Some friendly (and not so friendly) reminders for watching the Air and Water Show

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

One of the Midwest’s great summer events descends upon the city as the Chicago Air and Water Show rears it’s noisy, but exciting, head on Aug. 17 and 18. 

Huge crowds are expected and the Chicago beachfront will be packed, which could present some interesting challenges. So, as a long-time veteran of the spectator wars at the Air and Water Show, we present some crucial “don’t forgets.”

  • Don’t forget to get there early. More than two million people attended last year, so there will be battles for prime viewing locations. For an up close and personal experience, North Avenue Beach is perfect, but prepare to be squished in among a throng of fellow viewers.

Great viewing locations exist along Oak Street, Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue beaches. My secret spot is the long line of elevated steps between Ohio and Oak streets, offering a great view and it’s a little less crowded.

  • Don’t forget sunscreen. If it’s a hot day and you forgot your SPF 30 you will cook like a Fourth of July hot dog on a grill. A hat with a flap is also recommended.
  • Don’t forget to bring fluids (preferably water). Bring snacks, too, if you don’t want to wait in long lines for food.
  • Speaking of long lines, don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you head out. Washrooms are available along the route, but you might as well bring a book as the wait can be excruciating.

Don’t forget to bring a camera and binoculars. The up-close looks can be spectacular.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog. The loud noises can freak out even the calmest of pets.

Don’t forget Friday is practice day. Many a downtowner has panicked thinking air raids or worse when the planes do their runs.

Don’t forget to duck when the Blue Angels or The Thunderbirds head your way in a screeching, loud, downward spiral. It’s a natural reaction, we all do it.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the show.

New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: Wade King at Aqua

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Wade King is approaching his 10th year as doorperson at the Aqua. It’s his first job as a doorperson and he said he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“They treat me right and they pay me good,” he said with a laugh.

King said a friend referred him to the position, and he hasn’t looked back.

“The variety of people has always been a draw,” he said. “You meet all different type of people from all walks of life and from everywhere and different ages. This building is a melting pot.”

Besides the residents of the 900-unit building, King said he’ll have to help lost Radisson guests who mistakenly wander into the residents’ entrance and even the odd sight-seer who, armed with an architecture map, wander into the Jeanne Gang-designed building seeking information.

“It’s one of the more popular buildings because of the design. People go on an architecture tour and have questions and you have to answer their questions,” he said. “We have to field all types of questions. We pretty much have to know it all. We’re like a human kiosk.”

However, King is quick to point out The Aqua staffs two people at the door, and he said he would not be able to deliver the same kind of service without a partner.

Sean Hayes, the resident who nominated King, said the doorperson should train doorpeople all over the city—and then the nation.

“Wade King and (prior doorperson of the month) Josh Harris should start their own consulting company as expert door staff training and management consultants to be hired by property management companies, like Magellan, throughout Chicago and then later expand nationally,” Hayes wrote in an email.

But for King, Chicago is home.

“It’s the best city in the world. I’ll visit anywhere, but this is home,” he said. “It’s got everything. It’s got a lakefront, you got buildings, you got suburbs, good food, good music and we’ve got all the seasons.”

When he’s not working, King spends his free time drawing and bowling. King said he grew up bowling with his parents, and he’s still in a league with his mom. King said his personal best is bowling a 275, but don’t ask him how he did it.

“I wish I knew because I would have gotten the 300 if I knew what it was,” King said. “It was one of those days that everything you throw comes up and it’s like, alright. But I’m still trying to get that 300, and when I get to 300 I’ll probably quit. Mission accomplished.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Meadows in the skies: A closer look at the growing, green rooftops in the city

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

High above the streets, there are fields through the city filled with wildflowers, grasses, trees and even crops.

A growing rooftop greening movement is transforming the downtown environment and, according to Molly Meyer, it’s also improving the buildings.

Meyer, CEO and founder of Omni Ecosystems, an organization that designs sustainable green infrastructure, said her firm has developed rooftop farms and prairies. She said the green trend gained steam about 15 years ago and it’s been going strong ever since.

“In the mid 2000s there were a huge number of green roofs developed,” she said.

Now, every neighborhood in the city has green roofs, mostly only observable from higher floors on neighboring buildings. But while they may be invisible to most people, they’re still important.

“The top of the McDonald’s headquarters in West Loop is a 20,000 square foot wildlife meadow,” Meyer said. “That’s an important habitat for native butterflies.”

Their green roof includes crops which the company hopes to deliver to the community. 

“At McDonald’s headquarters, as employees and visitors collaborate on the ninth floor open work space and outdoor terrace, they are standing directly under one of the premier sustainability features of the headquarters: the green roof,” McDonald’s spokesperson Anne Christensen said. “The green roof boasts a garden with food for harvest and is purifying the air in the West Loop. The garden includes buckwheat, carrots, wheat, radishes, as these items are good for promoting strong soil. Harvesting soon, we hope to partner with a community organization to help us share our crops.”

In Streeterville, Navy Pier got into the game a year ago, when it developed its new welcome center. The center, to the right of the entrance, near Polk Brother Park, features a roof sloping down to the sidewalk and as visitors walk along the south side of the building, the concrete facade gives way to a meadow, complete with two bee boxes, which are a permanent fixture in the meadow. 

Michael Thompson, an apiest and farm manager at Chicago Honey Co-op who manages the boxes for the pier, said in the few months since the boxes have been installed, the have already produced 30-40 pounds of honey. In just two bee boxes, Navy Pier is home to some 50,000 Italian bees. 

According to Savitha Chelladurai, the Navy Pier’s sustainability program manager, the pier will use the honey at various restaurants. She said the rooftop project makes good sense for the Pier. 

“The creation of a green roof at the People’s Energy Welcome Pavilion helps to mitigate heat island effects and create a cooler environment for our guests,” said Chelladurai. “In addition, the native plants used at the Pier lead to better storm-water management and require little fertilizer or chemical applicants.”

The Pier isn’t alone.

“Downtown we have nine bee locations and they’re all on roofs,” Thompson said. 

In addition to bees, Meyer said the greenspaces are habitats for birds and small insects like grasshoppers, likely dropped by birds. But the roofs offer more than an ecosystem. 

Green rooftops are growing in popularity because the city mandates new construction be “green” or energy efficient, she said, and rooftops help achieve that goal.

“There is a benefit to extending the life of the roof membrane and a green roof protects that,” she said. “And there’s the storm water benefit and energy saving benefit too.”

Besides the buildings, the rooftops also help the city. 

“It’s important to make sure the built environment gets more sustainable and resilient,” she said.

Get to know the only biplane pilot in the Air and Water Show

(Published July 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago Air and Water show may be famous for its display of high powered state-of-the art aircraft, but one airplane featured this year is not like the others. 

Chicago-based pilot Susan Dacy’s biplane is a throwback to pre-war piloting, to a time before jet engines, but her performance is no less technical and it is no less thrilling. 

Dacy, one of the pilots featured at the Chicago Air and Water Show Aug. 17-19, is one of the few female pilots in the U.S. performing in a bi-plane. But this isn’t her first Air and Water show. Dacy is a commercial pilot and, when she’s not doing tricks during her day job, she tours the country performing rolls, spins and other acrobatic tricks. She said she started in the 1990s and her decades of acrobatic performances is the realization of a goal she’s had since she was a kid and went to her first airshow.

“Of all the performances what impacted me was the biplane that flew,” she said. “It had the smoke trail and it was loud and it really excited me. I always remembered that.”

The early inspiration is reflected in Dacy’s plane, a bright red, 450 horsepower Super Stearman named Big Red. Although biplanes are among the earliest planes, the Super Stearman is a WWII-era plane, developed as a reliable craft for young pilots to learn to fly. Because of their reliability and their ubiquity, Dacy said quite a few planes were retired after the war and they flooded the civilian market.

“This type of plane trained bunches and bunches of cadets,” she said. “They made Army and Navy versions so they had gobs and gobs of these airplanes after the war. A lot of bombers and things like that were crushed up melted down and repurposed but a lot of the Stearmans luckily survived because it was determined they were good for crop dusters.”

It’s a Stearman crop duster that chases Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.”

Dacy’s plane was used in air shows before she bought it. Aside from a new engine, a new “skin” and some aileron flaps, it’s the same plane as the cadets would have piloted in training.

“It’s been a plane that’s pretty much worked its whole life,” she said. “It’s never been in a shed collecting dust.”

Later this month it will be at it again. Although the pilot schedule isn’t set until the day of the show—weather affects what planes can perform—Dacy offered a behind-the-scenes sense of what audiences can expect. Like all the other pilots, Dacy will take off from Indiana but Big Red is the only bi-plane scheduled for the day.

Dacy said audiences can expect “barnstormer-type moves,” including some twists and circles, shooting her craft high into the sky, trailing environmentally-friendly smoke before tumbling back down to earth and ending in a barrel roll.

While her performance may shock, surprise or even make audiences anxious, the one person who won’t be wowed is Dacy.

“Of course, we know what to expect, so it’s almost everything seems routine,” she said. Dacy said she’s got an exit plan in case of the worst, but said she doesn’t worry about it.

“You’re always thinking that stuff and it’s not being fatalistic but it’s just common sense,” she said. “But my airplane is so reliable, and of course I make sure maintenance is performed regularly”

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel offers unique look at the city

(Published July 30, 2019)
By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff writer

The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is an iconic sight for tourists and Chicagoans.

Standing nearly 200 feet high, the Centennial Wheel is a behemoth, weighing 992,080 pounds, powered by 8 motors with over 10,000 bolts connecting the machine together. 

Devonne Phams, Senior Guest Experience Manager, and his staff are responsible for making sure riders have a great experience.

Phams has been with Navy Pier for 6 years, starting as an attraction attendant and working through the ranks to be promoted to Senior Guest Experience Manager. Part of his role is managing the staff who run the Ferris wheel, who ensure that guests have “a safe but fun time.”

Safety is a big part of their work, he said. Each morning, Phams’ team checks the Centennial Wheel to make sure everything is operational. They open and close doors, check the video screens and PA systems (in case a guest needs to contact the operator), as well as making sure the 42 gondolas are clean. 

On a good day during the week, Phams said they get close to 3,500 people on the Ferris wheel, but the number rises to 8,000 during the weekend. It can hold up to 420 people at a time with 8-10 people per gondola. 

The Centennial Wheel operates year round; with air conditioning for the hot summer months and heat for the cooler months. The Ferris wheel team monitors weather conditions, whether it is ice accumulation in the winter or thunderstorms. For safety precautions, the Ferris wheel is shut down if lightning strikes within 5 miles of Navy Pier.

At night, the Ferris wheel staff closes windows that guests may have opened during the day, collect and turn in any lost items, as well as cleaning the gondolas. They lock and secure the Ferris wheel for the night. And the cycle begins the next day.

Phams’ favorite part of the job is the people.

“We get people from all over the world,” he said. “They are totally amazed by the new Ferris wheel itself.” 

A particular moment that stands out for Phams is the annual Camp One Step. A nonprofit dedicated to provide educational and fun experiences for children with cancer brings a group of  kids to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris wheel. Each year, they put together a campfire song for Phams. “It’s really awesome,” he said.

Phams invites people to check out the Ferris wheel.

The view from the top is phenomenal. There’s nothing like it in the city,” he said.

Unique spring runs in Chicago include bubbles, colors and love

(Published April 30, 2019

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

Although April did bring snow, it is safe to say spring has finally sprung on Chicago. Just in time for spring are healthy, fun activities to get the body in shape before beach season. If ordinary 5k races are boring, here are some weirdly fun runs:

Superhero Run 2019

Where: Diversey Event Harbor

When: 9 a.m., May 4

Wear a cape and run for a good cause. The Superhero Run, the biggest fundraising event of the year for DePaul University’s Cities Project, provides Chicago Public School students with critical mentoring and after-school support. All proceeds go toward maintenance and expansion of the program. Tickets: $35-$40.

Night Nation Run

Where: Soldier Field

When: Gates open at 5:30 p.m., May 18

The Night Nation Run is a running music festival. More than one million people have participated over the years. The run begins and ends at the Soldier Field and the course includes studded bubble zones, live DJs, light shows and black and white neon lights. As participants enjoy this unique, musical running course, the major attraction awaits near the finish line—an epic main stage after party with top headliner DJs. Tickets: $30-$60.

Bubble Run Chicago

Where: Bridgeview

When: May 25

Participants wear white t-shirts, and run, walk, dance and play across three miles, with groups starting every three to five minutes. At each kilometer, participants run through Foam Bogs where they get doused in colored foam from head to toe. Each of the four Foam Bogs along the course will be represented by different colored foam. Tickets: $40.

The Color Run Chicago

Where: Soldier Field

When: June 15

A race that celebrates love, The Color Run requires participants to wear white and bring nothing but good vibes. As participants run through the course, they are plastered with colors and once they cross the finish line, there is a party with music, dancing and even more colors. Tickets: $25-$50.

Learning to cook; kids can hone their culinary skills at Sur La Table

(Published March 31)

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

Kids can get busy in the kitchen at Sur La Table and experience some hands-on cooking fun this summer and learn to make delicious classic summer eats from scratch.

Sur La Table, located at 900 North Michigan Ave., offers three- and five-day cooking classes for kids 8-12 and teens 13-17. The classes start in July, last about two hours each and are limited to 16 students.

“All of our classes are taught by classically trained culinary professionals,” said Adam Leach, resident chef at Sur La Table.

Sur La Table will offer two camps this summer. One incorporates different themes each day like backyard BBQ or pizza parties and will include about four different recipes per day. The other camp will focus on teaching different techniques, like working with pasta and pizza dough, learning knife skills or grilling or BBQ techniques.

“There will also be a bakery and pastry component this year, which will take place one day as an all encompassing experience in the five day camp,” added Leach.

Kids get to eat what they make and even compete in a friendly mystery box competition at the end of each series similar to the TV show, Chopped wherein chefs must create a meal with a box of mystery ingredients.  

“Teams get a menu together, curated through the instructor, but created by the kids. They use what skills they’ve learned the previous days to put it all together for a final menu,” said Leach.

The chef picks a mystery ingredient to be used somewhere in the menu, and kids are encouraged to use a kitchen gadget they haven’t used before. “The winning team gets a prize,” said Leach.

“I look at my job here as inspiring people to cook more at home and build confidence in the kitchen,” said Leach. “I like people to leave the class wanting to cook more!”
In addition to gaining culinary skills, kids will take home a packet of recipes and a Sur La Table apron. Register for the classes at surlatable.com.

Stay inside and get outside through the MCA’s ‘The Great Outdoors’ performance piece this weekend

For the New Eastside News

(Published March 20, 2019)

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present “The Great Outdoors,” a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through ‘inner space.’

A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, “The Great Outdoors” connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today’s networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.

“The Great Outdoors” is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day’s internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the ‘internet’s id’ – a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.

The Great Outdoors” invites audiences to consider the internet as both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as “a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century.” As audiences imagine the internet’s infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.

“The Great Outdoors”takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA and seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved at www.mcachicago.org or by calling the box office at 312-397-4010.


Illinois couples now option for collaborative divorce

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

On Jan. 24, the Jenner & Block firm hosted a celebration of the passage of the Collaborative Process Act in Illinois a year prior. Collaborative law professionals met to honor their work in the advancement of collaborative law in Illinois and Chicago.

Divorce may not be easy, but in Illinois, the process can be less burdensome when couples use collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is different from litigation and mediation. Through the process, a team of professionals trained in collaborative law, including attorneys and divorce coaches, come to an agreement outside of court. A judge ultimately signs off on the agreement, but the focus is not the amount each party can get.

“It is an interest-based process and focuses on the goals of each individual,” collaborative attorney and mediator Rita Ghose said. The goal is not necessarily what the parties are entitled to legally, but is about what is most important to each side.

“Each party signs an agreement that is binding to commit themselves to the collaborative process and not bring it to court,” Ghose said. If one of the parties decides to break the agreement and litigate, new attorneys must be hired. The entire process is private and not a part of public record.

“We have been working on collaborative law in Illinois for about seven or eight years,” attorney Carlton Marcyon said. The process has been law for just over a year and advocates say it’s working out well.  

“Collaborative law is beneficial to litigants, it’s faster, less costly, and there’s less consternation between parties,” Marcyon said.

The collaborative law process can often lead to better communication between spouses and can be better for any co-parenting endeavors, according to Marcyon.

“The collaborative process is the most supportive way to go through a divorce,” divorce advisor Karen Covy said. “Everyone is on the same page to serve your goals, not the attorney’s goals.”

To learn more about collaborative law, visit collablawil.org

Published on March 15, 2019

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopens after repairs

(Published March 14)

By Jesse Wright

After being closed for months for repairs, Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopened its doors on March 8.

The popular New Eastside bar and grill, at 225 N. Michigan Ave., was packed by 5 p.m. that day and longtime fans said they were happy to have their favorite spot back.

“I had come here about a dozen times before it reopened,” customer Ken Goncharoff said.

In the two months since the restaurant closed, construction crews added stainless steel accents, more seating options, including more bar seats, and an updated ceiling.

But Goncharoff said he didn’t notice most of it because his favorite parts of the bar are unchanged.

“To be honest, it looks the same,” he said. “The bar looks different and the ceiling looks different, but I love the atmosphere here. That’s why I come here, and that hasn’t changed. I liked it before and I like it now.”

Sweetwater is gearing up for a massive St. Patrick’s Day patio party March 16.

The bar and grill will open at 9 a.m. and will offer green beer, bagpipes and Irish food, including corned beef Reuben, shepherd’s pie and corned beef poutine.

For more information, visit sweetwatertavernandgrille.com.

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