Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gambit Owners Propose Expansion

The owners of the Gambit golf course in Vienna are looking to the state for help in expanding their property.

Owner Bruce Monzulla wants to build a gated residential community and a 90-room motel on the property to go along with the course and the restaurant already there.

The catch is he would like to acquire a 115-acre tract along I-24 that the Department of Natural Resources owns.

Check out the Southern for the rest of the story.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Major Resort Proposed for Perry Co.

A MetroEast development company is looking at Perry County for a new $100 million Branson-like tourist development.

Details are sketchy, but the proposal would call for using part of Pyramid State Park and involve a land swap between the developers and the Department of Natural Resources.

State Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Steeleville) has introduced legislation allowing DNR to authorize the swap if they found it acceptable.

The Associated Press has the latest.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Disco-era Drag Strip Revving Back Up

Brian DeNeal has a great article on new plans for the old Accelaquarter Raceway north of Harrisburg.
HARRISBURG - Weeds grow through the cracks in the old Accelaquarter Raceway north of Harrisburg, at one time the favorite weekend attraction of the area.

Through the 1960s, the raceway brought in crowds and racers from Kentucky and Indiana, but the spot has been quiet for decades.

Wednesday afternoon, the 1/8 mile strip roared again. Bobby Umsted of Huntington, Tenn., donned his red racing jacket and helmet as another man poured a bucket of water on the track in front of Umsted's car, a sleek, red machine with the motor poking up from the hood. The car roared, and roared louder, until several of those watching covered their ears. The wheels spun on the wet pavement, producing blue smoke -- and the car zoomed down over the cracked pavement.

"This brings back some great memories," former Accelaquarter owner Darrel Mattingly said.

The new owner is the Cars For Kids organization which holds car shows and drag races to raise money for disabled children.

Check out the rest of the story for more.

This will make a nice attraction to the area next year. Motorized sports is a growing in the region with the SI Raceway east of Marion, the I-57 Drag Strip near Benton, the Mount Vernon Raceway and the racing events at the DuQuoin State Fair.

S.I. Music Festival Kicks Off Next Week

From the SIU News Service ... (Also check out our Calendar of Events for the local concerts in Williamson County.)

By Andrea Hahn
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Bach is back – and so are Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and the sounds of a classical music summer.

The Third Annual Southern Illinois Music Festival, a nearly three-week long, multi-site celebration of classical, jazz and chamber music organized by the School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, begins June 15, with a preview chamber music performance on June 10.

A special feature of the festival is its mobility. More than 50 performances are set for nearly two-dozen different venues all over Southern Illinois. Music lovers can hear chamber music at a café, quintets at a winery, quartets at community buildings and brown bag concerts in a recital hall. There will be jazz at an art show, concerts just for children at libraries and recreation centers, patriotic music in a city park and orchestras at music auditoriums and halls from Mount Vernon to Cairo, Marion to Murphysboro. An abridged version of Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet and an English-language comic opera bring a beautiful visual component to the festival as well.

Edward Benyas, SIUC music professor, conductor of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the festival's founder and artistic director, said the heart of the festival is the beautiful, neoclassic Shryock Auditorium on the SIUC campus. The elegance of the setting and the richness of the music are enhanced during the festival by wine tasting from Shawnee Hills Wine Trail wineries before, during intermission, and after each performance.

This year, an All-American program featuring Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" literally takes to the field. The new Rent One Park in Marion will swap out the crack of the bat for an orchestra concert highlighted by a fireworks display. And Marvin Hamlisch, the Broadway and motion picture musical score composer who brought us "The Way We Were," "A Chorus Line" and "The Sting" as well as music for movies such as "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People," and "Three Men and a Baby," comes to the Herrin Civic Center as part of the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Several performances will feature original compositions by Festival Composer-in-Residence James Stephenson, III. Stephenson's music has been performed by dozens of orchestras around the country and his commissions include work with Branford Marsalis and Rodney Mack, the Houston Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is known particularly for his work with young musicians.

This year's festival continues the tradition of including an opera selection. This year's offering, sponsored by the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, is Gaetano Donizetti's "Elixir of Love," a comic Italian opera that will be sung in English. Lighting, scenery and costume combine with the music to tell the light-hearted, romantic and yet inspiring story of how the peasant Nemorino wins the hand of the hand of the wealthy beauty Adina aided by what he believes to be a love potion. Instead, it turns out to be simply a bottle of Southern Illinois wine. Local opera afficiandos should look for a familiar face among the opera performers. Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole will play the part of the Notary during the Carbondale performance; there also will be a performance in Sesser.

Benyas said this year's festival is the biggest yet. He said the variety of venues and the free or low admission price make the festival widely accessible. Most concerts are indoor events, but several events will take place outdoors and casual dress is welcome at all performances.

"The festival coincides with a two-week summer music camp for high school students, a 40-year tradition at SIUC," he said. "Members of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra are in residence during the festival – and that is a huge benefit for the camp participants." Summer Music Camp participants in music theater, concert band, jazz improvisation and high school choir have opportunities to perform during the festival.

In addition to SIUC, major sponsors include the Illinois Arts Council, the City of Carbondale, The Southern Illinoisan, WSIL-TV, WSIU Public Broadcasting, Carbondale Community Arts, Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, Southern Illinois Miners, Mélange, Boundless Gallery.com, Dr. Samuel Goldman, the Julia Harrison Bruce Foundation-Bank of Herrin Trustee, the Garwin Family Foundation, Hastings Foundation, Moore-Corpora Foundation, SISO Patrons Committee and Southern Foundation.

More information is available at www.SIFest.com or by calling 618-53-MUSIC or 618/453-2776.

Kincaid Mounds Dig Resumes This Summer

From the SIU News Service ...

By Andrea Hahn
CARBONDALE — A team of Southern Illinois University Carbondale archaeology students returns to the Kincaid Mounds on the border of Pope and Massac counties this summer, hoping to come one step closer to understanding the mystery of the mound builders.

The field school begins on June 11 and concludes Aug. 3. Students commit to working at the site five full days a week for the eight-week period. They may receive six credit hours for their efforts as well as skills directly applicable to employment in the field of environmental impact management. A bonus for out-of-state students is that the class is an "off-campus course" with a set tuition fee regardless of residency. Another plus – this year, students have the option of staying as a group in rental housing near the site rather than commuting.

Students participating in the dig are: Nina Fuscaldo, Lockport, Sara E. Murphy, Marion, Wesley Pinks, Chester, and graduate students Jennifer Malpiedi, Carbondale, and Corin Pursell, Webster Groves, Mo.

The focus of this year's dig is a large, circular structure on top of one of the largest mounds on the multi-mound site. What makes the work particularly challenging is the evidence for the structure is not readily visible to the naked eye, though it is easily seen in maps created with magnetometry imaging technology. A gradiometer creates the image by measuring minute variations in the strength of the Earth's magnetic field, which, at any particular spot, is influenced by what is in the ground directly beneath the gradiometer or magnetometer. Buildings typically leave magnetic evidence even after immediately visible physical evidence is gone.

Paul Welch, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and the director of the dig, said the circle is 22 meters across, with an area of about 4,000 square feet. The circle has projections at the four cardinal points of north, south, east and west and seems also to have an inner ring. Welch said a similar structure 27 meters across was discovered in Florida. Evidence in the historical record helped archaeologists reconstruct that site. If the two sites are as similar as they initially appear to be, the inner ring may be a row of benches and the building may be a sort of council house.

"We won't know until we dig into it," Welch said. "We are interested to find out something about the layout of the building and the settlement."

Welch hopes the work this summer will uncover not only the building but also its purpose. He wants to see how the building fits in with other structures discovered at the site. Understanding the layout of the settlement at Kincaid Mounds may provide a clue about its inhabitants – namely, their cultural identity.

Welch explained the Kincaid site was inhabited from about 1100 until about 1350 AD, at which point it, and many other sites from the Missouri bootheel to the Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys, was abandoned for unknown reasons. The area was resettled some time after 1500 by Native Americans known now as the Sauk, Fox, Illini and Peoria – native peoples still in residence when the French explorers arrived. However, these tribes do not seem necessarily to be direct descendants of the Southern Illinois mound builders.

Current archaeological study suggests two possible cultural descendants of the mound builders – those in the Siouan language family or those in the Muskogean language family. The Muskogean peoples, Welch said, tended to create settlements around a central square that included a single site for public religious observation. Siouan people, however, tended to have multiple locations for religious ceremonies.

As the site at Kincaid is slowly pieced together, and as archaeological study continues to shed light on what the settlement may have looked like, it may become clearer whether the site tends more toward the Muskogean or the Siouan model. That, in turn, may help archaeologists determine what happened to the mound builders during the widespread abandonment of the river valleys.

Past SIUC field schools confirmed the existence of a wooden palisade surrounding much of the site, discovered a mound outside the palisade area and uncovered burned houses with evidence of thatched roofs that have helped establish the inhabited dates of the site.

"A lot of what people do doesn't leave evidence in the ground," Welch said. "Parts of the human past are exceedingly difficult for the archaeologist to get at. We do our best to leave an archaeological record for the next generation of scholars so that, even if we don't know what we are looking at, we've left a record that is clear."

Volunteers Spruce Up Cambria

This week's Courier has a nice article by Wayne Utterback on efforts to spruce up Cambria as part of the 3rd Annual "Beautify Cambria" event that took place last Wednesday.
Jennifer Sherry, who has been planting flowers in Cambria for more than five years, said the event was something that she saw as necessary.

"It was something that I really felt was needed and important for the village," Sherry said. "I always liked plants and I think it's neat to share the green thumb with the community.

Besides Sherry a number of volunteers helped to plant the flowers in the area of the village hall, post office and bank.

A $250 grant from the village government along with private donations helped pay for the flowers.

A second part of the beautifying effort will take place tomorrow morning. The village's annual Roadside Trash Pick Up starts at 8 a.m. June 9.

Way to go Cambria.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Air Service to St. Louis Remains Grounded

It will be mid summer before air service resumes between the Williamson County Regional Airport and Lambert Field in St. Louis.

After the FAA grounded Regions Air's flights this spring, including the American Connection flights out of Southern Illinois, airport officials selected Great Lakes Airlines as the new carrier.

At one point they hoped to use Regions Air's planes and pilots, but that has fallen through according to airport manager Doug Kimmel.

"Mid July to August," was what he said this morning, and that might still be optimistic.

The next major step will be when Great Lakes is ready to announce a start date and get it into the reservation systems for when flights resume.

Meanwhile, flights continue daily to Chicago's Midway Airport on Mesa Airlines.