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Help Klevah raise money to tour

Local emcee Klevah needs your help to fund her Gold Quarter Tour this summer. Donate to her Indiegogo campaign here, and listen to her album Golden to remind yourself why you did. As of now, there are 13 days left in this campaign to spread C-U hip-hop across the country. Below is the video from the Indiegogo page.

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Governor Rauner’s budget threats force closure of Lincoln’s Challenge Academy

Today, it was announced that due to the budget stalemate created by Governor Bruce Rauner's extreme proposed cuts, Lincoln's Challenge Academy, a school in Rantoul for at-risk youth, will be forced to shut down — effective immeadiately.

According to the News-Gazette, a new class of at-risk youth were set to enroll at Lincoln's Challenge on July 15th, but due to the threat of cuts, the induction of more than 400 students has been put off until funding is secured for the staff, which are considered "vendors of the state" as opposed to employees

The academy also is a mecca of employment, providing jobs to around 90 staff members who are now not allowed to work.

Lincoln's Challenge, which is located on the former Chanute Air Force Base, has been teaching students the eight core values of "Academic excellence, job skills, physical fitness, leadership/followership, health, life coping skills, responsible citizenship and community service" for more than 21 years.  The list of success stories to come from this place is amazing.  In fact, you can even read all about it here.

So thanks, Governor Rauner. Thanks for everything. Thanks for cutting funding nearly across the board and threatening those who need funding with a shutdown, thanks for taking jobs away from the hard working people of Rantoul, and thanks for taking an opportunity away from those who truly need it. You're sure looking out for the citizens of Illinois, aren't you?

The good news is that once the budget is restored, Lincoln's Challenge will be able to re-open, and students allowed to attend classes. Until then, however, many people will not get to go to work or school — showing that Governor Rauner legitimately does not have the best interest of the community at heart, especially those who rely most on the state's services.

Photo of Lincoln's Challenge graduates in 2013 by Jason Dorsey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detatchment

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Rithmio scores $3 million in seed funding

Here's some exciting news for Rithmio, a company which started at the University of Illinois and is still partially based in C-U: News was just released that the gesture recognition platform raised $3 million in seed funding. Rithmio won the annual Cozad competition in 2014, and was recognized in the Entrepreneurial Excellence: Student Startup Award category at this year's Innovation Celebration.

From the Chicago Business article:

Rithmio, a University of Illinois spinout that's betting that wearable devices can benefit from technology developed for missile tracking, has raised $3 million from an impressive lineup of investors.

Intel Capital, along with Chicago-based KGC Capital, led the investment. Other backers include Chicago-based OCA Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, Hyde Park Venture Partners and New Coast Ventures, along with Champaign-based Serra Ventures, Boston-based Foley Ventures, MKRC Ventures in Silicon Valley, and MAS Capital of Sri Lanka

From the press release:

CHICAGO, Ill. – June 29, 2015 - Rithmio, the gesture recognition platform for wearables, today announced that it has closed a $3 million seed round of financing co-led by KGC Capital and Intel Capital. Participants included MAS Capital Pvt Ltd., OCA Ventures, Hyde Park Ventures Partners, Hyde Park Angels, Foley Ventures, MKRC Ventures, Serra Ventures, and New Coast Ventures. With this investment, Rithmio will expand its product, R&D, and sales teams to fulfill its vision as the world’s leading gesture recognition platform.

“We have the team, technology, and now strategic partnerships to take the motion- sensing market to the next level,” said Adam Tilton, CEO and co-founder of Rithmio. “Over the next year, we’ll work closely with the developer community on the next generation of wearables and other products built on Rithmio’s gesture recognition software.”

“Real-time analytics for user-specific physical activities represents a potential game changing technology for fitness, physical therapy, and rehabilitation applications,” said Steven Holmes, vice president of the New Devices Group and general manager of the Smart Device Innovation team at Intel. “Intel is exploring a wide range of potential applications for wearable tech and gesture recognition, and we look forward to working with Rithmio as they push the boundaries of their solution.”

In September of 2014, Rithmio raised $650,000 that was used to grow the team. Key hires included Kamil Chmielewski, Director of Software, Jen Quinlan, VP of Marketing, and Christian Nam, Designer. The seven-person team focuses on developing Rithmio’s core algorithms and SDK. Rithmio also opened a Chicago office in November 2014 at Catapult Chicago. This is in addition to its office in Champaign, IL at EnterpriseWorks Incubator, Research Park.

Rithmio was founded in 2013 through the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. “Great tech innovations and startups have come out of the University of Illinois. Rithmio is no exception,” said Chris Capps, CEO of KGC Capital. “We believe in Adam and Prashant’s vision.”

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Nando Milano Trattoria coming to Downtown Champaign

Per the News-Gazette, there's a new restaurant coming to Downtown Champaign sometime later this year. Situated between Cowboy Monkey and Jane Addams Bookstore, the space once occupied by Carrie's (which now exists in Crossroads Corner Consignment) will become a new Italian joint, Nando Milano Trattoria.

Here's a bit of information from the Gazoo's article:

Nando Milano Trattoria expects to open later this year at 202-204 N. Neil St., in the space vacated last year by Carrie's Fabulous to Funky.

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The menu in Champaign is not expected to be as extensive as the one in Chicago, and Vullo said diners can expect to pay $35 to $40 for a meal.

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In Chicago, the pasta dishes range from $16 to $24, and the meat and poultry dishes range from $20 to $26. Antipasto, salads, vegetables and desserts are listed separately.

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The new space is 2,800 square feet, and patrons will be able to sit either in the bar or dining area. Vullo figures the dining area will seat 70 to 80 people, and he's hoping to arrange outdoor seating for 20 to 30 on the Taylor Street plaza.

Italian cuisine? Yes please.

Photo from the Nando Milano Trattoria website.

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U of I alum named Portillo’s CEO: Can we get one in C-U now, please?

This might be a pipe dream, but we can dream, can't we? It was announced today via the Chicago Tribune that the new CEO of Portillo's is University of Illinois alum Keith Kinsey. He'll take over July 1st. 

Question: Can we get a damn Portillo's in Champaign-Urbana, please?

Oh my, how this would be a terrific thing to happen. Of course, there's nothing that says this will happen. We're just posing the question because we can.

Here's some info from the Chicago Tribune article:

Keith Kinsey will take over July 1, becoming the second CEO at Portillo's, succeeding Portillo, who founded the company in 1963. The company said Portillo will continue to be involved in the business.

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Kinsey, 61 and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has for the past decade been an executive at Noodles & Company, where he joined as chief financial officer in 2005 and is currently president and chief operating officer. His July 1 resignation from Noodles & Co. was also announced Monday.

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Later this year, Portillo's plans to expand in Illinois, to Homewood and Gurnee. Its Rockford store opened earlier this month. Portillo's restaurants are also in Tempe and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Buena Park and Moreno Valley, Calif.; and Merrillville, Ind. Last week the company announced it would open in Tampa, Fla., in 2016.

Kicker: "plans to expand in Illinois" could mean a lot of things, though they mostly note the suburbs here. Perhaps the U of I connection could pull on Kinsey's heartstrings to get something downstate for us?

Though this has been rumored/on people's wish lists for some time now, we joked about it this past April.

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Pizzeria Antica opening this Thursday

Per the News-Gazette, the time has come for a new pizza joint in Downtown Champaign. Pizzeria Antica is opening this Thursday, aka tomorrow. A little bit of info on what the menu will look like:

Pizzeria Antica Champaign serves 13 varieties of pizza "pretty much traditional to all Neapolitan pizza parlors," including spicy, vegetarian and vegan choices, Karimpour said. The pizzas, which have thin crusts and 12-inch diameters, are baked in 800-degree, wood-fired ovens, with the process taking about 90 seconds.

We're excited. More from us soon.

UPDATE: Initially, I forgot to include the address of the restaurant: 10 Chester Street in Champaign.

Photo by Patrick Singer.

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Jarling's Custard Cup named best ice cream shop in Illinois by Business Insider

All kinds of lists happening over the past 24 hours, this time from Business Insider, which put together a list of "The best ice cream shops in every state". The publication listed Champaign's own Jarling's Custard Cup as the "best" for Illinois:

ILLINOIS: Jarling's opened in Champaign in 1983 as a full-service soda fountain and desserts destination. The flavors are traditional, and the shop also specializes in waffles (with or without ice cream).

We're obviously fans of Jarling's because it is kind of the best (and the worst). So on that accord, congrats to Jarling's — they are, afterall, a C-U institution.

We will say though — isn't an ice cream shop, more like an ice milk shop, and definitely not custard.

A House of Lies, if you will.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree? What other stops in Illinois are worth discussing?

Photo by Jess Hammie. h/t to Visit Champaign for the tweet.

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Allerton Park featured in Huffington Post's "Most Underrated Tourist Attraction" list

People love lists. Sure, they are all over the place, all of the time — but when they get a little more specific and focused, I can deal with it. It's pretty cool to see things like this, and get to know a bit more about some hidden gems across the United States.

When it comes to Illinois — there are a wide array of options and destinations, sure. Huffington Post just published a list of "The Most Underrated Tourist Attraction in All 50 States", and Monticello's own Allerton Park was listed for Illinois. Check out the list linked above, and discover somethings about other states while you're at it.

From Huff Po: 

Illinois
Robert Allerton Park
Monticello
Touted by some as the Midwest's must beautiful park, this 1,500-acre meticulously landscaped estate's grounds were dreamed up by the industrialist and philanthroper Robert Allerton, who transformed them into a fantastical series of gardens bedecked with Neoclassical statues and Far Eastern art.

I mean, check out that photo of that statue — just one of many aspects of Allerton — beautiful, isn't it?

Check out our very own Sam Logan's piece on Allerton's Sun Singer statue here as well.

Photo by Sam Logan.