General

Chicago has plenty of treats in store for October

 

marathonFrom the Saturday, Sept. 24, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

Last month, I told you that September may be my favorite of them all in Chicago. And while that’s true, it could end up being bumped aside by October.

That’s entirely up to the Cubs.

But whether you’re a North Side baseball fan or not, the 10th month of 2016 still offers plenty of treats throughout Chicago. Here are a few ways to enjoy the start of autumn in the Windy City.

Bacon and Beer Classic
Oct. 1

With the way the Bears have looked so far, this event might be the best thing to hit Soldier Field all year.

Featuring more than 80 beers from Midwest breweries and over 30 bacon-infused dishes from local chefs, the Bacon and Beer Classic also offers guests the opportunity to explore the historic stadium, play giant Jenga, battle it out on a bungee run and even compete in a bacon eating contest.

Maybe that’s something the Bears could actually win.

For more information, visit baconandbeerclassic.com.

Chicago Marathon
Oct. 10

Maybe you’re running 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago on Oct. 10. Or perhaps you’re tired just thinking about the idea of it.

No matter your fitness level, if you’re interested in watching the Chicago Marathon – one of the city’s most impressive sporting events, with 45,000 participants – then there are a number of great spots to do so.

One of them is right at the start. From atop the Randolph Street overpass above Columbus Drive just north of Millennium Park, you can watch as the rough equivalency of a Cubs game day crowd – including the rooftops – passes beneath you.

Other hot spots include the corner of North Avenue and Wells Street, Chinatown near Cermak and Wentworth, and Michigan Avenue south of Roosevelt Road, where you can watch as the runners power – or struggle – through the race’s final mile.

For more information, visit chicagomarathon.com.

General

Finding Chicago across the pond in Ireland and London

irelandFrom the Saturday, Sept. 17, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

During our adventures this month throughout Ireland and London, my wife and I learned a lot.

We learned that the Irish love U2, but hate Bono (“He’s too political!” one Irishman ranted. “Just sing the songs!”). We learned that there are 3 million bubbles in a single pint of Guinness (we performed considerable field testing). And we learned that surfing is an actual thing in Ireland (very pale lifeguards).

In London, we learned that Lady Gaga was staying in our hotel (she didn’t find us to say hi). We learned that England’s capital is 47 percent green space, including 8 million trees (the world’s largest urban forest). And we learned what it’s like to share a revolving door with John Cleese of Monty Python fame (alas, no silly walks were involved).

We learned a lot of other things too. And here are just a few, some with a delicious Chicago twist.

Welcome to Cublin

In Dublin, much of the sports chatter was about the All-Ireland Hurling Championship (Hail Tipperary!), while London was atwitter about last Saturday’s Manchester United-Manchester City football clash.

But we also found Cubs fever in both cities.

While wearing my team cap, I received a few “Go Cubs!” shouts from passersby on streets, while one Dublin pub actually had Cubs stickers behind its bar, prompting a Facebook friend to dub Ireland’s capital city “Cublin.”

A bit of the Chicago craic

Inside that Cubs-loving Irish pub, which prominently promoted Lagunitas Brewing, I was regaled by a bartender who claimed that the establishment recently sent two employees to tour the Lagunitas brewery in Chicago.

He claimed that the pair met a group of bikers in town, ended up following them to their local bar and then eventually took joy rides on the backs of some motorcycles, with both Irish lads falling off and suffering broken bones.

“We sent ya for TWO days!” my bartender shouted in what may or may not have been a tall Irish tale, but was a hilarious one nonetheless.

General

Summer stays strong in Chicago through September

jazz-featureFrom the Saturday, Aug. 27, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

I find a reason to enjoy most months in Chicago – even the ones capable of producing a Snowmageddon. But out of all of them, September just might be my favorite.

The weather is generally a little cooler, but far from chilly. Football season is beginning just as the baseball season is really heating up. And while the kids have gone back to school, summer still isn’t over. In fact, in Chicago it’s going strong all September long.
And here are some ways to milk it for all it’s worth.

Chicago Jazz Fest
Sept. 1-4

Since 1979, the free Chicago Jazz Festival has declared as its mission on Labor Day weekends “to showcase Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages.

This year’s incarnation – and education – kicks off with a session from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4., inside the gorgeous rotunda of the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.), before an evening session at 6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park, where the festival is held the remainder of the weekend through Sunday.
For a full schedule and lineup of artists, visit cityofchicago.org.

Oktoberfests
Sept. 8 & 23-25

One of the other great things about September in Chicago is that it allows you to enjoy “Oktober” early.

This year, the 31st annual Berghoff Oktoberfest (berghoff.com) is a month-long extravaganza kicking off on Sept. 8 with a Tapping of the Keg at 5 p.m. inside The Berghoff Restaurant (17 W. Adams St.) and with evening celebrations running Thursday-Saturday each week through Oct. 8.

Later in the month, Oktoberfest at St. Alphonsus Church (oktoberfestchicago.org) will take place Sept. 23-25 with a lively street fest at 1429 W. Wellington Ave. outside the church with one of the most beautiful interiors in the city – and I’m not just saying that because I got married there.

General

As Lovie Smith era begins, Illini eyes are smilin’

Lovie_Smith_Illini

From the Saturday, Sept. 3, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya.

As you read this, I’m about 3,600 miles west of Illinois in Dublin (that’s Ireland, not Ohio) and depending on what time of the day you grab the paper or jump online, I’m likely enjoying a pint of Guinness before, during or after the Boston College-Georgia Tech football opener (that’s American, not European) held today at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Since I’m cheering on my wife’s alma mater over in Ireland (“Go Eagles”) as part of my 40th birthday celebration, I won’t be in Champaign to celebrate the start of the Lovie Smith era at the University of Illinois.

But as luck would have it, I have plenty of thoughts about it.

Patience pays

Last December, when the University of Illinois decided to extend football coach Bill Cubit’s contract for two seasons, I was told by many an angry Illini fan on Twitter that the move was a catastrophe. It would kill recruiting, they howled. It would make the job toxic, they ranted.

I didn’t agree.

Rather, it was my opinion that the short-term stability provided by Cubit’s contract clearly offered Illinois the best long-term options. For a program still reeling from the debacle named Tim Beckman, Illinois simply couldn’t afford another multi-year mistake by giving Cubit – or any other coach – a lengthy deal when the school still didn’t even have a permanent athletic director in place.

I believed that it was highly unlikely that the best possible coach would take the Illinois job without knowing whom his permanent AD was – and equally unlikely that the best possible Illinois AD candidate would want a job where he was stuck with a new long-term coach he didn’t hire. To avoid settling, I liked how the Cubit deal bought the Illini time to hire the right AD, rather than just an AD, which could then lead to the right coach.

General

The Bridgehouse to Chicago’s colorful past

BridgehouseHomeFrom the Saturday, Aug. 22, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

The Metropolitan Planning Council announced this week it foresees a future in which people could swim in the Chicago River by 2030.

Intentionally.

“We know people want to see rejuvenation along the riverfronts,” Metropolitan Planning Council director Josh Ellis said prior to releasing a report for which the nonprofit surveyed 6,000 people over 18 months – including real estate developers, river users and other stakeholders – to develop a vision for the future of the Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines rivers.

“To be frank, we also know not everything is going great in Chicago right now,” Ellis continued. “What a document like this does is show that we have a vision for a future that is better than today.”

Chicago certainly has its ongoing challenges. But truth be told, even without any swimming in it, the Chicago River is already pretty great today after a long history infamous pollution. Just this month, in fact, I’ve enjoyed a gorgeous architectural cruise upon it, enjoyed a nighttime stroll along its fabulous new Riverwalk and sipped an afternoon cocktail at one of its trendy new watering holes along the water while watching pleasure boats and kayakers slide past.

And perhaps most interestingly, I also viewed the river – and its history – from a new perspective by visiting for the very first time the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum.

Located at the southwest corner the Michigan Avenue Bridge, you’ve almost surely passed the museum if you’ve ever walked the Magnificent Mile, although you may not have realized that you can actually walk inside the tower with ornate stone sculpture on its exterior. But indeed you can – and for free on Sundays.

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum celebrates the Chicago River and movable bridges, of which Chicago has the most of any city in the world with 37. Beginning at river level, the museum spirals five stories up providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore a historic landmark bridgehouse and learn about the history of Chicago’s iconic passageway.

On the first floor, visitors get the opportunity to view the massive gears of the city’s most famous movable bridge and then journey through each level while experiencing the often murky story of the river and its relationship with the city. At the top of the bridgehouse, you’re treated to a 360-degree view that’s unique from any other in a town filled with magnificent panoramas.

General

Recalling Chicago’s Olympics memories past – and passed

Chicago-2016.0From the Saturday, Aug. 6, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

If Chicago had been awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, its Opening Ceremony would have taken place on July 22. The IOC passed on the Windy City, of course, so on Friday in Rio it was the Brazilians who put on their show.

But I do still like to imagine what Chicago would have pulled off for its own Opening Ceremony. One can joke about how the theatrics would have been a revue featuring the Blues Brothers, hot dogs, deep dish pizza and Al Capone, but I doubt that our Games would have actually featured those civic stereotypes.

Rather, I imagine that the 1871 Great Fire – and Chicago’s rebirth from its ashes – would have been a focal point of our Opening Ceremony. I’d like to think that 21st-century technology could have re-created imagery of one of the most mind-blowing spectacles ever known to man: The White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – a collection of massive buildings clad in white stucco, of which now only the Museum of Science & Industry still stands (sans the stucco).

I’d hope that a Chicago Opening Ceremony would have shared the story of the city’s many immigrants and its rich diversity. And, finally, I would imagine that our own global icon, Michael Jordan, would have been the one to light the flame.

Hopefully, Jim Belushi wouldn’t have been anywhere in sight.

We’ll never see any of that, but to keep you in the Olympics mood, I wanted to share a few names of Chicago Olympians from Summer Games gone by.

Adolph Kiefer

At age 98, Adolph Gustav Kiefer is the oldest living American Olympic champion – and a Chicagoan. As a 16-year-old Roosevelt High School student swimming in the 1935 IHSA championships, he became the first man to break the 1-minute mark in the 100-yard backstroke (59.8).

The next year, he represented the United States in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, where he won gold in the 100-meter backstroke and set an Olympic record (1:05.9) that would stand for 20 years.

General

Short on holidays, August long on fun in Chicago

AirShowFrom the Saturday, July 30, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

When it comes to the calendar, August is an oddball.

It’s the only month of the 12 that’s without an official holiday, which probably gives it a complex. Thankfully, though, Chicago offers plenty of events to keep August – and you – plenty busy.

So, holidays or not, here are a few of the events in that you can consider partaking in next month.

Hot Dog Festival
Aug. 5-7

The Dog Days of Summer wouldn’t feel right without, well, dogs.

Celebrating the city’s love affair with the iconic encased meat, the Chicago Hot Dog Fest has that covered. The free event, held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 5-6 and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 7, is held outside the Chicago History Museum at Clark & LaSalle.

The fest features hot dog vendors including Byron’s and Fatso’s Last Stand, along with live music, entertainment and speaking sessions.

For more information, visit chicagoevents.com.

General

Chicago’s rich history of big plans, big misses

spireFrom the Saturday, July 23, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

WISCH LIST

Daniel Burnham, the urban design visionary who in 1909 drafted “The Plan for Chicago” that would serve as the template for the future of the metropolis, famously said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

To its credit, Chicago has never had a problem making grand plans.

But it does, on occasion, have difficulty following through on them.

Most recently, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art slated for the lakefront imploded like the Death Star. And as we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s difficult to not think about Chicago’s failed bid to host the Games, which the International Olympic Committee instead awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

I’m guessing the IOC might like a do-over on that one.

Those, however, are just two examples of the high-profile Windy City projects that blew away before becoming reality. Here’s a dive into some more.

1992 World’s Fair

In 1893, Chicago held the World Columbian Exposition to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 discovery of the New World. In 1983, Chicago and Seville, Spain, were chosen to host the 1992 World’s Fair to mark the 500th anniversary.

Seville held up its part, drawing 41.8 million visitors. But Chicago didn’t as its plan collapsed due to political bickering and questions about public funding. In 1999, Congress banned the use of federal funds for participation in World’s Fairs.

So don’t hold your breath for 2092.

General

Wisch List on CLTV SportsFeed

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.45.04 PMThe Cubs. The White Sox. Illini basketball. Illini football.

They all have summertime developments, and I of course have summertime opinions.

I shared my thoughts on all things Chicago baseball and University of Illinois on Sunday night when I joined host Josh Frydman live in studio for CLTV SportsFeed.

If you’d like to watch my segment, you can do so by clicking here.

General

It’s a Dickens of a time for Illini basketball

John+Groce+Ohio+State+v+Illinois+DP3HkMfySUAlFrom the Saturday, July 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

“A Tale of Two Cities” wasn’t written about, well, Champaign-Urbana, but the novel’s opening line does apply quite well to the current topsy-turvy state of basketball down at the University of Illinois.

With injuries, arrests and losses piling up, Illini coach John Groce has had a Dickens of a time getting his program on solid footing since his arrival in 2012. But this week, an orange-and-blue beacon finally cut through the murk when 5-star center Jeremiah Tilmon, an East St. Louis native, pledged allegiance to his home state school.

The verbal commitment was a huge shot in the arm for Groce – and Illini fans – after a string of painful swings and misses with previous high-profile recruiting targets. In the fall of 2017, Tilmon is set to join fellow recruits Da’Monte Williams of Peoria Manual and Javon Pickett of Belleville East in what’s shaping up into a blockbuster class for the Illini¬ – especially if highly touted Jordan Goodwin of Belleville Althoff also jumps on board.

Thanks to Tilmon, this week might have been Groce’s best time at Illinois. But for Illini hoops we’re also still in the worst of times, and the coach needs more than recruits to save his job this season.

He needs wins.