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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


Therapeutic movement, senior thesis, and dance

This Friday and Saturday, December 2nd & 3rd, brings the senior BFA Exhibition. At 7 p.m. in KCPA's Dance Rehearsal Room, six seniors will be showing their body of work to a public audience, for free, on a first-come-first-serve basis. 

Several of the dancers have chosen to focus on the therapeutic value of learning to move and using one's body. Whether it's working with survivors of sexual abuse, focusing on defining oneself, or combining dance with kinesiology, most of the dancers acknowledge that healing happens not only inside the body but through it. 

It seems like an intriguing concept, and should be a revealing evening of dance. 

If you have more questions about the showcase, you can contact Thomas A. Welsh-Huggins by email or by calling 614-284-1462.


Frank Leone releases surprise album “MANSION OF FANG”

Photo by Christian Haahs.

Experimental hip-hop artist and genre-straddler Frank Leone has released a “surprise” instrumental album, entitled MANSION OF FANG. The somewhat impromptu album was recorded swiftly, which is an impressive feat, given that there were over a dozen people involved in the recording process. This includes collaborations with notable local artists, such as rapper CJ Run. MANSION OF FANG is released partly in preparation for Leone’s debut commercial album, which comes out next year. Read the full release statement via HYPEBEAST here.

Here’s “Fancy Dining,” featuring CJ Run. Visit Leone’s bandcamp to stream the album in its entirety.



Caribbean Grill offering Soul Food Sundays starting December 4th

Although Caribbean Grill's food truck will be hibernating for the winter, Christmas, as they say, has come early. CG's popular Soul Food Sundays (previously only in February), will happen the following Sundays in December and January:

December 4th, 11th, 18th

January 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th

Meals are about $13, and menus for each Sunday can be found on the CG website. Caribbean Grill will be located located inside of Refinery (2302 W John St, Champaign), and open noon to 3 p.m. on the aforementioned Sundays. 

Image from Facebook. 


C-U gets shout out in New York Times article about David Foster Wallace

A recent New York Times Travel section article about David Foster Wallace mentions Champaign-Urbana and the ways in which this particular part of the Midwest influenced the writer's work. In the article, author Lynn Freehill-Maye roadtripped to C-U and visited a few local spots, including Urbana's Blair Park: 

For Wallace, life was unstructured. I stopped at placid Blair Park, where he and a high school teammate, John Flygare, taught tennis for five summers. They’d collect cash for the lessons, order pizza out of the proceeds, then turn over whatever was left in the cash box to the Urbana Park District every couple of weeks, Mr. Flygare told me. No one monitored. “I see my kids almost assuming their lives are going to stay structured,” he said. “When we were among ourselves, we were just free.” There were no children in the park that morning, a school day. Soccer nets were up now, signs of an organized sport new to Illinois. An older man walked his dogs alone.

It's a nice article about the peace one can find in Central Illinois. You can read the entire article here

Photo by Jessica Hammie. 


Big Grove Tavern hosting Christmas Eve brunch

As many of you know, Christmas falls on Sunday this year, which means that Christmas Eve is a prime day to have brunch.

Luckily, Downtown Champaign's Big Grove Tavern has you covered, with their well-known mimosas (with a holiday flare) and some seasonal brunch favorites. Additionally, brunch hours are extended from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., giving you extra time to sleep in.

Reservations are available now, either online or by phone, found below.

From Big Grove: 

Christmas Eve Brunch! Saturday, December 24th 10:00am-4:00pm

Enjoy extended brunch hours this Christmas Eve, we'll be offering brunch from 10am-4:00pm on Saturday, December 24th. Enjoy holiday specials as well as a special holiday mimosa bar!

Reservations available at (217) 239-3505, or at


Midwest Center on Investigative Reporting holding public talk on climate change tonight

If you're at all concerned about the future of our planet, and more immediately, the future of our surrounding areas, it would probably be good to learn a bit about climate change, one of the most imperative challenges facing humanity.

Thankfully, the good people over at the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and C-U Citizen Access are partnering to hold a free panel tonight at Champaign Public Library, consisting of four climate change experts. Here, people will be able to learn about climate change, and its effect on Central Illinois, especially in the realm of agribusiness.

RSVP is required, but the event is free, and kicks off at 7 PM.

For more info: 

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and CU-CitizenAccess are hosting a public discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 29 on the local, regional and agribusiness impacts from climate change — ranging from flooding and the water supply to changing weather patterns and agricultural techniques.

A panel of four experts will bring a diverse set of values and priorities to cover this topic from both a local and regional view.

Join speakers from the Champaign-Public Health Department, The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and state climatologist Dr. Jim Angel, among others, to discuss what we are seeing immediately, what the future impact will be and what you should know.

Light refreshments will be served.

The event is free but RSVP required. Sign up at (case sensitive)

Tue, November 29, 2016

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM CST

Champaign Public Library

Robeson Pavilion Room A & B

200 West Green Street

Champaign, IL 61820

For more information, contact Pam Dempsey at (217) 239-6617 or by email at

CU-CitizenAccess is a community online news and information project based at the University of Illinois College of Media devoted to investigative and enterprise coverage of social, justice and economic issues in east central Illinois.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting is a non-profit newsroom based in Champaign that covers agribusiness and related topics such as government, environment and energy.


Illini basketball preview: NC State

lllinois vs. NC State
8 p.m.

If the Illini are thankful for anything, it's getting away from the NIT Season Tip-Off. After dropping three games in the tournament last week, Illinois looks a lot less like the veteran-heavy likely Tourney team and more like a team without an identity. Though some fans are already giving up, games like this evening's contest with the Wolfpack could help ease their worries.

NC State is a good team, featuring three players averaging 17 points. However, the Wolfpack are not without their issues, for example their 5-1 record includes close (or very close) wins over Georgia Southern (KenPom #161), St. Joseph's (#101), and Loyola Chicago (#160). The difference is, NC State has made the most of those close games, whereas Illinois blew a 10-point lead against Winthrop and utterly failed against West Virginia's full-court press.

Good news for Illinois is that NC State will be without 6'7" guard Maverick Rowan this evening, but it will be small consolation if Illinois cannot take care of the ball (57 turnovers last 3 games). Guard play has led NC State to the 21st best offense in the country (per KenPom), so the Illini have to counter with strong play from Malcolm Hill, Tracy Abrams, and Jalen Coleman-Lands if they want to get back on track.

My prediction: Much improved play from Illinois but a heartbreaking ending.


II-VI EpiWorks celebrates groundbreaking for upcoming major expansion

II-VI EpiWorks (fka simply EpiWorks) has recently undergone a major acquisition over the course of the past year, and are clearly one of the best success stories in Champaign-Urbana tech as of late. The work they do is truly mindblowing (they are a leading global provider of compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers) — and they celebrated their groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.

Here's the press release:

II-VI EpiWorks Undergoing Major Expansion

Champaign, IL, November 28, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The II-VI EpiWorks Division of II‐VI Incorporated (NASDAQ:IIVI), a leading provider of compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers, today announced that it is breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art production facility in Champaign, Illinois.

The expansion is expected to be complete by mid-2017 and will enable a quadrupling of capacity in Champaign over the next three years. In addition to substantial epitaxial wafer production space, the new cleanroom will house a state-of-the-art wafer characterization and test laboratory. To operate the new facility, EpiWorks is actively recruiting experienced managers, engineers and technicians. This aggressive expansion enhances EpiWorks’ leadership position in the global compound semiconductor industry, supporting the performance and volume requirements for several key components that enable multiple growing markets. These include InP and GaAs-based optoelectronic communication components for cloud computing and datacenters, VCSELs for 3D sensing and next generation wide bandgap devices for 5G wireless infrastructure.

“High-performance compound semiconductors are required to meet the performance needs of modern communication networks, sensors, smartphones, wireless communications networks, and datacenters. Our technology is being adopted in many applications, and we are ensuring that our capacity continues to meet customer demand now and in the future,” said Giovanni Barbarossa, Chief Technical Officer and President of the Laser Solutions Segment. “The new capacity will support our RF and photonics businesses, and we will have more resources to research and develop new materials and products.”

“Immediately after merging with II-VI in February, we ordered three new MOCVD production tools and filled our current cleanroom space. These systems have already been installed, and we have now moved into the next phase of growth by expanding our cleanroom space, launching an aggressive hiring plan, and working to build the industry’s most technologically advanced and efficient manufacturing line.” said Quesnell Hartmann and David Ahmari, co-founders of II-VI EpiWorks.

“It is great to see EpiWorks continue to grow and create jobs in Illinois,” Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said. “This company has a strong Illinois history, having been founded by University of Illinois alumni. EpiWorks’ success in Illinois is a testament to our state’s research universities, the ingenuity of our workforce, and the innovative community in Champaign Urbana. We hope to continue to be a partner with them to help grow their business within our borders and build upon this success.”

About II-VI Incorporated
II-VI Incorporated, a global leader in engineered materials and opto-electronic components, is a vertically integrated manufacturing company that develops innovative products for diversified applications in the industrial, optical communications, military, life sciences, semiconductor equipment, and consumer markets.

About II-VI EpiWorks
II-VI EpiWorks develops and manufactures compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers for application in optical components, wireless devices and high-speed communication systems. The company’s products provide these applications additional performance, such as greater bandwidth, higher power efficiency and better reliability. To learn more about EpiWorks visit

Dawn Sandone


The Land Connection participating in #GivingTuesday movement

From the press release:

The Land Connection Joins the Global #GivingTuesday Movement

Pledges to combat food insecurity in Champaign-Urbana and Central Illinois by supporting local farmers and making local food more accessible to all.

Champaign, IL, November 18, 2016 – The Land Connection is joining #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Champaign County has one of the highest food insecurity rates in the state of Illinois, with a food insecurity rate of over 17%, higher than Chicago. The Land Connection works to help ensure connect the community to local food through the Champaign Farmers’ Market and by offering a wide variety of training opportunities to Central Illinois farmers, both new and experienced. By tackling the issue from both the supply and the need side, we aim to make fresh, healthy, local food more accessible and affordable for all.

Occurring this year on November 29, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick-off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.  

The Land Connection has joined #GivingTuesday to help our community learn more about the great work that’s being done at the local and regional level to support a healthier food system.

“At a time when more and more folks want locally produced food, The Land Connection serves as the bridge between farmers, consumers, and chefs. Thanks to TLC, Sola Gratia Farm has been able to share our knowledge with beginning farmers through workshops and classes, and our crops with the community at the Champaign Farmers’ Market,” notes Traci Barkley, of Sola Gratia Farm in Urbana.

92Y −  a cultural center in New York City that, since 1874, has been bringing people together around its core values of community service and giving back − conceptualized #GivingTuesday as a new way of linking individuals and causes to strengthen communities and encourage giving. In 2015, the fourth year of the movement, #GivingTuesday brought together over 45,000 partners in 71 countries and helped raise nearly $117 Million online in the US alone.

“We have been incredibly inspired by the generosity in time, efforts and ideas that have brought our concept for a worldwide movement into reality,” said Henry Timms, founder of #GivingTuesday and executive director of 92Y. “As we embark on our fifth year of #GivingTuesday, we are encouraged by the early response from partners eager to continue making an impact in this global conversation.”  

Those who are interested in joining The Land Connection’s #GivingTuesday initiative can visit this page. For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website, Facebook page or follow @GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media.

About The Land Connection

The Land Connection is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting farmland, training sustainable and organic farmers, and promoting a vibrant local food system.

About #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a movement to celebrate and provide incentives to give—the 2016 iteration will be held on November 29, 2016. This effort harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits, businesses and corporations as well as families and individuals—to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. #GivingTuesday inspires people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they celebrate and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday harnesses the power of social media to create a global moment dedicated to giving around the world.

To learn more about #GivingTuesday participants and activities or to join the celebration of giving, please visit: