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Rapper Frank Leone releases new single

Hip-hop artist and producer Frank Leone, originally from Monticello and now based in Urbana, has just released a new single. The song, entitled "Loser," features creative instrumentation and vocalizing that make the song unfold like a story.

Leone is not a stranger to C-U music, or to Smile Politely. The prolific musician and producer is currently working on several projects, both solo and with other artists. They include a new album, a movie, and other yet-to-be-divulged goodies.

"Loser" is a bittersweet love song, intended as a foil for his next release, which he says will be a "darker project." Let the anticipation build.

Stream his new song here.


Mrinali Kesavadas is Mahomet’s budding young scientist

A student from Mahomet-Seymour Jr. High School in Mahomet, Mrinali Kesavadas, has been announced as one of ten finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

The competition, which is for students in grades 5 through 8, celebrates students who work to innovate and develop something which will improve the lives of either their local or the global community. 

Kesavadas' project is a CPR simulator that only costs around $50, appreciably cheaper than what's currently on the market. 

Part of being a finalist is that Kesevadas (and the other finalists) will be able to meet with a 3M mentor virtually this summer, who will guide her and help her to bring her idea to fruition as a prototype. She will receive a monetary prize as well, and a trip to the 3M headquarters in St. Paul Minnesota for the final competition on October 17th and 18th.

So, congrats to Mrinali Kesavadas, and good luck to her in the development of her prototype and in the final competition.

In addition to being in the link to her profile above, you can also see Kesavadas' video here.


U of I alumni (and spouses) appear on America’s Got Talent

A pair of University of Illinois alumni have recently appeared on NBC's America's Got Talent this past week, performing a rendition of Aretha Franklin's "You're All I Need to Get By" to rousing applause.

The couple, who are also married to one-another, have previously experienced success as backup singers for artists like Alicia Keys and Estelle. They have dubbed themselves The Smiths, but something tells me that name may be taken.

Regardless, it's awesome to see more music from Champaign-Urbana getting some national shine. Stream the performance below: 

(H/T @Illinois_Alma, for the tip)


Take a look at Unit 4’s updated school site plans

Champaign Unit 4 Schools has released some information about the potential site builds for Central, Centennial, Edison, and some others.

Per the press release:

Champaign Unit 4 School District has made updated school site plans under consideration available for public viewing and feedback on its planning website. The plans have been prepared as a result of the recommendations of the Tier II Committee for Facility Planning, which included representatives from a variety of stakeholder groups. 

Cost estimates are provided for each option. Videos have also been created to demonstrate process that might be undertaken to renovate, modernize, and expand the high school facilities at their current locations. 
The District and Board of Education also invites members of the community to attend the second of two Town Hall Meetings on Thursday, July 14, 2016 at Centennial High School at 6 p.m.

There are several mock ups and slide shows available at the construction page, and some videos posted that I've embedded below for you to take a look at.

Potential Centennial Construction Phasing from Champaign Schools on Vimeo.

Potential Central Construction Phasing from Champaign Schools on Vimeo.


Check out this unearthed Champaign Farmers’ Market photo from 1910

With farmers' market season in full swing, and with a few great options in C-U — Urbana's Market at the Square and Champaign's Farmers' Market by Land Connection — things are pretty solid.

I noticed this post via Urbana Free Library, which posted this photo (above) from their archives:

Back of photograph reads: "Outdoor market -- Champaign around 1910." From the "Farmers market--Champaign" photograph envelope.

A little nostalgia for you. For me, I don't know much about the history of farmers' markets in this community, so it was interesting to see a photo from over 100 years ago. Stay tuned for Market Watch later this week.


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


Save the date for PK21

PK returns to KCPA for Volume 21 on July 30th! 

Pecha Kucha will be hosted at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts again this summer. Facebook promises a photo booth and DJ Mertz, and Stage 5 will be open for business so you can sip and listen to 20 slides for 20 seconds each by several local presenters. What's better? It's free! (The show, not the booze)

Doors: 7:45 p.m. 

Show: 8:20 p.m. (why? because)

Presenters: TBD, but always mostly good. 

Seating: I hope so, because we blew the roof of the Virginia at PK20. Get there early, maybe. 

PK does not censor thoughts, so be prepared for anything. This program is recommended for a mature audience, regardless of physical age, but maybe not for those under 18. 

And here are the bill-payers. Thanks, guys!

[co][lab], Common Ground Food Coop, CUDO, Dixon Graphics, Five Foot Productions, Klein Dytham Architecture, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, MTD, Neutral Cycle, and Neutral Design.


On a warm day, smoothies from Strawberry Fields are where it’s at

I was driving away from Downtown Urbana today after running around to SeeYou CD & Vinyl, as well as a stop at the City of Urbana building. Various things on an afternoon — a beauty of a day, you know? Windows down and shit. Playing the new Blood Orange album that just came out. Typical Patrick Singer stuff. I'm boring.

My next meeting was on campus, and while driving down Springfield Avenue, I saw this sign:

That looks very chill, indeed. I briefly thought of the iced coffee at Flying Machine for a minute. Granted, this wasn't taken while driving — don't worry. After my meeting finished up, and I walked outside, I said damn — that sounds really good right now. So, I make a short little trip back towards Downtown Urbana to Strawberry Fields

There are lotsa options for these smoothies — many combinations of fruits (blueberries, strawberries, peaches, etc) and liquids (milk, orange juice, apple juice, etc) — so I asked the gentleman behind the counter what he recommended.

He suggested this one that you see here, strawberries and peaches mixed with orange juice.

As you can see in the top photo, there's some of that smoothie already in the straw, I couldn't make it out of the store, admittedly, without trying some of it first. And for only $5, no less, for some freshness on a warm afternoon.


Riggs Beer Company opening June 30th

Rigg's Beer Company, a new brewery located at 1901 S High Cross Road, Urbana, will open this Thursday, June 30th. 

The brewery's tap room is scheduled to be open Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. The website has a nifty food truck schedule, so you can see which of your favorite trucks will be on hand dishing out tasty goods. 

 Our tap room seats 95 people in a cozy environment with a great view of our production brewery. Our outside beer garden seats 200 people. Its family friendly atmosphere is enhanced by a playground and outdoor games. It is surrounded by test plots of barley and hops.

Enjoy one of our beers from our self service bar. We also offer a wide array of sodas, espresso beverages, cold brew coffee and cider. Feel free to bring your own food or enjoy meals from the delicious food trucks parked right outside of our building.

Images from Facebook and the brewery's website


Midwest Beer Fest happening on July 16th

The Midwest Beer Fest is happening on Saturday, July 16th from 3 p.m. to midnight.

Sponsored by Cowboy Monkey and Barrelhouse 34, the event will take place in the Cowboy Monkey/PNC Bank parking lot. Featured breweries include: 

Triptych Brewing
JT Walker's Restaurant and Brewery
Founders Brewing Company
Great Lakes Brewing Company
Revolution Brewing
Half Acre Beer Company
Two Brothers Brewing
DESTIHL Champaign
Riggs Beer Company
The Old Bakery Beer Company
4204-Main Street Brewing Company
BrickStone Brewery

Representatives from each brewery will be on hand from 5 to 9 p.m. to answer questions and talk about brews. Admission is free, but food (tacos by Cowboy Monkey) and beer cost. 

For more info, check out the event's Facebook page

Image from Facebook.