Archive for June, 2012
Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. There are no presents to buy, trouble deciding whose house to visit first, or weeks of planning to make it perfect. You can’t mess up the Fourth of July. It hits right in the middle of summer, and everyone is ready to have a good time.
As a child, my family celebrated the Fourth with my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and their dear friends. We loved making special layered Jell-O parfaits, my mom’s sherbet watermelon cake, or festively painted t-shirts to wear while we played with sparklers and worms. My dad was the grill master and served up platters of flame kissed pork. It was lots of food, family, and fun.
Traditions change over time, and I have had the pleasure of attending several memorable Fourth celebrations. If you are planning to start a new tradition this year or are just interested in some options to celebrate, here are some of my top picks:
Quincy Riverfront: This is a beloved Quincy tradition. The evening starts off with an outdoor concert by the Quincy Park Band. I suggest dining at the Pier first to properly enjoy the mighty Mississippi before the festivities start. Bring a blanket, lawn chairs, some glow sticks, and bug spray to enjoy a little people watching while you wait for dusk. The fireworks begin at dark over the beautiful river.
Quincy Gems Baseball Game: Nothing is more American than a little hot dog while you watch a baseball game. The Gems never disappoint, and it is a fun night of family entertainment. They usually have a small fireworks display following the game.
Hannibal Riverfront: Tom Sawyer Days are the week of the Fourth in America’s Hometown, Hannibal, Mo. Only a short drive from Quincy, there is tons to see, do, and eat as you make your way through the festivities. My favorites are the craft vendors, Tom and Becky contest, and the frog jumping. Hannibal also hosts a spectacular fireworks display over the river.
Keokuk Riverfront: With the countless scenic spots off River Road (Highway 96 from Hamilton to Nauvoo), there are great places to watch the Keokuk display from both sides of the river. This display is especially majestic from some of the private property on the bluffs as well. Get your spot early to ensure you find a perfect location. Bring a picnic to munch on as you wait for the show.
No matter how you choose to celebrate this Fourth of July, be sure that it includes your favorite people, good food, and fun.
Quincy has always been a bit of an enigma to me. Is a more like a big town or a small city? On one hand, Quincy has a symphony, an airport and enough bars and churches to liquor up an elephant and save his soul at the same time. On the other hand, I can’t run to the grocery store without running into someone I know, and I am convinced that there are only about 10 last names shared by everyone who lives here.
If Quincy is a city, then why do all my friends on the east coast think that it is just another suburb of Chicago? At the same time, some extraordinary things have happened here that lead me to believe that it can’t just be a nameless town in the middle of a fly-over state. I can’t tell you how long this has perplexed me.
I had just about decided to stop concerning myself with explaining the essence of Quincy to others, when it hit me: Quincy is Forrest Gump. Let that soak in for a second … Quincy is Forrest Gump. Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I am not suggesting that Quincy has an IQ of 76. For the purpose of my story, let’s just set aside the whole IQ thing and just focus on the main plot points. For those of you who need a refresher :
- 1952: Forrest dances for young Elvis.
- 1961: Forrest meets JFK after becoming an All-American football player.
- 1963: Forrest happens upon the desegregation of University of Alabama.
- 1971: Forrest meets John Lennon on the Dick Cavett Show.
- 1972: Forrest receives Medal of Honor from President Johnson
- 1972: Forrest meets President Nixon and witnesses the Watergate break-in.
- 1976: Forrest invests in Apple Computers, further solidifying his millionaire status.
- 1980: Jenny is sick and dies, presumably of HIV/AIDS.
- 1980: Forrest lives a quiet life with Forrest Gump Jr.
Forrest Gump had quite the luck. I mean come on, the man had a hand in every major cultural event, from his run in with Elvis in the ‘50s, to the loss of his true love at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS outbreak in the ‘80s.
Even after all that, was Forrest famous? No, he wasn’t; none of the people waiting for the bus believed him for a second until the lady saw his face on the cover of Fortune Magazine that is.
Despite his encounters with greatness during one of the most action filled 30 years of U.S. history, Forrest was still the same guy who loved his mother and wanted to care for the people around him.
So what does any of this have to do with Quincy? Like I said before, Quincy is Forrest Gump — the whole 76 IQ thing notwithstanding. The Gem City has consistently had its brushes with fame, but deep down inside, it’s still the humble town where the parish picnic is an essential component of summer, and all of your friends’ parents went to high school with yours. Don’t believe me? Lets make a timeline of Quincy’s life:
- 1823: Quincy is born.
- 1858: Lincoln-Douglass Debates: Honest Abe and The Little Giant face off in our very own Washington Park.
- 1836: Rev. David Nelson founds the Mission Institute, which designated Quincy as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
- 1839: Mormons, including founder Joseph Smith, seek refuge in Quincy after their exile from Missouri. Brighman Young’s father is buried here during that same year.
- 1866: Sarah Atwater Denman man starts Friends in Council at her house on 9th and Broadway. “Friends,” as it affectionately called, is the oldest continuous literary club in the U.S. It still meets today.1871: Inventor of the postage meter, Arthur Pitney, was born in Quincy.
- 1883: Mark Twain, who lived just across the river in Hannibal, publishes “Life on the Mississippi,” where he describes our fair city. “Quincy is a notable example–a brisk, handsome, well-ordered city; and now, as formerly, interested in art, letters, and other high things.”
- 1886: Father Augustine Tolton is ordained, making him the first black catholic priest in the U.S. Tolton attended St. Peter’s School and graduated from what is now Quincy University. He celebrated his first Mass at St. Boniface. He is now formally up for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church.
- 1887: Quincyan, Thomas Scott Baldwin, becomes the first person to parachute from a hot air balloon. Through his work with the military, he is known as “Father of the American Dirigible.”
- 1903: President Theodore Roosevelt visits Quincy.
- 1941: Actress Mary Astor wins an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Great Lie.” Mary was born in Quincy and her father taught German at Quincy High School.
- 1945: Paul Tibbets, who was born in Quincy, pilots the Enola Gay and dropped the first ever atomic bomb over Hiroshima.
- 1955: Mountain Dew becomes commercially available. The soda was invented by Ollie and Barney Hartman of Quincy.
- 1958: Bob Hope and then Sen. John F. Kennedy receive honorary degrees from Quincy College, now Quincy University.
- 1960: Then vice-president, Richard Nixon, visits Quincy while campaigning against JFK
- 1988: James B. Stewart wins a Pulitzer Prize in Exploratory Journalism. Stewart is an alumnus of Quincy Senior High. Stewart went on to write a best seller about fellow Quincyan, Michael Swango.
- 1988: Professional golfer, D.A. Weibring, ties for third place in the U.S. Open Championship.
- 2000: Serial killer Michael Swango is indicted for murder. While it has not been proven, the FBI estimates that Swango is responsible for 30 to 50 deaths. He was valedictorian for the class of ’72 at what is now, Quincy Notre Dame.
- 2000: President Bill Clinton visits Quincy.
- 2010: President Barack Obama visits Quincy.
I could seriously go on and on … I haven’t even mentioned the Olympians that Quincy has produced or the fact that the lattice fry was invented right here in my hometown. I am also leaving out the fact that the current owner of the Boston Red Sox is a Quincy native. I’ll stop now, but I hope I have given everyone a new perspective on the Gem City, not to mention some great trivia to dazzle your friends.
Just in the interest of fairness, however, I do have to admit, contrary to popular belief, unicorns and rainbows were not invented here. Even so, hold your head high Quincy, you have the best of both worlds. You have the heart and soul of a town, with the talents of a city. Next time you try to describe Quincy and people just don’t understand, all you need to do is tell them that Quincy is the Forrest Gump of cities, IQ notwithstanding.
I am an aspiring backyard gardener. I love to plant the little plants and seeds, carefully cultivate them, and harvest the fruit of my summer toils. As a child, my parents taught me how to grow my favorites. They are still my on-call help to eradicate bugs or help problem solve why the beans aren’t coming up. This week, we enjoyed freshly dug new potatoes cooked slowly with fresh green beans and onions.
If you are considering planting, it is not too late yet this season. Now is a perfect time to do a planter box of tomatoes and peppers. You will be able to enjoy the tastes of the season without a huge space or monetary investment. There is still plenty of time for squashes — pumpkin, acorn, butternut. You will need a bigger space to let them vine out in your backyard. A patio planter of herbs can also be planted now and enjoyed for years to come inside and outside. Be sure to pick a pot that will give you enough space for growth but also not be too heavy if you are planning to bring it inside for the winter.
Planting not your thing? There are some wonderful ways to purchase locally grown foods in Quincy every week. Washington Park has a Farmer’s Market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings starting at 7 a.m. The Quincy Mall hosts a Farmer’s Market on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The Great River CSA offers shares of vegetables, eggs, herbs, and more. Pick up is available at the farm off St. Anthony’s Road or the Unitarian Church once a week.
Not only is it great to eat locally during the summer while we have rich access to a wide variety of food, try preserving some of your abundance for this winter. I enjoy freezing and canning raw ingredients as well as cooked delights like jams and salsa. They make great gifts and starts to busy weeknight meals.
Thinking of a nice, relaxing road trip? Only two hours away is a hidden gem called Fairfield, Iowa. Even though its population is only a little over 12,000, Fairfield is booming with culture and excitement. My suggestion would be to visit the weekend of July 6 or Aug. 3 when they have their First Friday Art Walk. These events take place around Central Park, where art, food and music take over the downtown area. More than 25 art galleries and venues remain open after hours to display the 300 plus artists while artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers and poets occupy the streets and sidewalks.
If that’s not enough walking for you, Fairfield has over 33 miles of recreational trails for biking, walking or running. Or if you’re a water person like me, there are miles and miles of water trails for canoes and kayaks.
After working up an appetite from all the outdoor activities, you can try one of their many international restaurants. Fairfield boasts that they have more restaurants per capita than San Francisco, and you can find specialty cuisines such as Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, Turkish, Organic and vegetarian.
Their Main Street and downtown area is filled with specialty shops and boutiques, such as an apothecary; a natural store that only sells organic clothing, bedding, makeup, etc.; a homemade sheepskin and leather goods store; a vintage store; a chocolatier; and much, much more.
If you’re not into consumerism and are more into conservationism, you will be delighted to hear that Fairfield strives toward sustainable living with their farmers markets, local ecovillage and numerous homes with green building features, and a newly-organized city sustainability commission. Not bad for a town that size.
If I have yet to mention anything that piques your interest yet, I’ll keep trying. They have a winery, and their calendar of events is packed with plays, concerts and shows. But one of the most interesting things I found about the area is the newest city in Iowa, just outside of Fairfield, called Maharishi Vedic City. Here, the town has its own currency, its own peace colony, and is based on the ideals of health, peace, happiness and good fortune. Pretty chill … The city produces its own organic produce, has an observatory of masonry sundials, and a health spa that you can’t find anywhere outside of India in the U.S.
So instead of going to your normal nearby destination, check out this little bustling town known as Fairfield for a change of pace and scenery. For more info, go to http://travelfairfieldiowa.com.
With the economy still struggling, most people are looking for ways to save money. One great way to stretch your dollars is to check out thrift stores, second-hand stores and garage sales. These businesses are locally run and offer others’ gently used items to you at a great discount.
Considering attending your first garage sale or setting one up at your home? Here are some easy tips to help you be successful in the hunt or sell.
- ADVERTISE: Even the best sales can fail without proper advertising. Display signs in your yard, on major through streets, and if possible combine your sale with others in your neighborhood to maximize foot traffic. Sales with other sales within walking distance always get more people looking at all the sales involved. Be sure to place an ad in The Herald-Whig classifieds which is the garage sale guide every week. Plus, the ad runs online and in the print version.
- PRICE SMART: You know what you purchased those clothing your kids wore once for, the video games that your son has grown out of, or the little used furniture that is now taking up too much space. How do you price these items to move them quickly? The strategy that seems to work the most effectively at most sales is price is low enough that your prospective buyers think they are getting a great deal. All the clothes you can fit in a grocery bag for a flat price is always a hit.
- BE WILLING TO NEGOTIATE: You see a customer looking at the old exercise equipment on your yard. He comes coming back to it, but seems to be struggling with the purchase. Offer him to hold it while he comes back or take $10 off your asking price. Most people at garage sales will ask you if you will take a lower price for an item in your sale to make it fit in their budgets, too. Negotiation can be a great way to get rid of those end-of-the-sale pieces as well.
- SET UP IS KEY: I went to a sale this weekend that had all the clothing hanging from racks and on hangers. All the clothing was $1 per piece as a happy yellow sign proudly announced. This arrangement made it very easy to look through each piece to find more things I could use. The next sale had all their clothing folding in piles according to size. While well organized, this wasn’t as user friendly since I had to mess up all the careful folding and refold as I went through the pile. Make your sale feel as much like a department sale as possible. Use vertical space, organize your treasures, and keep everything neat throughout the sale.
- INCLUDE SOMETHING FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: Garage sales may not be fun for everyone that walks into your yard. Selling homemade goodies or bottled water is a great way for your little ones to earn some pocket change. Have items you don’t think are worth selling? The FREE box is a hit with customers of all ages.
- CHECKOUT: Now that your customers have come to a final treasure to purchase, they need an easily findable checkout point. I suggest a stationary table with a designated person or two people to handle change, your book keeping (for multi-party sales), close to the entrance to the sale, and they are giving out bags for your customers. Have plenty of change available in every denomination you are selling items (i.e. dimes, quarters, dollars, ten, etc.) Be sure to thank them for coming.
- GIVE BACK: Once the sale is over, you will most likely be stuck with some items that you don’t want to keep. Give these items to some of the excellent charities in our area like the Salvation Army, The Crossing Thrift Store, Madonna House and Horizons Clothes Closet. Be sure that all items you donate are gently used so that others can enjoy them. Some charities, like the Salvation Army, will also pick up large items or large quantities of items to make it even easier.
Now that you are a garage sale pro, be sure to blog about your finds, take friends along, and spread the fun.
So, this weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year for three reasons. One, this Friday and Saturday will be the longest days of all Fridays and Saturdays this year. Two, there is a Blues in the Park concert that coincides with three, Midsummer Arts Faire weekend.
Midsummer Arts Faire, in my opinion, is the best weekend in Quincy for culture if not the best weekend period. The entire weekend is a time for families and friends to get together in downtown Quincy to appreciate and shop for one-of-a-kind artwork and enjoy great food and music. Many people don’t know this, but every artist displaying at the Midsummer Arts Faire had to go through a pretty rigorous application process to have the privilege of showing at this annual event. So it’s actually a pretty big deal for these artists to be there.
This year is going to be extra special for the general public, as well. The weekend starts off with artists showing off their work to the Blues in the Park concert series (which are fun on their own). Then, Saturday morning the farmers’ market shares the space with the artists, so people can get delicious fresh produce and specialty foods from local producers and walk around to enjoy the art.
The music lineup for Saturday and Sunday is looking pretty stellar with acts such as Graham Pagano, Bailey Melton, BYU Living Legends dancers, George Cate, Rusty Nail, Ben Bumbry and the Messengers, and Cheeks McGee. While listening to great music and appreciating true art, folks can go enjoy some local flavor provided by Bittersweet Confections and Catering (seriously people, check out the menu on the website http://artsfaire.org), Butcher Block, Pop’s Pizza and J & S Kettle Corn.
If the food and music don’t entice you, go for the hands-on art projects that are new to the art faire this year. They haven’t announced what the different activities are going to be yet, but I’m sure they will be a blast. And just for kids is the Young Collector’s Art Gallery, where parents are not allowed as to allow the children to develop their own taste of the arts.
This weekend, pack your chair or blanket, hang out to enjoy some great music, walk around and peruse the jewelry, photographs, paintings, metal and all other aspects of art while you savor local flavor from the food vendors. Could there be a better weekend in Quincy?
Editor’s Note: The Local Q welcomes Katie O’Neal as its newest blog writer. Katie is a life long resident of her family’s five-generation farm outside Payson and enjoys runs her own Etsy store, AlbsmeyerRoad. Read more about Katie here.
Enchaustic painting dates back to the Ancient Greek and Romans who used wax to build up vivid paintings on vases, walls and other surfaces. Applying layers of pigmented wax up and burnishing them together to creates a finished painting.
Quincy artist Joe Conover makes truly engaged paintings that beg their beholder to become curious how it was created and have the overwhelming desire to reach out and touch. His works range from smooth, pastel added creations with beautifully soft shapes and colors to curious two-dimensional works that grown from wooden backs to resemble underwater creatures clinging to the walls. Joe masterfully mixes colors, layers, and textures.
The Keokuk Art Center is currently hosting a month long show in the Round Room so you can visit Conover’s unique works. One of my favorites of his pieces is a three-panel triptych in soft peaches, yellows and mint greens. Raised surfaces spiral out from a wet looking circle in the middle of the yellow piece. Each piece echoes the pallet and size of the others to create harmony while retaining their own unique identities.
Joe graciously taught a small class to demonstrate some of the most basic techniques to community members on June 8 after his opening from 5 to 7 p.m. He is very generous with his time and expertise, as he has done demonstrations throughout the area so others better understand and making spark others to try his unique media. For all who were lucky enough to take the class, it gave us all a new appreciation for time, skill, and beauty that Conover creates in all his works.
Everyone in town is still mourning the loss of one of our most beloved restaurants, Sprout’s. Sprout’s is a place where you could always count on good food and service, and they had the best outdoor eating area in town. I hear they are planning to reopen, but, today, I would like to share with you why Sprout’s is so very near and dear to my heart, and hopefully bring out others’ nostalgic memories of the hometown eatery.
You see, in the summer of 2011, I was at Sprout’s nearly every weekend. When I say nearly every weekend, I’m not exaggerating. I was there nearly every weekend. Most days, I would be there at least three hours with a group of some very fun, very crazy friends. For anonymity’s sake, I will call them Bwad, Blandon, and Merrissa. After an evening out on the town, the four of us would rendezvous at the Sprout’s bar around 10:30 a.m. We would sit at the bar to socialize with our favorite weekend bartender, and the stories we tell from these days always bring a smile to my face.
Sometimes, when we were feeling especially giving, we would have a “Random Acts of Kindness” day. As folks came up to pay their bill, we would buy them a York peppermint patty or give them a large handful of tootsie rolls (which were free anyways). At first, they would usually look at us like we were crazy, but when explained that it was a random act of kindness, they immediately lit up with delight.
Occasionally, in desperate circumstances, my friend Bwad would use the large restroom by the front doors. He would occupy the restroom for probably 15 or 20 minutes with his glass of wine and that day’s newspaper. When he found himself in a situation where he was missing his favorite newspaper section, he would call the restaurant from the restroom and ask the bartender to bring him the sports section. She would not be amused.
When the bartender was especially attentive and sweet, Bwad and I would serenade her with songs from such artists as Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey and Stevie B. We never got a standing ovation, but we thought we were pretty good.
The laughs, the early day drinking, the food, and the atmosphere are all things I dearly miss about that place. I know it will come back to us; I hope very soon. And I would also like to send a big thank you and prayers to all the employees who work so hard and may be falling on hard times right now. And to those of you who don’t frequent Sprout’s, make sure you do when it reopens, and hopefully you can experience the same joy I did.
While I was hard at work last Thursday, my three sisters, my brother, my grandma and my cousin did something that I loathe. They had fun without me. I am lucky enough to have a summer job that I enjoy and will hopefully benefit my career prospects. That being said, I do want to whine a little bit about missing out on the awesome kayaking trip that they took. As a consolation, my sister, Meghan, said she would write a blog for me so that I didn’t miss out on all the fun. I hope you all enjoy reading her thoughts on the Mighty Missip. But don’t enjoy it too much. I don’t want her taking my job or anything.
When I think of the Mississippi River, I think of barges, bald eagles and Bud Lights enjoyed on speedboats with trailing water skiers. I also think of the Great Flood of ’93 and the eeriness of standing at the end of the Bayview Bridge, looking out at West Quincy, seeing only the tops of trees and a burned-out gas station and wondering how Ol’ Man River could have betrayed us so.
When I think of the Mississippi, I do not think of kayaking. Kayaking is for far more exotic places like the Green River in Utah and Colorado, the Boundaries Waters of Northern Minnesota, the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest.
Despite these preconceived notions of the Mississippi and paddling, I recently joined eight members of my family on a kayaking trip near Louisiana, Mo.
The excursion had all the elements of a good outing, in my mind at least. I got some much-needed exercise and an arm workout that makes my Jillian Michaels’ DVDs look like child’s play. I got a little, but not too much, sun on my face, which helps to combat my “I-work-in-an-office-all-day-and-don’t-get-out-enough” pasty skin. I spent quality time with my family, as well as team building time with my sister, Katie, who shared a two-person kayak with me and politely refrained from pointing out my deficits in the steering department.
But more importantly than all this, I developed a new appreciation for the Mississippi River. It remains the big, powerful river that lives in my mind’s eye, but it has also become a peaceful escape from daily life. Whether I was paddling hard against the current, or coasting through a channel, I was a thousand miles from my day-to-day worries.
Okay, so technically I wasn’t that far away, but you get what I mean.
Editor’s Note: Meghan Oakley-Henning, like her sister, Anna was born in Quincy and grew up in Newton, N.J. She now lives with her husband, Jess, in Lancaster, Penn.
This Friday, June 8, is a day many (myself included) look forward to all year long in Quincy. A day that people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy: opening night of Blues in the District. I actually love blues music. You can dance to it, it has soul, and most people can relate to it. The Blues in the District brings in amazing acts from all over the country, and each second and fourth Friday of the month during the season guarantees a wonderful night of music, people-watching and relaxation. This unique community event has been going on for 15 years. I think this is such a great asset to our community, and I would bet to guess that many people have been going as long as it has been around.
The great thing about these concerts — other than the beautiful downtown setting and overall experience — is that you can bring your own food and drink (yes, alcoholic) and make your own little party. So today, I am going to offer suggestions on how to make your own little party better than everyone else’s little party.
First of all, chairs. Your chair MUST have at least two cup holders. If it has a foot rest, even better. But don’t bring a chair that has the shade awning, you will just block other people’s view and make a lot of enemies. Check out this chair, it’s pretty awesome.
Or if you would like to be a little more romantic and snuggle with your lovie on a blanket, I would suggest something large, portable, and waterproof like one of these handy little blankets.
Now on to the really important items: food and drink. The weather is getting hot, so something light and refreshing is a must. Beer is the obvious choice and definitely the easiest, but if you have a little extra time, do something like the white wine sangria. In a large pitcher, mix one bottle of white wine (such as riesling, pinot gris, or chardonnay), 2/3 cup sugar, 3 sliced oranges, 1 sliced lemon, 1 sliced lime, some cherries or strawberries, 2 oz. brandy, and 1/2 liter of ginger ale or club soda. Let this cool in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and you have a refreshing, tasty beverage — and don’t forget a fork to get all the fruit at the bottom.
For snacks, I suggest a cheese spread that my very wise, very hairy friend Brandon makes all the time. It is a homemade pimento cheese spread. Mix together 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, 3 oz. light cream cheese, 4 oz. mashed pimentos with juice (comes in a jar at the grocery store), 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar, garlic powder to taste, salt and pepper to taste. Serve this delicious concoction on a triscuit and/or mixed veggies.
Hope everyone enjoys the first of many blues concerts this Friday. The weather is supposed to be perfect, so come out to Washington Park!