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“Most of my stuff is experimental,” said Petry. “I started working in clay and couldn’t get the textures the way I wanted it. I’m just not good at clay. But in paper, the textures are similar, but I can get the finished product just the way I want it.” Petry’s love of art was part of her being, even in childhood. “When I was a kid, we lived in the country,” Petry said. “My mother was a farm wife, and she was busy. To keep us children out of her hair, she would draw us paper dolls, then send us off to draw the clothes on. Well, she didn’t have time to keep making more and more dolls, so she said, ‘You just do it.’” Petry loved creating paper dolls and clothing them with her artwork, but her love of art continued to grow. “When I was in first grade, Mom and Dad bought a set of encyclopedias,” Petry recalled. “My goal was to start in the front and draw as many of the pictures as I could in tablets.” It was in first grade that Petry’s parents discovered she needed glasses. “When I got my glasses, I walked out into the main part of the office and saw pigeons sitting along the roof line. I realized I had never seen birds. ... It was amazing the detail and the things I had never seen.” Petry continued to draw, and by the time she was in high school, started painting. “I don’t know what happened to me about 25 years ago, but I wasn’t happy with two

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dimensions,” Petry said. “I wanted to do more than just paint or draw. That’s when I started working with clay. It still didn’t suit. Then I started working with plaster. I could get the texture I wanted, but not the forms I wanted. Plaster is too fragile. That’s when I started working with shellac.and types of paper.” In 1986, Petry took a class on paper art at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. “Paper had just begun to be used to make art, not just drawing or painting on paper, but from paper,” Petry said. “I took a design class, people

know it as the one that puts on the cardboard boat races. ... That’s when I started taking cardboard further in my work. It struck a chord with me. I’ve always been a recycler, and this was a way I could recycle in my art.” Her first project using tissue paper, cardboard, shellac and layers upon layers of paper was a mask for her son. “My oldest son asked me to make a mask,” Petry said. “It’s a Star Wars alien character, because he was going to a convention. It turned out so cool looking. That was it. There was no hope for me then.” She said she enjoyed the

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and take on the irregular patterns of nature, which we, as humans, find so beautiful and restful to the eye.” Petry said her work has become more abstract as time has passed.

“This, I believe, is a result of my learning to see the beauty in a pattern of cracks on the floor and layers of old paint splattered on a wall,” Petry said. “A tree in full leaf is a glorious sight, but so is the rough pattern of a patch of bark. A brand new building is beautiful, but so is the rusty exterior of an old crumbling on.” Petry said she wants to continue to mature as an artist. “Paper and cardboard are lightweight and easy to manage,” Petry said. “The shapes are phenomenal. You would be surprised at the number of paper artists there are out there. ... I would like to keep going with paper and get better and better with it. I have joined a couple of associations, and someday hope to be good enough to be juried in some competitions and invited to participate oversees.”

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work with paper, but then she had to have surgery on her hands. “I had to have the joints replaced in both thumbs, which put me out for five years,” Petry said. “For the first two years, I was terrified. I couldn’t even button buttons. It took a year to get my strength and movement back in my hands. It was a tough time, but they are perfect now. While I couldn’t work, I drew designs and ideas for when I could work again.” Petry, who worked in the catering department at the former Martins IGA at Times Square Mall, said she started creating large trays using cardboard, paper and bamboo embellishments. “I did a lot of big parties, and fell in love with the big platters,” Petry said. “That was a form I liked. Everything else just expanded from there.” Her work has grown and matured through the years, and is now being featured at the Shrode Art Center at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. In addition, her large-scale paper sculptures were featured at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. Texture and light are important elements of her work, as shown in her exhibit. “It’s exciting to see so much of my work out for others to see,” Petry said. “It’s wonderful.” Petry sais for the last 15 years she has worked in a warehouse — an environment with no windows, beat up walls and scarred concrete floors. “My philosophy of seeing (colors and texture) helped me get through the years of being in this atmosphere and greatly influenced the artwork I do. It was fascinating to me to learn to read the history of a building in its scars and in the patterns of use on the floors. After a while, the straight, man-made lines of construction start to crumble

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With Downtown Mt. Vernon Development Corporation leading the way, progress of rehabilitation and improvement to downtown buildings is well underway. Cyndy Mitchel, executive director of the DMDC, said during a recent city council meeting there is still a commitment to downtown. “When I began working for DMDC, the community’s perception of downtown was that there was nothing to do and it was dying,” Mitchell said. “At the same time, there were a group of people who came downtown once or twice a week and thought it was silly to even invest money in the district, that it would never improve. However, five years later, that same group was impressed by all that had been accomplished and supported what DMDC was doing. We changed people’s perceptions of downtown. They started looking at it more positively.”

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Williamson-Asia is among those businesses which have invested several thousand dollars, first rehabilitating three buildings in the 800 block of Main Street, and then extending the project to include the former Insurance Store at 102 N. Main St. Terry and Laura Schaubert, coowners of the business, believe downtown is the place to be for future economic development. “One of the things they mentioned during the branding study is that if downtown look prosperous and going in a positive direction people will not consider your town for economic development,” said

Laura Schaubert. “That was spelled out heavily by the consultant. I believe that, and I believe it will make city government more committed to downtown. I think that has been a great awakening for all of us. I think TIF (tax increment financing) is the best thing they could’ve ever done

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for downtown. It’s a gamble for us to put our money where our mouth is, but it’s fun, it’s an adventure.” Schaubert said the rehabilitation of the buildings is a “win-win” for everyone — getting dilapidated buildings back on the tax rolls and to enhance the appearance of the area. “We have a great building to work in and the city has a nice looking block instead of a rundown block,” she said. TIF money becoming available for the rehabilitation of the Main Street buildings and the building on the corner of North Ninth and Main was the proverbial icing on the cake for the project. “I wouldn’t even have tried to do this without TIF. I actually have spent more than I’m committed to spend. We came up with new reasons to use the property as we went along and so we spent a little more,” Schaubert said. “I bought the property because I didn’t want to become something worse. It was looking run down and we had already partnered with David (Wood) in buying the Rex, and I didn’t want a neighbor who was not going to be something we wanted to be next to so we acquired the corner building not even knowing about TIF. As I became involved in some of the downtown groups I learned more and more about TIF, we could see more of a future for the building, and it was really exciting. “When we learned about TIF

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that’s when we decided to go after that building and that was put together in the project — buying the building and then rehabilitating both of the buildings.” The Main Street project began in February 2012 and took Black & Sons Construction just three months to complete. Schaubert said the company was able to salvage brick and the tin ceiling in the former Podge’s Pizza location. “Originally, it had a store front concept to where each of the three was kind of like the entrance to the Rex. We eliminated that because we wanted square footage. We kept the look of the three store fronts but turned it into a modern appearance and that way it was practical, and the outside is maintenance free. There is not much we have to do to the outside,” Schaubert said. The property on Ninth Street

originally was a U.S. post office. Postal service ceased at the location in 1916. The building was sold, and in the late 1920s, the entrance was updated. Over the years the building has been used for several stores and businesses. “We’re planning for it to be a wholesale showroom for our business, and future office space,” Schaubert said. “It will allow us to bring major retailers to Mt. Vernon to look at our products.” The Schauberts moved to the upstairs portion of the building. “That was another part of the project. When you financially try to take two run down buildings and turn them around it’s a big undertaking.” The building has 1,800 square feet on the ground level and upstairs. “That’s about perfect for a couple our age who don’t have kids at home,” she said. Mitchell said the DMDC is starting on a new path as a private/public entity and will be expanding its vision to encompass the entire downtown. “We will expand our boundaries and continue our mission to promote economic growth, encourage restoration and market our new enlarged downtown district,” she said. “A viable and active downtown reflects the qualify of life in the community and pride in their town.”

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Six months into retirement, former State Sen. John O. Jones is still watching — albeit from a distance — issues being addressed by the Illinois Legislature. Jones served in the Legislature for 18 years — the first eight in the House and the final decade in the Senate. Story by Rick Hayes

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“I’m beginning to enjoy it (retirement) a little bit more,” Jones said. “At first, it was kind of a shock. After 18 years, you get up and put on a shirt and tie and go to work either at the office here in Mt. Vernon or to Springfield in the 13 counties I was representing as a state senator. I don’t miss it quite as much now as I did in January, but I still miss it. I don’t miss the process up in Springfield as I do in the district. I really enjoyed trying to help people.” He added, “I really enjoyed in helping get funding for projects around the district, whether it be the new interchange here in Mt. Vernon … it’s going to be a great asset for the community of Mt. Vernon with the addition of the new hospitals and the high school. I miss doing those things.” Jones said he is watching what’s going in Springfield through media reports. “I watch it by reading the newspaper and watching television. I go on the Internet, but this spring session I only watched the House and Senate not more than 15 minutes. I get discouraged when I watch it. It’s so aggravating to see some of the things they’re passing when there’s still a lot of big issues out there.” Jones said he is frustrated by partisan politics, and the games legislators play. “I’m a Republican but I’ve always

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believed in the two-party system. I firmly believe the two-party system needs to be involved,” he said. “On the state level, both the House and Senate and the governor’s office can’t all be one party. It works better if both parties have at least one of those offices so there is negotiations and you have to compromise. When it’s one party, they do whatever they want and it’s not good for the taxpayers.” The state lacks leadership from the top down, according to Jones. “To stand and talk to Gov. Quinn one on one you couldn’t ask for a nicer person. He does have a heart,

but I’d give him a D minus as governor because quite frankly I don’t think he’s capable of governing the state of Illinois,” Jones said. “He doesn’t communicate with legislators, but as far as having a relationship to where he can negotiate with Speaker Madigan and/or President Cullerton they don’t want to be around him. When we had Thompson, Edgar and Ryan, those guys were always inviting leaders into their office to negotiate budgets and the like. Blagojevich and Quinn have shoved the legislature over to the side.” Personally, this past November was a bittersweet time for

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Jones and his wife Mimi. His 92-year-old mother passed away and his first great-grandchild, Brentley, was born in Florida. Another great-grandson was born seven weeks ago in Florida. The Joneses have five grandchildren. Daughter Natalie Potonchey (Bob) live in Tampa and son Aaron (Kim) reside in Bluford. “We run to Florida every few weeks and see the great-grandkids and then come back,” Jones said, noting retirement has been split between visiting grandchildren, working on the family farm northeast of Mt. Vernon and yard work. “I mow my lawn, and the lady’s next door,” Jones said. “We’re going to do some more traveling off and on.” Jones said he has seen most of the United States, but would like to visit his brother-in-law who lives in Istanbul, Turkey, a trip his daughter has already made. “I was surprised looking at the pictures of their trip. It was amazing to see how holy Turkey is. It’s unbelievable the things they saw. You think of Israel being the holy place, but much of Turkey is all about the Bible,” Jones said.

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On July 4, families gather for cookouts, picnics and the celebration of Independence Day. And, in the evening, the “rockets red glare” lights the night sky with fireworks. “We’ve always held the Salute to Freedom on July 4,” said City Tourism Director Bonnie Jerdon. “This year marks the 26th annual event held at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport.”

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But before the fireworks display was at the airport, it was at Veterans Park, formerly known as City Park. “When I was a child, people gathered at the park,” Jerdon recalled. “The fireworks were set off over the lake at the park. ... At the park, they had a week long event with a carnival on the grass where the swimming pool used to be. They also had the Veterans Picnic.” But, as the residential area surrounding Veterans Park expanded, the need for safety meant re-thinking the location of the display. “The airport location lends itself to this type of event,” Jerdon said. “We shoot the fireworks off over a body of water and it keeps the crowd at a proper distance for safety, and any embers fall into the water.” It was all about location last year, as drought conditions meant many area communities had to cancel their fireworks display. “We were able to continue last year because of the lake and the fire department was able to water down the area near where the fireworks were set off,” Jerdon said. “People were still able to enjoy fireworks and a lot of people came in from those other communities to participate.”

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Jerdon said about 5,000 people attend the Salute to Freedom each year. “We do a car count and use a factor of 2.5 people per car to determine how many attend,” Jerdon explained. “There could be more, since most people come with a crowd.” And, the attendance factor doesn’t

take into account the many people who live in the area surrounding the airport and watch from their yards. Each year, activities, vendors and the choreographed fireworks display are planned starting in January. “We start contacting the vendors

and getting things in place in January now,” Jerdon said. “After doing it so many years, it doesn’t take as much time to coordinate all the people and bring it together.” And coordination is the key, she said. The Mt. Vernon Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff ’s Office, and the Illinois State Police are involved as portions of Illinois Route 15 are closed and detours set up in addition to patrols of the grounds and parking details. The Mt. Vernon Fire Department and Litton Ambulance are on hand to handle safety issues; the city Public Works Department works to get the site ready and to put up no parking signs days in advance and Airport personnel work to get the facility and the fireworks detonation site ready for the events. “It takes a concerted effort from a lot of people,” Jerdon explained. “We also have the community involved. The Lions Club provides a shuttle, and volunteers help. The Du Quoin Impact Camp does the cleanup after the event. It’s a handson event from a lot of people to bring it together and make it look effortless.” This year a Little Miss 4th of July pageant will be held in the terminal building at 3 p.m.; and a sidewalk chalk art contest will be held starting at 5 p.m.

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countdown to the fireworks starting.” The star of the event is the choreographed fireworks display. “Each year the fireworks vendor comes up with a different show and shells are added for different effects and they change up the music,” Jerdon

said. “We get a new show each year.”

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“Judging for the sidewalk chalk art contest will be at 8 p.m., and the winners will be announced before the fireworks are set off,” Jerdon said. “The winners from the Little Miss July 4th Pageant will be announced and they will help the mayor with the

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