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Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIt's over.

Not because giant fiberglass humanoids are menacing America's highways. I'm talking about summer. Just as Memorial Day is its unofficial beginning, Labor Day is its unofficial end, and the holiday weekend is fast approaching.

Although, giant fiberglass humanoids ARE menacing America's highways -- many, not all that far from the Elgin area. They're kitschy, oversized pop sculptures, once part of a nationwide fad, now part of a disappearing (or disentigrating) breed called "Muffler Men."

The Elgin area's one example, a Streamwood tire-barn cowboy named "Big Ben," rode off to that great roundup in the sky 10 years ago this fall. Reporter Dave Gathman wrote about Ben and his remaining (albeit wooden) counterparts, The Pained Minuteman and 10-foot wooden Santa and Snowman, earlier this summer.

Now that summer -- or, as I like to think of it, Road Trip Season -- is coming to an end, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the Muffler Men, et al, perhaps even in person. We at The Courier-News haven't verified that all these guys are around (other than our wooden locals), but if if you're feeling brave, or just not ready to say goodbye to summer, you can take one last day trip to go Muffler Man-spotting, not that far from Elgin. And send us pictures, please!

View Muffler Men Day Trip in a larger map

Learn more about Muffler Men from And have a happy Labor Day!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgWhen I started working at The Courier-News almost exactly three years ago, one of the things then-Managing Editor Mike Bailey tasked me with was creating the role of the Readers' Reporter at the newspaper.

It was something I had done previously at an intern at our sister paper, the Naperville Sun: Run my phone number and e-mail address in the paper for readers to contact me with story ideas. Run a column every week in the newspaper with the stories that came out of those readers' ideas.

The idea was to tell the stories of ordinary residents doing extraordinary things, and of the odds and ends and goings-on they were involved in in our communities. And over the years, you've called in with some pretty great ideas. I've met former Olympians and the man responsible for destroying the shopping center in The Blues Brothers. I've been to the set and premiere of a zombie movie filmed in Elgin and gotten my personality analyzed at the Scientology mission, also in Elgin.

But today's column, about a 61-year-old South Elgin woman who recently ran her first half-marathon -- with arthritis, even! -- will be my last in The Courier-News.

What about your story ideas?! After the jump.

KEVIN!!!: The Playlist

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Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpg(NOTE: Here's to you, "A Chance in Hell." And you, Kevin. Reporter Mike Danahey's put together a zombie-themed playlist in your honor. Enjoy!)

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

-- Mike Danahey, Staff Writer

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In this regular feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey usually guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions usually are based on trailers, ads and advance hype.

Usually. Until now...

A Chance in Hell

Believe it or not, I actually went to a movie, Supporting a local artist, I headed out to the Arcada last week for a screening of Tony Wash's Nazi zombie flick. Actually, it was more like a visual proposal, the first 30 minutes of a movie Wash would like to make on a bigger budget. He claims there is interest from producers to expand his opus and make the movie in Hungary -- which is the perfect name for a country where you would make a film about famished flesh eaters.

The night featured the behind-the-scenes DVD extras, too, which is pretty weird if you think about it. We're getting insight into a movie that MIGHT be made. Trippy. We also saw trailers for some indie films made by some of Wash's buddies and a short Wash made in Pittsburgh about a Realtor who is eaten by a monster living in the basement of a house she's showing.

Onto the actual movie review, its beer rating and KEVIN, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgWith vampires the monster du jour, we asked a group of folks who gather in the Fox Valley every Monday night to take part in game where they pretend they are creatures of the night a little bit about their unusual hobby.

We tell their stories in today's "Storyteller" in The Courier-News. Here's what they had to say, in their own words:

Jessica "Jessi" Quigley

I've been LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) since my freshman year of high school in 2001. We were really bored before school started, and someone happened to have the books.

My character (Lady Anne) is capped on her traits at 11's across the board in Social, Physical, and Mental, but with her social merits, it adds up to 15 for Socials.*

I enjoy the release gaming gives from the everyday norm. It's great to hang out with my friends, improvise with a set character sheet and let out the steam, then go home and know that no matter how emotionally involved the night was, we're all still just a group of friends hanging out and enjoying a game together.

(*NOTE: In the game "Vampire: The Masquerade," players take on roles using character sheets, which they use to determine how evolved their characters are along a series of traits. The higher the number, the more evolved that character is for that particular trait.)

More LARPers share their stories, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for gloria.jpgNOTE: Reporter Gloria Carr wrote Wednesday's Courier-News cover story, Sick About It. In the article, she detailed the Kane County Board's decision Tuesday to cut 62 Health Department employees, move nine service programs and end two entirely. The board cited budget crisis.

Reflecting on the story and the people it affects, Gloria shares the following today...

(Pictured: Kane County Board member Bonnie Kunkel questions Health Department Executive Director Paul Kuehnert Tuesday during the board meeting.)

Big news stories, like the Kane County Board's vote this week to turn over some of its social service programs to federally funded agencies and lay off 62 employees, tend to become hectic. The stories sometimes seem to run together as you try to cover different aspects of an issue.

img_EL081110_KANEHEALTH_P02_scn_feed_20100810_19_13_44_14014-282-400.jpgTo be honest, the Kane County Health Department issue was starting to get repetitious. The arguments were sounding all the same. The outcome was almost predictable.

Following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, I found myself thinking, "Let's get on with this vote."

Following that vote, there were a lot of things going on with reporters -- all trying to talk to everyone involved to get comments. I was among that group, trying to figure out who might comment, when I saw a young woman who I thought had been sitting with a group of people I was pretty sure were health department employees.

What changed Gloria's thinking, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgHere at The Courier-News, we like to think of ourselves as "The Newspaper of Record for Faeries and other Magickal Peoples since 1874."

OK, maybe not, but between Readers' Reporter Emily McFarlan's 5 Questions with a fairy costumer, freelance writer Janelle Walker's coverage of the event and staff writer Mike Danahey gonzo festival crashing, we assembled a formidable team to cover South Elgin's World of Faeries Festival this past weekend.

Here are Emily and Janelle's articles...

And Danahey's photos from his magickal adventures...

The Courier-News' South Elgin World of Faeries Festival 8/7/10 photoset The Courier-News' South Elgin World of Faeries Festival 8/7/10 photoset

Did you attend the World of Faeries Festival? Share your summer festival-going stories here!

--Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgYou know the summer road construction is getting ridiculous when the DETOUR GETS DETOURED.

That's what's happened in Bartlett: Traffic has been detoured to Illinois Route 59 during construction on Dunham Road. But Route 59 will close Monday, Aug. 9, as staff writer Dave Gathman reported in today's story "Bad Timing: Route 59 to close before Dunham reopens."

But don't worry: Our Web team is here to help. They've put together a Google map of the construction zone you can use to plot your own detours:

View Bad timing for Elgin-Bartlett commuters in a larger map

Share your traffic horror stories here. And get more news on construction, closures, commuting and more on Sun-Times Media West's "On the Move" blog!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for katie.jpgYesterday, I walked through a crime scene.

This is not altogether unusual for reporters, as we often respond shortly after police and paramedics to places where car accidents, shootings and other nefarious activities have taken place.

Yesterday, however, the crime scene was in The Courier-News office.

My work day started about 8 a.m. at Elgin Branch Court. Bond court went quickly, and soon I was in my car and headed for the office. I turned "Viv," my 2005 Pontiac, onto Lake Street and headed up the hill toward the office like usual. Then, I noticed something strange.

There were two police squad cars and an evidence van parked in front of 300 Lake Street -- The Courier-News building.

My first thought was that our editor Paul Harth or cops reporter Steve Johnson was interviewing members of the police department for an editorial or news story. (One morning last spring I arrived to work to find about a dozen taxi cabs in our parking lot and parked around the building because Steve was writing a story about cab drivers in the city.)

Curiosity piqued, I parked Viv in her usual spot, crossed the street and walked to the building. To my surprise, the first thing I saw once inside was an Elgin police officer covering the front desk with dark fingerprint powder.

I quickly learned The Courier-News was burglarized over the weekend. Now this was interesting!

The details of the crime, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for dave2.jpgIt's been on WGN Radio. It's made the message board circuit. Now, as promised, here are some of the e-mail responses to Dave Gathman's WGN column, "WGN: A loving radio family turns into angry arguers."

Nice work, Dave.

Kevin Metheny
Program Director | WGN Radio

Mr. Gathman:

Thank you for mentioning my name in your column about WGN. It's so nice to be remembered.

It's truly sad to see what they're doing to a once great radio station.

Obviously, I'm happy to be retired.

Thanks again,
Tom Petersen
(NOTE: A former WGN newsman, now residing in the Elgin area.)

Dear Dave Gathman,

Thank you for so eloquently expressing the feelings my husband and I have about the changes at WGN-AM.

We have listened to all the "oldies but goodies" that you mention and we have become increasingly distraught at the new programming. For years, WGN was the background to our breakfasts, with interesting and often amusing topics put forth by commentators we felt we knew intimately--Wally Phillips, Bob Collins, Spike O'Dell and Kathy and Judy. Of late, the only ones we appreciated were Steve Cochran (gone) and John Williams (and even he has gradually moved into the assertive and annoying mode that characterizes the "new" format.)

The notion of infuriating the audience to increase viewers, raise ratings and revenue is lost on us...but then we are in the less-desirable senior demographic, not what WGN is interested in. Any suggestions for a substitute--one that doesn't turn our morning cup of Joe into a bitter brew?

Joan Colby

Read more reader responses, add your own, after the jump.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the in the paper category.

Gloria Carr is the previous category.

Janelle Walker is the next category.

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