Recalling Chicago’s Olympics memories past – and passed

Chicago-2016.0From the Saturday, Aug. 6, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


If Chicago had been awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, its Opening Ceremony would have taken place on July 22. The IOC passed on the Windy City, of course, so on Friday in Rio it was the Brazilians who put on their show.

But I do still like to imagine what Chicago would have pulled off for its own Opening Ceremony. One can joke about how the theatrics would have been a revue featuring the Blues Brothers, hot dogs, deep dish pizza and Al Capone, but I doubt that our Games would have actually featured those civic stereotypes.

Rather, I imagine that the 1871 Great Fire – and Chicago’s rebirth from its ashes – would have been a focal point of our Opening Ceremony. I’d like to think that 21st-century technology could have re-created imagery of one of the most mind-blowing spectacles ever known to man: The White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – a collection of massive buildings clad in white stucco, of which now only the Museum of Science & Industry still stands (sans the stucco).

I’d hope that a Chicago Opening Ceremony would have shared the story of the city’s many immigrants and its rich diversity. And, finally, I would imagine that our own global icon, Michael Jordan, would have been the one to light the flame.

Hopefully, Jim Belushi wouldn’t have been anywhere in sight.

We’ll never see any of that, but to keep you in the Olympics mood, I wanted to share a few names of Chicago Olympians from Summer Games gone by.

Adolph Kiefer

At age 98, Adolph Gustav Kiefer is the oldest living American Olympic champion – and a Chicagoan. As a 16-year-old Roosevelt High School student swimming in the 1935 IHSA championships, he became the first man to break the 1-minute mark in the 100-yard backstroke (59.8).

The next year, he represented the United States in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, where he won gold in the 100-meter backstroke and set an Olympic record (1:05.9) that would stand for 20 years.

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Short on holidays, August long on fun in Chicago

AirShowFrom the Saturday, July 30, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


When it comes to the calendar, August is an oddball.

It’s the only month of the 12 that’s without an official holiday, which probably gives it a complex. Thankfully, though, Chicago offers plenty of events to keep August – and you – plenty busy.

So, holidays or not, here are a few of the events in that you can consider partaking in next month.

Hot Dog Festival
Aug. 5-7

The Dog Days of Summer wouldn’t feel right without, well, dogs.

Celebrating the city’s love affair with the iconic encased meat, the Chicago Hot Dog Fest has that covered. The free event, held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 5-6 and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 7, is held outside the Chicago History Museum at Clark & LaSalle.

The fest features hot dog vendors including Byron’s and Fatso’s Last Stand, along with live music, entertainment and speaking sessions.

For more information, visit

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Chicago’s rich history of big plans, big misses

spireFrom the Saturday, July 23, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


Daniel Burnham, the urban design visionary who in 1909 drafted “The Plan for Chicago” that would serve as the template for the future of the metropolis, famously said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

To its credit, Chicago has never had a problem making grand plans.

But it does, on occasion, have difficulty following through on them.

Most recently, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art slated for the lakefront imploded like the Death Star. And as we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s difficult to not think about Chicago’s failed bid to host the Games, which the International Olympic Committee instead awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

I’m guessing the IOC might like a do-over on that one.

Those, however, are just two examples of the high-profile Windy City projects that blew away before becoming reality. Here’s a dive into some more.

1992 World’s Fair

In 1893, Chicago held the World Columbian Exposition to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 discovery of the New World. In 1983, Chicago and Seville, Spain, were chosen to host the 1992 World’s Fair to mark the 500th anniversary.

Seville held up its part, drawing 41.8 million visitors. But Chicago didn’t as its plan collapsed due to political bickering and questions about public funding. In 1999, Congress banned the use of federal funds for participation in World’s Fairs.

So don’t hold your breath for 2092.

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It’s a Dickens of a time for Illini basketball

John+Groce+Ohio+State+v+Illinois+DP3HkMfySUAlFrom the Saturday, July 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

“A Tale of Two Cities” wasn’t written about, well, Champaign-Urbana, but the novel’s opening line does apply quite well to the current topsy-turvy state of basketball down at the University of Illinois.

With injuries, arrests and losses piling up, Illini coach John Groce has had a Dickens of a time getting his program on solid footing since his arrival in 2012. But this week, an orange-and-blue beacon finally cut through the murk when 5-star center Jeremiah Tilmon, an East St. Louis native, pledged allegiance to his home state school.

The verbal commitment was a huge shot in the arm for Groce – and Illini fans – after a string of painful swings and misses with previous high-profile recruiting targets. In the fall of 2017, Tilmon is set to join fellow recruits Da’Monte Williams of Peoria Manual and Javon Pickett of Belleville East in what’s shaping up into a blockbuster class for the Illini¬ – especially if highly touted Jordan Goodwin of Belleville Althoff also jumps on board.

Thanks to Tilmon, this week might have been Groce’s best time at Illinois. But for Illini hoops we’re also still in the worst of times, and the coach needs more than recruits to save his job this season.

He needs wins.

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Chicago’s July filled with fireworks, food and fun

Fireworks over Navy Pier, ChicagoFrom the Saturday, July 2, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky


Happy Independence Day Weekend, otherwise known as the 240th anniversary of the day America pulled its own Brexit back in 1776.

The United Kingdom’s decision last week to depart the EU has set off a lot of political fireworks, but if you’re looking to enjoy some traditional ones this weekend in Chicago, Navy Pier has its July 4 fireworks extravaganza set for 9:30 p.m. on Monday night.

To get the best free views of the show, you can head to the pier itself or to Millennium Park. Or you can splurge for a last-minute ticket for Navy Pier’s Freedom Fest, which features a DJ, BBQ for sale and a cash bar along with rooftop views. For details, visit

And for other entertainment options in Chicago during July, read on.

Taste of Chicago, July 6-10

On July 4, 1980, the city of Chicago blocked off Michigan Avenue between Ohio Street and Wacker Drive, anticipating a crowd of 100,000 for the inaugural Taste of Chicago. More than 250,000 showed up, cementing the Taste’s place on the Windy City’s summertime calendar forevermore.

Next week, the Granddaddy of Food Festivals returns for its 37th installment hawking many of the old standards along with six new food trucks (including Da Lobsta and Firecakes Donuts) and 11 new pop-up restaurants (including Taco in a Bag, Pork & Mindy’s, and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken). The music lineup, meanwhile, features The Roots (July 6), Billy Idol (July 9) and the Isley Brothers (July 10).

The Taste runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., July 6-8, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 9-10. For more information, visit

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Cubs Off Base with ‘Booze Rules’ Complaints

CubsPlaza1From the Saturday, June 25, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Save perhaps Cleveland, Wrigley Field is the happiest place on the planet these days. So why on Earth are the Chicago Cubs crying foul?

Well, you can count the reasons over beers — and in dollars. And while I’m all for the Cubs making cash, I’m counting their complaints out.

On Wednesday, the family that owns the best team in baseball was given the authority to serve beer and wine at a sprawling outdoor plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council also slapped a list of limitations on when and how the Rickettses can do it, which has left them as frustrated as a .200 hitter facing Jake Arrieta.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Trip

towerFrom the Saturday, June 11, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
— Ferris Bueller

Three decades ago today, a trio of truants from the town of Shermer, Ill., redefined cool, comedy and teenage angst for an entire generation by embarking upon an epic, rollicking adventure throughout Chicago.

But if you scour a roadmap of the Land of Lincoln for their hometown, you won’t find it anywhere. If you plug the city’s name into Google Maps, you’ll get bupkis. And if you ask a Chicagoan for directions to the place?

Well, whatever you get in return will be wrong.

That’s because Shermer — the hometown of Ferris Bueller, Cameron Frye, Sloan Peterson and countless other John Hughes film characters — doesn’t actually exist.

Although that hardly stopped me from visiting it last weekend.

For children of the ’80s, today is a watershed anniversary as it marks 30 years since “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” premiered in theaters on June 11, 1986. And as a child of the ’80s, I wanted to honor this momentous occasion. So last weekend, my wife Debbie and I pulled a reverse Bueller by escaping the city to explore the burbs.

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For Chicago, America’s Cup runneth over

louis-vuitton-2016-americas-cup-chicago-02From the Saturday, June 4, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)


By Dave Wischnowsky

In Chicago, we’ve seen the World Cup (Opening Ceremony, 1994). We’ve seen the Stanley Cup (often, in recent years). And we’ve seen the Crosstown Cup (can’t the Cubs and White Sox just mothball that thing?).

But a Cup that we’ve never seen is America’s. Until now.

From June 10-12, sailing’s most famous racing competition will dip its toe in Chicago for the first time as the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series splashes into Lake Michigan. Featuring the world’s best sailors competing on 45-foot wing-sailed, hydro-foiled, multi-hull catamarans, the World Series – a phrase rarely associated with Chicago – is the first stage of competition in the 35th America’s Cup that began last summer and will culminate in the America’s Cup finals in 2017 in Bermuda.

Chicago submitted a bid to host the finals that Bermuda won, but was instead awarded the consolation prize of the World Series –something that the Cubs hope to host in 2016 too. The race, which could be a trial run for Chicago to ultimately host the finals, brings the America’s Cup into fresh water for the first time in its 165-year history, and will involve six teams (New Zealand, Japan, France, Sweden, Great Britain and defending champion Oracle Team USA) competing at speeds up to 35 knots (40 mph) on a course that stretches between Navy Pier and Adler Planetarium.

If you’re at all like me and barely know your starboard side from your port (that would be left and right), there’s probably a lot about America’s Cup that you didn’t know. Here are a few factoids to get you seaworthy.

Second place, first loser

In August 1851, a schooner emerged from the afternoon mist off the southern coast of England and swiftly sailed past the Royal Yacht stationed near the Isle of Wight while Queen Victoria was aboard watching a sailing race. As the schooner, named America, zipped past in first position, and saluted the Queen by dipping its ensign flag three times, she asked one of her attendants to tell her who was in second place.

“Your majesty, there is no second,” was the reply.

According to the America’s Cup website, that phrase is still the best description of the competition and how it represents the singular pursuit of excellence.

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June events to make you swoon in Chicago

content_Blues-FestFrom the Saturday, May 28, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Summer unofficially begins on Monday.

So, it’s nice that in advance of Memorial Day the summer-like weather finally officially arrived in Illinois this week, although I’m still looking for our spring-like weather. Perhaps it’ll show up in October.

In any case, assuming this warmth sticks around, there are plenty of hot events in Chicago during June for you to enjoy it. Here are a few of my suggestions.

June 2-5

Think Oktoberfest in June … except it’s named after May … and spelled funny.

Actually, don’t think too much about it at all. Just enjoy Maifest, a four-day, German-themed event held at Lincoln and Leland avenues in Lincoln Square, the heart of Chicago’s German community. The festival honors the traditional celebration of the arrival of spring with live music, maypole dancing and, on the night of June 3, a traditional keg tapping and crowning of the May Queen, or the Mai Queen, or really the June Queen.

In any case, get more information at – and yes, the URL is confusingly spelled with a “y.”

Ribfest Chicago
June 10-12

If you dig ribs, then there’s nowhere else you’ll want to be next month than Chicago’s North Center neighborhood where 50,000 pounds of ribs and BBQ will be dished out by more than 30 restaurants during Ribfest.

Located at Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road, Ribfest features the seventh annual “Ribmania” eating contest at 6 p.m. on June 10, as well as music all weekend. It also offers a family area with live entertainment for kids, including inflatables and games.

For more information, visit

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