Farmers harvesting for downtown markets

The Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market, the longest running farmer’s market in Chicago, will open on Thursday, May 12, from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Offering fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and more, it will mark a welcome and celebratory end to the long, cold winter.

The process of “Farm to Market” is not an easy one. On market days, farmers start preparing shortly after midnight, loading trucks, driving downtown, unloading and setting up so they can be open for business at 7 a.m.

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A vendor and his cheese at a downtown Chicago farmers market

River Valley Ranch, a sustainable family food business that offers a wide selection of products and specializes in mushrooms, was among the first vendors to participate at Daley Plaza when it first started. According to Eric Rose, son of founder Bill Rose and “Head Shroom” at the farm, “The process of cultivating mushrooms involves a lot of work and a lot of attention.”

RVR is certified organic, so everything is grown chemical free. “Sanitation’s a big deal at the farm for keeping problems at bay,” says Rose. He even offers tours at the farm for anyone wanting to see first hand how their mushrooms and produce are grown.

Besides offering fresh produce, RVR also serves hot food like tamales, chili, and soup. “We make 300 tamales on a typical day,” says Rose. The long lines of hungry patrons waiting for tamales during the busy lunch time rush is testament of their outstanding and delicious reputation.

Nichols Farm is another popular vendor at Daley Plaza known for their large variety of products. Todd Nichols, Farm Manager and second-generation owner, says they basically grow everything you can grow.

“We have a large variety of the earliest to the latest crops,” he explains. “Right now I’m planting sweet corn and I’ve got asparagus coming in and an apple crop that’s about to bloom.”

At the farm, they grow an impressive 250 types of apples and are able to offer between 30 and 50 types of apples at the market. In addition, they grow over 1000 types of fruits and vegetables so they have an extraordinary selection of fresh produce to offer year round. “Because of the mild winter, our perennial food crops should be ready (when the markets open),” says Nichols.

Both Rose and Nichols suggest customers shop early for best selection and develop relationships with farmers by asking thoughtful questions. Farming is hard work that requires a team to be successful, according to Nichols. The hours can be grueling, but there is clearly a dedicated passion fueling their businesses.

“We are grateful for everyone’s ongoing support,” says Rose, “and [we are] very committed to providing good food for our customers.”

For more information, visit www.cityofchicago.org.

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Frequent fireworks, wonderment fizzles

It’s painful to admit, but living in Lakeshore East for eight years has made me a bit jaded about fireworks. “Oh, are there fireworks? It must be a Wednesday.” The ubiquitous nature of the spectacle has dulled its impact. But last summer I found a way to make them fun again.

Navy Pier fireworks

I still remember my very first fireworks extravaganza: Fourth of July in Fort Benning, Georgia. I was six years-old, and I stared at the sky with my mouth open, shouting gleefully every time one of those fireworks sent its lazy tendrils look like a weeping willow tree back towards the earth. Sure, I had a sore neck and an eye full of ash, but I didn’t care. This was the greatest invention of all time. I would never get bored with fireworks; I just wished I could see them more often.

Flash forward 40 years. I am now living my childhood fantasy, and it has become part of the background. For a time, I enjoyed watching the fireworks reflected in the glass of the buildings across the river, and it meant I could watch the show without fighting the spiders on my balcony. But lately, I’ve felt like a curmudgeon, unable to take pleasure in an event whose sole purpose is to entertain.

But wait! All of that changed when I decided to partake in a firework cruise. There are probably many such cruises, but this one was part of the incredibly worthwhile “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” event. The boat took off into the dark waters of Lake Michigan and came to rest near the lighthouse by Navy Pier.

When the fireworks began exploding all around us, the boat was under a beautifully colored siege. That alone brought a few gasps of wonder, but what really sold the moment, and brought back a sense of childhood awe, was seeing the lights of mighty Chicago framing this pyrotechnic spectacular. All these years, I’ve been staring out at the lake, taking for granted what I see every day. I just needed a change of perspective.

Matthew Reiss, Community Contributor

Get your car clean and ready to be seen

Neighborhood CondoWash prepares your ride while you’re away

Everybody is enjoying the end of winter, getting outdoors and looking good, but let’s not forget one other item that also takes a beating in the winter and looks forward to getting outside in warmer temperatures: our automobiles. Our beloved cars look forward to going outside and getting all spruced up, just like we do.

And that is where New Eastside business CondoWash comes in. CondoWash is a unique car wash service that caters specifically to residents and people who work and live in the New Eastside.

Owner Mr. Barney Gray founded the company in 2011.  “One night I had to attend a special event and after coming home from work realized I needed to get my car washed.  After barely getting it done in time, I remembered my car had been sitting in its parking place all day.  So, I thought maybe there is a better way,” explains Gray. He put his idea into motion, and a year later CondoWash became a reality.

To use the service, customers schedule time on the CondoWash website.

On the day of service, customers drop their car keys at the front desk of their building (some buildings have CondoWash drop-boxes). Alternatively, keys can be placed in envelopes provided at the CondoWash drop-box in the Shoreham garage lobby, located at 400 E. South Water St.

All washes take place at the Shoreham building garage. Once the wash is complete, CondoWash returns your car to its original parking space and delivers the keys back to the corresponding front desk security person.

Gray and his staff thoroughly enjoy their job.  “I enjoy the customer service part,” Gray says.  “I like meeting people and, believe it or not, I really love cleaning and washing cars.”

So if you want to get your car looking spiffy and are a little short on time, call the crew at CondoWash. There are different service packages available, from the full-body interior/exterior wash and wax to the simple exterior clean.

And remember… your car will thank you.

CondoWash

400 E. South Water St. Chicago, IL 60601 · 312-453-7308
www.condowash.com.

Chicago’s Air & Sea Rescue team

On a recent Monday morning, the Chicago Fire Department received an emergency call about a person in Lake Michigan near 95th Street. The dispatcher immediately notified Engine Company 13, at 259 N. Columbus Dr., where the Air and Sea Rescue Team is located.

The divers began pulling on thermal protection layers, Viking dry suits, boots, fins and helmets before the truck even rolled out of the station. They secured one another’s air tanks and emergency air tanks as it sped towards the scene. Mastering this procedure is the first of many required to be a CFD Public Safety Diver.

“They do a test when they’re going through the first week of training called rapid deployment dressing,” says Ron Dorneker, Deputy Chief of Marine and Dive Operations. “They have to go from being in their uniforms to being fully suited divers in less than four minutes.”

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Charles Irey of the Air & Sea Rescue team

Every water-related emergency in Chicago — and, when requested, from the far northern suburbs to Indiana — is dispatched to Marine Headquarters at Chicago’s Engine Company 13. Besides housing a supervisor and three divers every day of the year, it also houses a vehicle loaded with two inflatable boats, four integrated scuba outfits and enough specialized equipment to complete rescues in virtually any water-related environment regardless of weather.

The entire Air and Sea Rescue Team consists of 140 to 160 divers, all of whom spent five years as sworn firefighters and demonstrated basic diving and swimming skills before applying. They respond to roughly 250 emergencies every year.

As the truck carried four of them to the incident at 95th, a Bell 412 helicopter powered up at the Chicago Fire Department’s Heliport near Calumet Park along the lakefront. Equipped with a high definition “FLIR” camera that can see over a mile in darkness, the chopper is capable of uploading footage of the situation to the Chicago 9-1-1 center, where call-takers, dispatchers and executives can review and respond accordingly.

“It’s a great helicopter that’s built for search and rescue,” says Dorneker.

It also transported two additional divers to the emergency. Like their counterparts traveling from Engine Company 13, these rescuers stuck with the Air & Sea training program even after enduring the first week, which according to Dorneker, “really weeds people out.”

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A map of the team’s rescue efforts

“It’s a little over a 40-hour week in a swimming pool and out in the lake and the river,” he explains. “From that point, it takes about three years to get to where they’re a true public safety diver trained for water rescue for the city of Chicago.” Upon achieving that honor, the fully-fledged divers can look forward to more training exercises every day.

“It never ends,” says Dorneker. “Last year we logged over three thousand hours.”

During the winter, he and the team use a special chain saw to cut holes in the Lake Michigan ice so that they can explore the waters underneath and “learn our true ability.” Besides navigating currents that Dorneker describes as “unforgiving,” the divers also perfect their means of communication, both hard-wired and wireless.

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Gratitude for the team

“The ice presents an overhead environment, which is dangerous to us,” he explains. “If something goes kaput and your breathing system fails, you need to go back to the hole that you went in to get out. We have contingency plans that we use — whether it’s the redundant air supply or the Rapid Intervention Team — to rescue the diver in distress.”

While the truck and the chopper approached the emergency at 95th over land and in the air, the department’s 92-foot fireboat, Engine 2, raced towards it from a dock near Navy Pier. Upon arriving, they joined the fire fighters from Engine Company 74, the Firehouse nearest to the incident, who also had been activated as part of the protocol for water-related emergencies.

“It’s a standardized response from the Fire Department that gets 41 fire fighters and paramedics on the scene of these incidents,” explains Dorneker. “Engines, Trucks, battalion chiefs, special operations chiefs, helicopters, boats… It’s a big group.”

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Members of the Air & Sea Rescue team

Fortunately, very few of the life-saving resources were necessary on the morning of March 18. Engine Company 74 was able to pull the victim out of the lake before anyone else arrived. Since every member of the Department is trained as a first responder to water incidents, they were equipped with floatation devices, ring buoys, throw bags, and the knowledge to use them.

“People do not join the Fire Department to go on their water rescue team,” Dorneker says. “People join the fire department to become firefighters. But if somebody’s in distress in the water, they can make a quick attempt for a surface rescue before the dive team even gets on the scene.”

Chicago firefighters can train in several categories including auto extraction, hazardous material fires, airport fires and high-rise fire fighting, which is Engine Company 13’s specialty.

Many of the men and women who join Air & Sea Rescue come from obvious places like the Navy, but Dorneker enthusiastically explains that there are also plenty “who showed the willingness to train and learn.”

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Deputy Ron Dorneker

Dorneker himself seems to have followed the path of a natural born water rescuer. His career in public safety diving began when he was a 15-year-old camp counselor at Owasippe Scout Reservation in Twin Lake, Michigan. “They used to pay extra money to bring my scuba gear to camp with me,” he remembers. He worked as a lifeguard for the Chicago Park District, the Sheriff of Galveston, Texas, and the Chicago Police Force before joining the Chicago Fire Department in 1988.

“I’m very passionate about the water,” he says. “I love the water and I like going out there, too. I’m just smart enough to know to stay far enough away so I don’t get myself caught up in the waves or out on the ice.”

— Dan Patton | Staff Writer

A Ship’s tale — Columbia Yacht Club’s “Abegweit”

The majestic Abegweit floats peacefully on Lake Michigan between DuSable and Monroe Harbors, where she has been permanently docked since 1983. The former icebreaker was named after the Mi’kmaq word for Prince Edward Island meaning “cradled on the waves.” The Abegweit originally served as a transport for trains and cars on the east coast of Canada between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick for nearly 40 years. Today, she has a new role: home of the Columbia Yacht Club.

The club’s entrance leads directly into the ship’s cargo hold, which used to store train cars until it was repurposed for the club’s sailing program. The second level was once a car deck but now accommodates outdoor dining and event space. The rest of the ship showcases pristine American chestnut walls and doors and brass fixtures, which are polished daily.

ABE00003Columbia Yacht Club General Manager Nick Philip describes the club as having a “neighborhood-joint feel near great buildings.” It’s a place to read or drink a beer, with a stunning view of the entire skyline. It’s almost as if you are on a floating island. According to Philip, the club is widely known for philanthropy. They host 56 fundraising events a year, several of which support the Leukemia Cup Regatta Series.

Besides abundant invitations to club events, member benefits also include access to the ship at all times, dining privileges, and use of the club’s meeting rooms and party facilities. And you don’t need to own a boat to join. Non-members can rent boats and stand-up paddleboards and participate in the club’s sailing school programs, most of which start in May and go through November.

“We want to make sailing accessible to the neighborhood,” Philip explains.

Kids as young as five can enroll in the “Shark Bait” summer camp program, which Philip says is the perfect way for kids to “get their toes wet” and build confidence on the water while having fun.

Older kids have the chance to learn racing techniques and can join the premiere racing team to compete at local, regional and national events.

Adults can participate in the Skipjacks Program, which Philip says is their most notable program. There are also several boating certification opportunities. More information including scheduling, pricing and registration visit www.columbiayachtclub.org.

— Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Chicago Cultural Mile Association already thinking Halloween

In March, the Chicago Cultural Mile Association hosted a meeting at the Studebaker Theater to discuss its annual Halloween Gathering at Millennium Park, which doesn’t happen until October.

Although it may have seemed “a little bit early to be thinking about Halloween in some peoples’ minds,” as CCMA Producer Allison Gerlach explained, the organization sets the bar pretty high and wide.

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CCMA Producer Allison Gerlach and fire-breather Bryan Small

The inaugural Gathering last year attracted roughly 200,000 people and included fire-breathing artists, humongous puppetry and a convoy of customized lowrider vehicles. Continuing that kind of success not only requires extensive preparation, but also forms a key component of the event’s mission.

“This is a curated procession of the Chicago cultural community,” explains Executive Director Sharene Shariatzadeh. “There really is nothing like it.”

Shariatzadeh and her staff are responsible for promoting the stretch of Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Roosevelt Road and east to Lake Michigan. She considers the area to be “the face of Chicago” with “some of the most celebrated cultural institutions in the world.”

“Our goal is that people will literally hop off a plane, get in a cab, and say, ‘take me to the Cultural Mile,’” she explains.

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CCMA Artistic Director Mark Kelly and Executive Director Sharene Shariatzadeh

By combining the city’s rich ethnic communities and a legion of local artists and performers, the Halloween Gathering is an essential way to make this happen.

It begins with a kid-friendly workshop and ends with an everyone-friendly parade. Along the way, institutions like the Field Museum and the Trinity Dancers celebrate Chicago’s creative harvest with the people who helped bring it to life.

It also requires a lot of work. The meeting provided a forum for this year’s participants to describe their projects and find partners in creativity.

Artist Heather Killian, who creates “weird puppets and animals that are giant,” said she is “planning on doing more animals, something like the beast within.”

Professional fire-breather Bryan Small, who noted that “Chicago loosened up a bit on the regulations” over the past year, said he hopes to build a float topped with go-go dancers and “some very large flame effects.”

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Lowrider jefe Jorge Ortega

Lowrider artist Jorge Ortega, who is also director of Chicago’s Columbian Festival, reported that the video of his car club’s Columbian-themed Marimonda Movil de Chicago cruising through the 2015 parade has scored nearly a quarter million online views.

It has also generated substantial buzz by showcasing the event’s commitment to children. “We should get more participation because kids were involved,” he explains.

This is one of the celebration’s running themes. According to Artistic Director Mark Kelly, who is also Columbia College’s Vice President for Student Success, the morning agenda is “a giant maker session” where children discover that “creative paths are honorable paths.” The afternoon is an all-ages celebration of Halloween as an “Artist’s Holiday.”

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George Berlin wielding his glowing moon scepter.

“It’s that moment of masks and costumes, of taking on new personas,” he explains “Much like carnival, there is not a separation of audience and the contingents that are marching.”

Then he lifted a lamp stand that had been retrofitted, customized and modified into a glowing moon scepter. “I’ve never carried a staff in my life,” he mused. “This was created by George Berlin for last year’s Gathering.”

 

— Dan Patton, Staff Writer

Dos and dont’s: using binoculars in your condominium

I have heard from many of our fellow New Eastsiders that, in fact, one of their first purchases as condo owners was a good strong pair of binoculars.

Additionally, more than a few have mentioned that the item was among the very first housewarming gifts people gave to them.

Some even have telescopes pointing out their windows.  Do you really believe them when they say it’s just for looking out at the stars?

DO

  • Get a strong pair. The higher up the stronger needed.
  • BINOC002webTake in the sights that the New Eastside has to offer, like the Chicago River
  • Use the binoculars to spot boats and other craft on our beautiful lakefront
  • Look up at the sky and catch the moon, the stars, and of course the fireworks show.
  • Use the binoculars to spot suspicious activity (be the friendly neighborhood watch person)

DON’T

  • Stare out the window with them when you have company over
  • Focus on the only lighted window across the river (you know, that guy)
  • Stare directly down on the beachfront for “interesting persons“
  • Look into nighttime windows for other kinds of fireworks
  • Stare into any of the rooftop pools (Not the kind of “friendly neighborhood watch“ we’re talking about)

— Jon Cohn, Community Contributor

The year Lake Shore East got “Transformed”

Recently while passing the Blue Cross Building on Randolph, I noticed the block was covered in artificial snow for a film shoot. Two thoughts crossed my mind. First, I found it humorous that a film being shot in Chicago in winter would need fake snow – that was likely an unexpected expense, compliments of Mother Nature. Second, I was reminded of the bizarre summer of 2011, when the Transformers movie franchise turned the neighborhood into a Hollywood backlot.

EXPLODE1web2My first taste of that summer was the Michigan Ave. Bridge. I was walking to work along Wacker Dr. when I noticed that the bridge was partially raised. The front of a car dangled precariously from its edge. Past Michigan, Wacker had been turned into a warzone – upturned cars, rubble and charred debris. It brought a smile to my face, the thought that the city could warp itself around the world of make believe. For weeks, people like me walked through this alternate dimension enroute to more mundane pursuits.

One evening, on my way home, a giant fireball plumed up from the Hotel Monaco. On another day, a large crowd gathered to watch stuntmen BASE jump off the Trump building. And on one special morning, I watched men parachute into Lakeshore East Park, pack up, then do it again. I was standing on the pool deck of the Shoreham, and all around Lakeshore East, I could see people on their balconies, excitedly taking in the spectacle. It occurred to me that any camera angle featuring one of the buildings would be unusable due to the number of onlookers.

One night as I phoned my fiancée, who lived in South Carolina at the time, a helicopter flew low over the river and a series of massive explosions cascaded along the shoreline. I gasped. My fiancée asked what was wrong. After picking my jaw up from the floor, I said, “Either they’re filming a scene from Transformers III, or I should get to the basement via the stairs.”

I was too lazy to use the stairs. Lucky for me, Transformer Director Michael Bay was still in town.

— Matthew Reiss, Community Contributor

The Bridgehouse in the City That Works

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum may appear tiny compared to the nearby high-rises at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, but the 95 year-old structure extends five-stories down to the river and contains one of Chicago’s most powerful engineering feats.

Located in the southwestern tender house of the DuSable Bridge (formerly called the Michigan Avenue Bridge), the museum contains the steel gears connected to the 1,500-ton counterweight that lifts the 3,400-ton bridge leaf — literally half of Michigan Avenue spanning the river — into the air.

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Museum Director Joanne So Young Dill.

The humongous mechanism not only helped make Chicago’s movable bridges famous around the world, but it also still works. Every May and October, the bridge rises to allow tall ships to pass through. Visitors can see the action for a special admission price during these times, and the machinery is viewable nearly every other day that the museum is open.

Additional attractions include portal windows that offer sweeping views of the Chicago River and grand staircases of the structure’s meticulous interior.

Founded in 2006 by Friends of the Chicago River, the museum is dedicated to being a “cultural anchor of the new Chicago Riverwalk” that celebrates the “dynamic relationship between Chicago and its river.”

“We invite tourists and groups to come and learn about the Chicago River and how it shaped Chicago,” says Joanne So Young Dill, the Museum Director.

The museum also hosts an occasional event, like the “Holiday Pop-up Shop” that filled the place with t-shirts, artists and vendors last December.

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Streetwise Exec Director Julie Youngquist and vendor Mr Roberts work the “Give a Sh*rt” event at the McCormick Bridghouse

Co-sponsored by Chicago production firm Daily Planet and StreetWise Magazine, the outdoor clothing bizarre was officially called “Give a Shi*t.” Volunteers worked nearly twelve hours selling t-shirts designed by local artists to help raise funds for StreetWise.

Julie Youngquist, StreetWise Executive Director, was “blown away” by the effort. “It was perfect for our pop-up store,” she said.

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum opens for the 2016 season on May 14. Until then, passersby can enjoy the Henry Hering sculpture that adorns the exterior southern-facing wall.

Titled, “Defense,” it commemorates the Potawatomi victory at The Battle of Fort Dearborn.

376 N. Michigan Ave. · (312) 977-0227 · www.bridgehousemuseum.org

— Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

2016 state of the parks report

The Bloch Cancer Survivors Garden celebrates perseverance, Maggie Daley Park is just getting started, Millennium Park is sending people over the top and Grant Park may change the way we think about health care. New Eastside News presents the past, present, and future of our neighborhood greens in a special 2016 state of the parks report.

Pictured: Ron Sison from Manilla, Karlo Fel from Sacramento, and Jem Urmatan from Cleveland strike an item off their Windy City vacation bucket list on an unseasonably warm February afternoon at Millennium Park. “If you come to Chicago, you have to see the Bean,” explains Fel. Photo: Daniel Patton.

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