National Award for Sullivan Alum

Photo by RR Best Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best stays connected to Sullivan.

Photo by RR Best
Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best stays connected to Sullivan.

•November 4, 2015•

by Stu D. Baker
for the News Progress

Kathy Best received the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) at the annual meeting held in Austin, Tex.

Best, daughter of the late News Progress publishers Robert and Marion Best, helped lead The Seattle Times to three Pulitzer Prizes.

She is a 1975 graduate of Sullivan High School and spent her life around the small town newspaper business operated by her parents.

After attending Southern Illinois University and University of Illinois in Springfield, professional life has sent Best to metro newspapers in St. Louis, Baltimore and Seattle, but the Sullivan influence is always there.

“I never lose sight of the fact that the people we write about could be our neighbors,” Best said. “Mom and Dad would be at the grocery store or a local restaurant and someone whose story was in the paper would be sitting across the room.”

“You have to always be fair and remember we are writing about human beings.”

Best has traveled the world but has remained connected to Sullivan.

Class of 75 alum Diane Sandrisser Pearl remembers Kathy’s “Best” laugh and smile as just like her mother Marion’s.

“Kathy Best is many things; an encouraging and faithful friend, forever full of small town integrity, laser-focused to make community and people better, thick-skinned beyond strong (must be the red hair), and balances a fiery spirit with freedom of speech. Kathy has always known her meaning in life was finding her gift in journalism. We are all blessed; she selflessly gives that gift away everyday with 110% passion no matter what. Congratulations on another amazing achievement!” Read More

Local Driver Hits the Monster Jam Circuit

Driver Brianna Mahon

Driver Brianna Mahon

There is  a Need for Speed 

•October 28, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

When Brianna Mahon graduated from Sullivan High School in 2008, her need for speed had already taken over the teenage honor student’s life.

Professional MotoCross racing dominated her weekends then, but today she’s getting into bigger machines.

Mahon is a mild-mannered hair dresser working from her rustic shop at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 128 in Dalton City during the week. When the weekend comes, she gets behind the wheel of the Monster Jam Truck Scooby Doo in nationwide events.

Monster Jam competitions are held in large venue stadiums all over the United States and select countries around the world.

The huge 1500 horsepower machines with fiberglass bodies made to look like any cartoon character or figure imaginable negotiate custom made courses in arenas that include jumps, car crushing, racing and freestyle competitions.

The World Finals for Monster Trucks is held in Las Vegas, and Mahon was just completing her first competition season when she got invited.

As Monster Truck Rookie of the Year, Mahon competed in the famous Medusa truck during the World Finals.

She explained that drivers are trained in all trucks. “Scooby is my main ride, but when I went to Belgium, I competed in El Toro Loco and placed.”  Read More

Oktoberfest Enjoys Good Crowd on Brisk Weekend

Photos courtesty Heather Casteel Grand Champion- Moultrie County Dive Team, head cook Roger Farley with Amanda Farley.

Photos courtesty Heather Casteel
Grand Champion- Moultrie County Dive Team, head cook Roger Farley with Amanda Farley.

Variety of Events

•October 21, 2015•

By Stu D. Baker
NP Reporter

The Sullivan Chamber Economic Development put together another successful Ocktoberfest on the Square in Sullivan this past weekend.

In spite of crisp temperatures the crowd was enthusiastic.

“It was a great weekend. It was a little chilly at night, but the tent was warm, and it didn’t seem to stop people from coming out,” event coordinator Laurrie Minor said.  “We had some great food, craft and service vendors for the festivalgoers to enjoy. “

Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk & Punkin Run

Overall winner in the Octoberfest 5K run/walk and punkin run was Crystal Ashby with a time of 24:53. Read More

Habitat House Completed by Care A Vanners

Photo by Mike Brothers Hope Street Habitat for Humanity home in Sullivan is number 26 and was turned over to owner Nikki Bassett on October 16. Participating in the ceremony were: Pastor Dan Fultz, Moultrie County Habitat Board members, Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanners; Bassett  and children Jordan, Jade and Maddux; family and friends.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Hope Street Habitat for Humanity home in Sullivan is number 26 and was turned over to owner Nikki Bassett on October 16. Participating in the ceremony were: Pastor Dan Fultz, Moultrie County Habitat Board members, Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanners; Bassett and children Jordan, Jade and Maddux; family and friends.

Six Week Experiment

•October 21, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

When the Moultrie County Habitat for Humanity handed the keys to new owner Nikki Bassett on Friday, October 16 the house on Hope Lane in Sullivan was jammed with people.

This was the 26th house for Habitat and a first for Habitat for Humanity Care-A- Vanners. Care-A-Vanner project coordinator Bob Gillespie and crews rotating on two week schedules built the house from ground to completion in six weeks.

Gary Smith, local Habitat board president, recalled year-long local builds in the beginning of the program. Smith thanked a long list of contributors including 40 Care -A-Vanner volunteers who spent the past six weeks working around subcontractors on a tight schedule.

The local churches and other volunteers fed the group during the six week project through an effort coordinated by Pastor Paul McGhghy. Faith Lutheran Church was campground host at Faith Resort where the Habitat volunteers parked their recreational vehicles during the build. Read More

Sullivan American Legion Gets a Little Brighter

Photo Submitted Front from left: Shelly Eddington, Larry Preston, Mike Keown, Aaron York, Deb Conlin; (second row) Mike Grose, Charlie Bragg, Chuy Gandarilla, Paula Stone, Kevin Weuve; (back row) Don Butler, Mark Conlin and Jerry Krebs.

Photo Submitted
Front from left: Shelly Eddington, Larry Preston, Mike Keown, Aaron York, Deb Conlin; (second row) Mike Grose, Charlie Bragg, Chuy Gandarilla, Paula Stone, Kevin Weuve; (back row) Don Butler, Mark Conlin and Jerry Krebs.

Home Depot Grant Helps

•October 14, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

Sullivan American Legion Post 68 is a brighter place after this week.

With funding from a $9500 Home Depot Foundation grant and a lot of volunteer hours the Legion has all new T-8 Energy Star lighting, a new ceiling and new carpeting in the lounge.

It didn’t come easy as Mike Keown explained.

About a year ago a member noticed the Home Depot grant program information in the American Legion magazine.

“This building is 20 years old, and we were hoping the grant would help us get a new HVAC system,” Keown began, noting he contacted the Mattoon Home Depot store in November 2014.

Shelly Eddington is the Home Depot volunteer coordinator at Mattoon and helped get the process started.

“This was our first grant application for the veterans program,” she began, explaining the HVAC request was beyond the scope of the operation.

However, she and Keown started exploring what was available: replacing carpet that was a safety hazard in the lounge area, new energy efficient lighting and the suspended ceiling all qualified.

That’s when the American Legion board started concentrating on completing the 10 page application. Read More

Wolf Creek Becomes Medieval Battle Ground

Photo by RR Best Battleground fights with foam protected weapons allow the medieval warriors to score points and advance to the next level much like popular video games.

Photo by RR Best
Battleground fights with foam protected weapons allow the medieval warriors to score points and advance to the next level much like popular video games.

•September 30, 2015•

People from all over the country were going medieval on each other at Wolf Creek State Park the weekend of Sept. 17-20.

For the past six years AMTGARD, a medieval combat and role playing organization has staged fantasy combat events at Wolf Creek.

This year’s Keep on the Borderlands theme included the battle for Ravenloff and the ultimate tournament prize — the Hammer of God Cup.

Best described as a video game stuck in the real world about 750 participated in this year’s event at Wolf Creek. There are AMTGARD chapters in all 50 states with medieval role players coming from as far as Alaska and Florida to participate in Windsor.

Over the course of the weekend Ravenloff castle was built and was defended. Groups of 12 fighters face off with foam covered swords and other medieval weapons fighting for points.

Points may be earned by completing objectives-like taking over the castle or through achievements.

Judged by the Reeves (referees) and event coordinators teams may earn points by utilizing good or interesting ways to achieve their objective. Bonus points stem from good sportsmanship during a battle.
Read More

Planters Gain Attention

Photo by Mike Brothers Planters recognized. Pictured from left: Mayor Ann Short; Tina Krigbaum, designer and owner of My Garden; Richard Glazebrook and Susan Rauch of the SCED Restoration and Enhancement committee and Stepheny McMahon of Sullivan Chamber and Economic Development. SCED committee members not pictured are Michelle Hauser, Cindy Richardson, Lori Kirk and Shonn Hild.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Planters recognized. Pictured from left: Mayor Ann Short; Tina Krigbaum, designer and owner of My Garden; Richard Glazebrook and Susan Rauch of the SCED Restoration and Enhancement committee and Stepheny McMahon of Sullivan Chamber and Economic Development. SCED committee members not pictured are Michelle Hauser, Cindy Richardson, Lori Kirk and Shonn Hild.

An idea that blossomed

•September 23, 2015•

It began as a project by the Restoration and Enhancement Committee this year and recently drew the attention of a local botanist.

Roger Kirkwood, retired director of Lake of the Woods Botanical Gardens in Mahomet, not only noticed the planters located around the square in Sullivan but wrote Sullivan mayor Ann Short.

“What a pleasant and unexpected surprise,” Kirkwood began his letter. “Immediately attention getting, these planters are obviously well designed and well maintained. What an inviting and enchanting new aspect to downtown!”

Some 16 new planters were placed around the square with the existing planters moved to parking lots and still maintained by the city.

Stepheny McMahon explained the committee is part of the Sullivan Chamber and Economic Development and purchased the planters, trees and shrubs early this year. The city of Sullivan provided the soil and all the flowers as well as regular maintenance of the planters. Tina Krigbaum of My Garden designed the arrangements and completed all the plantings.

Metro Communications Touches Just About Everyone

Photo by Mike Brothers While projects are underway all over the midwest for Metro Communications the hub of the wheel is with this dedicated Sullivan group. Back row from left to right: Zak Horn, Nick Hess, Heath Poulos. Front row from left to right: Elizabeth Bennett, Jolene Wright, Gabe Hedger.

Photo by Mike Brothers
While projects are underway all over the midwest for Metro Communications the hub of the wheel is with this dedicated Sullivan group. Back row from left to right: Zak Horn, Nick Hess, Heath Poulos. Front row from left to right: Elizabeth Bennett, Jolene Wright, Gabe Hedger.

•September 23, 2015•

By Nick Fiala
Reporting in Sullivan

Just east of the Moultrie County Courthouse is a white building on the corner of Harrison and Washington streets. Sullivan citizens go by it everyday without realizing the unique and vital service provided by seven people working out of a large room on the second floor.

The business is called Metro Communications; odds are that you use their services everyday, without realizing it.

“If you use a phone in central Illinois everyday, you use our service; you just don’t know it.” said Zak Horn, who has owned Metro Comm since 2000.

“Nobody really knows who we are or what we do...which is fine.” he said, with a laugh.

“Nobody” means everyday people using cellular phone and internet services. Cell phone companies are the actual customers for providers such as Metro Comm. They are a competitive local telephone company, providing wholesale, carrier, and enterprise services in a 26 county area.

“There’s a million-plus individuals that are in the footprint that we cover for services that we provide,” said Horn. “If you’re an AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint, or Verizon cell phone subscriber in Illinois, then we support those services. Those are our customers that pay us to deliver backhaul to the towers.”

Those towers are connected underground by thousands of miles of fiber optic cable laid out along roadways in a lengthy but delicate process by 30-plus field employees.

“There’re two ways to basically put fiber optic cable into the ground,” Horn said. “One is with a large cable plow, and the other is where you essentially thread it underground, and then tile the conduit together. There are multiple stages of construction required.”

None of that includes the long precise planning process Horn and his dedicated team work out with those invested in the land where cable needs to be laid. Read More

Lake Shelbyville Enjoys a Golden Season

Photo by Sonya Brewer

Photo by Sonya Brewer

A good year for camping

•September 9, 2015•

By Joash Tiarks
Reporting for News Progress

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.” - Henry David Thoreau

Formed nearly 50 years ago, Lake Shelbyville is now certainly a beautiful and expressive feature of the region, and many local businesses depend heavily on the people and activities involved with the lake.

With an apparent excess of rain in June and unseasonably cooler temperatures throughout the spring and into summer, there might have been occasion for concern that the summer season surrounding the lake would be negatively affected.

According to an Illinois State Water Survey press release, this was the wettest June on record for Illinois at 5.33 inches above the average June precipitation. This left the lake as much as 10 feet above pool, or normal level, through June and July and into August. While this presented certain challenges for ease of access, John Fayhee, owner of Sullivan Marina and Campground, said that for him and the marina it has been a great season even with the weather.  Read More

Ice Cream Social Celebrates DOVE Anniversary

Photo by Nick Fiala

Photo by Nick Fiala

•September 2, 2015•

By Nick Fiala
Reporting in Sullivan

Just before 11 a.m. last Saturday, August 29, a small gathering of community volunteers, family, and friends stood under the protective branches of a large tree in Wyman Park.

It was all part of a public ceremony and free ice cream social to rally the local community together against domestic violence and celebrate the 45th anniversary of Dove, Inc., a domestic violence shelter and advocate center in Sullivan.

Though the event would include fun, games, and good-tasting food, it began with a period of quiet reflection. Pastor Ron Thomas of Sullivan’s Highway Church of Christ led the group in a prayer to dedicate a new garden on the park grounds in tribute to Sheri Randall, a repeat victim of domestic violence who lost her life at the hands of an abusive ex-boyfriend last March.

“There is a way to live,” Pastor Thomas said. “And it is with respect and love.”

In addition to the prayer, a speech was given by Mary Hughes, the director of the Moultrie County Agency of Dove, Inc.

“We vow to make a stand against domestic violence in our community, and we shall make a difference.” said Hughes. Read More