kaneland School District is such an important part of what we do here at the Elburn Herald, and that means a little piece of us goes with the Kaneland seniors who graduate each spring.

The next step for most of these graduates is college. Some will attend a high-profile university; others may elect to attend a smaller university that provides a specific curriculum or is simply close to home. And there are plenty of Kaneland graduates who aren’t sure what their next step or destination will be, and have thus chosen to attend a community college to get a better sense of what they’re meant to do in life. All of those educational paths are valid, and there’s no such thing as a “correct” way to pursue a college degree. Furthering your education is about identifying the college path and degree that will put you in the best position to do what you love for the rest of your life—and then understanding the hard work necessary in order to fully realize that goal. College isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely worth the hard work and effort.

Some of the Kaneland grads in this week’s issue of the Elburn Herald will become doctors, lawyers and engineers. Others will become physical therapists, accountants and artists, masons, writers and mechanics. Let us at the Elburn Herald be the first to congratulate each and every member of the Kaneland High School class of 2013 as they begin to navigate the path toward their desired occupation. On Saturday, these KHS seniors will officially take the next precious step toward adulthood, toward getting to know themselves, and toward paving the foundation that will serve as the rest of their professional and personal lives.

We’re honored to have spent many years with the 2013 graduating class. And in parting, simply offer the words of the late, great Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Congratulations to this year’s Kaneland High School graduating class, and best of luck to each and every one of its members in their future endeavors.

Editorial: Be respectful of local cemeteries this spring

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We recently received a Letter to the Editor that touched upon a topic seldom spoken of in this area: theft of flowers and decorations in our local cemeteries.

The author of the letter asked to remain nameless, for fear that their name in print would result in retaliation directed at their loved one’s gravesite. We respect such wishes, and so the following will simply be attributed to “a local resident”:

“It’s that time of year again when families make their trips to the local cemeteries to remember loved ones lost. Spring flowers (are) planted or set out in flower pots, and Mothers Day through Fathers Day has really become the worst time of year for (cemetery-oriented) theft.

“This year again I have had perennials dug up from the grave plot. It’s disturbing to me and others that some individuals think cemeteries are their own privates nurseries for plants.”

“Blackberry Cemetery was hit hard this spring, with their new maintenance garage broken into, resulting in the theft of lawn care equipment. The personnel at Blackberry take care and pride in keeping the grounds neat and clean, and this comes with a limited budget and the donations of trees planted in memory of loved ones.

“When thefts occur, it not only hurts the families; it also hurts our town. The cemetery is there for its town’s people, too.

“If anyone sees someone (looking) suspicious (at a gravesite), they shouldn’t hesitate to call the police. Making people aware of this ongoing problem might curb this criminal activity.”

As the author stated, taking plants, flowers, decorations or any related equipment from a cemetery is just plain disrespectful to the deceased, their family, and the community as a whole. And as we’re just days away from Memorial Day Weekend, it’s important to get the word out that taking anything from a cemetery and/or gravesite is wrong, and the behavior will not be tolerated.

After all, this is the season to remember our lost loved ones fondly, and we can all help make the process easier by ensuring that our local cemeteries remain intact.

One more time … with feeling

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One of the best things about sports—regardless of whether it’s at the high school or professional level—is the element of rivalry. A tradition-fueled sense of competitiveness that excites and intrigues fans, and even sometimes sets their teeth on edge, as they watch two beloved entities battle.

We’ve seen generations-old rivalries, including the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, reach new pinnacles in the 2000s. And it’s possible that the best is yet to come for those respective feuds. However, arguably the greatest sports rivalry of them all will, for all intents and purposes, come to an end after this season. So it’s appropriate that these two teams will get one final crack at each other before one of them moves to a different division next fall.

Of course we’re talking about the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

If you’re a hockey fan (and judging by the overwhelming amount of Blackhawks stickers and flags found on cars in this area, many of you are indeed hockey fans), there’s nothing else like the Wings/Hawks rivalry. And it’s a feud that goes far beyond the ice—it’s about Michigan vs. Illinois; the Motor City against the Windy City; the assembly line vs. meatpacking plants. You name it, it’s all there when the Red Wings and Blackhawks take the ice, and the two franchises have gone toe to toe (really, skate to skate) in both the Stanley Cup Finals (they first did so in 1934, which the Blackhawks won in four games in a best-of-five series) and numerous Campbell and Western Conference playoff series.

Sadly, this storied rivalry will hit the skids next season when the Red Wings relocate to the Eastern Conference, but not before the two teams do battle one more time on the playoff stage. And this 2013 Western Conference Semifinal series couldn’t be any bigger for the Blackhawks—they won the Presidents’ Trophy (given to the team with the best record) this season, and they’re an overwhelming favorite to win their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. This team is young, hungry, deep and tenacious, and it’s quite likely that the Blackhawks’ best hockey is still in front of them. The Red Wings, rather, are in a position they’ve seldom found themselves in during the past decade: the role of underdog. This is a cagey, resilient Detroit squad fresh off of a seven-game slugfest victory over the Anaheim Ducks, and the Wings have more than enough skill and experience to send the Blackhawks golfing early this year.

This series will be irresistible viewing for puck fans. But it should be just as popular with casual sports fans interested in watching two teams that both dislike and heavily respect each other. If you fall into the latter category, you owe it to yourself to catch a game or two from this series. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

All good things must come to an end, but this final Red Wings/Blackhawks Western Conference Playoff go-around should serve as a fitting send-off for a rivalry that has truly stood the test of time. Fittingly, the next time these two franchises meet in the playoffs, it will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Looks like this rivalry has come full-circle after all.

Kaneland Hall of Fame inducts local journalism pioneers

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As the Kaneland community’s hometown newspaper, we feel a special connection with any and all persons inducted into the district’s Hall of Fame. Chances are that we’ve covered or featured these inductees at some point during their time serving the Kaneland School District, and their achievements continue to inspire us to serve the Kaneland community the best we can.

While previous Hall of Fame classes have made us strive to become a better product, two members of this year’s class were responsible for contributions that completely changed the face of both the Elburn Herald and Kaneland community journalism: Don Watson and Laurie Erdmann

Watson is a man who needs no introduction around the Elburn Herald office—he’s the reason we have a newspaper section solely dedicated to Kaneland sports. In 1974, he approached our paper and pitched the idea of writing a column that covered local athletic teams, no doubt driven by his love for Kaneland sports, as well as the fact that his sons were active in AAU diving and swimming at the time.

His debut article, “Knights shucked in Korn Tournament,” appeared in the Dec. 5, 1974, issue of the Elburn Herald. During the next 28 years, he was a prominent fixture in Kaneland athletics, including an era that he believes “may never be duplicated,” featuring State Championships by two boys track teams, two girls track teams, back-to-back 14-0 football teams, a girls basketball team and a boys cross-country team.

Watson’s invaluable contributions to the Elburn Herald, Kaneland sports and local journalism are why we named him Sports Editor Emeritus in 2002 and created a $1,000 scholarship in his name. And those contributions are also why we couldn’t say yes fast enough when the idea of nominating him for the Kaneland Hall of Fame first came up. The Elburn Herald, as we know it today, simply would not exist without Watson, and we’re extremely proud to see him rightfully take his place among the most respected and revered members of the Kaneland community.

Like Watson, Erdmann began contributing to the Kaneland community in 1974, when she became a journalism teacher at the high school. At the time, KHS had just one semester-long journalism course. Thanks to Erdmann, that lone course evolved into a three-tiered, sequential program that included an intro to newswriting, advanced journalistic studies course, and an AP English and Composition class that placed an emphasis on journalistic writing.

Another early achievement for Erdmann was her students’ establishment of the Kaneland News Bureau in 1974 (which to this day continues to send stories and photos to area newspapers). Six years later, her advanced journalism students founded The Paragon magazine, for which she served as an advisor until 1985.

Erdmann also crafted a co-curricular publications program that required journalism students to participate in regular reporting, editing and executive duties aside from their normal journalism studies. In the meantime, the Kaneland Krier newsmagazine grew from a four-page publication to a 24-page monthly offering with five supplements.

In 1998, Erdmann participated in the planning and implementation of a “journalism suite” in the high school, complete with a classroom, publications office and multi-workstation publications lab. In 2002, she oversaw establishment of The Krier’s online publication.

Erdmann’s induction into the Kaneland Hall of Fame marks the second time she’s received a prestigious honor from the Kaneland community, as she was named KHS Educator of the Year in 2001.

Elburn Herald sports coverage and KHS’ entire journalism program exist because of Watson’s and Erdmann’s respective vision, presence and accomplishments, and we can’t think of two candidates more deserving of seats in the Kaneland Hall of Fame. Congratulations to both of them.

Why American sensibility is ‘distressed’

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by Tom Purcell, author
I turned 51 last week, and it’s official: I have turned into my father.

The world makes less sense to me every day. My fellow man puzzles me more every day.

I cite exhibit A: crummy stone walls. I know a woman who paid $10,000 to have a small stone retaining wall built along her driveway.

Now, I used to be a stonemason—I rebuilt close to 200 such walls during my high school and college years—and I was shocked to learn that hers was a new wall. It was buckling and full of gaps. Not one stone was properly cut or faced.

It’s the latest craze, she told me—walls that have an old, authentic look. This is because people suddenly want the outside of their homes to look as “distressed” as the inside.

“Distressed furniture” is the latest trend in interior design. People are buying brand-new tables and dressers, bringing them into their garages, kicking and scratching them, then covering them in a lumpy, flaky paint.

I called my sister, an interior designer, to learn more about this peculiar trend. She said people want the antique look, but because real antiques are hard to come by, the next best thing is to buy something new and make it look scuffed and tired and worn.

This causes my father to rise up in me as I say, “What the … ?”

But nothing is more puzzling than our next item of distress: distressed jeans. That’s right, there is actually a product the fashionistas refer to as “distressed jeans.” These are jeans with tears and gaping holes that, according to The New York Times, sell for upwards of $600 a pair.

Even in Pittsburgh, land of common-sense people, a lousy pair of trendy jeans runs upwards of $200. I talked with the owner of an upscale jeans store and she told me the jeans with holes in them aren’t as popular as the ones with paint splattered all over them.

“Jeans splattered with paint?”

“Yes, they’re all the rage.”

“But they have paint on them!”

“Yes!”

Just as I was ready to concede that the American experiment is spent and all will soon be lost, she told me about another jeans trend: dirt-washed jeans. That’s right, the jean manufacturer washes them in dirt. They have pebbles and clumps of clay in the pockets. And Americans, many of them educated and from good homes, willingly exchange their hard-earned dough for them.

The dirt-washed jeans are almost as popular as the grease-smeared jeans, she continued (and I’m not making this up). The jean manufacturers actually smear grease all over the jeans, so that people who buy them can be as fashionable as the guy in the pit at the Jiffy Lube.

I asked the jeans-shop owner to help me understand why people are buying such products. She said that manufacturers are always trying to be hip. When something hits—when the trendy crowd just has to have it—the manufacturer can charge huge markups.

Well, I understand that, I told her. But why? Why are people dumb enough to buy these things? Why are Americans spending so much money for items that sensible Americans used to donate to Goodwill or toss in the garbage?

She had no answer. Let me take a stab at it.

As we work exhausting hours in gray cubicles, doing bland service work—as we move into cookie-cutter houses in the thick of suburban sprawl—and as fewer of us know any sense of craftsmanship or what it is like to sweat or work with our hands, we long for anything authentic … even if it’s fake.

But what do I know. At 51, I have effectively become my father. Puzzled as I am by the latest trends, my thoughts have shifted to more practical matters … such as finding a couple of suckers willing to pay me 200 bucks for my greasy, paint-stained jeans.

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