A look inside the windows: The News gets a closer look at the Macy’s Christmas displays

Amelia Mehring poses with her grandfather, Aqui Rivera at the Macy’s window.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

The weather’s cold. Snow flurries dance through the crisp air.

And even so, a crowd of people gathers on State Street, pausing to peer into a window, to catch a glimpse of Santa.

It’s the Macy’s window displays and they are working their annual magic.

For locals, there is plenty in downtown that gets, well, regular. There’s no reason to visit the Bean every day. Few locals take selfies with the skyline.

But the windows at Macy’s attract the tourists and the Chicagoans alike because whether it is a first-time visit or a longtime tradition, there’s something in those windows everyone wants to see.

“We come every year,” said Karen Rivera, who visited the windows with her husband, Aqui and their granddaughter, Amelia Mehring.

“We used to bring her father, when he was a boy,” Karen explained.

But what most people don’t see—what they can’t see—is the planning. Brian Pelusa is the store’s visual manager and the man behind the windows and even though Christmas window displays take up a small amount of time and space in the Macy’s year, there’s a big deal. It’s a lot of work getting folks coming back, year after year, for generations.

“The planning and execution process can take anywhere from nine months to a year,” Pelusa wrote in an email. “Usually once the holiday windows are unveiled for the season, the brainstorming begins for the next year’s windows.”

Macy’s of course is a chain, so the store on State Street is part of a larger, national conversation that includes things like themes. After the stores agree on a look, the decorations are shipped out.

“This year’s window displays were packed and shipped in 20 pallets/crates made up of 15 double length and five standard sized skids,” Pelusa wrote. “Also, we typically use about 50-60 pounds of fake snow in each year’s displays.”

The installation team is four or five people and then Pelusa’s visual design team includes four people and they add the finishing touches.

When Pelusa is designing the windows, he has to bear in mind the history of the tradition. He explained the store has offered displays since the 1870s—and over those years, they have developed a reputation.

“Macy’s was the first store to feature holiday windows created for the pure fun and joy of the season and, with that, began a tradition that still lives on today in numerous cities including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Salt Lake City,” Pelusa wrote. “In Chicago specifically, we’re celebrating the 51st anniversary of our annual holiday window display at Macy’s on State Street.”

This doesn’t mean the display itself is old. While some of the iconography like Santa may remain consistent, Pelusa said the general themes do change.

“Each year a few new elements are added,” he said. “This year, we are excited to continue to celebrate all the Reasons to Believe.”

Besides that, each window has its own theme and color palette though there is at least one constant feature used to tie the all the displays together visually.

“Borders are placed around the windows to add to the overlying theme and to reflect Macy’s particular branding style,” Pelusa said.

Pelusa said so much work and care goes into the windows, he understands why they attract people. There’s a lot to take in and he has some advice on how to do it right.

“There are so many meticulous details in each window — from the sculpting of the caricatures, to the props, to the backdrops and more,” he wrote. “I’d recommend that viewers get up close to the glass and look at every inch. Then step back, so they’ll see the small details start to pop out, showing how exciting the entire window is.”

Finally, for anyone looking to spruce up their own windows—or a room in their home—with Christmas spirit, Pelusa has some advice.

“A good tip that I would recommend to anyone decorating their home for the holidays is that lighting and color go a long way, but when you add music plus a fragrance, such as a candle or potpourri, the decorations become even more captivating since they will touch on all your senses,” he wrote.

Check out the window displays through Christmas at 111 North State St.

Just in time for Christmas, dino SUE gets a new home

Staff reports

 

SUE, the iconic T. rex who held the coveted spot on the Field Museum’s main floor until February, will finally be on display in a new home this holiday season.

The skeleton had been removed from Stanley Field Hall tomake room for the museum’s new Titanosaur cast, Maximo. But, on Dec. 21, SUE’s new suite will open, debuting a brand new habitat to museum visitors.

The biggest and most complete T. rex skeleton in the world, the skeleton that had been on display had, nevertheless, grown out of date given new scientific understanding of T. rex anatomy. So, since coming down, scientists and museum workers have been updating SUE’s skeleton to match the latest science.

One of those updates will be the addition of a set of bones across SUE’s abdomen called gastralia that helped the T. rex breathe, according to Pete Makovicky, the museum’s curator of dinosaurs.

SUE will now live in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet in a 5,100 square foot suite filled with interactive displays that mimic the environment an actual T. rex would have lived in.

Among those displays will be “cutting-edge animations showing how SUE would have interacted with other dinosaurs and what the landscape would have looked like,” said Jaap Hoogstraten, Director of Exhibitions, in a press release.

The move has been in the works for quite some time, said Field Museum president Richard Lariviere, in a press release.

“We’re excited to finally complete our decades-long plan to put SUE in a proper scientific context alongside our other dinosaurs and offer an experience that really shows off why SUE is widely considered the greatest dinosaur fossil in the world,” said Lariviere in a press release.

SUE’s new environment “will give visitors a glimpse of the world SUE lived in,” said Hoogstraten in a press release. The new display will also explain how SUE made it to Chicago.

“People will also get to learn about SUE’s discovery and the things scientists have learned about SUE over the last few decades—there’ll be lots of new information and experiences that we weren’t able to get across with the old display,” said Hoogstraten, in a press release.

“This is the biggest, scariest, and most impressive SUE’s ever looked,” said Lariviere, in a press release.

 

Get your gifts close to home: Shop Streeterville

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Streeterville hosts the Mag Mile and a slew of name-brand national retailers in addition to some local hidden gems. Why not shop at both? Here is a list of some of the must-haves in Streeterville.

 

Kriser’s Natural Pet

Kriser’s Natural Pet store, 356 E. Ohio St., is a national brand that started right here in Chicago. Be sure to support this success story for all your pet presents.

This year’s hot ticket items include HuggleHounds holiday pet toys retailing for around $15. If you’re a more practical pet parent who want to keep your dog warm, try a coat from Canada Pooch. Prices vary depending on size and style. Of course, you’ll want a dog coat with some matching boots. This season Pawz rubber boots are the way to go, with most boots costing around $15.

Kriser’s Natural Pet store is open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. most days. For more information, call 312-951-1331.

 

Sephora

For the finicky and fabulous person on your list, check out Sephora, a high-end beauty store with a variety of makeup and skin products. This year, the store offers two new products that are flying off shelves.

First, customers are going crazy over the Charlotte Tilbury Stars in Your Eyes Palette. This is a limited-edition eye shadow palette retailing for around $75.

The next big thing this season is the Pat McGrath Labs’ Mothership V Eye Palette. Pat McGrath Labs made news this year when its value soared north of $1 billion, and it’s easy to see why with this flashy, tasteful offering, retailing at $125. There are two Sephora locations in Streeterville, 605 N. Michigan Ave. and Water Tower Place at 845 N. Michigan. The 605 N. Michigan Ave. location will not have special hours for Black Friday, but it will offer specialty miniature sets for sale for a limited time that day. The store is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 312-649-9343.

 

The Cubs Team Store

The Cubs Team Store, 668. N. Michigan Ave., is the go-to place for all your Cubs fans — for men, women, boys and girls, they have something for everyone. Jerseys are always popular, and this season the top jerseys to buy include the Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo jerseys. The jerseys retail for $135 each.

Looking for something for the little ones? The Cubs Team Store is now offering small Oyo Sports minifigures and buildables (think Legos) for $15 and TY-brand Cubs dolls for $10—perfect for stocking stuffers.

Last year, the store opened early for Black Friday, though no announcement for this year has been made as of press deadline. The store is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 312-280-5469.

Get gifts close to home: Shop the New Eastside

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Eastside is home to museums, restaurants and retail merchandisers. With so much to choose from, it’s not hard to fill that Christmas list while shopping close to home. Here’s a glimpse at what’s available:

 

Graham Crackers Comic Books

This Chicago staple is home to all manner of comics and graphic novels. This holiday shopping season, the 77 E. Madison location is the place to get both familiar and newer titles.

The store is offering the first volume of Deadly Class for $9.99, which comes out in late November. The first volume of Saga is also out this fall for the same price.

Batman fans won’t want to miss Batman White Knight, a popular title wherein Batman reverses his role with the Joker and the villain becomes the hero, for $19.99.

Of local interest, fans of graphic novels can get Ironheart, a comic featuring Riri Williams, a hero straight from the streets of Chicago who develops her own Iron Man armor to combat villainy and save the city.

Also out this year is Skyward, a science-fiction title that begins in a Chicago of the future, when the earth is losing gravity and only the wealthy can afford to remain on the ground.

The store is also offering a variety of popular Japanese titles, including My Hero Academia.

The New Eastside Graham Crackers will have special offers and discounts for Black Friday, though specifics had not been announced by press time. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days. For more information, call 312-629-1810

 

Fannie May

Fannie May is the place to go for holiday sweets, and New Eastside shoppers don’t have to go far to get the good stuff, with a store at 343 N. Michigan Ave.

The go-to treat is the Pixie, the store’s No. 1 seller since 1946. The treat combines caramel and pecans with milk chocolate and retails for $24.99 per pound. Of course the store also offers dark chocolate options, sweet and salty combinations, specialty items and unique assortments.

If Santa needs something a little different, Fannie May offers a variety of sweet stocking stuffers ranging from $5 to $20. The store is open most days from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 312-453-0010.

 

Blackhawks Store

Just as hockey season begins to heat up, the city’s favorite hockey team is offering a selection of merchandise for your favorite hockey fan this season. For men, try a fanatics rinkside adjustable for $30 or a 47B knit break cuff for $20. Or how about a jacket for $55? For women, there’s an Antigua cowl neck for $60, a drink bottle for $49 and a New Era knit cap for $26. Finally, for the little fans, check out the holiday plush bear for $25 or the NHL cap for $28 or a

NHL raglan shirt for $30. The store is open most days from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is located at 333 N. Michigan Avenue. For more information, call 312-759-0079.

 

It’s easy to help others in the downtown area

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

 

The holiday season often inspires a desire to do good and give back. Lucky for folks who live in the Loop, it’s easy to find charities that need help right next door. Of course, if time is limited, these organizations would love a Thanksgiving or Christmas donation, just in time for the holiday season and in time to get a tax break next year.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron St., offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Whether you want to knit hats for newborns, deliver mail or interact with patients, there’s something for everyone to do. Volunteers receive free flu shots, invitations to hospital events and discounts at participating retailers. Volunteer must make a six month commitment of four hours per week, be 18 years of age and complete a background check. Visit nm.org/patients-and-visitors/volunteer or call 312-926-2070 for more information.

Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s Hospital

Ronald McDonald House helps families with children who have medical needs by making sure family members can stay somewhere close when their child is in the hospital. Volunteer opportunities are numerous and varied. Visit rmhccni.org for more information. For information about volunteering with Lurie Children’s hospital, visit luriechildrens.org.

Skyline Village Chicago

Skyline Village is a membership organization for older adults. By volunteering, you can make a positive difference in an older person’s life. Volunteers can choose from a variety of jobs, including visiting members at home or in the hospital, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, doing their grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions and providing technological help. Call 312-957-6060 or visit skylinevillagechicago.org for more information.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago

When you volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, you will become a mentor and a friend to an at-risk child between the ages of 7 and 14-years-old. These relationships help children become better students and improve their relationships with their peers. Find out more at bbbschgo.org/volunteer.

Fourth Presbyterian Church

Fourth Presbyterian Church uses volunteers for its own church groups and activities, but also partners with other Chicago-based organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Chicago Lights Urban Farm. In addition, the church organizes a group called Helping Hands, which helps with painting, cleaning, construction and gardening. Call 312-981-3382 or visit fourthchurch.org for more information.

In Her Shoes Foundation

In Her Shoes is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to empowering women and girls. Opportunities include mentoring, administrative roles, photography and videography. Find out more at inhershoesfoundation.org/volunteer.

Market trends indicate buying a good bet in Chicago

By Urban Real Estate

Chicago has historically remained a steady market for home buying and selling as residents have often made Chicago home (versus other markets where second home investing was more prevalent and often also the first to feel the impact of a distressed marketplace).

That said, interest rates remain low and with a lower rate, comes housing affordability. If the Federal Reserve announces interest hikes before the end of the year, it is likely that that, too, will impact mortgage rates, increasing the cost of a home and decreasing the buying power a consumer might have today.

Matt Farrell, managing partner with Urban Real Estate, has these recommendations for contemplating what to do in today’s market:

First, there are great opportunities to buy in the Chicago market. If buyers are on the fence, lower rates today can be locked in through Urban’s recommended lender for a fixed limited time with a pre-approval, giving you the buying power to negotiate strategically on your next purchase. Buyers are not obligated to make any purchase, but at least have the “financial house” in order, with a low interest rate locked in.

Next, sellers are motivated, especially with good offers. A solid offer is better than no offer to a seller and often sellers have a variety of reasons why they may be looking to move. While buyers may have not planned to purchase in the winter, there may be a chance to secure a great primary or investment property and appreciate the residual benefit of a more aggressive decision.

Finally, If interest rates drop in the future, buyers can always refinance. The reality is, that is a better situation to be in rather than to miss a great opportunity, or to not find what one is looking for later. Moreover, as housing prices continue to increase in Chicago, buyers may later fight the battle of both a higher priced home, and higher interest rates.

Contact one of the trusted advisors at Urban Real Estate to help consider buying or selling in this market, and help get on track for a pre-approval with Urban’s preferred lenders who have a loan program right for you at (312) 528-9200 or visit us at UrbanRealEstate.com.

A closer look at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade has been bringing joy to residents for decades. The event started in 1934 as a way give people a little happiness during the Great Depression and this year’s parade promises to be as joy-filled and as fun as ever, with a few modern flourishes.

What’s new…

Viewers should tune in on time because right in the very first hour of the Uncle Dan’s Outdoor Store Thanksgiving Parade will feature a performance by the Black Ensemble Theater. The performing arts group will offer a preview performance of their “Women of Soul” production, which runs through Jan. 13. The performance will include a special salute to Aretha Franklin as well as a celebration of some of the biggest stars of soul.

What’s returning…

Every parade features familiar balloons, floats and music. But how many have Wookies?

Yes, the The 501st Legion – Midwest Garrison is back again. In late October parade officials announced the return of the largest Star Wars costuming club in the area.

The star warriors will be joined in the parade by another group of relics—knights. Returning this year will be Medieval Times’ Knights of the Realm.

Also returning is the The Southland College Prep band, a college band that formed in 2010. The band has grown in recent years and is now considered one of the premier marching bands in the parade, boasting 100 members with 25 dancers to boot.

Speaking of bands, local favorite Kelly High School Marching Trojans will return to perform their 2018 winter festival show.

The grand marshal…

While this year’s grand marshal had not been announced by press time, Chicagoans and parade fans can expect the marshal to be beloved and a part of the city’s history. Past marshals have included Ronald McDonald (2017) (the company is headquartered in Chicago),Chicago native and actor Matt Walsh (2016) and Chicago native and wrestler CM Punk (2012).

For a complete list of what to expect, check out the parade website, www.chicagothanksgivingparade.com.

Behind the scenes…

Of course, there is more to the parade than the floats and smiles most people see. Amanda Caswell, who does public relations for the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, provided some of the parade’s fun facts. Here’s a look behind the scenes at the parade:

In 2014, 400,000 people attended the parade — that’s almost equivalent to the entire population of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That year, 2,500 gift bags were handed out.

There are 5,280 feet in the parade route, which is exactly one mile.

It’s a global phenomenon with 19 states, 16 countries and 23 different cultural groups were represented in the 2014 parade, making it a true international affair. Thanks to television coverage, the parade is annually available to approximately 80 million homes and viewed by millions around the world. In addition, many visitors come from around the world, from places like Switzerland, Mexico, Australia, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Canada and beyond.

According to media reports of last year’s parade, there were around 5,000 parade participants, 1,300 volunteers, 15 floats of all kinds and 18 marching bands, according to numbers from Thrillist, the Chicago Tribune, and Patch.com.

Finally, about 200 people handled the parade’s balloons in the 2014 parade, and those balloons were filled with 39,500 cubic feet of helium.

For the record, in 2014 there were 70 members of the “poo crew,” who ensure State Street would not smell like manure after the parade was over.

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade will take place on Nov. 22, 8–11 a.m. on State Street from Congress to Randolph. Don’t want to leave the house? Anyone can watch the parade live on WGN America and WGN9.

If you go…

Leave early and plan well. Streets will be blocked off for the parade route and parking will be tough, so give yourself lots of time. Public transportation will be running, though on a holiday schedule so if you take a train, check the schedule.

If you want a front row seat on State Street, good luck and set the alarm. It’s best to arrive by 7 a.m. to claim a spot, though there are usually spaces near State and Van Buren not too far from the Harold Washington Library. Expect train noise around that area.

 

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade provided statistics from the 2014 event. Updated stats will be available after this year’s parade.

New takes on the Thanksgiving table

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

 

Thanksgiving does not have to consist of the same canned cranberry sauce, cornucopia and bread stuffing every November. This year, throw out the rulebook and use these tips to augment your favorite holiday classics.  

Lighter dishes

Staying on the lighter side of Thanksgiving can be satisfying. Try adding cauliflower to stuffing in lieu of bread or rice. For vegan guests, swap out animal byproducts for lentils or chickpeas in a stuffing-type side dish. Sweet potatoes are a good substitute for regular potatoes in mashed, baked, or fried forms, while butternut squash soup is a light and classically-inspired alternative to heavier side dishes.

Cultural additions

For extra flavor, try adding a cultural twist to Thanksgiving favorites. A chile rub on the turkey can give your bird a Southwestern kick, while pumpkin egg rolls or turkey dumplings can make great finger foods. For a simpler option, add a dish from a favorite international cuisine: carbonara, stuffed grape leaves, rice pilaf and spring rolls all fit in with Thanksgiving mainstays.

Fun with pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. Spray paint pumpkins gold, white or silver for a unique addition to a table or decoration. Painting the menu on a pumpkin is a bold way to announce what will be on the table. Mini pumpkins can be used as seat markers or to denote what cheeses are on a cheese plate. Add flowers and glitter or string lights to pumpkins for an extra dimension.

Say goodbye to turkey

For the main course, consider going with a Midwestern classic like a  honey baked ham, and make your stuffing with a meat such as lamb or beef. A pescatarian Thanksgiving could feature lobster or salmon with a cranberry sauce. Or get rid of the meat altogether for a vegetarian spread – mushroom and chestnut “beef” Wellington can substitute turkey for a vegan main dish.

Reilly nixes Spire for now over community concerns

Staff reports

After months of speculation, Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected the 400 N. Lake Shore Drive development, also known as the Spire Site.

In late October, Reilly announced that he would reject the proposal after the developers failed to consider any community concerns. This is a setback for a development that has been in the works for over a decade, but it does not mean the project is dead.

“As you know, I joined with SOAR to host a community meeting on May 15 to review the developer’s proposal,” Reilly wrote in an email to constituents. “The meeting was very well attended and we received a tremendous amount of community feedback. My staff catalogued all of the community input from that meeting and we created a list of priority issues that needed to be addressed during my negotiation process with the developer.”

Reilly said he sent the developer a “detailed memo” in August enumerating community concerns, and that their reply did not address any of those issues.

 

“Unfortunately, several weeks later, Related Midwest provided me with a response that did not adequately address any of the major concerns about their proposal,” he wrote.

Reilly said the community had concerns about the hotel use, the tall podium base of the buildings, traffic concerns and security concerns along the Riverwalk and at DuSable Park.

However, the alderman said the project is not dead because Related Midwest may still address the issues at some point in the future, allowing development to move forward.

“In the event the developer chooses to address the legitimate concerns regarding their proposal, my office will be sure to provide all impacted neighbors with an update,” he said.

Reilly then listed exactly what must be addressed.

  • Access to the site via East North Water Street must be significantly restricted
  • Proposed hotel use should be eliminated
  • Podium height and bulk must be reduced
  • Make greater use of the Lake Shore Drive access ramp system and below grade parking system to manage deliveries, services vehicles and pick-up/drop-offs.
  • Developer must assemble a security plan for the Riverwalk and DuSable Park
  • Elimination of the proposed Ogden Slip Public Esplanade

 

No ‘paws’ in winter fun for Fido: Indoor activities for your dog

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

 

Doggy Paddle

Doggy Paddle, 1430 W. Willow St., has indoor pools for pups, allowing your four-legged friends to get some aquatic exercise even when the lake is frozen over. Swimming for dogs has many physical and psychological benefits, including improved flexibility and mobility and reduced stress and anxiety, according to Doggy Paddle. where, dogs can swim privately, or in groups based on temperament and experience. An instructor is always present while dogs are in the pool. In the new member pool, the instructor will help guide furry friends. Private swimming lessons are also available. Doggy Paddle also has an indoor dog park, use of which is included with a swim. Vaccinations are required and unneutered dogs can be booked for private swims only. Prices begin at $32 for group swims. For more information, visit doggypaddle.com

K9University

K9University, 2945 W Lake St., has an indoor open-play, climate-controlled dog park, open 9–11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday that allows your dogs to get out all their energy on winter weekends. To use the park, customers pay $15 for the first dog, with $8 for any additional dogs in the family. Staff is on hand at all times, but owners are encouraged to watch and learn what safe play between dogs looks like, according to K9University’s website. The space is also available for private reservations to throw a puppy birthday party or get-together. K9University recommends checking its calendar for special events or a specific pup party. Vaccinations are required. K9U also features boarding, training and daycare. For more information, visit k9uchicago.com

See Spot shop…

Running errands with a pup can kill two birds with one stone by giving your dog some exercise while you knock things off your to-do list. Certain stores and shops welcome pets in downtown Chicago, so you can bring your buddy along with you. Besides pet stores such as PetSmart or Kriser’s, The Shops at North Bridge, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s, at 900 N. Michigan Ave., are pet friendly. Be sure to enter in the Walton entrance for Bloomingdale’s, as the rest of the mall does not allow dogs. Other stores that allow dogs include LUSH, Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie and the Apple Store.

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