Mister Rogers documentary to air on PBS in February

Staff reports

(Published Jan. 16)

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will get a treat Feb. 9.

That Saturday, WTTW11, Chicago’s public broadcasting station, will air “Won’t you be my Neighbor,” a hit documentary film about Fred Rogers, the host of the hit childrens television show.

The film highlights Rogers’ pioneering contributions to public television and children’s programming, namely promoting kindness and tolerance. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and has been nominated for numerous awards.

 The show aired on PBS stations around the country for decades and generations of adults watched the show as kids.

Old is OK in Skyline Village Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

At 76, Phyllis Mitzen is — in her words — an old woman. Others might use words such as elderly or mature but Mitzen does not.

Old is OK, she says, and so is aging, provided people have the right resources and this is where Skyline Village Chicago comes in.

As president of Skyline Village Chicago, an organization for older adults, Mitzen spends a lot of time thinking about aging. According to Village to Village Network, the concept of a “Virtual Village” is simple—an organization for older adults that provides access to services, fosters community relationships and does “anything [its] members need to age safely and successfully in their own homes.”

The Village model began in Boston over 15 years ago and has been spreading since. These organizations not only connect to other villages, but also connect members to each other.

Skyline Village Chicago is open to residents of Streeterville, the Gold Coast, River North and New Eastside. Mitzen said other villages in the Chicago area focus on providing access to services and transportation, the neighborhoods that Skyline Village covers tend to be “resource-rich,” meaning they have resources for the elderly.

Because of this, the Village focuses on socialization, so neighbors can get to know each other, Mitzen said. Through Skyline Village’s newsletter, residents find out about local news, event dates and life updates from members.

Mitzen’s favorite village event is the Women’s Salon, which meets monthly to talk about “what it means to grow old in our society.” She said it’s not a therapy group, but a place to share information, talk about ageism and come to an “active understanding of our aging selves.”

The village also has an advocacy group, Mitzen said, which advocates for senior issues. For instance, the group is working with the park district to discuss installing equipment for all ages in the city’s playgrounds, Mitzen said.

She added that “owning old” is something that comes up often in the Women’s Salon and something she tries to do every day.

“There are frailties, and people do become disabled when they grow older, but it shouldn’t mean that their voices aren’t as strong,” she said. “I’m happy to be able to do what I’m doing at age 76, and if I can’t do it when I’m age 80, I’ll still be an old woman who deserves respect.”

Chicago in winter is hot, hot, hot for tourists

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Winter in Chicago means one thing—cold. Chicago might not be Miami, but Chicago gets visitors even in the depths of winter.

The reasons are as varied as the visitors. Some come for conferences and others come for vacation, but one no matter what, the city seeks to welcome all winter tourists with warm smiles and plenty to do.

“People think of the city as being very cold and unfriendly, but actually the weather in Chicago can be great in the winter time, and there are great things to do,” Erik Grazetti, director of sales and marketing at the Loews Chicago Hotel, 455 N. Park Drive.

He explained that the city has done a good job of marketing itself as a destination for people in surrounding states who want to break out of winter’s “cabin fever” by offering a variety of activities like the Chicago Auto Show, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, sporting events and concerts.

Colleen Sweitzer, marketing manager at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, said in addition to events for the holidays, so much of Chicago’s culture involves “great indoor fun,” including museum exhibits, theater and music.

Once visitors do get there, there will always be a personal, smiling face at the ready. No matter what the reason or the season, Choose Chicago, the official marketing organization for the city, said their Chicago Greeter program pairs volunteer city greeters with individuals who may want a local to show them around.

The service is available all year long, except on major holidays and it could come in handy for those visitors who come to the city at the last minute and don’t have a set itinerary. This sort of a visit is more common in the winter time than some might expect. “Seventy or 80 percent of our business on the [winter] weekends comes from within about a four hour drive of the hotel,” Grazetti said. Local travelers, he said, can plan a trip more last-minute than someone who wants to plan a five or six-day trip. “Those types of people tend to go to the warm-weather destinations.”

“In the Midwest, we kind of hunker down, so a trip to Chicago is a nice change of pace and a fun getaway in the winter rather than hibernating until spring,” Sweitzer said. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is based in Canada, and Sweitzer said the hotel sees many Canadian tourists in the winter as well.

“We’re warm here compared to a lot of places in Canada in the winter,” she said.

Still, fewer people are staying at Chicago hotels in the winter. Grazetti said from January to mid-March, the Loews sees a 60 percent room occupancy rate, compared to a 90 percent average during the warmer months. That’s good news for winter travelers as fewer people in the hotels means generally cheaper rooms. Grazetti added, however, that occupancy is up, even in the winter time, compared with eight or nine years ago.

Grazetti praised Choose Chicago, which has “done a really good job, particularly I’d say over the last five years or so, in really promoting Chicago as a winter destination, and we’ve definitely seen the impact of that,” he said.

Besides discounts and cabin fever, there’s something else that brings people to Chicago in the winter: conventions. Grazetti called Chicago a “conference town.”

“The hotel market in the city really kind of thrives on the convention business that is brought into McCormick place and some of the larger venues here,” he said.

Grazetti said conventions bring in about 1.2 million people per year, with about 15 percent of those people during the winter months. Despite lower hotel prices, organizations tend to avoid booking conferences in colder months when bad weather could shut down an airport, he said.

The American Student Dental Association took that risk and held its national leadership conference in Chicago in mid-November. Tatum Newbill, Matthew McLeod and Chantol Peterkin, dental students from Howard University in Washington, D.C. attended the conference.

Peterkin said she had been to Chicago during the winter and wasn’t worried about the weather. “If you have the time now, why not?” she said.

McLeod said the students discussed preparing for the weather the week before the conference. “I’m wearing layers right now,” he said. “I hear it’s nicer in the summer.”

Other winter conferences this year included the Radiological Society of North America’s (RSNA) which attracted tens of thousands of guests and the Muslim American Society’s annual national convention at the end of December, hosted about 12,000 attendees. Both conferences were set for McCormick Place.

Bob and Gretchen Montgomery, along with four travel companions, made the trek to Chicago from Dallas and Denver and were taking photos in Millennium Park on a snowy November day.


“We love Chicago,” Bob Montgomery said, adding the group had come to celebrate a birthday and an anniversary and to see Hamilton.

The weather in Chicago, they said, wasn’t much different from the weather in their home cities. “Weather shouldn’t be a hindrance to going somewhere, to have fun,” Gretchen Montgomery said.

To find out more about the Chicago Greeter program, call (312) 945-4231 or visit their website at www.chicagogreeter.com or visit the Choose Chicago website at www.choosechicago.com

Best places to stay active inside

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

During the cold, dark winter months, it can be easy to stay sedentary. Getting motivated to move outdoors requires lots of clothes and a tolerance for low temperatures. Never fear—plenty of businesses specialize in indoor activities, offering a variety of opportunities for fitness.  

Ice skating

The McFetridge Sports Center, 3843 N. California Ave., offers indoor ice skating, tennis and yoga. Open skate costs $5 per person during select hours and tennis costs $25 per hour. Try a drop-in yoga class for $12. For more information, visit mcfetridgesportscenter.com

Rock climbing

Go indoor rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, 100 S. Morgan St. Try an Intro to Climbing class to learn the basics of climbing under the guidance of expert instructors. The 60-minute class takes place on both ropes and boulders and includes gear rental. $25 for members and $49 for non-members. For more information, visit brooklynboulders.com/gowanus/

Ping pong

Hone your ping pong skills at SPIN Chicago, 344 N. State St., in a fun and energizing social environment. Taking aim at that tiny white ball will get your heart pumping. $25 per hour during off-peak hours / $39 during peak hours. Stop by for $10 ping pong on Sundays from 5-8 p.m. For more information, visit wearespin.com/location/chicago/

Bumper cars

WhirlyBall, 1825 W. Webster, offers fitness-forward and fun activities to get visitors moving. WhirlyBall is not only the name of the business, but also a game where players sit in souped-up bumper cars armed with a hand scoop and fling a wiffle ball around with friends. There’s also bowling, laser tag, pool tables and a climbing wall. Walk ins are  $15 for a 30-minute session with a four-player minimum. For more information, visit whirlyball.com

Bowling

Pinstripes, 435 E. Illinois, features bowling and bocce ball games in a social setting with game-side food and drink. Bowling is $8-18 per hour per person, depending on the hours. Shoes can be rented for $5. Bocce ball is $5-12 per person per hour. Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit pinstripes.com/chicago-illinois/

Indoor golf

Play18 offers an ultimate indoor golf experience in a relaxed country club atmosphere. Play18 features PGA Tour simulators and personal driving bays along with a locker room, full bar and lounge. Reserve online. $50 per hour. For more information, visit play18chicago.com

Air workout

AIR®, a boutique fitness lab, offers classes that incorporate aerial exercises on hammocks for a unique twist on the average fitness regimen. The 50-minute Air Foundation class fuses elements of conditioning, pilates, ballet and HIIT (high intensity interval training) on aerial hammocks. There are two locations to choose from: River North, 357 W. Erie St., and South Loop, 1317 S. Michigan Ave. $30 per class or $10 for community classes. For more information, visit airfitnow.com

Basketball

Check out Swish House for basketball fitness classes that makes working out fun. The high intensity interval training classes provide a unique team-based environment that engages the competitive spirit. Classes are $25 and are held at The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls at 1140 W. Jackson Blvd. For more information, visit swishhouse.com

Take a walk

Take a walk through the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., or Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive, to get your heart rate up while enjoying warm lush gardens and a brief respite from the cold. Free admission to both.

Route to self improvement runs through downtown Chicago


By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

It’s a New Year and with a new calendar come those annual thoughts of self-improvement.

Self-improvement might include getting in better shape, or realizing the dream of running a half marathon—but whatever the goal, first comes the plan.

Join a gym (but try it out first)

Matthew Modleski, personal training program director at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness in New Eastside, said a gym should fit right if it’s going to be used.

“Find somewhere you feel comfortable, that has a good space-to-member ratio (not overcrowded) and that is convenient,” he said in an email. “Especially in Chicago in the winter time, convenience is going to be key.”

Modleski said gyms offer variety, which can be important.

“First, weight training is crucial to just about every goal,” he said. “It can improve posture, make you feel stronger, add lean muscle and boost your metabolism, improve confidence, prevent or help osteoporosis, and just make you feel awesome.”

“Second, there is the staff. You’re going to have a team of people helping you along the way.

“Third, the social factor. One of the most common reasons people stop working out is because they don’t have friends who share their goals.”

Get a trainer

Sharing goals is important because the gym can be intimidating. Tom Linden hit the weight room at Lakeshore on Stetson Avenue the day after Christmas. Linden is in shape and he is a regular, but he credited his dedication with a trainer.

“I wouldn’t come if I didn’t have a trainer, to be honest,” Linden said.

Thanks to his trainer—and to his own hard work—Linden said he has gotten noticable results.

“It helps keep me fit,” he said.

Bill Bishop, the head coach at Bishop Racing and the inventor/CEO of The Everest Platform, has been training people in Chicago areas for years. He trains folks to run marathons, participate in Ironman triathlons and, with his software system and an easygoing—if also determined—vibe, Bishop helps people be the best they can be.

“In a perfect world, I’m just a guy doing his thing. I just help people kick ass,” he said.

Bishop said the first step to self-improvement is making the decision to self improve.

“The very first thing that any athlete or enthusiast or everyday person needs to do in order to start the process in order to get themselves in shape is to make the decision that they want to be in shape,” he said.

Bishop encourages students to integrate healthy activity into their lifestyles, so they can have some fun and also feel—and look—better.

“If you and your friends are going to the bar or having a huge meal, go run for an hour first,” he said. “Getting into shape doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but by staying committed you are actually taking care of yourself first, and enjoying your life second.”

To find out more about Bishop, look up his company on Facebook or call (312) 617-9590. For more information about Lakeshore Sports and Fitness, visit their website lakeshoresf.com or call (312) 856-1111.