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40 North’s ACE Awards now accepting nominations

From the press release:

NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN for 12th Annual ACE Awards

Honoring the efforts of those who enrich the culture of Champaign County!

Champaign, IL - Nominations are now being accepted at for the 2016 ACE Awards. The deadline for submitting an ACE Award nomination is 11:59pm on Monday, September 19th.

The ACE (arts, culture, and education) Awards are presented annually by 40 North | 88 West as part of National Arts and Humanities Month, and honor the work of artists, teachers, businesses, individuals, organizations, volunteers, community and government leaders. Each award highlights a different part of the cultural life of our community and celebrates those that, through hard work, dedication, and creative energy, cultivate the arts of Champaign County. The seven ACE Award categories are: Advocate, Artist, Volunteer, Business, Teacher, Student, and Lifetime Achievement. Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of community- based judges representing a broad cross-section of Champaign County.

Anyone can submit a nomination for an ACE Award. You may nominate multiple candidates and self-nominations are accepted. Must be 14 years or older and a resident of Champaign County to be eligible to win an ACE Award. Previous nominees may be resubmitted.

Last year’s winners were: Carolyn Baxley (Advocate ACE), Nina Paley (Artist ACE), Brenda Koenig (Volunteer ACE), Weiskamp Screen Printing (Business ACE), Rusty Clevenger (Teacher ACE), Xuxa Rodriguez (Student ACE), and Harry Breen (Lifetime ACE).

Join us to honor all the nominees and celebrate the winners! The ACE Awards Celebration will take place at The City Center, next to Fat City in Champaign on Thursday, October 27th, starting at 5:30pm.

The ACE Awards categories:

Advocate ACE: This award will honor the individual, organization, or group that has advocated on behalf of the arts effectively and consistently, forged creative partnerships, or stimulated collaborations that result in broader awareness, accessibility and participation in the arts, culture and entertainment of Champaign County.

Artist ACE: This award recognizes an individual artist for their creations and contributions to the excellence of the arts of Champaign County.

Volunteer ACE: This award will be presented to an individual or group that, through their volunteer efforts and service, has made a significant impact on the art and culture of this community.

Business ACE: The award will celebrate the business that has demonstrated outstanding support of the arts. The winner will have cultivated opportunities and relationships that support local artists and/or organizations in Champaign County.

Teacher ACE: This award recognizes an individual, organization, school, educator, or group that has demonstrated a unique and creative approach to merging the arts and education. The winner will have, through outstanding commitment and dedicated service to arts education, been an inspiration to students, teachers, and the community.

Student ACE: This award will be presented to an individual student with outstanding artistic achievements who strives to promote understanding and appreciation of the local arts community.

Lifetime ACE: This award will honor the accumulated successes of an individual for continued, outstanding support of the arts in our community.

Tickets to 2016 ACE Awards Celebration:

Tickets to the 12th Annual ACE Awards are $10 each and are available at or by calling 40 North at 217.351.9841.Tickets will be available at the door for $15.

40 North - Champaign County Arts Council - is dedicated to cultivating creativity in Champaign County. Through advocacy, information and collaboration, 40 North works to stimulate a vibrant, thriving environment for the arts, culture and education essential to the quality of life in Champaign County. For more info, visit

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. ### 


Caleb Cook Band to release new EP

Caleb Cook Band, C-U’s favorite resident country regulars, are putting out their first release this weekend. The long-awaited debut EP is self-titled and will consist of four tracks.

Regarding the release, Caleb Cook said,

“The album has a vintage country feel. It is light-hearted in nature, covering the topics one would expect to hear in country music - hanging in dark bars; being broke; Mamma and Papa; and of course, the dog.”

The group is also having an album release show this weekend at Loose Cobra, where they hold residency and play every Wednesday. You may have also seen them at Rosebowl, where they are the resident band for Thursday nights.

The show is Friday, August 26th, at the Loose Cobra in Tolono, starting at 6:30 p.m. Copies of the EP will be available for $5.


Art Mart hosting Revolution Brewery tasting

Art Mart will host a tasting of Revolution Brewing beers on Thursday, September 1st, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Revolution Brewing rep Mike Hagan will be on hand to talk about the beer, and guide you through the tasting of newbies and old favorites. And then after you drink all the beer, you can eat all the cheese. Or sweets. 

For more information, check out the Facebook event page

Image from Facebook. 


KoFusion celebrating grand opening of Illini Union location Thursday

After announcing their expansion last November, KoFusion will be opening its third location — this one in the Illini Union — this Thursday.

Check out reviews of Downtown and Gregory Place KoFusions while you're at it.

From the press release:

KoFusion to celebrate Illini Union Food Court opening

Urbana, IL – August 23rd  – Kofusion will hold the grand opening of its Illini Union Food Court location this Thursday, August 25th, at 10am with a ribbon cutting ceremony. A limited number of free sushi samples will be available to try during remarks from Illini Union Board President Sophie Ruiz-Gehrt, KoFusion Owner Janet Bubin, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Director of Auxiliary Services Lowa Mwilambwe.

A student survey conducted every year for the last three years indicated that KoFusion was one of the top Asian options for dining in the Illini Union. The menu features the eatery’s popular dollar sushi, house rolls, sides, and combos that include chicken curry and beef with broccoli. The Illini Union location marks the third in town for the popular restaurant.

Manager of Vendor Contracts Lori Holmes commented, “We are very enthusiastic about this partnership as it fills a void identified by our students for local, fresh, and healthy Asian dining. KoFusion utilizes only the highest quality of ingredients in an appetizing, creative, and visually stunning way. Their practice of providing traditional Asian food with a flavorful twist illustrates the Illini Union’s ongoing commitment to providing customer-focused services to our students.”

KoFusion is located in the lower level of the Illini Union, at 1401 W. Green St. in Urbana. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 10:30am to 8pm, and weekends from 11am until 6pm.

Photo by Justine Bursoni.


Hooded Truths at the University YMCA

Tomorow, Thursday, August 25 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m., the University YMCA will host a reception and gallery talk with Candace Hunter. Light refreshments will be served. Hunter is the artist of HOODED TRUTHS, a cornucopia of images, ideas and personas all swathed in the costume of 21st Century America: the hoodie.

In the exhibit Hunter explores the history of Blackness in this country, which she describes as ‘"a painful and complicated affair, brightened by the indomitable spirit of countless fathers, mothers, teachers, clergy and artists who continue to shed light on this country’s 'Hooded Truths.'"

HOODED TRUTHS is on view in Murphy Gallery of the University YMCA from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday - Friday from August 25, 2016 through October 7, 2016.


Not interested in Sweetcorn Festival? Go to Sweetcan Fest instead

Not interested in this year's Sweetcorn Festival in Downtown Urbana? Here's an opportunity for you: go to Sweetcan Festival at Sipyard. Yes, you read that right: Sweetcan

Hundreds of ice cold cans from Triptych Brewing, Founders Brewing Co., and Stone Brewing. Take a breather from the Sweetcorn festivites and grab a cold one on our patio (Curbana) or inside the beer garden.

After all, people beyond C-U think Sipyard is pretty dope. They'll be serving from 4 pm-2 am on Friday, August 26th, and noon-2 am on Saturday, August 27th.


Smile Politely seeking Food & Drink writers

Smile Politely is always welcoming new writers into the fold, and that, of course, includes our Food & Drink section. Being a town with a plethora of dining and drinking options, there is constantly much to cover.

We're looking for some writers for this particular section, and in order for this to really work, you must have at least a mild grasp on food culture, and also have a fairly good grasp on local culture, and preferably be able to tie the two together. Don't worry, you don't have to be a perfect writer — we'll help with that part. Prospective writers must also be able to take at least 6 high quality photos to accompany their features.

Perks of being a Food & Drink writer include, but are not limited to:

  • Going to restaurants and providing a take on your experience for our readers.
  • Eating foods and drinking drinks, which isn't out of the ordinary, we hope.
  • Earning (a little) extra spending money.
  • Pick up some valuable writing experience along the way.

If this sounds like something you're interested in, fire an email off to


Common Ground Food Co-Op hosting sausage cook-out this Saturday

If you're unfamiliar with Piemonte Sausages, it's one of the coolest unsung businesses in Champaign-Urbana. Hailing from Urbana, they make authentic Italian sausage for our eating enjoyment. If that has you excited, hold on to your hats for this one:

This Saturday, they'll be grilling out at Common Ground Food Co-Op between 10 am and 1 pm.

Included sausages will be: "Bernie’s Classic Fennel and Hot and Cantalupo as well as our new Birra Italiano."

For more info, RSVP to the Facebook Event here, and read the description of Piemonte Sausages below:

Susan (Carano) and Claude Cole started making sausage for the family and friends over 25 years ago. Family and friends encourage them to offer their uniquely, delicious sausages for sale. In 2013, Susan and Claude began exploring the viability of commercial sausage production and sale. They purchased and tasted sausage products currently available and had an informal sausage tasting with objective tasters. None of the products stood up to Piemonte Sausage. In 2014, after obtaining a State of Illinois Meat Processing License, Susan and Claude began selling Piemonte Sausage to local markets and chefs. As fourth generation sausage makers, they are continuing the fine family tradition.

Our sausages are made from locally sourced all natural pork, chicken and other ingredients. Many of the sausages we produce are based on family recipes and others are regional or seasonal favorites. Throughout the year, we produce Bernie’s Classic Sweet (Mild), Bernie’s Classic Hot, and Bernie’s Classic Fennel. Our distinctive varieties of artisanal sausage, including regional Italian sausages and other local favorites such as Holiday Apple, Cranberry Pecan and Chicken, Jalapeno, Basil, have their own unique flavors and stories. We also work with customers to develop and produce private label sausage.


Carol Ammons’ Family Connections Bill signed into law

There certainly is no shortage of good things that Illinois Rep. Carol Ammons has done lately - enough to earn an endorsement from Bernie Sanders, notably - and the list just keeps on growing.

Yesterday, Governor Rauner signed the Famly Connections Bill (HB6200) into law, a bill that Rep. Ammons has championed for quite some time. The bill will eliminate egregious costs of phone calls for incarcerated individuals.

More information on the bill and it's passage can be found here, via Carrol Ammons' website:

While federal regulation is fought in court, states are making moves to cap prison phone call costs

Today, HB6200: The Family Connections Bill was signed into law, bringing immediate relief to families with a loved one incarcerated. The bill received bipartisan support, with advocates arguing that it will strengthen the bonds between those incarcerated and their loved ones, enable a person to transition back into society, and reduce recidivism.

The bill’s champion, State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) says telephone calls placed by inmates in Illinois correctional facilities have been inflated; they cost the families of incarcerated individuals more than they can bear financially. Heeding the call from family members who say they have gone into debt to pay for calls, Ammons has been working to lower costs.

“I am thrilled the Governor sees the value of this legislation and is embracing the bipartisan support it has by signing it into law,” Ammons said. “The Family Connections bill is more than just financial relief for families trying to maintain a relationship with their loved ones who are incarcerated. It is an example of the impact the Illinois General Assembly can have on criminal justice reform when we work together and with the support and cooperation of the Governor’s office.”

“Children shouldn’t be told their love is too expensive,” shared Wandjell Harvey-Robinson, who grew up struggling to stay in contact with her parents who were both incarcerated and was present in Chicago for the signing. “There are thousands of Illinois children whose lives will be dramatically improved by the actions today and, on their behalf, I say thank you.”

Under the measure, prison phone call rates will be cut in half, or a maximum of 7 cents per minute, starting January 1, 2018. This legislation comes on the heels of sweeping regulations passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under industry pressure, the FCC recently voted to increase rate caps to 13 cents a minute for calls from all state and federal prisons. While the FCC gets challenged in court, states like Illinois and New Jersey, which is waiting for the governor to sign the bill in

“This bill is a positive step toward criminal justice reform in Illinois. We are grateful for the chance to work together on finding solutions that benefit residents of Illinois who have a family member incarcerated,” said Brian Dolinar, Coordinator for the Illinois Champaign for Prison Phone Justice, a project of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.

Photo by Justine Bursoni