This week in The Source Ken Bradbury wrote about the Town Brook, mentions Steve & Tiffany Warmowski of TownBrook.com and Ginny Fanning of the city’s Town Brook special studies committee. Be a part of the story, and come to the Farnsworth Group presentation 5:30 Monday May 13th at Jacksonville’s City Hall.
I hated dodge ball. In my tiny high school the P.E. teachers would throw the various age levels together in order to make a team, so my freshman class would soon be faced with an opposing squad of ball-hurlers of giant proportions. Unlike deer hunters who climb into their tree stand and wait for the biggest buck to come along, in dodge ball you aim for the weakest first. Kill off the puppies then aim for the big dogs.
So dodge ball season in Perry was one continuous series of bruises, black eyes and concussions. Of course back then we didn’t call them concussions, just bad headaches that caused us to see two balls coming at us instead of one. Many school systems still use dodge ball as method of institutionalized bullying, but most have tempered their policy to include softer balls.
But I remember that when I saw a rock hard sphere hurtling toward my head I had a few choices. I could duck (if I was fast enough), I could catch the ball (if I wanted a broken finger), or I could take the hit and have an excuse to get out of P.E. for the rest of the week. What I could not do is change the course of the ball.
Jacksonville’s been slammed with a decade-long series of setbacks as businesses close their doors, the national employment rate continues to languish around 8 percent, and the way of the world has not been kind to small town manufacturing. Yet . . . some people are dodging the ball.
I recently spoke to a radical. He’s name is Steve Warmowski, former newspaper photographer and now an independent designer of breath-taking wedding photos. Steve, his equally out-of-the-box wife Tiffany and a group of their friends have taken it upon themselves to form an organization intent on cleaning up the town brook and turning it into a . . . well, they’re not quite sure yet, but the eventual plan is to take our local trashy stream and convert it into an area we can be proud of and enjoy. Steve, Tiff, Inc. know how to duck the dodge ball.
While other cities bemoan the loss of their downtown areas, Jacksonville is taking the initiative and making some truly audacious strides. What seemed like a good idea in 1974, the urban renewal project, nearly killed the square. Traffic became nearly non-existent, parking was destroyed and businesses vamoosed to the Big Box boulevards. Then along came Jacksonville Main Street and other organizations giving us the wakeup shout of, “Hey! We’ve got something good here!” They won the Governor’s Home Town Award, the art gallery hop spring up, the patio jaunts, the Wall Dog murals, the by-golly Clydesdales, and the pouring in of $26 million in public and private funds. And best of all Norma Kogne decided to open our town’s most homey little eating spot just off the square.
I don’t mean no disrespect to the graphic arts, but when I attend the Gallery Hop I see many folks who aren’t there because of their interest in painting or jewelry. They simply like the feel of walking around the square at night and bumping into friends. One of the reasons that Americans walk less than many of our European brethren is that we have fewer and fewer walking spaces. There’s something about strolling across our gorgeous new town square at night that makes you want to keep on strolling . . . despite the recorded music.
Our three colleges (have we become too numbed to realize the audaciousness of having three colleges?) continue to pump not only new students, but also fresh ideas into our community. Take a look at the 500 fire hydrants painted by the I.C. students, the houses renovated by Bob Collings’ Lincoln Land classes, the way Mac is reaching out to the adult community for degree completion . . . dodge ball played at a truly collegiate level.
Every time something new is announced in Jacksonville, it’s actually an idea that a group of dedicated people have been working on for a long time. We love our meetings. I’ve often worried that Chamber of Commerce President Ginny Fanning will some day succumb to baked chicken poisoning as she attends event after event in our community, providing the spark and encouragement for an untold number of groups. I’ve often wished Gin was standing in front of me in the Perry Grade School gym when the dodge balls came flying. No one messes with Gin.
Future Gen, the prospect of a new Fine Arts Center, the constant efforts by Andy Ezard and crew, things coming down the road that will make a major difference in our community . . . while others continue to get smashed in the face by economic dodge balls, I applaud those among us who know how to shimmy . . . and win.
Get all the updates — follow TownBrook.com on Facebook. Boosting parks along Jacksonville’s waterways — the Town Brook, Mauvaisterre Creek, Lake Mauvaisterre & Morgan Lake, and Lake Jacksonville. We aim to be an information resource for a grassroots effort to create a park along the Town Brook in Jacksonville, Illinois, 62650. Our goal is to create a linear park and a bike path to Lake Jacksonville.