Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Erik Sorensen, NBC5 Street Team

It will be a somber St. Patrick’s Day for those of us slowly coming to terms with the absence of our beloved South Side Irish Parade. On March 25th of 2009, the South Side St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee announced that the event would be cancelled, indefinitely. The decision was welcomed by some, but widely regarded as the end of a cherished era by most.

For many, the parade was as much a staple for their neighborhood as any event; so much so, that it grew in popularity every year and eventually became too large to manage. Or so the explanation goes.

South Side Irish Parade Route

While there were many legitimate factors that influenced the cancellation, (namely public intoxication, trampled property, unruly behavior) none represent what gave the parade its heart and soul: the families. It was about gathering to celebrate our Irish heritage, but you always got the sense there was more to it than that. Droves of families and friends poured faithfully each year into Western Avenue like a green human river; walking distances from as short as their front lawns to neighborhoods miles away.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories can be attributed to that parade. I watched it with my family and relatives as a child; marched in it as a boy scout; attended it with dear friends as a teenager; played in it as part of the Marist High School Marching Band and returned to it as a spectator, and an adult. It was an event to share with your children, and your children’s children. A gathering of proud people surrounded by the buildings and streets they love. It was the celebration of the neighborhoods the event represented, and the stores you rode your bike to as a kid. It was the South Side Irish Parade, and it was ours.

(Replacing the event will be the South Side Irish Parade Family Fest, held on Saturday, March 13th, hosted by the Beverly Arts Center. The daylong festival features family-friendly activities including: bag pipers, an Irish soda bread contest, a small children’s parade, dancers, a best dressed “Irish dog” contest and an array of Irish-themed arts.)

Admission (from 11am-4pm): $10 Adults,
$7 Seniors, Free for children under 12
Admission (after 4pm): All tickets $25


Read Full Post »

Chasity Chaos, NBC Chicago Street Team

Penny Starr Jr., producer of “The Velvet Hammer Burlesque” a self-titled documentary film on the Los Angeles neo-burlesque troupe, will be in town to conduct a burlesque workshop August 29 at Think Big Studios located at 2120 W. Grand Ave.Penny Starr Jr

The granddaughter of Philadelphia’s legendary burlesque performer Penny Starr, Starr Jr. decided to dedicate herself to uplifting the legacy of her grandmother after producing the film. “You can only live with the circus for so long before you want to join,” said Starr Jr.

The workshop boasts the following classes:

11am-12pm – A Burlesque Routine in 10 Moves or Less

12:15pm-1:15pm – Rhinestone Application & Design Principles

1:30pm-2:30pm – Take it Off: Pop vs. Peel Striptease Techniques

In addition to holding the workshops, Starr Jr. will also assist Chicago’s own burlesque production company Vaudezilla in celebrating the year anniversary of BROADZILLA!, a free burlesque show held the last Friday of every month at Exit, 1315 W North Av.

For more information on the workshop, visit http://vaudezilla.com/pennystarrjr.htm

Read Full Post »

stephanie_small1Stephanie S. Green, NBC Chicago Street Team




It was only because of the invitation from my best friend who was visiting from out-of-town that I went to Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968 at the Field Museum.  It just kinda seemed old hat – I’ve studied civil rights and didn’t think I had anything to gain from the exhibit, so it wasn’t really on my radar.  But, as I viewed the exhibit and rounded the corner from the first wall, I found myself frozen in place and time, and in tears.

The Road to Freedom is the largest exhibit of civil rights photos and memorabilia that has been assembled in twenty years.  As soon as I entered the space, I was struck by the solemn and reverent air, an ambiance created by low lights, deep blue paint, the continual looping narrative of a video tape about the civil rights area and, of course, the photographs. The solemnity was so profound that people spoke in hushed tones and there was the occasional “shhhhhhhhh” directed toward children.

Alone . . .

Alone . . .

While the civil rights era is not a new subject for me,  nor for most of us, the images were compelling.  I was struck by the youth of the people photographed, unknowns as well as Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, John Lewis and, of course, Dr. King.  But, my breakdown occurred when I reached the photos of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High. Young Elizabeth Eckford did not get the message that the date for the African American students to start school had been pushed back by one day. So, this fifteen-year-old girl arrived alone and was the target of unimaginable venom. Even as I look at the picture today, I get chills as I think of the strength it must have taken for her to keep moving.

The exhibit gave a clear sense of the commitment people had to this movement that lasted not days, weeks or months, but years. Years to attain basic civil rights. Years.  Commitment.  Personal danger.

As I moved further through the exhibit, I was captivated by photos of people on the sidelines. African-Americans cheering on the protesters – both Black and White.  Whites glaring as protesters passed in front of their homes.

I remember after Roots aired, a popular Black male comedian joked with great braggadocio about what he would have done to massa if he were Kunta Kinte.  The Road to Freedom made me wonder: what would I have done if I were alive then? Would I have been on the front line or would I have been on the sidelines cheering the protestors on or would I have been too scared to participate in any way whatsoever.  I then asked myself – is what I’m doing now reflective of what I would have done then? What about you? Are you a participant or a spectator? Are you committed to a cause? Passionate about it?

I urge you to visit the Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968, and take your children or a child in your life and ponder these questions.  It is a powerful reminder of changes that can be made with sacrifice and commitment.  The exhibit ends on September 7th.

Looking for more To-Do?  Visit www.so-LAZE.com!

Read Full Post »

Desiree, NBC Chicago Street Team
“Hi, I’m Desiree, Gal about the Globe,” I excitedly shouted, as I was introduced to Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods. Andrew, standing proudly in front of his “Strange Foods” table, smiled back, shook my hand and took my business card as I proceeded to flatter him, recounting why I love what he does and love to do it too. Well, the travel part that is; not really so much as eating chocolate covered grasshoppers, scorpions, caterpillars, or a stingray’s heart for breakfast.DSC00365

Andrew, one of the “special guests” of last night’s Dos Equis Most Interesting Academy at the Museum of Science and Industry, was a sweetheart. His brown eyes were a bit glazed over from tirelessly greeting guests and plugging the goey-duck clams considered a delicacy in China (that’s pronounced gooey—duck), but he took a moment to ask how I got started in this “biz,” referring to the travel industry and working as a tour operator. “Well…” I realized that my story began when I up and moved to Rome to study in college, which followed up with me moving to London, Chicago, and the rest is history. He laughed with that coy, famous smile and told me something very valuable about myself. While he’s met a few other tour operators traveling the globe, their stories are the same, “they all got hooked while studying in college.”

This is funny to me, as I didn’t originally mean to keep traveling. I just didn’t want to go home. I wanted to stay in Rome. But, for the last few years at least, perhaps traveling has proven to be about the journey and not quite the destination as my trips have been whirlwinds. I conceded, asking where he’s actually from, and of course he responded, “New York City.” Although Andrew is from the center of the universe, I didn’t hold it against him, since, given his occupation, he’s probably the only New Yorker that makes it out of Manhattan. Likewise, he loved that I’m from Texas and recounted a show of his in the Austin Hill Country last year, just before we took a couple photos.DSC00363

Andrew returned to his “Strange Foods” table, pampering the large, phallus-shaped clams and enthusiastically posed for more photos. But, it was not our last encounter. Throughout the evening, I was dragged over for more pictures with various groups of friends, forgetting that, hmmm…perhaps Andrew would rather us just try the clams instead, and get on with it. Most guests stuck with blood sausage, another favorite of his, and watered it down with some food located at a table nearby that should’ve been referred to as the “Safe Foods” table, as it included chips and salsa as well as buffalo wings.

Footnotes: Thanks to Reggie Brown, fellow NBC Chicago Street Team member (and famous Barack Obama impersonator) for originally introducing me to Andrew Zimmern and taking some photos.

Read Full Post »

Hungry Z, NBC Chicago Street Team

The Taste of Chicago was born July 4th in 1980, and is now the second largest tourist attraction in Illinois. For 10 days, this free admission festival is the place to be, injecting the city with a spirit of hunger and attracting a few news stories along the way. To add some spectacle to all the gluttony, there will be live performances by Ne-Yo, Counting Crows, Wallflowers, Barenaked Ladies and more.

In the midst of these hard economic times, Taste will offer a better value than ever this year. Each restaurant will offer a choice of two Taste portions instead of one. The taste portions are smaller and cheaper sample versions of the regular-sized portions.

Fifty different vendors will be vying for a spot in your belly, but not all of them deserve it. Must-try items include B.J’s Mustard fried catfish, O’Brien’s Celtic corn, Original Rainbow cones, and Garrett’s caramel and cheese popcorn.

Visit NBCChicago.com for a full list of Hungry Z’s Taste hits and misses.

Read Full Post »

rebecca_1Rebecca Taras, NBC Chicago Street Team


Arturo Gomez and Megan Klehr (Photo by Tyler Curtis)

Arturo Gomez and Megan Klehr (Photo by Tyler Curtis)

It’s not every day that you run into billionaire Kenneth Griffin (#97 on Forbes 2008 list of the 400 richest Americans) but he was one of  many donors, art enthusiasts and collectors who attended the sold out Young Modern event last Friday. More than 1,200 guests attended the late night celebration which was part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s two-week festivities surrounding the opening of the new Modern Wing.

Mother and son duo Margo and Jason Pritzker co-chaired the event which included much more than gallery hopping and cocktail sipping.  Those appreciating the art of fashion enjoyed a show featuring local designers Marisa Swystun and Michelle Barone. Music was also a large component and included celebrity DJ’s Tommie Sunshine, Dark Wave Disco and DJ LoPro, with additional performances by Deep Blue Fields, Goran Ivanovic Group, Kalyan Pathak and Jazz Mata. Performance art by Industry of the Ordinary, and Igor Josifov took place in various galleries in the Modern Wing. Famed music and video director Vincent Haycock of Debonair Social Club transformed a portion of the space into a club-like atmosphere complete with multiple bars, lounge furniture and yes – servers holding out pizza boxes offering up slices of sustenance.

Nate Berkus and Friends (Photo by Tyler Curtis)

Nate Berkus and Friends (Photo by Tyler Curtis)

The event in itself was a work of art and could not have been executed without some of the city’s young executives, artists, entrepreneurs and nightlife impresarios. The Art Institute assembled a host committee which included Toni Canada, Glenn Eden, Claudia Gassel, Roxy Goebel, Arturo Gomez, Ted Haffner, PJ Huizenga, Brook Jay, James Kao, Sam Peter, Eric Sheinkop, Marisa Swystun, Stephen Tourell, Patrick Wood and Alex Zamiar. Sponsors of the event included Deloitte LLP, NAVTEQ, FIJI Water, PricewaterhouseCoopers, POM Wonderful and Grey Goose.

Read Full Post »

Reggie Brown, NBC Chicago Street Team

May 1st marked the season opener for Mario’s Italian Lemonade, the  nostalgic gem of Little Italy that’s been serving some of Chicagoland’s most treasured treats since 1954. But this isn’t your average lemonade stand. I had the chance to hang curbside with owner Mario DiPaolo and took home more than an order of Italian ice, I got a glimpse into the history behind Mario’s.


While Al Capone’s crew was busy mixing up moonshine and other types of hooch on the block, the Dipaolo’s were mixing up something of their own.  It all started back in 1954 when Mario’s parents, Mario and Dorothy opened up the first lemonade stand.  In 1959, the family bought the property at 1068 W Taylor St where Mario Sr. and son built the structure which evolved from a simple green countertop to its present facade, where it still stands today. Back then, it used to take little Mario 2 hours to make one 3 1/2 gallon batch of lemonade by hand with a single crank machine.  With the product increasing in demand, an automatic machine was incorporated into the picture to help increase the supply.The frozen lemonade sold for 2 cents and came in a squeeze cup, no spoon or straw.  Aside from the time passed and the unavoidable affects of inflation, little else has changed around the stand since the old days.

Needless to say, the stand holds a lot of sentimental value for Mario, which even granted him the opportunity to meet his wife Maria, one of the unsung heros of the family business.

“A girl asked for a job, we fell in love, and we’re married for 25 years. She’s a big part of our business and our success,” Mario said.

It’s still a family affair. The Dipaolo’s, their three children and extended family  all contribute to the group effort. The Dipaolo’s keep serving up smiles by honoring old school business ethics.

“The customer is the most important person in the business. It takes years to get ’em and one bad time to lose ’em,” Mario said. “God put me on the face of this earth to make lemonade and that spot over there is meant to be a lemonade stand!”  

Known for being the first to offer diverse flavors in Italian ice,  new concepts are constantly in development. For now, the menu offers these 16 choices infused with chunks of fruit and pieces of lemon and served with a straw and spoon:

Lemon, Watermelon, Banana, Cherry, Lime, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Orange, Pineapple, Chocolate, Coconut, Cantaloupe, Grape, Pina Colada, Fruit Cocktail and the seasonal favorite, Peach (Available mid to late August only)



The most popular menu choices are peach (seasonal), lemon, watermelon and pineapple; any of  the flavors can be combined to create to your own custom combination. Right now I’m crazy about the  fruit cocktail. The frozen treats start out at $1 for a small (tax included) and range in sizes all the way up to the jumbo, $6.25 for a  1/2 gallon take home tub. 

It’s rare to find the stand without a line that stretches down the block but the service is always quick and friendly and is well worth the short wait. Make sure to take in as much as you can, the stand is only open 4 1/2 months a year and will be closing its doors until next year’s season on September 15. 

So get on over there and tell em Reggie sent ya!

Mario’s Italian Lemonade

1068 W Taylor Street

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »