Wizards of all ages will fill downtown Danville on Friday night as the city sponsors its annual Potterfest festivities. In addition to a slate of activities, the First Friday event gives area residents an opportunity to explore local businesses and their offerings.
Potterfest, based on the popular Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling, will include a movie, “The Goblet of Fire,” at 7 p.m. in the Fischer Theatre. Tickets will be available at the door.
Also on the schedule is a costume contest at 6 p.m. on the stage in Temple Plaza. Sponsored by Vermilion Advantage and the Commercial-News, participants must register before 5:30 p.m.
Temple Plaza also is the spot visitors can pick up a scavenger hunt list and other items. Downtown will be transformed into familiar locations in the Potter series.
Butterbeer, a refreshment that’s part of Potter’s world, will be available at Café 13, with Butterbeer Milkshakes offered at Lainey’s.
The athletically inclined can play quidditch in Kresge Park, visit Dementor Cove or hunt for Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest.
A trivia tourney starts at 6:30 p.m. in Sweet Repeats, with registration at 6 p.m. for teams of four people each.
In the Vermilion County Administration Building, Burt and Co. will be taking photos, and visitors can take a look at other vendors’ offerings as well. Even Professor Trelawney will read fortunes during the evening.
For adults in the crowd, Potterfest After Hours will get under way at Fatmans for alumni of House of Gryffindor and at Vermilion County Beer Company for those from Slytherin.
Organizers encourage everyone to show up in costume during what has become one of the most popular First Friday events of the year.
In addition to all the activities, First Fridays give downtown businesses a chance to open their doors for visitors who might not otherwise stop by. A number of new businesses have opened in the area during the past year. Residents who might not have stopped by recently might be surprised at what they have to offer.
Also, the First Friday events serve as one of the few opportunities where area residents can come together for an inexpensive evening of fun for the whole family. Upcoming plans include the annual Night of Lights Parade on Dec. 2, another popular even for the whole community.
Those who have never visited a First Friday even should make the trip downtown this Friday night. With such a full schedule of activities coupled with the popularity of Harry Potter, it should prove to be a magical evening for wizards and muggles alike.
Without looking at a calendar, Illinois residents know an election will be coming soon just from the sheer volume of political commercials on local television channels. Even though many of those commercials do not feature candidates who might represent Vermilion County, they serve as a reminder of the importance on registering to vote and casting a ballot.
The local ballot features races for U.S. Senate, representatives in the U.S. House, Illinois governor and a list of statewide officials along with members of the Illinois Legislature, county offices, judicial seats and a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution regarding workers’ bargaining rights.
Vermilion County’s congressional races look a bit different this year after new districts were approved by the Legislature. Much of the county — roughly from just south of Westville northward — will not be in the Illinois 2nd District. Vermilion is the southernmost county in the district, which runs all the way north to the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Democrat Robin Kelly is the incumbent running against Republican Thomas Lynch.
The rest of the county remains in the 15th District, where incumbent Mary Miller, a Republican, seeks another term against Paul Lange, Democrat.
In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, the incumbent is running against Kathy Salvi, Republican, and Bill Redpath, Libertarian.
The statewide races — governor, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer and attorney general, feature contested races, with J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat and incumbent, against Republican Darren Bailey, Libertarian Scott Mitchell Schluter and three write-in candidates.
The county is split between two districts in both the Illinois Senate and House. Candidates in the District 51 and District 52 Senate races are both unopposed, as is the candidate in House District 102. In House District 104, incumbent Republican Mike Marron seeks another term against Democrat Cynthia Cunningham.
Voters will have few choices to make in county level races. Only a few of the Vermilion County contests are contested.
There are two appellate judicial races, one unopposed, and four judges up for retention or to fill an unexpired term in the Fifth Judicial Circuit, of which Vermilion County is part.
Local voters, however, will help decide whether Illinois workers can negotiate specific issues with employers in the future. A ballot measure proposes an amendment to the state constitution that, if passed, would guarantee workers the right to organize and bargain issues such as safety conditions, wages, hours, working conditions and economic welfare.
Those who do cast a ballot can have a say in these decisions. More important, they can participate in the process of selecting their own local leaders.
Voters have heard lots of accusations and speculation about the integrity of election results in recent months. But none of the 70 or so lawsuits across the nation alleging voter fraud have yielded any proof of any such fraud. American elections remain among the fairest and trusted in the world. An election isn’t tainted just because someone doesn’t like the final tally.
Don’t neglect the privilege of voting. In Illinois, residents can register online until Oct. 23, and can register in person through Nov. 8. Let your voice be heard. Cast your ballot.
VALDESE — The town of Valdese is looking to sell the old mill that sits on property where it plans to build a new public safety building.
And some Valdese town residents will be moved into a different town ward due to redistricting as a result of the 2020 Census.
The Valdese Town Council voted to approve a resolution authorizing the upset bid process for the former mill property and a parking lot across from it on Pineburr Avenue.
The town received an offer from W. Clark Erwin for $30,000, according to information from the town. The former mill is on 3.42 acres and is valued at $239,158, according to Burke County land records. The property where the parking lot is located is .40 acres and is valued at $24,000, land records show.
Erwin wants to develop the property into residential units and he has paid a 5% deposit to the town for the property. The property was given to the town when it purchased adjacent land to build a public safety building, according to information from the town.
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The town says anyone wanting to offer an upset bid on the property has to do so within 10 days after the notice of sale is published and the bid has to be sealed. The bid, which has to be at least 10% higher than the offer, has to be submitted to the town clerk, it says. A bid has to include a check for 5% of the bid. If the bid isn’t accepted, the check will be returned.
After the 10-day upset bid period, the clerk will open any bids and the highest bid will become the new offer for the property, according to the town.
Taylor Dellinger, data analyst with Western Piedmont Council of Governments, made a presentation to the Valdese Town Council about the town’s ward map, saying it’s a requirement after every census to redistrict the map. He said it’s a process to balance the population of each of the town’s wards. Town council members are elected to the board to represent residents living in a ward.
The 2020 census and citizen response was impacted by COVID-19 but Valdese had one of the highest resident responses in Burke County.
Dellinger said the 2020 census showed 4,689 residents in Valdese. Divided among the five wards means each ward would have around 938 residents. The populations in the wards have to be within 5% of each other, meaning the range of populations has to be between 891 and 985, he said.
The current ward populations are Ward 1 with 1,013, Ward 2 with 1,011, Ward 3 with 839, Ward 4 with 913 and Ward 5 with 913, Dellinger told the council.
So to get relatively even populations, Dellinger said 72 will be moved from Ward 2 to Ward 1. Then 100 will be moved from Ward 1 and into Ward 3. Another 26 will be moved from Ward 1 into Ward 4, and an additional 15 from Ward 1 will be moved into Ward 5, he said.
That would bring Ward 1 to 944, Ward 2 to 939, Ward 3 to 939, Ward 4 to 939 and Ward 5 to 928, Dellinger said.
After a council member asked when the council would need to approve a new ward map, Dellinger said they would want to do it well before the filing date for the next municipal election, which will be 2023.
Mayor Charlie Watts told the council that it should consider it will be difficult to fill the empty Ward 1 seat until the council approved the new wards. The seat was left vacant after former council member Andy Thompson stepped down in September. The town is currently accepting applications from residents of Ward 1 to fill the seat. The council passed a resolution of appreciation to Thompson at Monday’s meeting.
Watts told The News Herald that he anticipates the council will vote on the new ward maps at its November meeting.
Dellinger said once everything is approved, WPCOG will send the redistricting materials to board of elections and the town with the final ward boundaries.
Also on Monday, Tim Skidmore was sworn into office by Burke County Clerk of Court Mabel Lowman to fill the Ward 5 unexpired term of former council member Keith Ogle, who stepped down in July.
And the council approved a resolution dedicating the town Christmas tree in memory of former mayor Jim Hatley, who died Jan. 9, 2015, while still serving as mayor. His widow, Mary Louise Hatley will serve as the grand marshal of the town Christmas parade this year.
In other business, the council:
- Approved the Valdese Community Center lower level renovation capital project for $587,921. Finance Director Bo Weichel said the renovations were projected to cost $600,000 and will include restroom updates upstairs, as well as the lower level locker rooms, toilets and showers. The money for the project will come from the town’s fund balance (savings), according to town officials.
- Approved a resolution supporting Operation Green Light for Veterans and is asking residents and businesses to change one of their lights to green in a visible location from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13 in support of veterans.
DANVILLE – In order to kick off its 75th year nationally, Toys for Tots of the Danville, Ill. area will host the John Zarn Memorial Kickoff Toy Drive on Friday, Oct. 7.
The toy drive will be from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Courtesy Dodge, 231 W. Main St. in Danville.
“2022 marks the 75th year in which U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots has been helping to make the holidays brighter for children across our nation,” said Megan Montgomery, local coordinator of the Toys for Tots campaign. “For that reason, and because the need in our community remains so high, we want to make this year extra special. I am encouraging all our supporters to join us for the kickoff and get us off to a great start by bringing one or more toys, games or books for the children in our community. If supporters are not able to bring a toy, we will have a donation jar available for their cash donations.”
Montgomery said Santa Claus will be on hand as a special guest throughout the kickoff event, and she encouraged parents to bring their children.
The drive is named in memory of the late John Zarn, the founder and longtime coordinator of the Toys for Tots campaign in Danville.
“Mr. Zarn was instrumental in bringing Toys for Tots to the Danville area,” Montgomery said. “As a Marine, Mr. Zarn was dedicated to this cause and his hard work made great strides in helping our most vulnerable children in the holiday season.”
Members of the Zarn family will be on hand throughout the day for the drive.
Children served by Toys for Tots receive not only toys, but games and an age-appropriate book to read.
“Oct. 1 is the national beginning of our fall campaign,” Montgomery said. “We want to ensure that our toy collection gets off to a strong start because the need is so great.”
The local campaign serves Vermilion County, Ill. and Fountain and Warren counties in Indiana. Last year, more than 6,700 toys were donated in the Danville area, providing gifts to more than 1,500 local children.
Montgomery believes the need will be greater this year because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption in employment and housing.
Residents unable to attend the kickoff on Oct. 7 will find more than 60 collection boxes throughout the community during the campaign, Montgomery said.
Additionally, residents may donate cash by visiting the local Toys for Tots website at www.danville-il.toysfortots.org. All money raised locally stays in the community to help local residents.
With the anticipated rent increase, they were facing monthly payments of $1,100 if they signed a year-long lease and even more if they went month-to-month.
Priolo said the process of finding a new home was a “mad dash” but their real estate agent was able to put the $155,000, 1,500-square-foot home on Third Street Court SW on their radar.
The couple will soon be closing on the house that will serve as the home for them and their 10-month-old son.
Their new home is one of six newly constructed affordable homes built as part of a partnership between the city of Hickory and Charlotte-based JRN Development.
Leaders from the city joined with company representatives and homeowners to celebrate the completion of the new subdivision, known as Ridgefield Place, on Wednesday.
Last October, the city agreed to sell six city-owned pieces of property on Third Street Court and Third Street Place SW to JRN for $18,000. JRN representative Chris Younger said the city also waived utility connection fees.
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Younger estimates they had 20 inquiries in the first 48 hours after the homes were listed.
“We did not allow bidding wars,” Younger said. “It was a first-come, first-qualify type scenario.”
The houses were only available to people earning below 80% of the area median income, which is $53,900 for a family of four.
The homes, which are mostly in the 1,500- to 1,700-square-foot range, have all been sold for between $155,000 and $168,000.
The homes have deed restrictions limiting the amount of the selling price for 15 years. That’s to ensure the homes remain in an affordable price range even if they are sold.
‘A little breathing room’
The new residents of the community, many if not all of whom are young couples or single parents with young children, were excited for the chance provided by the community.
Priolo called it a “life-changing opportunity.” While he said he would now be paying the same amount for his mortgage that he would be paying in rent, he also pointed to the upside of being able to have a place to call his own.
“I’ll be able to fix things myself and not think that I’m just doing it for some other person,” Priolo said.
For some new residents, the houses in Ridgefield Place will be their first homes in Hickory.
Philip and Samantha Manche moved from Boone after finding a lack of suitable options in the mountain town.
“We want to grow a family and this is a great family town and a great area,” Samantha Manche, 21, said. The couple welcomed a child into the family less than three weeks ago.
They said stability was important for them.
“Since we’ve been married, we’ve had very transitional housing from apartments to kind of Airbnbs and living with family, kind of figuring out where to live,” Philip Manche, 23, said. “So we’re so excited to have a place that we can make our roots and be a part of this community.”
Shontabia Belton, 27, is another newcomer to Hickory. She moved from Charlotte with her 6-year-old son because of the lack of affordable housing.
Without the opportunity provided by the program, she said she likely would not have been able to afford a home of her own. Not without an immense amount of stress, at least.
“This gives me a little breathing room,” Belton said.
Keep it going
The Hickory Affordable Housing Initiative that helped establish Ridgefield Place began in 2020.
At that time, the city partnered with the Unifour Consortium housing program and Western Piedmont Council of Governments to build two units in the same neighborhood that now includes Ridgefield Place.
The first two houses have already been sold.
At the gathering on Wednesday, representatives of both the city and JRN said they were interested in finding ways to keep the program going.
“We’re not in the business of owning vacant lots,” Hickory Mayor Hank Guess said, adding the city would continue to look for places where affordable houses could be built.
Kevin Griffin is the city of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.
Danville residents can choose from a variety of city parks, but it’s not unusual to see empty playgrounds just about any time of the day — even during the summer break from school.
City crews keep the parks well-maintained. They cut grass regularly, keep trash containers empty and make repairs quickly should something need to be fixed. Picnic tables and other equipment stay in good shape.
The parks are located throughout the city, with the Liberty, Cannon, Garfield, Lincoln, Meade, Douglas and Ellsworth sites all offering opportunities for picnics and recreation.
But with the exception of the splash parks, few people take advantage of these green assets.
One of the reasons might be a fear of something bad happening to visitors. With shooting and other violent incidents common across the country, people have become much more conscious about their safety. The playground areas at several of the parks can feel isolated at times, possibly prompting people to just stay away in order to stay safe.
City officials could consider installing a feature common on college campuses — including Danville Area Community College — in an effort to erase those feelings of potential danger.
In 2021, Purdue University added another 50 of the iconic emergency call boxes to bring the total to about 300 on its campus. The press of a button puts a person in instant contact with public safety personnel and a bright, blue light begins flashing at the top of the call box.
“We find that parents and students love them — knowing there is an added layer of safety,” said Song Kang, captain of special services for the Purdue Police Department, in a 2021 article in Campus Safety magazine.
A student at the University of Southern California showed the call boxes attracted more people to the areas near their locations because the people felt safer with the devices nearby.
In these days of inexpensive high-resolution video, the level of safety could be increased even more by installing cameras at playground areas in addition to the call boxes.
City officials already have a program to recruit residents with security cameras to assist police when incidents occur. Adding a system of call boxes and security cameras in city parks would help deter problems, encourage more people to use the parks and add even more resources for police investigations.
Luckily, Danville has few problems in its parks. Encouraging more people to come out and enjoy the resources their tax dollars help support might change that statistic. Adding the extra “layer of safety,” as the Purdue official termed the call boxes, would allow visitors to stay safe while having fun.
ANDERSON – Two controversial zoning requests met a different fate following actions by the Anderson City Council.
The city council Thursday voted 5-to-1 to deny the request of Yvonne Shambly to open a commercial kitchen at 435 Sycamore Street.
Area residents raised objections to the rezoning request that had been approved by the Anderson Plan Commission.
Tim Stires, deputy director of the Anderson Municipal Development Department said city officials learned about the improper zoning after receiving complaints about large parties taking place.
Stires said three inspections were done at the location in June and the property failed all three and that no permits were obtained.
Shambly said she made the necessary repairs and was not aware of the zoning concerns until July.
Councilman Lance Stephenson said if the permits had been obtained, city officials would have known the property was not properly zoned for a commercial kitchen.
Shambly said she was not aware of the parties at the property that were conducted by her children and she has since changed the locks.
Council president Rebecca Crumes said she is willing to work with Shambly to find an appropriate building for the business.
“It’s a nice building, but not a good fit for the neighborhood,” she said. “My concern is for the people in the neighborhood.”
Addressing concerns from the residents, Shambly asked how did they not know the building was used by a motorcycle club for 13 years.
Resident Tess Etchison said the residents knew about the motorcycle club, but there were never any concerns about the activities taking place.
“I’m sorry for what my kids did without my knowledge,” Shambly said. “I truly want to cook good food.”
The city council passed an ordinance to rezone property at 2405 W. 22nd St. for the operation of a day care.
The Plan Commission voted in August not to make a recommendation to the council on the request of Melinda Williams.
Williams said previously the plan was to open a day care for up to 15 children from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. She said her family, including four children, will continue to reside at the 1,900-square-foot residence.
Williams said four people would work at the day care for children up to age 13.
Stires said Williams has taken steps to add parking and ease traffic flow around the property, which is to the south of Jackson Park.
Councilman Ollie H. Dixon, said he no longer objected to the rezoning after talking with several area residents.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.