Summer in review

A young Cardinals fan leaves his mark on a group of Cubs fans marching in the Champaign-Urbana parade on July 4. Wes Anderson

A young Cardinals fan leaves his mark on a group of Cubs fans marching in the Champaign-Urbana parade on July 4. Wes Anderson

Picnics remain a summertime mainstay

Before the first cold, fall wind sweeps over the flat, Illinois plain, there’s one activity everybody can easily partake in: Having a nice picnic.

The Urbana Park District is home to more than 15 parks, with Crystal Lake and Meadowbrook parks being the most popular for picnicking, said Kathy Meyers, office manager for the Phillips Recreation Center.

“They’re really just great parks,” Meyers said.

Crystal Lake Park, located off of Broadway Avenue north of University Avenue in Urbana, features hiking paths through Lucy Woods and a nature center. Boating is also available for a small fee, which is especially convenient for those who want to fish. Canoes and row boats are available for $5 a half hour, $7 for a half hour. A two-seat paddle boat is available for $6 for a half hour or $8 for an hour, while a four-seat paddle boat costs $7 for a half hour, $9 for an hour.

“It’s (boating) really a lot of fun and a very good exercise,” Meyers said.

Picnic areas in both parks are open until dusk. Groups of less than 25 people can access the areas at any time without restriction, while groups of 25 to 50 people need a special use permit and can only picnic for up to two hours.Still, there are more picnicking option available if you’re willing to travel a little bit.

Allerton Park and Retreat Center, 515 Old Timber Road in Monticello, is a 1,500-acre park with more than 100 sculptures and 14 miles of hiking trails along the Sangamon River in addition to their picnic areas near an expansive garden.

“It’s something you can spend as little or as much time as you want in and see something different every time,” said Jessica Hampson, marketing and communications director at Allerton Park and Retreat Center, in a previous interview with The Daily Illini.

The park was recently named one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois and is open from 8 a.m. until sundown seven days a week.

Summer watering hole staying busy

With its laid-back atmosphere, prime on-campus location and quasi-Teutonic moniker, Firehaus has regularly been a lively watering hole while classes are in session over the last three years.

This summer, with numerous bars shutting their doors during the lull in student population, including traditional mainstays The Clybourne and C.O. Daniel’s, it has become one of the most popular – and most packed – bars on campus during the summer sessions.

Firehaus, located at 708 S. Sixth St., is one of Campustown’s newest bars. The site was formerly known as R&R; Sports Grill until Champaign bar mogul Scott Cochrane – who also owns local bars Station 211, Rock’s, FuBar Lounge and The Clybourne, located adjacent to Firehaus – purchased the lot and began renovations in 2002.

Construction took much longer than anticipated due to past fires, which had damaged the building’s foundation and eventually served as inspiration for the bar’s eventual name. Firehaus eventually had its grand opening in September 2005.

With an enormous surplus of bars already catering almost exclusively to the student population, Firehaus was originally opened only to patrons older than 21 after 9 p.m. However, as business waned, that policy changed to allow patrons older than 19 years old – first on certain nights, then ultimately every night.

Cal Fitzgerald, a senior in LAS, still feels the bar caters to an older demographic.

“It definitely has a different feel to it, attracts a different crowd than Station or Kam’s,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s much more like a typical bar you would find outside of campus or Champaign.”

With its location just two blocks from the Quad and surrounded by student-geared apartments, Firehaus has had no trouble snaring in students during the summer.

“It’s always been pretty packed when I’ve been down here,” Fitzgerald said. “But they have an outdoor area, like a porch, so there’s a lot of space.”

Area’s summer dance spots heat up the night

Considering most student’s summer days have been consumed with work and school, it’s nice to let the good old hair down and loosen up that tie for a long night on the dance floor.

Here are a couple of the best places off campus (yes, there are more bars than Joe’s and Firehaus) to explore if students want to shake what your Momma gave you, get your groove on or shake your tail feather.

The Highdive, 51 E. Main St., is the top pick for many students on campus this summer.

“It’s a nice place,” said Anterio Jackson, a junior in AHS. “It’s more formal than regular campus bars, and it has more composure with their dress code and extra security.”

Whether you want to jam out to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on Monday’s 80’s night or learn how to line dance on Wednesday’s country night, this nightclub has the grooves that please different tastes.

“They give good line dancing lessons,” said Jayne Widhalm, senior in ACES. “They also switch the music around midnight on Wednesdays, to hip-hip and rock and roll so it’s pretty diverse.”

Friday and Saturday nights feature a mixture of house, techno, 80’s pop and hip-hop combined with dramatic lighting sequences, giving attendees the perfect ambience to strut their stuff on the dance floor.

However, if people are looking to spice up the night, salsa night at Cowboy Monkey, 6 E. Taylor St., could be the perfect remedy. They feature sultry, Latin tunes from all genres such as merengue, salsa, bachata, mambo and reggaeton.

“Even if you don’t know how to salsa, it’s still fun to watch those who can,” said April Warren-Grice, graduate student.

A night at Cowboy Monkey might have you searching YouTube for the latest salsa moves to try.

“The music is good, and that’s what make or breaks a nightclub,” said Warren-Grice.

New Blues, BBQ Festival is best debut of summer

With the beginning of summer came the onset of festival season in Champaign-Urbana. Taking their well-established annual spots on the calendar were June’s Taste of C-U and July’s Champaign County Fair, but it was an entertaining newcomer that made a surprising debut on June 28.

Hosted in the parking lot of Lincoln Square Village in Urbana, the first annual Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival featured a hearty filling of local cuisine and more than 11 hours of blues music in celebration of the city’s 175th birthday.

“Bring your lawn chairs, bring your shade umbrellas, bring your appetite,” said Jeff Grant, who organized the event with partner Perry Davidson, both of Fluid Events.

And on a hot, sunny Saturday in June the crowds did just that.

Setting Blues, Brews and BBQ apart from the collection of major festivals in the area was an enticing balance of tasty local cuisine and well-respected musicians.

While the food vendors did see their fair share of hungry concert-goers, a lineup featuring Lonnie Brooks, fellow Louisianan Tab Benoit, and Peoria, Ill., native Bernard Allison was a big draw for blues fans.

“Lonnie Brooks and (Tab Benoit)? Incredible. These are blues icons,” said Randy Upton of Matoon, Ill. “They play for the bigger shows, and they play for big crowds.”

Upton ultimately came away impressed.

“As far as a mini concert, this is really nice. Some of the shows are much larger.”

Due to time constraints in the planning process, Fluid Events and the City of Urbana were unable to hold the festival at their ideal location – the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Main Street.

Summer construction on the clock tower downtown made the move impossible in the festival’s inaugural year, but Grant does expect improvements.

These include a BBQ Cookoff, sanctioned by area barbeque societies.

Plans are also in the works for an arts boulevard and wider selection of beer.

Grant projected a rise in the number of sponsors in future years, resulting in free admission to the festival. An up-and-coming event took center stage this summer, and It is only a matter of time before Urbana’s 176th birthday ushers in an improved version.

Unforgettable summer songs leave lasting impression on students

Everyone has a certain song that they think of when they look back and remember a particular summer. For some it could be the song that was playing when something significant happened, but for many, it’s simply that song the radio played at least once every hour on every station.

This summer is no different. While some people were “sippin’ whiskey out the bottle, not thinkin’ ’bout tomorrow,” others were “kissing girls and liking it”. There were a variety of songs that would not get out of people’s heads.

“When I think back on this summer I’ll think of ‘All Summer Long’ by Kid Rock, it seemed to be playing wherever I went this summer,” said Valarie McConville, sophomore in AHS.

Many songs this summer also got on people’s nerves as the radio and bars overplayed them this summer.

“When ‘I Kissed a Girl’ first came out, I thought it was a pretty good song,” said Elizabeth Shafer, junior in LAS. “Then I heard it way too much on the radio and in bars I just got tired of it.”

Aside from the newer top 40 songs that came out this year, there are a few songs that people can never forget when summer comes. “Whenever I hear ‘Summer Girls’ by LFO, I think of the summer,” said McConville.

Hungry students in Campustown rely on local culinary mainstays

The smell of barbecue floating through the humid air, the sun reflecting off the melted butter on top of an ear of corn, a slice of pizza and a cold bottle of beer on the patio. Summer is a time for people to indulge in their epicurean side. Even if classes or work are part of your summer equation, there have been plenty of opportunities here in the C-U area to treat your taste buds to a little something special.

While some students relaxed, others were still working this summer, like Joyce Woo, senior in LAS.

“My biggest issue this summer is the food court,” Woo said. “I work right near the Union, and during school I always go there. But now it closes really early in the day.”

For Woo, the biggest selling point for her summer food is speed.

“I’m always looking for something fast,” Woo said. “If I want Chinese, its Cravings or Lai Lai Wok. If I want pizza, it’s Antonio’s.”

Federico Scholcoff, junior in Engineering, summed up the summer in one word.