• CITY COUNCIL candidate filing is over. We now know the names of the candidates for three Decatur City Council seats that are up for election on April 6. Monday was the last day a candidate could file to be on the ballot. Here’s the list of those who filed their nominating petitions with the city clerk and whose names will be on the ballot. Incumbent City Councilmen running for re-election are David Horn and Chuck Kuhle. Challengers are Ed Culp, Marty Watkins, Aldophis Cooper, Elijah England, William (Will) Wetzel, Anthony S. Chapple Hardik Shah. Jacob Jenkins, John Phillips and Marc Girdler.
If one more candidate would have filed, it would have necessitated a February Primary Election to reduce the number. A lottery will be held on Dec. 2 to determine the ballot order for the four residents — Culp, Horn, Kuhle and Watkins — who were there to file when the city clerk’s office opened on the first day of filing.
• THE announcement last week from ADM and InnovaFeed regarding construction of the world’s largest Insect Protein Facility in Decatur, which will bring many, many jobs to our community, was sure a bright ray of sunshine in a year filled with dark clouds due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This time, news of a “positive” story, in the midst of “people testing positive” for the virus stories, is a Godsend to our community and our city’s future. That’s something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week.
• ALL IS BRIGHT — More good news for the holiday season comes from the announcement that Millikin University’s Vespers will continue this year —although in a different way. Vespers has always signaled the start of the holiday season in central Illinois for more than 60 years. With just over 6,500 attendees each year, Vespers is one of Millikin’s most popular events, and the heartfelt mix of carols, choirs and candlelight has become a much-beloved tradition celebrating the community’s creativity and good cheer.
“This year, Millikin University is inviting the community to join the holiday tradition, albeit in a slightly different form,” states the information from Millikin about Vespers. “On Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday, Dec. 6, the supremely talented Millikin students and faculty, who put so much into making Vespers soar, will do so again — virtually. “Vespers performances will be available for livestream viewing on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. on Millikin University’s Facebook page, homepage and YouTube channel. Because of this year’s virtual format, no ticket purchase is required to attend. “Join the Millikin University musicians as they present a “best of” compilation from past Vespers performances including rousing new musical experiences. Interviews with Millikin President Dr. Jim Reynolds and Director of Choral Activities Dr. Brad Holmes will also be featured.”
Dr. Holmes stated: “We need the Vespers spirit this year more than ever. With that in mind, we are drawing selections from the past five years into a ‘Best of…’ event titled ‘All Is Bright,'” “You’ll recognize these words from perhaps the most well-known carol of the season, ‘Silent Night.’ Indeed, that text will be sung to a new composition by John Michael Trotta. The piece will be presented by this year’s singers in one massive virtual choir selection. In this way, we hope to build a bridge from the past 60 years, carrying that tradition into a bright future. Vespers is about community, singing and sharing the season together.”
Historically, ticket sales from performances like Vespers provide vital income to help offset the costs of production. Without live audience members, Millikin University is operating at a deficit to bring these valuable cultural experiences to the community, and Performance Learning opportunities to their students. Here is an important plea: “Please consider making a gift today to support the Millikin School of Music by texting “@MU #vespers” to 52014 or visiting http://bit.ly/muvespers. Your generosity this holiday season, no matter the size, will help Millikin’s students and faculty continue to share the gift of music until we can be together again.”
For more information about the 2020 virtual Vespers performances, visit millikin.edu/vespers. It is hard to imagine a holiday season in Decatur without Vespers, which attracts thousands each year.
• SANTA IS COMING! Santa’s House will not be in Central Park this holiday season for the first time that I can remember, but Santa will be in Central Park. Teri Hammel, Executive Director of the Decatur Area CVB, says the location this year will be in the Transfer House located in Central Park. Strict guidelines will be enforced.
“Everyone will be required to wear a mask, social distance and one family at a time is allowed in the Transfer House to wave to Santa and get a picture from a safe distance! Social distancing will be required when standing in line outside waiting to enter. Masks will be available.
“Please adhere to the guidelines so we can still have Santa for the children! We encourage children to bring a letter to Santa for his mailbox!”
• ELSEWHERE in this week’s print edition (pages 12 and 20) you can find more on the sad news about the death of Jim Hallihan last Friday. Jim, besides all of his other amazing accomplishments, was a member of the 1962 Stephen Decatur State Basketball Championship team that still holds a special place in the hearts of so many Decatur and Central Illinois residents. Jim and I talked on the phone and corresponded quite frequently in recent years and, when he was in Decatur for a special event a little over a year ago, he stopped by my office to chat.
I had also given a short speech and a proclamation honoring the team at one of its reunions several years ago when I served as mayor. I knew that he had been battling a serious health issue since I saw him in my office and in his last email to me on Nov. 11th, he wrote: “You asked about my health in your last email, and that is still ‘up in the air’. I will know more in the next week. Will keep you posted.”
Jim passed away Friday — a little over a week later. He was a good and decent man and my heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to his wife, Trish, and their family and many friends. We’ve lost so many good people this year.
• THE Christmas Card season is officially underway. I received my first Christmas card of the year from Tom Nolan, Armie and Riley of Nolan & Associates on Monday, Nov. 23. Tom is always the first to send out Christmas cards and the card is impressive as usual. I also appreciate the encouraging personal note that Tom wrote on the reverse side of the card. Thanks, Tom, for the sending me one of the cards — especially this year when “Peace, Love & Joy” is a welcome message.
• MORE CARDS —While I’m on the subject of Christmas cards, the Decatur Area Arts Council (DAAC) is again hosting a community art project for this holiday season, “Christmas Card Lane.” This is an outdoor exhibit/competition comprised of larger-than-life (4’x6’ plywood) greeting cards decorated by local artists and groups. DAAC installed nineteen cards in the downtown Decatur green space at 300 N. Water St. (across from ADM Center) on Nov. 20 and they will be on display through December 31, 2020.
“The community is invited to vote ONLINE for their favorite card designs through Dec. 24, 2020. Individuals may vote only once at www.decaturarts.org/vote,” stated information from the DAAC. “Prize money will be awarded to the top three designs; First Prize $200, Second Prize $100, and Third Prize $50.” The program is made possible by sponsor Dynagraphics with assistance from Lowe’s, Mt. Zion Lions Park, and the City of Decatur.
For more information, contact the Decatur Area Arts Council at 217-423-3189 or visit www.decaturarts.org/community-arts/Christmas-Card-Lane/.
• PLEASE practice recommended safety measures against the spread of COVID-19 during this holiday weekend and beyond. Macon County has, at last report, lost 110 of our residents to COVID-19 and we’ve had 6,053 confirmed cases since the pandemic started. We certainly need to look out for each other. and that’s not only true during this pandemic but all the time.
HERE’S hoping for a Blessed Thanksgiving for you and yours.