More than 2,300 individuals participated in this year’s BEST OF survey, significantly more than in any prior year. We hope some of that interest came from a desire to answer the few curve-ball questions we added in the “off the grid” category. We were hoping to dig a little deeper into the psyche of the populace, that is beyond the burning question of where to find the best pizza or martini. Thanks to those hundreds of voters who took the time to reply.
What’s the best thing to happen to Springfield this year?
Our readers say that distinction goes to the MacArthur Boulevard interchange coupled with the MacArthur redevelopment project. Extending this central city corridor to I-72 had been in the planning stages for a decade but the development study wouldn’t have happened without the leadership of county board member Jen Dilman and MacArthur Boulevard Business Association chairman Cory Jobe. Dare we hope to have an actual project underway by the time we do our next BEST OF survey? Other bests: The completion of Southwind Park, indeed a remarkable accomplishment that will only get better with time. And while it was less pride-inducing, the impeachment of Rod “bleeping golden” Blagojevich ranked number 3 on the list of “bests.” That’s a pretty sad commentary, eh?
The best-kept secret
When we dreamed up this question we thought it might inspire deep thought and/or produce a few meaningful news tips. We were wrong. Readers did the nominating and once the first few decided the “secret” they wanted to tell about was an under-discovered local business others followed suit. So we’re here to tell you that, according to BOS voters, the #1 best-kept secret in Springfield is the Apple Barn Orchard – which is actually in Chatham. Locally owned and operated year round, the Apple Barn offers orchard tours during the season and sells fresh fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies, homemade fudge, baked goods and other delectable treats. Spring and early summer they sell a variety of annual and perennial plants; during the holidays the nursery sells fresh-cut Christmas trees. Other “secrets” our readers think you should know about include Caitie Girl’s, downtown’s eclectic eatery housed on the first floor of the St. Nicholas apartments, the Old Lux, which is not a secret to anyone who’s lived in town for generations but might in fact be totally unknown to newcomers. Try the French-fried lobster. And The Mekong Café – quietly located just south of South Grand and Second. Readers seem to think they know something you don’t.
How about the best use of taxpayer funds?
It was a repeat performance for MacArthur Boulevard and Southwind Park on the list of worthy publicly funded projects, but IT readers are also very happy about the investments made to preserve the Interurban Bike Trail and are equally encouraged by the planning that may expand and connect the city’s bike trails. Also-rans on the praise side included filling potholes and funding the living history program. But in the interest of full disclosure, the highest number of voters actually suggested in one way or another that there has been little or no “good” use of taxpayer funds.
The most underreported news story?
OK, so maybe it was our news nerdiness that caused us to ask this question. Hundreds of voters weighed in with dozens of topics on their list of news stories they’d like to read. The top vote getters: Racism, bed bugs, the rash of break-ins, robberies and murders in Springfield, the “crooked” city government and unemployment compensation fraud. Hmmm….we’ll see what we can do.