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Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 12:01 am

Best of Springfield - Part II

Arts, Entertainment, Business and People Categories


PHOTO BY DAVID HINE

 

BEST GAY/LESBIAN BAR, BEST DANCE CLUB
Club Station House

306 East Washington St., 525-0438
If you’re looking to cut a rug, Club Station House is the place to be. (In most circles, people just call it “Station House” for short.) Clean, welcoming, and with a well-stocked bar, Club Station House offers hip, four-on-the-floor dance beats on the weekends, though on the typical week night, it’s less of a dance club and more of a laid-back lounge. The bar hosts regular drag shows, which are genuinely entertaining even for the straight crowd, along with a combination bingo and karaoke night on Wednesdays. The fact that it’s a gay bar shouldn’t deter straight folks from plunking down at the bar and ordering a stiff drink; the place is all about acceptance, whether you’re gay, straight or an alien from another planet.
Runner-up gay/lesbian bar: Scandals
Runner-up dance club: Catch-22


BEST PLACE FOR VIDEO GAMING
Butternut Hut

215 N. Second St., 789-7777
This video gaming thing really took off once the state of Illinois finally rolled out the new system of regulations. Butternut Hut was one of the first places in town to get the new machines, and they’ve become quite a destination for gaming. Although all machines have the same chances of winning – per state regulations – the Butternut Hut seems to have made it more fun, even when you lose. It doesn’t hurt that they sometimes offer free chili when sports are on the tube.
Runner-up: Guitars N Cadillacs Saloon

BEST PLACE TO SHOP FOR MUSIC GEAR
Rock Shop

1808 W. Jefferson St., 546-8980
Over the course of 30 years, the Rock Shop (their motto: “Just because you suck doesn’t mean your gear has to”) has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the largest music shops in central Illinois and one of the area’s premier purveyors of top brand, high-quality musical instruments – as well as lessons to help customers master the intricacies. According to their website, “We give all of our guitars a little love. Every one of them has been removed from packing, inspected, set up, played and kept in a stable humidity-monitored environment.” What more could an aspiring instrument owner ask for?
Runner-up: Daddy O’s Music Shack

BEST FEMALE LOCAL SINGER-SONGWRITER
Elizabeth Eckert

With a voice that shakes the stars and soothes the soul, Springfield native Elizabeth Eckert is our favorite singer-songwriter of the female persuasion. Perhaps most famously known and acclaimed locally as an American Idol, Hollywood- round finalist from season seven, she released her first full-length album, Retrospect, in 2011. Her music career kicked in by age 5 and as a child singer she appeared as a finalist on Ed McMahan’s “Next Big Star” (remember that show?). Since then she’s performed in several local theater productions and at various political events and social functions, plus had a good stint on the popular KISS-FM morning radio program with host Bondsy. Now working in a duo with Micah Walk (our Best Male Local Singer-Songwriter) called Deep Hollow and as the female member of local supergroup the Shenanigans, Eckert continues to perform, write, entertain and do what she loves to do the most, sing for a listening audience. Other top vote-getters in this category include Josie Lowder, Gracia Harrison, Hurricane Ruth and Jessica Knight.
Runner-up: Brooke Thomas

BEST AMERICANA/FOLK BAND
The Blue Gs

Along with the huge national scene of groups creating and performing music based in folk, blues and country, our fair city has its share of the wide-ranging genre termed “Americana.” There are more acoustic instruments in electric bands than ever before and Springfield is no exception. The Micah Walk Band scored highest in this category even though the band hasn’t performed together in a couple of years. Our perceptive and bright readers knew The Blue Gs now have Mr. Walk as a full-fledged member and the acoustic sextet emerged as our clear-cut best. Members Walk, Shane Bumgarner (banjo, vocals), Gary Fifer (mandolin), Jeff Cunningham (bass), Jonathan Field (guitar, fiddle, vocals) and here and there member Josh Parr (fiddle, vocals) play an intrepid mix of bluegrass-flavored tunes from Led Zeppelin to John Hartford, with enough cool originals to warrant one full-length CD and have another in the works. Folk on!
Runner-up: Tom Irwin’s Hayburners

BEST MALE LOCAL SINGER-SONGWRITER
Micah Walk

Since bursting onto the Springfield scene several years ago direct from his hometown of Girard, Micah Walk continually presents the public with a good, honest voice, finely picked guitar playing and well-crafted, provocative original songs. From his early performances and recordings as a solo artist and with the Micah Walk Band, to his current position as a frequent open mic host, duo partner with Elizabeth Eckert, vocalist/guitarist in the Blue Gs and a member of the popular cover band the Shenanigans, Walk keeps in the thick of the local live music scene. His easygoing ways and comfortable demeanor seem to draw in listeners who are aptly rewarded by the consistent excellence Micah brings to his craft of performance and songwriting. With help from a successful Kickstarter project, he recently recorded a solo album with a nationally renowned producer. The album is set for an early 2014 release. Among those deserving honorable mention as high vote-getters are Albert Capati, Hipbone Sam, Josh Catalano and Brandon Carnes.
Runner-up: Dave Littrell

BEST CLUB DJ
DJ  EVO, Sean Layton

DJs, once the kings of radio, hence the name disc jockey, now generally do not even use discs and run music from a downloaded computer playlist without even coming close to a radio. Regardless of what’s in a name, Club DJs are a popular bunch and make or break a dance night at the local hangout, while building personal relationships with pleased listeners. DJ Evo ran away with this category so we assume his song selection is superb, the beats are beautiful and timing is everything. He’s been at Marly’s Pub for a regular night, Two Brothers and the Station House as well, plus recently pumped the bass at Harry’s Adult Daycare and makes his way around the town. The third-place bunch came within 10 votes of each other and include Brad Schroeder, Yatti DNY, Mike Greer and Big Irish.
Runner-up: DJ Mikee, The Curve Inn

 

BEST LOCAL CD OF THE YEAR

Josh Catalano & the Dirty Thoughts

With the early May release of Give Away the Night, Josh Catalano and crew produced a record that resonated to our readers as the best CD of 2013. A couple of years in the making, the full-length album contains a blast of band-performed, studio-enhanced, listener-friendly tunes that rock and roll, simmer and boil, entice and capture in a shimmer of contemporary American pop-rock that sits next to any national releases on the shelf or the radio. Catalano, a founder and member of other popular local bands, such as the Damwell Betters and Lazer Dudes, found the right combination of live playing and studio recording to make this collection of songs a keeper. Brushville received enough votes for its yet-to-be-recorded album to come in a close second, with the Blue Gs, Hipbone Sam, Brooke Thomas, Ben Bedford and Our Lady also scoring well in this new and much welcomed category for original music providers on the local music scene.
Runner-up: Brushville

BEST PLACE FOR KARAOKE
Sluggo’s

Located in the friendly confines of AMF’s Strike ’n’ Spare on the near west side, Sluggo’s is still the place for singers to go a-karaoke-ing. What does it take to make a place karaoke friendly? Good gear, large song selection, friendly atmosphere and most importantly an eager and helpful host to keep the action moving and the line going without upsetting anyone or stepping on karaoke toes. For many folks singing to the machine is as good as it gets, so how wonderful is it to have a place offering the best spot to come to year after year, as Sluggo’s has won this category on a regular basis for the last several years. Springfield hosts several karaoke venues and here are some of the top vote-getters in third place and below: Guitars N Cadillacs, Club Station House, Tin Can Pub, Burger Bar, Koo-Koo’s Nest and Scandals.
Runner-up: The Blue Grouch

BEST BLUES BAND/ARTIST
Hipbone Sam

Once again Hipbone Sam (aka Kevin Hawkins) easily took this category, making him nearly ready for the BOS Hall of Fame (there really isn’t one yet) and surely declaring him our most popular blues performer. Always on the go and at the gig, Hipbone, covering lead vocals and rhythm guitar, could very well be the hardest working guy in Springfield show business. Band members Rick Mari (lead guitar, vocals), Hawkeye Kane (harmonica, vocals), Rob Ross (drums, vocals) and Mark Riefler (bass) are a big part of the band’s success, and the Bone would be the first one to tell you that. This year finds Hipbone Sam sponsored by Coors Light and his new CD, The Best of Hipbone Sam, is available on AMI & TouchTunes Digital Jukeboxes in the U.S., Canada and U.S. military installations worldwide. Go, Sam, go. Other blues bands receiving plenty of votes include Brooke Thomas and the Blues Suns, Hurricane Ruth, Mary Jo Curry and Tombstone Bullet and Back Pack Jones.
Runner-up: Black Magic Johnson

BEST JAZZ GROUP/ARTIST
Debbie Ross Band

Don’t ask us why ’cause we don’t know either and even Debbie Ross herself wonders why it is she wins in the Best Jazz Group/Artist category again and again. Jane Hartman, perennial favorite from years past, came in second and definitely is jazzier than Debbie, but all we can say is, the people have spoken, and the people really like to see Debbie Ross get credit for her incredible stage presence and powerfully delightful singing. Her extremely capable band can play jazz if necessary, but really cover more of a pop and R & B mode, often with band members singing a song or two and making the group one of the most dynamic in the area. Other artists closely grouped for third place include Frank Parker, Frank Trompeter and Dreaming in Colours with other considerable vote-getters including End Times Trio, Kapital Sound, Lowder & Manning, Black Magic Johnson, Becca Young, A.J. Good, Sam Crain and Lady and a Sax.
Runner-up: Jane Hartman Trio

BEST NEW LOCAL BAND
Brushville

Again topping the tallies in yet another category, this band has actually been around for awhile, but they do have a new name so readers seemed to think they qualified as a new local band. Up until this summer they were called Brushfire, but after being contacted by another band using that name, they became Brushville and therefore, apparently, a new band. Hot on the chase of a Nashville recording contract and career, the boys are doing their best to get seen and heard as best new band on the national scene. Most of the other top vote-getters in this category were not new either, (NIL8 received three dozen votes), but down in the middle of the mix we found several, such as New City Road, Looming, Hey Brother, the Old Fashioneds, Midnight Dreary, Sunshine Daydream and Pop Quiz Hotshot that are really new and deserved a mention.
Runner-up: Leaving Ashland (together for about four years)

BEST COUNTRY BAND
Brushville

Readers were slightly confused since the winning band changed names from Brushfire to Brushville (there was already a Brushfire out there) just this past August, but the votes for -fire and -ville combined edged out the reigning champs, Still Kick’n, who actually just disbanded in August. Brushville members Brett Gillan, Kirk Ellis, Dustin Reynolds, Marc Broomby and Darin Holthaus are a busy group and just wrapped up a successful and ambitious $25,000 Kickstarter project, recorded a new single “Bar Star” (now available on iTunes), play regularly all over the Midwest and soon begin recording a full-length album with a Nashville producer. We could say the “best” is yet to come for this up-and-coming, outgoing, forward-moving band. Third place was a neck and neck with our other popular local country groups New City Road, The Stone and Biscuit Band, Leaving Ashland, Next of Kin and Tennessee Borderline.
Runner-up: Still Kick’n

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC BAND
Brushville

Beating out Hipbone Sam by one vote, this popular country group based in Bloomington is not known for original music, but perhaps our readers heard about the band’s recent Kickstarter project to record in Nashville and just figured they’d be writing songs soon. They’ve been looking at songs from professional songwriters, attempting to make that transition from cover to original band. Hipbone deserves a mention at coming so close to a tie and is also known for doing a good bunch of covers in a night. His originals have been distributed on digital jukeboxes worldwide under the recent release The Best of Hipbone Sam. Both groups deserve credit for making the bold move from easy pleasing covers to original songs and still hanging on to a crowd. Josh Catalano & the Dirty Thoughts and NIL8, bands doing entirely original music from their inception, came in a near tie for third.
Runner-up: Hipbone Sam

BEST METAL BAND/ARTIST
Novocaine

With this category voters took a lot of leeway, voting for several bands not quite in the “metal music” genre, but the closest with the most-est votes was Novocaine. The band’s self-description includes the styles of modern rock, grunge, post-grunge and pop doing covers from the ’90s and 2000s, while members Albert Capati (lead vocals), William Richards (lead guitar, vocals), Ed Tinsley (bass, vocals), Jerry Osborne (drums, vocals) and Tony Harris (guitar, vocals) claim Springfield and Mt. Auburn as hometowns. Together since 2012, this year the band played at the Illinois State Fair Miller Tent and regularly perform at all the local clubs, rocking the house and grunge-ing the grounds. Other bands getting considerable votes were the defunct Scott Blacula, Grim, Broken Stone and Midnight Dreary.
Runner-up: NIL8

SOUND TECHNICIAN
Ric “Skippy” Major

Mr. Major scored over a hundred votes beyond his nearest rival with many folks simply writing in “Skippy.” A longtime expert in his field, Ric began his career in the 1970s running sound at school and moved to beginning bands, then worked his way to regional touring levels. Later he settled into house sound residencies at local nightclubs, while still always working with the top local bands when needed. He’s run the Miller Tent at the Illinois State Fair for years, does band lineups and sound for the popular Music in the Parks and started a recording studio some years ago. He calls his business Middle Option Music and believes making a living doing what you want is that option in the middle, available to those who work hard, dream well and love what they do. Sounds good to us.
Runner-up: Nick Williams

LIVE MUSIC VENUE (SMALL: BAR/CLUB)
Boondocks

Carole Grigiski took the old Rockin’ Robin’s and transformed it into the largest live music venue in central Illinois in just over a year in business. Mostly sticking to current country performers, she’s also added in some surefire rock shows, popular local bands and even acoustic showcases featuring area up-and-comers or established Nashville songwriters. Without any experience in the music industry, Carole used her business savvy from other successful endeavors, applied it to the bar scene and came up with a winning combination using bright ideas and an awesome staff. Runner-up Donnie’s Homespun opened around the same time as Boondocks and also contributes greatly to the entertainment scene in Springfield, making these two clubs extremely relevant in revitalizing the local live music scene and difficult to believe they’ve been around just a year. Honorable mention goes to Black Sheep Cafe, the Curve Inn and Bar None.
Runner-up: Donnie’s Homespun

BEST PUNK BAND/ARTIST
BEST HARDCORE BAND/ARTIST

NIL8

Was there any question that those Williams boys, Jeff (guitar vocals) and Bruce (bass), would, could and should take these categories? As one of the first skateboard punk bands in Springfield during the early ’80s, the brothers Williams, always the constant in the band, had an assorted array of drummers and guitarists through the ensuing years, including current cohorts Wes Selinger and Damon Soper. Garnering more than three times the votes of their closest competitor in punk and twice as much in hardcore and registering a close second in metal and hip-hop, NIL8 continues to be one of the best draws in town, playing about five shows a year, including the long-running and now legendary Hobgoblinspookadelic Halloween show. Bruce attributes the band’s incredible longevity to doing all-ages shows that connect the group to anyone out there. Someday your grandchildren can go see an NIL8 show or maybe they already have! Bunched in third place for punk were Our Lady, Obi-Wan Kanblo Mi, X-Crush, Lovecow and Epsom, and for hardcore Powerhouse, Grim, Mother Leopard, Broken Stone and the Timmys.
Runners-up punk band/artist: The Timmys
Runners-up hardcore band/artist: Novocaine


BEST ROCK/POP BAND
BEST LOCAL COVER BAND

Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters

It was no contest as this Jacksonville-based group handily collected the most votes to rule in both these categories. Named after a band in the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do! about The Wonders, a fictional band that was supposed to be real, (watch the film and you’ll get it) band leader and founder J Bird, with current members Buster, Joker, Marc, Mel and Peter, bring a fun and fantastic feeling to the stage and happily refer to themselves as a “band of misfits.” Now sponsored by Coors Light and endowed with an official bus to cart the band around, CG & the SSS cover everything from classics to the latest and do it in style, locally covering the rock/pop scene in covers galore.
Runner-up rock/pop band: Big Daddy Jasper
Runner-up local cover band: The Shenanigans


BEST OPEN MIC
Bar None

What makes a good open mic is the camaraderie between the fellow performers, combined with an appreciative audience to support the musicians working on their craft while entertaining, with a good host making it all work. In a hotly waged contest, Bar None, on the corner of Fifth and Monroe, wins this most prized of categories. With only eight tallies separating the top three vote-getters it was close, but the house PA system and the variable hosts concept took Bar None’s Wide Open Mic to the winner’s circle. Held every Wednesday night, you are encouraged to bring your “guitar, poems, jokes, magic tricks or whatever” and join in the fun, and fun it is at Bar None. Other top vote-getters include Donnie’s Homespun with Josie Lowder, Floyd’s Thirst Parlor with Micah Walk and The Blue Grouch with Sam and Kortney.
Runner-up: The Curve Inn

BEST HIP-HOP BAND/ARTIST
Gypsy Collabo

Actually “none” won this category, which may speak volumes about our readers’ knowledge of the local world of hip-hop, but Gypsy Collabo got the most votes for a real group. Formed in 2002 when local rockers Tipsy Gypsys collided with area hip-hop collective Collabo to create the genre-busting, Gypsy Collabo, the group relocated to St. Louis for awhile, but now the boys are back on the Springfield scene. Intermingling styles of an old-school band with contemporary, creative sound techniques, members Katie Moore, Derek Anderson, Josh Shaw, Jon Mcgrath and Matt Sherer reach to create something new out of a combination of all that’s come before. Our readers must like the result as the group makes it a three-peat in 2013. Other artists receiving a bunch of votes include, Pytch Wyte, Loud Mouth, Mohrer Les, Torch, Jim Smiley and Anybody but Gypsy Collabo.
Runner-up: NIL8

BEST LOCAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Old Capitol Blues & BBQs

With a change in booking agents and tactics in 2013, the OCB&B forged ahead with more local acts, along with stellar headliners and remains the most popular festival in town by far, receiving over 300 more votes than the nearest competitor. Maybe it’s the cooking food with the aroma of smoking meat pervading the downtown streets or the cool blues music Springfieldians are so fond of, blasting all day and night, but whatever the combination, our readers consistently vote this one as the best music festival around. Organized by Downtown Springfield, Inc., the friendly fest brings together sponsors and musicians with the BBQ contest and hungry participants to create a delectable dish blues and BBQs that satisfies the capital city’s craving for music and food.
Runner-up: SOHO

BEST UNDER-21 BAND
Our Lady

No doubt about it, the under-21, all-ages scene is at a high in Springfield and readers voted Our Lady easily into the winning chair for best band of this exciting part of our music scene. They put themselves into the emo/hardcore (an indie-rock sub-genre) category of music and describe the band as a “touring band of sad puppy dogs from Springfield, Ill.” With Molli on cello, Tim on vocals and guitar, Kyle on drums and Matt on the bass, this forlorn foursome makes some absolutely distinctive music and takes it on the road as a full-time, full on, fully believing in musical adventure, traveling band. They are heading out for a West Coast tour in November and just returned from a trip through the Midwest this summer. Other favs in the under-21 crowd include Lovecow, Zack Fedor, RDNT, and Pet Cock.
Runner-up: The Timmys

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE (BIG: THEATER/AUDITORIUM)
Sangamon Auditorium

Located on the campus of the University of Illinois Springfield in the Public Affairs Center (PAC) building, the Sangamon Auditorium opened on Feb. 21, 1981. Since that first showing of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight, the venue continues to be a central Illinois treasure for live entertainment. Our readers handily voted the 2,018-seat theater space as the best live music big venue, noting the range of acts through various styles and genres. Known for national touring music acts and theater productions, the space is also home to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and the Springfield Ballet Company. Supporting around 120 shows annually including high school graduations, kids shows, comedy performances and whatever takes the stage to make the theater work, director Bob Vaughn and staff keeps the shows coming that entertain central Illinois.  Other venues receiving hefty vote counts were The Muni, Illinois State Fair and PCCC.
Runner-up: Hoogland Center for the Arts

BEST ALL-AGES VENUE
Black Sheep Cafe

There was a little confusion in this category, with a strange mix of other places getting votes not generally considered “all-ages,” which really means “under-21.” But the only joint that allows all ages, all the time and features music geared toward those ages, is the Black Sheep Cafe. Besides the fact the guys running this place (it is not a cafe and does’t serve food) do all the work with no care for profit, it’s great to have a venue that doesn’t feature booze first and music second. Along with the day-to-day workings of the seven-year-old venue, the influence upon the local scene is immeasurable, as having a place to play regularly and to see other bands of your ilk allows an increase in our local band population and creativity. So thank the BSC for that, too, while we award them for having a terrific all-ages venue.
Runner-up: Donnie’s Homespun

PHOTO BY DONNA LOUNSBERRY

 

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE - FEMALE

Anna Bussing - Peter Pan

The delightful story of Peter Pan coming to terms with growing up is a part of our Western consciousness ingrained through literature, theater and film. It’s often tough for a local actor to take on a role so well pictured in our minds already, but voters declared Anna Bussing, as the airborne Peter Pan, pulled off the caper well enough to win the best female theater performance of the year by well over 100 votes. Directed by the terrific team of Ann and Gil Opferman, Peter Pan soared in Muni popularity as Anna’s portrayal floated into imaginations. And, well admit it, the flying parts were just too fun to not be incredibly exciting. How do they do that? The stage does not reveal its secrets, but we think Anna flew straight to the top on this one.
Runner-up: Mary Kate Smith - Les Miserables

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE - MALE
Cory Blissett - RENT

In a courageous and defining performance, obviously well-respected and received by the Muni’s audience, Cory Blissett’s portrayal of drag queen/drummer Angel resonated with readers as the best male theater performance of 2013. As a fan and participant of local theater, Cory is more than an actor and perhaps this is what readers saw in his performance. With the use of explicit adult themes and language, RENT is much more frank and open than any previous Muni productions. The play itself was provocative, but Blissett’s part of Angel certainly took some doing and we give him a standing ovation and a commemorative plaque documenting our readers’ response to his fine work. Other top vote-getters include Albert Capati (RENT), Patrick Russel (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Ryan MItchelle (M*A*S*H*).
Runner-up: Joshua Ratz - Les Miserables

BEST WEDDING ENTERTAINMENT
The Shenanigans, www.shenanigansentertainment.com/

The Shenanigans specialize in music from “classic rock and Motown to new pop and dance” and it should be no surprise that such a crowd-pleasing musical array won this category handily. According to its website, the six-piece band covers “many of the classic songs that have touched and inspired generations over the past 50 years,” making them an ideal choice for any non-septuagenarian nuptials.
Runner-up: Brad Schroeder DJ Service

BEST SPORTS COMPLEX
Sacred Heart-Griffin Multi-Sport Complex

With three state football championships since 2005, the Cyclones have long looked great on the field, but it was always someone else’s field until SHG opened a state-of-the-art sports complex last year that features seating for 4,000 fans, a fancy electronic scoreboard and a synthetic turf field. The complex has a similarly modern baseball diamond, and both fans and the community owe a big thanks to Todd Green, the local car dealer who agreed to finance the whole shebang and pay all costs above $2.8 million.
Runner-up: Spartan Sports Park

BEST PLACE TO BUY A CAR
Green Hyundai

1200 S. Dirksen Pkwy, 525-1370
A huge selection of new and used cars along with an outstanding reputation for customer and automotive service put Green Hyundai over the top in this category, leaving the competition in the dust. One reader commented that “they focus on your needs, both car-wise and financially.” What more could you ask?
Runner-up: Isringhausen

BEST SOUVENIR/TOURIST STORE
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Gift Shop

212 N Sixth St., 782-5764
If there is a better one-stop shop for Abraham Lincoln-themed tchotchkes…well there just isn’t. From the expected Abe books, Abe DVDs and Abe t-shirts to more esoteric historic items (framed brick from the house Lincoln slept in the night before delivering the Gettysburg Address, anyone?), it’s hard to picture a Lincoln-related itch that this place won’t be able scratch.
Runner-up: Penny Lane Gifts

BEST WEDDING CAKES
Incredibly Delicious

925 S. Seventh St., 528-8548
The motto of this 18-year-old family-run bakery and restaurant is “the name says it all,” and really, what more is there to say? “We’re just really honored to make good food for people,” says owner Patrick Groth. “We are just dedicated to providing the best product available.” Voter comments singled out cake designer Melanie Dineen to praise her “delicious and gorgeous” creations.
Runner-up: Specialty Cakes

BEST PET BOARDING
Dal Acres West

2508 W. Jefferson, 793-3647
“Fantastic place to leave your fur babies!” So enthused one of the commenters who swept Dal Acres West to a win in this close contest. This 30-year veteran of pet care has the trust and affection of both the animals and the owners who adore them. According to their website, “working with and caring for your pets and giving them personal attention is a way of life for us.” Springfield pet owners are right to demand nothing less for their fur babies.
Runner-up: Kinner Kennels

BEST LIVE THEATER PRODUCTION
Les Miserables - Muni

The talent pool in central Illinois seems to be growing as our theater productions become more adventurous, all to the benefit of our artistic sensibilities and creative experiences. When the Muni folks tackled Les Miserables, who knew it would be our 2013 best live theater production and produce several nominations for best male and female performances? Our readers resoundingly voted so and in doing that, gave a clean sweep of theater categories for the Muni productions. Stephan Kaplan’s stage direction and Damien Kaplan’s vocal directions set the stage for the stunning performance of perhaps one of the finest, at least most memorable, musicals of our time. Congratulations, Muni. Now how are you going to top this for next year? Other shows receiving considerable votes include Peter Pan (Muni), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Legacy Theatre) and Guys and Dolls (SHG musical).
Runner-up: RENT

BEST CATERER
Nelson’s Catering

3005 Great Northern Rd., 787-9443
The patented “Port-a-Pit” cooker may well have given Nelson’s a slight edge in this very fierce competition. Invented by company namesake Nelson Gongwer in 1967, the Port-a-Pit creates freshly barbecued and basted cuisine on site to the delight and watering mouths of hungry event attendees throughout the central Illinois region.
Runners-up: Hamilton’s and 5 Flavors

BEST SHOPPING FOR
HOME DÉCOR
Hobby Lobby

3325 S. Veterans Pkwy., 726-9782
This Oklahoma City-based chain is known for its knickknacks and craft supplies, allowing customers to purchase ready-made items to beautify their homes or provide materials to create their own unique décor. Hobby Lobby also offers general art instruction as well as a stained glass class for beginners.
Runner-up: Gordman’s

BEST PLACE TO SPEND A RAINY DAY
A movie theater

Forget napping on the couch (fifth runner-up), a trip to the Illinois State Museum (fourth runner-up), an excursion to Scheels (third runner-up) or a stroll through White Oaks Mall (second runner-up). The best place to spend a rainy day, readers say, is a movie theater. There are three to choose from (the AMC Showplace Springfield 8 on South Dirksen Parkway, the AMC Parkway 8 on Lindbergh Boulevard and the AMC Showplace Springfield 12 on Mercantile Drive). Don’t forget the popcorn-and-Milk-Duds – eaten together, they’ll form the best instant caramel corn you’ve ever tasted.
Runner-up: Barnes and Noble

BEST WINERY
Hill Prairie Winery

23753 Lounsberry Rd., Oakford, 635-9900
The lush scenery of the landscape surrounding Hill Prairie Winery is as much of a reason to visit as the opportunity to sample their award-winning wines and experience the live entertainment which has become another calling card. “We want to be a destination winery,” says co-owner Mark Lounsberry. “We’re about providing the experience of great wines grown locally and we want people to come out and enjoy the atmosphere that we’ve created here.”
Runner-up: Walnut Street Winery

BEST THRIFT STORE
Goodwill

Various locations, 789-0400
Land of Lincoln Goodwill is part of nonprofit network Goodwill International, which has 164 affiliates and somewhere near 25,000 retail outlets throughout the U.S. and Canada. The name Goodwill is synonymous with quality resale clothing and other household items and the three locations in Springfield are always abuzz with bargain seekers on the lookout for that once-in-a-lifetime deal.
Runner-up: Salvation Army

SHOPPING FOR WOMEN’S FASHION
Kohl’s

2901 S. Veterans Pkwy, 698-0540
For a huge selection of name-brand styles for the full range of possible body types, there is nowhere more reliable than Kohl’s. The corporate giant can be counted on not only to have what you are looking for on hand but also offers great coupons and regular sales.
Runners-up: Bella Boutique and Apricot Lane

BEST BANK
United Community Bank

301 N. Main St. Chatham, 483-2491
Various locations

The perennial local financial favorite known to its friends as UCB takes top honors in a close banking competition. Bank of Springfield was not far behind. The fact that UCB is locally owned and operated, rather than being run by a faceless multinational corporation, is a large part of its appeal. Glowing reader comments about the high level of customer service go to show that the value of a personal touch cannot be underestimated.
Runner-up: Bank of Springfield

BEST VENUE FOR A PARTY OR EVENT
Erin’s Pavilion

4965 S. Second St., 585-2941
Named after Erin Elzea, who passed away from an enzyme deficiency at age 17, this multiuse facility at Southwind Park is maintained by the Park District and was built with the needs of those with disabilities in mind. It also has the distinction of being Springfield’s first LEED-certified green building. It is picturesque and a heck of a place for a party, hosting many weddings, banquets and social galas since opening in 2010.
Runner-up: Firefighter’s Lake Club

BEST VETERINARY CLINIC
Laketown Animal Clinic

1115 Stevenson Drive, 529-4211
“They really love our pets like their very own,” trumpeted one voter and there’s no higher praise for a veterinary clinic. Drs. Blakemore, Kelly and Fisherkeller were all singled out by readers for their excellent care at a facility that has been locally owned and operated in the Springfield area since 1961.
Runner up: Coble Animal Hospital

BEST PLACE TO SPEND A SUNNY DAY
Washington Park

The botanical gardens. The carillon. Kids somersaulting down grassy slopes. The pond. Ducks. Playground laughter. Magnificent trees. Female joggers in spandex. Singing birds. Shirtless guys playing Frisbee. Is this really any contest?
Runner-up: Lake Springfield

PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE

 

BEST YOGA/PILATES STUDIO

Ahh Yoga

1051 W. Wabash Ave., 725-2373
Walk into Ahh Yoga, and you’ll immediately feel welcome, even if you’re a complete stranger there. The three friendly owners try to make everyone feel relaxed and right at home. Maybe that’s why voters chose Ahh Yoga as the best yoga/pilates studio. They have beginner classes, and they make it pretty clear that you don’t have to be in shape to start. For the more advanced crowd, there are all sorts of challenging classes and even a “hot yoga” session, in which they turn on the heat lamps and a humidifier, making the studio into an impromptu sauna. Either way, they’ll help you sweat it out at your own pace.
Runner-up: FitClub

BEST LOCAL PLACE FOR FAMILY FUN
Knight’s Action Park
1700 Knight’s Recreation Drive, 546-8881

Knight’s Action Park is central Illinois’ choice for family fun. As one parent remarks, “Our family has the most fun here.” It’s hard to beat the summertime sensation and thrill of water slides and wave pool that the Caribbean Water Adventure has to offer, including the Devil Ray and Royal Flush. There’s something for everyone at Knight’s. If your tastes run more toward relaxation than thrill, the lazy river and children’s pool are great water features to hang out at during the heat of the summer months. There are also pedal boats and bumper boats and the nearby Route 66 Twin Drive In Theater. The “action” part of the park is open from April through September. Attractions here include a 50-tee driving range, batting cages, go-carts, big wheel, paratrooper, kiddie rides, miniature golf course and an indoor arcade.
Runner-up: Southwind Park

BEST TUTOR/ADVANCE ACADEMICS PROGRAM
Sylvan Learning Center

2735 S. Sixth St., 855-377-9582
Sylvan Learning Center on South Sixth Street boasts a friendly staff of seven local tutor/instructors and two center directors all who have fine credentials in education and/or classroom experience. Several have been at the center for many years. Sylvan offers ACT/SAT prep classes, study skills and homework help, and math, reading and writing classes for elementary through high school age students. And they can customize a program to fit your child. If your student is falling behind at school or wants to get ahead, this is a great place for them to excel. Open seven days a week, Sylvan even offers events for parents, such as Forgotten Math Night. And as one parent wrote to the center, “I wanted to let you know how much we loved the parent math night. The teachers in (your center) taught me more in one evening than I feel I learned in a whole semester in high school! They are great teachers. Thanks a lot.”
Runner-up: Nelson Resource Center

BEST GARDEN CENTER
Farmers Market

2001 Wabash Ave., 787-1061
“We try to carry nursery quality plants for box store prices,” says Paul Edwards of Farmers Market, which has been operating locally since 1980. Edwards has found that variety is his company’s biggest asset, along with listening to customers’ needs. “I feel it’s important to carry niche items in order to build a following. For instance, everyone carries geraniums, but there are specialty geraniums that perform better and we try to keep those on hand. And we carry over 200 varieties of perennial plants.” For the last 12 years Farmers Market has conducted business year-round in the parking lot area next to the Goodwill at Chatham and Wabash. In addition to a strong following in town, Farmers Market is also frequently visited by plant enthusiasts from the surrounding area, and even Chicago. “They can find these products up there, but at twice the price!”
Runner-up: Apple Barn

BEST CHARITABLE EVENT
Fat Ass 5k

The Fat Ass charity run has exploded since the inaugural event in 2008, when fewer than 300 runners completed the five-kilometer course in times that ranged from 20 minutes, four seconds to more than 54 minutes. Both the pace and participation has increased substantially, with thousands of runners turning out each spring for the race and a big party downtown that features beer, donuts, ice cream and music. Best of all, scores of charities ranging from the Salvation Army to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum have received more than $525,000 from the event over the years.
Runner-up: Festival of Trees

BEST EYEWEAR
Vision Care Associates

121 North Grand Avenue West, 528-3233
2741 Prairie Crossing Drive, 800-272-7393

Most eye care shops are pretty similar, so it’s the little things that set a place like Vision Care Associates apart. The staff is friendly, the docs know their stuff, and the décor is a lot swankier than your typical sterile office. They have two locations on opposite ends of town, too.
Runner-up: Prairie Eye and LASIK Center

BEST PAWN SHOP
Pawn King

107 W. Cook St., 544-7322
“Good guys!” exclaimed one of the voters who put Pawn King over the top in this category. Part of a chain with locations throughout Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, Pawn King’s website trumpets that they will loan money “on almost anything of value.” Specializing in buying and selling gold jewelry, it is also a licensed firearms dealer.
Runner-up: Monster Pawn

BEST CREDIT UNION
Heartland Credit Union

Various locations, 726-8877
As the economy continues to struggle, credit unions have become an increasingly attractive alternative to banks when deciding where to store your money. One advantage is the fact that members are the owners at a credit union, something of a comfort in a culture of predatory lending practices. Heartland Credit Union started with 27 members in 1946 and now provides financial services for more than 25,000.
Runner-up: CEFCU

BEST REALTOR
Jami Winchester, The Real Estate Group

“There’s not a better feeling than helping my clients with one of their biggest financial investments,” says Jami Winchester, who began her real estate career in 1998. “Their support and referrals are the bedrock of my business.” Jami is also known for offering complimentary use of a moving truck to clients.
Runner-up: Kyle Killebrew, The Real Estate Group

BEST RADIO SHOW/DJ
Amie Meneghetti

Amie brought enough vivacious verve and wholesome enthusiasm to her morning show every day and sent out her charm into the world where listeners picked up on it and obviously liked it enough to handily vote her as favorite DJ. Unfortunately she was unexpectedly and unceremoniously let go in early September after four years at her popular “Meneghetti in the Morning” program on WQQL, COOL 101.9 FM. In testament to her incredible popularity, Ms. Meneghetti won best radio show/DJ without having a program. She derives her support from her hometown roots, her nicely humorous, sensitive, on-air persona and, more than anything, her volunteer work in the community, talking about events, emceeing shows and being part of what’s going on in a good way. Wherever you end up, Amie, you’ve surely got a bunch of listeners following and a Best of Springfield win to back you up.
Runner-up: Bondsy, Morning Grind KISS 99.7FM

BEST DOCTOR
Dr. Nicole Florence

Koke Mill Medical Center
3132 Old Jacksonville Road, 862-0800

Dr. Florence, an internist and pediatrician, won this category by a wide margin in our reader poll. “Best pediatrician in town,” declared one voter. “I am so lucky to have her!” gushed another. Fortunately, we don’t get sick very often, but if we do, we know who to call.
Runner-up: Dr. Daniel Lanzotti

BEST BIKE SHOP
Ace Bike Shop

2500 S. MacArthur Blvd., 523-0188
“We do our best to make our customers comfortable and at ease when purchasing their new bike,” says Pete Meeker of Ace Bike Shop, a family-owned business which has operated in Springfield since 1957. “We enjoy educating people on cycling, helping them to find the right bicycle to fit their needs.” Post-purchase, Ace also prides itself on providing excellent parts and service to its customers.
Runner-up: R&M Cyclery

BEST GYM OR FITNESS CENTER
FitClub

2811 W. Lawrence Ave., 787-1111
2701 E. Sangamon Ave., 788-8250
3631 S. Sixth Street Road, 787-8348

FitClub has it all: plenty of equipment, skilled personal trainers, nutrition help, group classes and three locations – two of which have swimming pools. Voters praised FitClub’s personal trainers and spiffy facilities. They even have a system of group accountability, so participants know if they sneak an extra snack that isn’t in their nutrition plan, they’ll have to answer for it to the rest of the class. Work hard enough, and you might make it on the “Success Stories” section of their website.
Runner-up: YMCA

BEST PLACE TO SHOP FOR ANTIQUES
Lisa’s Antique Malls

4266 Frazee Rd, Divernon, 628-1111
For more than two decades, these two structures, a half mile apart in Divernon, housing a mere 175 dealers between them, have been something like a nirvana for inveterate area antique hounds. Lisa’s website says that this is the place for “furniture, silver, glass, pottery, jewelry, linens, quilts, coins, dolls, toys, & MUCH MORE.” It’s that all-caps “MUCH MORE” that really has us intrigued. What could it be??
Runner-up: Abe’s Old Hat

PHOTO BY DAVID HINE

 

BEST SEAFOOD MARKET

Robert’s Seafood Market

1615 W. Jefferson, 546-3089
Another longtime, family-owned favorite, Robert’s has been providing sustenance for Springfield area seafood enthusiasts since 1916, plenty of time to shore up the support for an overwhelming win here. Providing a large and high-quality selection of aquatic delights, Robert’s is also scrupulous about making sure that their fish comes from vendors who are all ethical and environmentally responsible.
Runner-up: Carter’s


BEST BOWLING ALLEY
AMF Strike and Spare Lanes

2660 W. Lawrence Ave., 787-6111
When Springfielders want to knock down a few pins, while perhaps knocking back a few brews, the choice du jour is clearly Strike and Spare West. Featuring 36 lanes and a high-tech scoring system, S&SW is a popular destination for league competitions as well as birthday celebrations, or if you’re just in the mood to pick up the odd spare. Come out on Saturday nights to experience Extreme Bowling, where “the lights come down and the music cranks up,” according to general manager Matt Gallina, who also points out that the long-running Strike and Spare Saturday night karaoke combines with Extreme Bowling to make for a great “two for one” evening out.
Runner-up: King Pin Lanes

BEST AUTO REPAIR
Brahler

Various locations, main office 525-7233
Car repair, when it’s done right, is a no-nonsense business and voter comments such as “Super quick!” and “Good prices” speak volumes. A 40-plus-year veteran on the local market, Brahler stays on top due to a practical, family-friendly approach to doing business that places the customer’s experience and well-being ahead of the profit margin. The fact that it has been certified Female Friendly by askpatty.com, along with a steadfast non-bonus policy to keep employees from being tempted to pressure customers into needless parts and procedures, all help to make Brahler a solid citizen of the local marketplace.
Runner-up: Floyd Imports

BEST OUTDOOR FESTIVAL
Illinois State Fair

This one was surprisingly close in our reader poll. Not only can you catch a concert, pet a cow, ride a Ferris wheel, eat a corn dog, see a bazillion state troopers, buy a t-shirt, win a stuffed animal, watch horses race and devour your-favorite-food-on-a-stick, you can also drink beer. Only Blues and BBQs comes close.
Runner-up: Old Capitol Blues & BBQs

BEST NAIL SALON
BJ Grand Salon and Spa

3055 Professional Drive, 753-8880
3300 Robbins Road, 787-7770

Are you man enough for a pedicure? Yep, BJ Grand Salon does men’s nails. You can get a manicure (no pun intended), and they have a “sports pedicure” that includes toenail clipping, nail and cuticle conditioning, and callous treatment, as well as a foot massage. Of course, they also do women’s nails – both hands and feet.
Runner-up: Pink and White Nails and Spa


BEST HAIR SALON
BJ Grand Salon and Spa

3055 Professional Drive, 753-8880
3300 Robbins Road, 787-7770

Getting all dolled up for that special event? BJ Grand Salon can do it all. They have so many options it’s almost dizzying. Not only do they cut and style hair, but they’ll “treat” it to take care of problems like dry scalp or damaged hair. Guys: they’ll even trim your beard.
Runner-up: Appearances Salon and Retreat

BEST MASSAGE
BJ Grand Salon and Spa

3055 Professional Drive, 753-8880
3300 Robbins Road, 787-7770

Hot stones, honey and mud are just a few of the things BJ Grand Salon will use for your massage. Voters couldn’t say enough about their massage therapists, using phrases like “healing hands” to describe them. And like everything else BJ Grand Salon does, they offer numerous options for every situation. They even offer a massage for pregnant women.
Runner-up: Soak

BEST CHILDREN’S DANCE SCHOOL
Dance Creations Dance Studio

100 Iles Park Place, 529-8888
This year’s winner in the category Best Children’s Dance School is Dance Creations Dance Studio. Not only is the school a winner but it comes as no surprise that its owner and lead instructor, Janet Cripes, is considered a master at what she does and is beloved by all. Adjectives used more than once to describe the school and Cripes were “excellent” and “amazing.” A lasting institution for dance instruction in Springfield, the school just moved to a new studio located on South Sixth St. and Ash at the address 100 Iles Park Place. Also winner of Best Summer Camp winner, the school offers all the regular dance classes, plus has opportunities for individuals with disabilities and Zumba. It recently started offering music lessons for piano, guitar and drum.
Runner-up: Dance Arts

BEST SUMMER CAMP
Dance Creations Dance Studio

100 Iles Park Place, 529-8888
Coming in far above all other camps as the best summer camp around, folks rave about Janet Cripes’ summer camps for dancers at Dance Creations Dance Studio. After 23 years at the helm, this creative and innovation instructor and mentor provides more than two dozen mini dance productions for youngsters and teens during school break in the summer months. Kids and parents can select from among 10-12 themes such as “Fairy Princesses Enchanted Castle,” “ClubHouse Mickey” and “Boys in Da House.” They meet every day for almost a month in a whole-classroom-like learning experience where they make everything from decorations to costumes while they learn dances, all in preparation for a final production. Also, master teachers from around the Midwest come to work with the kids. It’s a chance for a child to bring a favorite character to life through dance.
Runner-up: Camp Widjiwagan

BEST PLAYGROUND
Southwind Park

4965 S. Second St., 753-0702
If you build it they will come. And families come to Southwind Park playground by droves as witnessed any nice weekend, evening or summer day. And there’s not just one playground. Besides the main playground that kids remember for its size and multiple slides and parents love for the seating, soft padded ground covering and close proximity to the parking lot (not to mention, it’s Springfield Park District’s largest accessible playground), there’s another filled-with-fun playground on the other side of the park. Both are as new as the park, only a few years old, and fresh with all the latest and greatest apparatuses for kids to swing, bounce, climb, hang, walk or jump on. And if they get bored with that (which is a rarity), numerous spattering fountains dot the park and a splash fountain located right next to the main playground is a hit on hot days.
Runner-up: Washington Park

BEST DAY CARE
Building Blocks Preschool

805 S. Chatham Road, 698-8877
770 Apple Orchard Road, 528-8028

Ahead of the pack by a long shot, Building Blocks Preschool takes the 2013 Best of Springfield Best Day Care title this year. With two convenient locations, one at Chatham Road and Lawrence Ave., the other at Apple Orchard Road in what was the old Fiat Allis industrial park, these day care centers/preschools offer shelter, food, activities and instruction for infants through 6-year-olds. Folks continue to trust their children to this institution that has provided services to families in Springfield for more than 20 years. The south location offers care for a capacity of about 250 children and the west location, which was opened in 2010, has a capacity of more than 300 youngsters.
Runner-up: Lake Shore Learning Center

BEST MUSEUM
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

For all the criticism of rubber Lincolns, the ALPLM has staying power. There really is something magical that happens when you walk through the doors, as if you have been transported back to the 19th century, which is what every good museum does. Just eight years old now, it is hard to imagine downtown without the ALPLM.
Runner-up: Illinois State Museum

BEST JUDGE
Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Graves

Lawyers tend not to like her, which explains why Leslie Graves received such low marks in a county bar poll prior to last year’s election that she was deemed not recommended. Graves also had a poor showing in the bar poll when she won the seat in the 2000 election. Didn’t matter, because there are more voters than lawyers, and Graves didn’t have trouble winning her seat or keeping it. She is now the chief judge for the Seventh Circuit, and she hasn’t been afraid to order people around who need ordering. Perhaps the best example is Graves ending open access to judicial chambers where attorneys, once free to roam, now must make arrangements, just like everybody else. The move irritated lawyers, but it was a good move for folks who couldn’t help but wonder about inside deals when lawyers entered and exited courtrooms through back doors that lead to judicial offices.
Runner-up: John Schmidt

BEST PLACE TO GET A SPEEDING TICKET
Leland Grove

Let’s face it: There really is no good place to get a ticket, but some spots are better than others. Interstate 55, for instance, is too noisy and scary with all those cars moving so fast so close. We much prefer the quiet and civility afforded by a traffic stop in Leland Grove, which edged out Jerome in our reader poll. If you drive fast enough to get a speeding ticket in Jerome, you risk serious damage to your suspension from streets pocked with potholes and cracks. You can actually drive fast in Leland Grove, which has the best streets lots of money can buy. Plus, the police department has a full array of vehicles, from bicycles to an SUV, so if things go really sideways, you won’t have to ride to jail with your chin on your knees. That Impala driven by Jerome cops has no backseat legroom at all. Trust us.
Runner-up: Jerome

BEST LAWYER
Tim Timoney

Patrick “Tim” Timoney is well over six feet tall, but he stands out in the courthouse in other ways. Don’t think he loves being a lawyer? Check out the ringtone on his cell phone – it’s the theme from the television show “Law and Order.” And Timoney, a former assistant state’s attorney, has argued the law from both sides since 1990. He’s best known in Springfield as a defense attorney for suspected drunken drivers, but he also works as a public defender in Logan County. When he’s not practicing law, he’s making sure things go smoothly at The Corner Pub, his west side bar and restaurant, a great place to eat and drink. And if the cops think you’ve made too much merry, you know who to call.
Runner-up: Alex Rabin

BEST HISTORIC BUILDING
Dana-Thomas House

Be honest: You’ve never heard of Susan Lawrence Dana, who first owned this gem in the heart of the Aristocracy Hill neighborhood, or Charles C. Thomas, who acquired the home after Dana departed and later sold it, with furnishings intact, to the state of Illinois for $1 million in 1981. What a bargain. This home, built in the years before World War I and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is considered an architectural masterpiece, and it is easy to see why. It is a monument to America’s most famous architect that remains fresh after all these years.
Runner-up: The Lincoln home

BIGGEST (OR BEST) SCANDAL
State Capitol doors

You know it’s bad when the arrest of a Lanphier High School teacher for allegedly having sex with students, one of whom collected a $100,000 settlement after claiming that school officials knew about it, doesn’t get a single vote from readers. Yes, it takes some doing to be the biggest (or best, however you choose to look at it) scandal in Springfield. Notable vote-getters in this year’s polling include Shredgate, the forced resignation of former parks director Mike Stratton amid questions about financial practices, the all-schools Mass at SHG in hotter-than-Hades weather and the train-wreck-in-slow-motion departure of Walter Milton as head of the Springfield School District. It amounts to a steaming, stinky dung pile of civic yuckiness, but still no match for the State of Illinois, which easily took the prize by spending nearly $670,000 on new doors for the Capitol, where scandal is a way of life.
Runner-up: Our mayor not trying to help improve downtown and its businesses

BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE
Food Fantasies

1512 Wabash Ave., 793-8009
The market for vegan baked goods may not be huge in Springfield, but Food Fantasies practically has it cornered. Their vegan cupcakes are so delicious that you’ll hardly be able to tell the difference. Besides their line of vegan sweets and natural breads, you’ll find an extensive selection of other foods like cheese (real and non-dairy), fresh produce, fake meats and healthy snack foods. They also have several bins of bulk grains like quinoa and exotic rices. The staff is friendly and helpful, too, which makes shopping there less daunting for those of us who don’t eat healthy as much as we should.
Runner-up: Naturals Health Foods

BEST CHURCH, SYNAGOGUE OR MOSQUE
Blessed Sacrament

1725 S. Walnut St., 528-7521
This vote wasn’t close, and with good reason. Blessed Sacrament has everything you could want in a church: a quiet neighborhood setting, majestic Gothic Revival architecture, plus ample parking. Opened in 1930, the church was an unmistakable symbol of faith and hope during the Great Depression, and it is every bit as magnificent today, thanks to a $2.5 million restoration in 2005. The parish subsequently expanded the adjacent school, ensuring that Blessed Sacrament will remain a community stalwart for years to come.
Runner-up: Westside Christian

BEST GOLF COURSE
Piper Glen

7112 Piper Glen Dr., 483-6537
In addition to its popularity among our readers, Piper Glen’s reputation extends well beyond Springfield’s borders. It received a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from Golf Digest  while Board Room Magazine awarded its “Golf Course Architect of the Year” award to Piper Glen’s Chicago-based designer, Bob Lohmann, in 2002.
Runner-up: Longbridge Golf Course

PHOTO BY DAVID HINE

 

BEST TELEVISION NEWS ANCHOR/REPORTER

Joe Crain

Gus who? Joe Crain, who is closing in on a full decade at WICS, doesn’t do scandals or sports or crime. He’s a weather guy, and not even in prime time – he’s up early to deliver the morning forecast and he leaves after the midday news show. A native Midwesterner, Crain has quietly earned the distinction of being the longest tenured member of the station’s news team, and it’s not hard to see why. His delivery is nothing fancy, but it is solid and professional, as if the guy next door is telling you what the skies will bring. No wonder so many readers have made Crain part of their day.
Runner-up: Liz Foster

BEST COURAGEOUS ACT
Little things people do every day with no recognition

You don’t have to storm the beaches of Normandy or pull little old ladies from the paths of speeding freight trains to be a hero. Just getting out of bed can be an act of courage on some days, it seems.  Readers in our poll weren’t specific about exactly what little things constitute acts of courage. Is it courageous, for example, to turn left onto Wabash Avenue from a parking lot at 5:15 p.m. on a Wednesday, or just foolhardy? What about asking the woman you just met in the coffee shop if she’d like to have dinner sometime? Or telling your significant other, “Gee, honey, that new hairdo makes you look like a yeti.” Consider a motorist who allows a half-dozen cars to cut into a slow-as-molasses traffic line. Are they merely being kind or are they courageous for risking the wrath of motorists behind them who are in a hurry? Whatever courage might be, just be brave out there.
Runner-up: Whistleblower in the Springfield police shredding scandal

BEST POLITICIAN
Cory Jobe

Springfield Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe gets the nod in this category. One look at Jobe and you know the guy’s ambitious: impeccably dressed, always looking attentive and always showing up at the right neighborhood meetings. He’s as good as declared his candidacy for mayor in 2015, and he’s run even with the incumbent on the fundraising trail. What we like is his passion. He’s taken on sure-loser issues (mandatory trash pickup, anyone?) and he sometimes gets angry with his colleagues when he thinks they’re being silly. Even if he doesn’t end up in the mayor’s office, it’s a good bet that Jobe’s political career won’t end when he leaves the city council.
Runner-up: U.S. Senator Richard Durbin

BEST BLOG OR WEBSITE
SpringFAILd

Stuff happens. Lotsa stuff. Stuff that you won’t necessarily see in the newspaper or on television, but stuff that you need to know, or at least see. Like the unfortunate loss of a “g” and “l” from a reader board sign at a local auto parts store that found itself pitching “ass cleaner” instead of something to put on windows. Or the flier posted around town by the victim of a bicycle theft: “I hope you ride my bike without a helmet and get hit by a monster truck.” Or the gentleman who, unwisely, wears a neon yellow Speedo and nothing else whilst using a leaf blower to tidy up his lawn. Photos of all this and more are posted at www.facebook.com/SpringfaiLd, voted the best local website in town. Who is behind it? Who knows, but they certainly have a great sense of humor, as shown in the “About” section of the site: “We just like to laugh and there’s a lot to laugh about around here.” Amen.
Runner-up: www.facebook.com/217Problems

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