Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dining Out: Glowing Sputnik Beckons Diners to Hennepin's Waterfront Tavern

Image source: PJ Star
The sputnik beckons again.

This is good news especially in autumn, as one of central Illinois’ greatest natural canvasses explodes in color along Illinois Route 26. Along that motorway, for Peorians meandering up the east side of the Illinois River, a great turnaround point is Hennepin, seat of Putnam County. The county, once the biggest in the state and inclusive of the site of Chicago, is now the state’s smallest, with a population (6,006) smaller than Bartonville’s.

But it’s got a sputnik. And it’s again aglow.

For six decades, the offbeat beacon — the kind ubiquitous at car dealerships in the space-age-obsessed ‘50s and ‘60s — summoned visitors to Ray’s Place, a pub-and-grub landmark in the Illinois Valley. But the place went dark more than two years ago.

But local native Greg Waldorf, whose family has run a tap in Peru for almost 40 years, bought and rehabbed the weathered business, yet retained its throwback feel. The joint sparkles, from the bar through the dining room, but still boasts vestiges of nostalgia such as old, rotating Michelob signs. The feeling is comfy, whether coming solo to watch a TV ballgame or with the family to chomp dinner.

When my wife and I visited, the staff was chipper, almost gleeful. Nice welcome.

At night, the dinner menu is classic Illinois Valley, spotlighting fried chicken and pasta. Other offerings are available as entrees, including bluegill.

We popped in on a Saturday afternoon, just past noon. The lunch menu is focused, with seven appetizers, plus nine sandwiches and burgers.

From the appetizers, we opted for the tater tots, but these come from no grocer. These handmade bacon-and-cheddar bombs (five for $4.95) burst with rich flavor. We also sampled the onion rings ($5.95), also homemade.The rings were fat and tasty, but a wee salty.

My wife eyed the burger list, which includes a double cheeseburger with two half-pound patties — a pound of beef. That’s not something you’ll find at McDonald’s. She went with a quarter-pound cheeseburger ($5.95), which comes with Lay’s kettle chips. The burger was solid, if unremarkable.

I glanced over the various pulled-pork concoctions, including The Shipwreck, a piling of a half-pound burger, a quarter-pound of pork, four slices of bacon, beer cheese and French fries — all of that squeezed between two buns, for $12.95. Not wanting to fall asleep immediately after the meal, I instead opted for the simpler hardwood smoked pulled pork ($7.95), a half-pound of pig topped with their root beer barbecue sauce. The latter nicely balanced smoky and sweet, a nice accent to the succulent pork.

The Waterfront makes for a pleasant stop for Illinois River rides — and even a reason to take one in the first place.

Source: Peoria Journal Star


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hennepin Water Board Hikes Rates

Hennepin mayor Kevin Coleman started Wednesday’s meeting by switching hats to his position as water board chairman and explaining to the village board the upcoming water rate hike for the village.

Coleman, with the help of water board engineer Jack Kusek from McClure Engineering, told the board the sanitary side of the water treatment plant would need improvements, to the tune of approximately $1 million.

“It’s something that’s been in the works and planning for a long time,” Coleman said. “With the steel mill shutting down, the revenues that come in to cover the costs of these things just isn’t there because we have to rely on 300 some metered customers that we have in town.”

The rates, currently set at a base of $22 for water and $28.60 for sewer for the first 5,000 gallons used, will increase over the next 18 months beginning Jan. 1 to $22 for water and $48.60 for sewer for the first 4,000 gallons used. There will be a charge of $6.00 per 1,000 gallons of water used for water over the base and $7.00 for sewer.

There also will be a $4.25 fee for short lived assets.

“This isn’t something that we really want to do, but the equipment out there dates to 1967, so we can’t find electrical parts anymore,” Coleman said.

Kusek explained the plant had been made for use of 300,000 gallons a day, with the village now using approximately 50,000-70,000.

It also had provisions for the steel mill to double in size, and the town to grow to 25,000 people when initially built, none of which came to fruition.

“The other thing you want to consider, one of the things that Hennepin has to its advantage is, they don’t have steel mill, but they have a lot of property that could be developed into some industrial development, so you don’t really want to downsize your plant and cut your throat, just because you aren’t using it at the moment,” Kusek said. “That’s a plus for the village to have that capacity to bring someone in in the future.”

Kusek said after the rate hike, the bills would be comparable with other area towns.

Coleman said a letter of explanation would be sent out to village residents in the near future.

Source: News Tribune


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oak Ridge Trail Open at Dixon Refuge

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The new Marquis Oak Ridge Trail is now open for visitors at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes.

The 2.7-mile gravel trail is designed for hiking and bicycling and leads from the levee at the north end of the site through prairies and wetlands to the newly-restored Oak Ridge marsh and savanna at the center of the refuge. Six signs tell travelers about habitats, plants, animals and refuge history.

The trail takes visitors through or close to different types of prairie, meadow and marsh, ending with a short loop around Oak Ridge. Hikers or bicyclists who complete the trip can see the restored marsh from a viewing platform, a good spot to see migrating waterfowl. You also might spot gentian, a wildflower, and river otters along the trail.

The Wetlands Initiative has been restoring the 70-acre Oak Ridge area since 2014 through a 3-to-1 match challenge grant offered by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and donations from individual supporters. Final restoration steps this fall will include planting native trees.

A $100,000 grant from Marquis Energy LLC of Hennepin made trail construction possible, with additional funding from Dr. Scholl Foundation, Dynegy Hennepin Power Station, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund, and donors to The Wetlands Initiative.

From Route 26, visitors can access the trail by turning west onto the levee just south of Coffee Creek bridge and parking at the small lot along the levee and following the signs to the trailhead.

Source: News Tribune


Harvest Home, Eric Ciucci Family Tribute Saturday in Hennepin

Saturday, Hennepin's Harvest Home celebration, "Homegrown, a Tribute to our Roots", is combining with the second Annual Eric Ciucci Tribute - A Day to Celebrate Families for a full day of family friendly activities.

Starting with Harvest Home scarecrow judging Friday evening - winners will receive $50 for first and $25 for two runner-up positions - the main event will kick off with the annual parade.

All entries are asked to be at the Hennepin Park District Pool Complex no later than 10:30 a.m. for the themed event.  All organizations, businesses, and politicians are welcome.

Following the parade, from 12-12:30 p.m. will be registration for the Golf Cart Race.  There is a $10 entry fee and only licensed drivers can participate; no four-wheelers will be allowed in the race.

The race will take place at 1 p.m.

From 11:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. refreshments will be available for purchase at the shelter, with the Methodist Church Chicken Dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The dinner will be held at the Methodist Church and is open seating. Tickets can be purchsed at the door. Dinner includes the famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes with skillet gravy, green beans, coleslaw, and a selection of homemade pies.  Carry outs are available.

Also starting at 11:30 and running to 9 p.m. is the beer tent.

Starting at noon - 5 p.m. are the Children's "Brown Bag" auction for ages four - 12, and inflatable bouncy houses.  Winners of the Brown Bag auction will be announced at 5:30 p.m.

From noon - 6 p.m. is the silent auction, open to all ages.

Face painting and children's arts and crafts for ages four - 12 will run from 1 - 4 p.m.

An ice cream eating contest, open to all ages will begin at 2 p.m.

A 50/50 bead game, also open to all ages will begin at 6:30.

Evening activities will culminate with music from Darryl, Hall & Soen Oats performing from 7-9 p.m.

All proceeds from the days events will benefit the Putnam County Educational Foundation.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hennepin to Fix Boat Docks

Hennepin will donate $100 to the Peru homeless shelter, fix boat docks instead of replacing as discussed at a previous meeting, and award the Hennepin Vocational Grant to Jordan Hatton, Riley Morris and Katelyn Leitner. Hatton will get the first place grant, with Morris receiving second and Leitner third.

Also Wednesday, the village board heard from village engineer Bill Shafer on a proposed drainage issue on 11th Street, and Shafer also told the board he would be semi-retiring, only working part-time, but would continue to be the head engineer for the village.

After returning from closed session, the board directed village clerk Diana Brandstatter to place an ad to hire a new part-time street department worker, after the resignation of the current part-time employee.

Source: News Tribune


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hanna Hundley Attends Girls State

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
Hennepin American Legion Auxiliary Post 1044 selected Hanna Hundley as top candidate to attend this year’s Girls State on the campus at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Hundley is pictured with her mother, Melanie Hundley.

Girls State activities were scheduled for the week of June 19-25. Hanna joined the American Legion Auxiliary during its July meeting and summarized the events she experienced while attending Girls State. She is anticipating a return to Girls State as a counselor.

Any Hennepin girl, who is a high school junior, interested in levels of government should complete the Illinois Girls State form offered during the spring school year.

Congratulations, Hanna!

Source: Putnam County Record


Monday, August 8, 2016

Hennepin Starts Planning 2017 Bicentennial

The Village of Hennepin will celebrate its 200th birthday next year and a group of citizens met recently to begin planning a birthday party for the town.

All were invited to the initial meeting, but attending the event were Mayor Kevin Coleman, village board members Quentin Buffington, Matt Dean and Karyn Christiansen, Putnam County Historical Society representative Sidney Whitaker, town residents Jim Gibson, Tom Dore and Jay McCracken, and Marquis Inc. representative Dana Gustafson.

The tentative days for the birthday party will be Saturday-Tuesday, July 1-4, 2017. Each day will have varying degrees of entertainment and activities planned.

Taking Gustafson’s idea to theme each day of the celebration, the tentative birthday activities as follows:
Saturday: A Day for Residents, Past and Present. The village will host a hog roast and corn boil for people who live or lived in the village to come back and honor their roots and celebrate the village’s birthday. The town also will unveil the Village Hall of Fame, a list of noteworthy deceased residents. Saturday also will see the beginning of the historical walks, the village movie on loop, kid’s activities, a DJ, and a possible “Hennepin’s Got Talent” contest.
Sunday: Blues and BBQ’s. Dean will host a rib cook-off while the smooth sounds of blues music fill the streets. Everyone is welcome to come to the village to help wish Hennepin a happy 200th  while enjoying vendors, viewing historical farming tools, continued historical walks, kids games, enjoying food vendors, beer gardens, stage coach and wagon rides, and visiting the historic Pulsifer House.
Monday: A Day for Kids. Afternoon and evening activities include kids games and a movie at dusk.
Tuesday: Happy Fourth of July. This day will be all that Hennepin is known for, bags, beer gardens, bands, and spectacular fireworks.

How are they going to pay for it?
Celebrations like this can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, and when fireworks get involved, you can be looking upward of six figures. The plan, said Coleman, is to ask for donations from local businesses.
“We’re going to have to solicit the big companies around us,” Coleman said. “It’s our 200th year.”

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hennepin Board Reluctantly Comes Down on Property Owner

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
To condemn or not to condemn, that is the question in Hennepin. 

Or actually, can they condemn, how do they condemn, and should they condemn if they even can condemn houses that violate town property ordinances.

“I’m not real big for this, but I’m going to talk about condemning a house. I have no idea how it goes, what the process is to do it, whosE authority it is to do that,” said property maintenance officer Josh Randall. “There is a residence in Hennepin that is not inhabited, hasn’t been inhabited for at least five years. I’m told the pipes are broken and the house is moldy.”

Randall said that while he wasn’t for the government coming in to take someone’s property, he wanted the board to look to the future on how to deal with the possibility of condemning the property, if the issues, both inside and outside, aren’t rectified.

“It doesn’t need an answer,” Randall said, referring to Wednesday night, “but it’s just something to look at in the future as we get more structures, just so we have more direction. I don’t want to bring in a bulldozer and run anyone’s house over. I’d like this property maintenance thing to get to me coming in here because somebody didn’t mow their lawn.”

Randall was told by Mayor Kevin Coleman to start by issuing a citation to the property in question for the outside property maintenance issues until they are all brought up to code.

Source: News Tribune