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Grundy County Magazine FALL 2018

IF WALLS COULD TALK Heritage Homes revive Morris history Page 18

RISE AND DINE! Best spots for breakfast page 16

Wonder WOMEN



Solar energy and sustainable farming page 8



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Primary Care Providers Primary Care providers are available five days a week and offer early morning/evening and same day appointments. Family Medicine: Colin Kao, DO & Wendy Dyer, NP

Appointments with medical specialists are available on certain days each month.  General Surgery: Jeffrey Brown, MD  Pulmonology: Ami Vaidya, MD  Rheumatology: Firas Sibai, MD  Obstetrics and Gynecology: Grazelda Kwakye-Ackah (Dr. Zelda), MD

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Immediate Care Care for injuries and illnesses without the wait. No appointment required.

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Quality children’s apparel from sizes preemie to 16. 218 Liberty Street Morris, IL 60450 (815) 942-3999

Fine women’s apparel and accessories from casual to dressy, including Brighton jewelry, boots & more. 215 Liberty Street Morris, IL 60450 (815) 942-1514

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INSIDE Congratulations




17 WINE 101 Montage Wine Bar in Morris gives tips for sipping and savoring this holiday season

8 GROWING GREEN Farmers look to renewable resources to offset energy costs, drop in profits fetched for crops

to the 2018 Women of Distinction!

11 SPECIAL SECTION: WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Meet Morris Herald-News’s 201819 honorees

Megan Bugg of Coal City

12 ANSWERING THE CALL College student Alexa Rain sets aims on ministry outreach in Africa

Marlee Harford of Mazon Alexa Rain of Morris 700 N. Division St. Morris IL 60450 Email: • (815) 942-0103

13 FIGHTING SPIRIT Battle with disease leads high school student Megan Bugg to advocate for pediatric cancer patients 14 LOVING NATURE Tree nursery matriarch Marlee Harford dedicated to bettering, beautifying community

16 RISE AND DINE! Best breakfast spots in Grundy County


18 IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK Heritage Homes bring Morris history to life


20 CHIT CHAT: Whimsy boutique owner Traci Tessone talks fancy goods and fine events 21 FESTIVE FOLLY Celebrate the season with 3 French Hens market and other holiday happenings


22 ARTIST SHOWCASE Painter Ray Grossi, a founding board member of The EXibit Fine Art Center in Morris, shares his watercolor work



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Editor's Note Fall is my favorite time of year. Being surrounded by leafy trees spanning a kaleidoscope of color; spending chilly evenings sitting around a bonfire with friends; reading a book outdoors while cozying up in a comfy quilt; visiting pubs luring locals with the promise of limited pumpkin and Oktoberfest brews; and wearing outfits layered with chunky, oversized sweaters, infinity scarves, boots and flannel button-ups … I could go on and on. Fall also serves as a precursor to the bustling holiday season, and the coming of a new year. So, in its second iteration, Grundy County Magazine’s fall edition celebrates all things related to the shift in seasons, while also serving to announce this year’s 2018-19 class of Women of Distinction.

Hopefully, their experiences and varied passions will help stifle that all-too-common voice within that tells us that we can’t or shouldn’t. And, instead, through these women, we recognize and acknowledge – in ourselves – the same strength and commitment necessary in striving for and achieving what our hearts most desire. A big congratulations to this year’s honorees, and, who knows, maybe it will be YOU sharing your story next year.


Grundy County Magazine

est. 1851

Grundy County Magazine Published by Shaw Media 2175 Oneida St. Joliet, IL 60435 Phone: 815-280-4103 DIRECTOR OF NICHE PUBLISHING Laura Shaw

Thanks for reading!

ADVERTISING Steve Vanisko 815-280-4103

In the Women of Distinction special section, three beautiful, local ladies with inspiring stories share their journeys with us, on page 11.

Kara Silva, Editor

EDITOR Kara Silva 630-427-6209 DESIGNER Allison LaPorta 630-427-6260 CORRESPONDENTS Kelsey O’Connor, Kevin Druley, Jonathan Bilyk, Aimee Barrows, Elizabeth Harmon and Melissa Riske

on the


PHOTOGRAPHERS Sarah Peterson of Dutch Girl Photography

Morris Herald-News’ annual Women of Distinction honor pays tribute to local women living and/or working in Grundy County. Three women are selected each year for their personal and/or professional achievement, commitment to community and support for the greater good. This year’s award recipients are Marlee Harford (from left), Megan Bugg and Alexa Rain. Find out more about these inspiring ladies, on page 11. Photos by Sarah Peterson of Dutch Girl Photography


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Farmers look to renewable resources to offset energy costs, drop in profits fetched for crops By Jonathan Bilyk


ince the 19th Century, farmers have tilled the deep rich soil of Grundy County, converting the summer’s abundant sun to produce harvests of grain as bountiful as those harvested anywhere else in the world. But, in more recent years, spurred by financial incentives offered to electricity generators to diversify their sources of power, developers have begun to look to Grundy County and other largely, or at least partially, rural areas of northern Illinois to set up different kinds of farms, designed – this time – to convert the region’s sunlight into the electricity that powers modern life. Across Grundy County, developers have proposed at least 10 solar energy farms, seeking to cash in on the drive to add so-called renewable resources to the nation’s, the state’s and the region’s energy portfolios.

Grundy County Farm Bureau manager Victoria Wax says that the developers are being drawn to Grundy County and others situated just on the rim of the Chicago metropolitan area to take advantage of the abundant electrical distribution infrastructure already in place. Unlike wind energy projects, which generate power for consumers in distant points, the electricity generated by solar farms is primarily destined for homes and businesses and other users not too far away. So, much of the energy generated in Grundy County will benefit the people of Morris and other nearby communities. But just how many of those solar projects will actually be built in the county and surrounding areas remains unclear, says Wax. “We’re expecting it will only be a fraction that

–Continue on page 10 8 | FALL 2018 | GRUNDY COUNTY MAGAZINE

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“It’s a fact of life that we need to find ways to reduce our reliance on nonrenewable resources. We also must find a balance that plans for our future while at the same time protecting that land on which we grow our crops.” – Victoria Wax, Grundy County Farm Bureau manager

–Continued from page 8 actually get built,” she says. But some will, and when they do, they will present both opportunities and challenges for farmers in the county. On one hand, Wax notes that farmers whose land is selected for the projects could stand to reap a bit of rental income, as the solar farmers need to secure the rights to use the 30 acres or so they need for their solar arrays. Wax says that additional income can be very helpful at all times, but particularly when the prices farmers can fetch for their corn and soybeans and other crops drop, as is occurring in the current marketplace. “It can be some welcome supplemental income,” Wax says. But just how much farmers can expect to take in can vary from site to site and project to project, depending on the deal a farmer or land owner is able to cut with a developer, Wax says. It needs to be enough to offset the lost production the farmer will endure from the land on which the solar array is built, she says. “Under the [solar] panels, they have to plant a mixture of prairie grasses,” says Wax. “So, no, they can’t easily just farm around the panels.” Wax advises farmers and landowners to secure competent legal counsel before entering into any lease agreement, as rent is just one of many issues up for discussion. Drainage can be affected, she says, a problem that can literally spill over into neighboring fields. And farmers need to ensure that the


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developers have a proper plan in place to decommission the solar plants, should the company owning the solar arrays goes bankrupt or shuts down a solar farm for some reason. “We’re told these solar arrays have 25- to 40-year lifespans,” Wax says. “But a lot can still happen in the meantime.” Despite the potential challenges, Wax says that renewable energy generation projects are, for the most part, welcome in the county. She notes that farmers are constantly looking at ways to reduce their reliance on the primary energy distribution grid, and cut their own energy costs in the process. That’s why she says farmers are beginning to install solar and wind power generation units to offset their electricity needs. “Farmers were the first environmentalists,” she says. Farmers hope developers look to some other sites, Wax says, including vacant or underused industrial or commercial sites – known in the land development business as “brownfields” – or on residential and commercial rooftops for the coming waves of renewable energy projects, rather than taking chunks of the county’s rich soil out of agricultural production. “It’s a fact of life that we need to find ways to reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources,” Wax says. “We also must find a balance that plans for our future while at the same time protecting that land on which we grow our crops.”

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WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Courageous, compassionate and committed


he Morris Herald-News’ Women of Distinction honors the amazing women of greater Grundy County for their personal and professional achievement, contributions to the community and ongoing support of the greater good. Now, in its sixth year, the Morris Herald-News received 40 nominations of selfless, engaging and giving women to be considered for the honor. From amazing volunteers to inspiring business owners, it’s difficult to imagine the Grundy County area without these role models. As in past years, following the nomination period, a committee of former Women of Distinction award recipients selected this year’s three winners. The Morris Herald-News and Grundy County Magazine are proud to announce the 2018 Grundy County Women of Distinction Honorees: Megan Bugg, Marlee Harford and Alexa Rain. In the following pages of this issue, we’ll tell the stories of these inspiring local women, and will pay tribute to them at an awards ceremony Oct. 17 at Morris Country Club.

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PAST HONOREES Alexa Rain, Marlee Hartford and Megan Bugg now join the growing list of Grundy County Women of Distinction alumnae:


Andrea Gustafson, Jan Hibler and Cathy Milne


Brittney Kaluzny, Karen Nall and Jennifer Price


Lori Cora, Sandi Dransfeldt and Janine Petric


Judy Miller, Lori Watson and Linda Wiesbrook


Barb Rath, Pam Simpson and Joan Sereno


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ANSWERING THE CALL College student Alexa Rain sets aims on ministry outreach in Africa By MELISSA RUBALCABA RISKE Photo by SARAH PETERSON OF DUTCH GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY


tepping out of one’s comfort zone is never easy, but as Alexa Rain has learned, embracing the unknown can mean becoming immersed in a new, exciting and challenging experience. At age 18, the Morris resident boarded a plane bound for Haiti. “It was the first time I had ever been out of the country,” Rain says. “It was a really transformative trip.” Rain volunteered for a mission trip, joining other young people whom she had never met, for a chance to learn and work. During the trip she visited a hospital, schools and an orphanage, where she spent time playing with local children. She also met girls between the ages 8 and 18 at a group home designed to help young women who had been the victims of human trafficking. The visit with the young women was inspiring, Rain recalls, despite hearing their heart-breaking stories. When Rain returned home from the trip, she knew one thing for certain – she had to go back. Rain says, at the time, her parents were worried but understood her passion. “They knew I would have a heart for international missions, and they were really supportive,” Rain says. Rain was just 12 years old when her parents told her that they were traveling to Ethiopia to adopt a child. Rain, who admits she loved being an only child, had a change of heart and was excited to welcome her sister to the family.

A few years later, Rain was compelled to organize a fundraiser to help the orphanage that had cared for her baby sister. As a high school student, Rain, with the help of her mom, designed and sold T-shirts, raising $2,000. Andrea Gustafson, one of her teachers at Morris Community High School, says Rain is an inspiration to others and has a caring nature. Though she describes herself as a “worrier,” Rain admits that when it comes to mission work, she finds adrenaline overtakes her fears. Last year, she embarked on a mission-based trip to South Africa. It was on this trip that she was invited to preach. So, she wrote and delivered her own sermon.

is working with other young people or standing before a crowd to speak.

“I love public speaking,” Rain says. “I’m not scared of it, I thrive off it.”

“I think it’s really good for them to know there’s a safe place where they can talk about whatever is on their mind,” Rain says.

The experience opened her eyes to a new path for her life, Rain says. While she is completing a degree in social work, she is now looking to work as a children and youth pastor. “I would love to plant a church somewhere in Africa,” Rain says. This summer, she had an internship with GatheringPoint Church in Bourbonnais, where she worked with children and the church’s other pastors, including Dustin Hogan, an elementary pastor. “She has a high emotional intelligence,” Hogan says, adding that her ability to recognize a child who needs extra attention and assistance is remarkable. Hogan admires her ability to lead, whether that

“She has a confidence about her,” he says. Today, Rain is back in the classroom, but she continues to volunteer at church, assisting with youth ministry and working with third- and sixth-grade girls.

This spring, the junior at Olivet Nazarene University is about to embark on a new adventure as she spends her spring semester in Uganda living with a host family and taking classes, including a language course in Swahili. She’ll also have the opportunity to continue to practice ministry outreach. “It is the experience of a lifetime,” Rain says. “While I feel called to mission work, it is also such a great experience to get to know others and, in knowing others, one gains respect for other parts of the world.”

“While I feel called to mission work, it is also such a great experience to get to know others and, in knowing others, one gains respect for other parts of the world.” – ALEXA RAIN


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FIGHTING SPIRIT Battle with disease leads high school student Megan Bugg to advocate for pediatric cancer patients By MELISSA RUBALCABA RISKE Photo by SARAH PETERSON OF DUTCH GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY


t age 17, Megan Bugg is already a fighter.

While the high school student is battling cancer, she still holds fast to her goals to finish school and help others recognize the need to do more for young people waging their own wars against cancer. “I really want people to know about the lack of funding [for research and treatment] childhood cancer gets,” Bugg says. Bugg received her cancer diagnosis at age 13 during winter break in 2014. She had noticed an odd bump on her arm. So, her parents brought her to the pediatrician to have it examined. That day spiraled from a routine trip to the doctor to what would be the first of many trips to Central DuPage Hospital, where a pediatric oncologist explained that Bugg had Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. The cancer was Stage 4 and the doctors prescribed 90 weeks of intense chemotherapy. Her father, Kent Bugg, says his reserved, quiet 13-year-old daughter became a fighter, enduring treatments, surgeries, hospital stays and countless hour-long drives between their home in Coal City and CDH in Winfield. Megan Bugg soon realized that she wasn’t fighting alone and, along with her family and friends, she connected with other young people also battling cancer. She met fellow patients and, through social media, she connected with people across the globe, all sharing in the journey to beat the disease. Stunned by the small amount of research dollars spent on research and developing better treatments for pediatric cancers, Megan Bugg turned her focus to helping others become more aware of the need.

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“We need to do more for our kids,” Megan Bugg says. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, only 4 percent of federal government research funding goes to study pediatric cancer. Additionally, cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease for children. Megan launched several campaigns to raise awareness, including reaching out to state and national representatives, taking meetings with congressmen to urge support for increased funding. While most of her teenage peers might dread public speaking, Megan Bugg has stood before thousands of people to advocate for more research funding and has appeared on local TV news shows, as well. “I never really feel fear because this is something I’m passionate about, and when you have passion, [and] have a strong connection … you want to get your point across,” Megan Bugg says. She also traveled to Washington, D.C. for CureFest, where she shared her story and stood with others fighting cancer. “It’s not just her battle against cancer,” says Kent Bugg. “She’s expanded her battle to fight for all kids.” Megan has raised more than $120,000 to support research on childhood sarcomas at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She also works with local fundraising efforts, including Healing Heels and Ivory Ella where she helped design merchandise that highlights “Going Gold” to recognize pediatric cancer.

let it stop her. Through a program at Joliet Junior College, she is working to earn high school credits. She has set her sights on graduating with her classmates in the spring. Kent Bugg, who is the superintendent of Coal City Community Unit School District 1, says that earning her diploma is a big task, but if there’s one thing he’s learned about his daughter these last four years, it’s never underestimate her determination. “I’ve learned when she sets a goal, not to doubt her,” he says. “We’re so proud of her.”

“It’s not just her battle against cancer. She’s expanded her battle to fight for all kids.” –KENT BUGG, FATHER

While her cancer treatments have impeded her ability to keep up with her high school studies, Megan Bugg hasn’t



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LOVING NATURE Tree nursery matriarch Marlee Harford dedicated to bettering, beautifying community By MELISSA RUBALCABA RISKE Photo by SARAH PETERSON OF DUTCH GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY


mall business owner, entrepreneur, mother, volunteer and farmer are just a few of the many job titles that describe Mazon resident Marlee Harford. And with each of her positions, she brings passion and dedication to her family and community. Harford is the owner and operator of, an e-commerce website featuring, well, trees. When her husband, Chris Harford, launched in 2006, e-commerce was still growing, and he had a vision for reaching out to consumers to help his family’s tree nursery business grow. “Most people told me there was no way it was going to work,” Chris Harford says. “We had access to the trees and I said, ‘Why can’t we sell them online?’” Meanwhile, Marlee Harford was working in a hair salon when Chris Harford shared his idea for and his plans to someday take over the family farm, which grows corn and soybeans in the Mazon area. And, when the farm needed more attention, he invited Marlee Harford to take over Even with a small child, Marlee Harford was up for the challenge. With more than 100 varieties of trees in the more than 90acre nursery, Marlee Harford had a lot to learn in order to be able to help customers, manage equipment, and schedule delivery and plantings. Even with all of the work and family commitments, she went above and beyond the business to reach out to the community. Marlee Harford is a board member of the Grundy County Farm Bureau Young Leaders Organization and


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a member of the Grundy County Farm Bureau. Marlee Harford has become a tree champion. When recent tornadoes damaged trees in the area, she saw an opportunity to donate trees and help replant them in the community in order to rebuild the urban canopy. She’s working to help Morris earn the designation Tree City USA – a community forestry program sponsored in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. She also works with local organizations, such as Grundy County Habitat for Humanity and Morris Lions Club to bring trees to new homes and parks. Marlee Harford has helped grow as a business and promote her community outreach, as well. For example, this year, every tree that plants, the company makes a donation to plant a tree in the national forest through the Arbor Day Foundation, she says. “This is how we were raised; we really like to get involved in the community,” says Chris Harford. The Harfords are the definition of partnership in marriage and in business. Her husband says that his desk is located right next to his wife’s in their office on the family farm.

restore a home in the area. Chris Harford says he was nervous to launch another business venture, but with his wife’s foresight, they successfully renovated a home and plan to do it again. And there is the family farm. While Marlee Harford wasn’t raised with an agriculture background, she says she’s enjoying seeing her children, Cash, Skylar and Jett grow along with the yearly harvests. “It’s fun for us to be on the farm – have the kids riding in the combine,” she says.

“This is how we were raised; we really like to get involved in the community.” –CHRIS HARFORD, HUSBAND

“We work so well together,” he says. The partnership works so well that last year the duo launched another business, Skyrocket Development LLC, when Marlee Harford suggested they purchase and


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The Grundy County Chamber of Commerce and Women in Business are proud to support the 2018 Women of Distinction. The Grundy County Chamber of Commerce Women in Business

is a professional support group that offers mentoring, education and networking opportunities in an effort to help women in the community to grow professionally and personally. The group is open to anyone who wishes to meet other women and share in the daily issues and challenges faced in the workplace and in life. For more information, please visit the Chamber website at, or join the Facebook group Grundy County Chamber Women in Business.

The Grundy County Chamber of Commerce and Industry provides many services to our communities, but our top priority is our members. Businesses that invest in a chamber membership benefit from: • Member-to-member business referrals • Grand opening events and member business spotlights • Member-to-member exclusive discounts • Exclusive business-related news updates • Bi-monthly member networking opportunities • Continuing business education seminars and workshops • Targeted programs for women and young professionals

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The allure of eating out for breakfast is a mighty one, whether your pantry is bare, bursting or somewhere in between. It’s not so much the issue of making the mess elsewhere as it is the sights, sounds and camaraderie found in a restaurant that’s been bustling since before sunrise. Plus, the fantastic food! Grundy County provides patrons with plenty of options for breakfast, and weekend brunch. Here’s a glance at some of the best local spots to rise and dine in Morris: MORRIS DINER AND PANCAKE HOUSE 1920 N. Division St., Morris 815-942-6887 Hours: Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily You’ll seldom hear much groveling about portions from patrons at this centrally-located stop. If you’re hankering for more sweet than meat, try the Eskimo’s Waffle, a waffle covered with a generous scoop of ice cream, your choice of fruit topping and whipped cream.

Best breakfast spots in Morris By KEVIN DRULEY


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LIBERTY STREET CAFÉ 511 N. Liberty St., Morris 815-941—4355 Hours: 7 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; and closed Sunday. Feel like enjoying the most important indulgence of the day? Liberty Street offers a handful of inexpensive breakfast items that might just lend themselves to mixing and matching. How about a croissant or panini with a fresh-baked scone or muffin? Or any of these with “The Sandy Eggo” – scrambled eggs with your choice of American, provolone or cheddar cheese with bacon, ham or sausage on a toasted English muffin.

R-PLACE RESTAURANT 21 Romines Drive, Morris 815-942-3690 | Hours: Open 24 hours Enticing locals and Interstate-80 travelers alike for more than 50 years, R-Place seemingly offers a taste for every breakfast palate. Choose from numerous omelets, skillets, pancakes and combo choices, especially if you need a meal will stave off hunger for several hours. Pancake Madness includes seven different options of all-you-can-eat pancakes. Or try the Papa Bear Breakfast – two eggs, hash browns, choice of bacon or sausage and a fresh buttermilk biscuit topped with gravy. MARIA’S RISTORANTE AND PIZZERIA 1591 N. Division St., Morris 815-942-3351 | Hours: Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays Savor some Italian-inspired fare, such as lemon ricotta pancakes or the Italian sausage frittata. The Italian-American Breakfast fuses the best of several worlds, offering three eggs, smoked ham, bacon, Italian sausage and crispy Vesuvio potatoes for $13.95. The drink menu features a Bloody Maria, mimosa or sangria for $5. WEITZ CAFÉ 213 Liberty St., Morris 815-942-0686 Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. One of several area eateries with plenty of history – some may remember its sister location on Route 66 in Braidwood. This café, located north of the Illinois River, has many ways to wash away early-morning hunger. The menu is extensive, but don’t be afraid of sticking to the basics. The gravy served over biscuits has generous portions of sausage.

CAFFEINE CRUSADER QUICK STOPS FOR A QUALITY CUP OF JOE BREWED AWAKENINGS 1359 N. Division St., Morris 815-513-5567 | “Life’s too short for bad coffee,” this establishment’s credo states. Look no further than a diverse menu, which includes monthly specials, for proof. Among the regular offerings, try the Snowy Mountain signature mocha – a blend of espresso, steamed milk, mocha and Irish cream flavor. FOOD & WINE

MORRIS BAKERY 315 Liberty St., Morris 815-942-1031 Donuts, brownies, cakes and cookies abound at Morris Bakery, whose listing in the coffee section of this story doesn’t preclude you from ordering any of the above for breakfast. Just don’t forget to enjoy a cup of Joe to wash your pastry down. The bakery does that right, too.

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Wine101: F

ew times of the year can be as wonderful as the holidays. But Michelle Xydakis, owner of Montage Wine Bar and Spirits in Morris, also knows that there are few times of the year that can be as stressful as the holidays, too. And that can be exacerbated with the onslaught of parties, dinners and other assorted holiday-related gatherings that spring up during this time. To help alleviate the worry, Xydakis offers a couple of tips. “My motto is to drink what you enjoy,” she says. That’s a big reason why Xydakis recommends hosts not overspend on wine. While strongly suggesting holiday wine buyers avoid low-end products – but “Don’t go cheap,” she says. She recommends sticking to a price point of between $18 and $30.


Montage Wine Bar in Morris gives tips for sipping and savoring this holiday season By Jonathan Bilyk

4. Cru Unoaked Chardonnay, California

“You definitely don’t have to go over $30 [or] $40,” she says. “You can find a lot of really good options right in that range.”

5. Lafage Miraflors Rose, France 6. Fess Parker Dry Riesling, California

Xydakis also recommends that buyers taste before they buy, perhaps at a tasting event, such as the Holiday Wine Tasting at Montage, 307 Liberty St., Morris, on Nov. 18, when the shop will offer attendees the chance to sample as many as 30 different wines.

“This wine is a must!” she says. “On the palate, you will find slight citrus notes with a light mineral character, backed by a sleek texture. Complements well with roasted chicken or grilled pork.”

To get you started, here are 10 wines (in no particular order) that Xydakis recommends for the holiday season, all priced from $18 to $30 a bottle: 1. Torii Mor Pinot Gris, Oregon

8. Cline Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel, California “Soft tannins and medium body; this wine also is very food friendly and won’t compete with the meats served,” she says. 9. Domaine de la Prebende Beaujolais, France 

2. Petit Chenin Blanc, South Africa 3. Broken Dreams Chardonnay, California “A Chardonnay is necessary at every holiday party, traditionally,” she says. “This one’s ripe fruit pairs well with turkey and dressing. Great minerality, stone fruits and slight oak notes.”


7. Left Coast Cellars Pinot Noir, Oregon

10. Fess Parker Dry Riesling, California “This grape’s natural acidity cuts nicely through the richness of food and can complement your favorite holiday meal or dessert,” she says.


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GC Magazine Oct 2018.indd 17 Serving Grundy, LaSalle, Kendall, Western Will and Livingston Counties FOOD & WINE


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If these walls could talk

Perry Armstrong House

Edward Sanford House

David A. Mathews House



If you want to learn more about the history of a town, look at its residences. A community’s homes help tell the stories of a place and it’s people – each structure as unique as the people who used to live within their walls. Morris is celebrating this notion with the Morris’ Heritage Homes project. The mission of the initiative, created by the Morris Downtown Development’s Historic Preservation Committee, is to identify historic homes throughout the city, encourage their preservation and raise awareness for their historical significance.

helped start the community of Morris,” says Deborah Steffes, curator of the Grundy County Historical Society Museum. “They held prominent positions, and the buildings themselves are architecturally interesting.” The project currently includes 41 homes. To qualify and receive an official Morris Heritage Home plaque, a house must be at least 75 years old, in good condition and preserved or renovated to maintain its original style and character. Here’s a preview of several of the stunning, historic homes found in Morris:

PERRY ARMSTRONG HOUSE – DELOCKERY APARTMENTS 109 E. North St. Built in 1874, this Georgian-style house was home to a prominent local attorney. Perry Armstrong played a crucial role in having Morris established as the Grundy County seat. He also was a local historian and writer, who was a friend of prominent tribe leader Chief Shabbona and Abraham Lincoln. He entertained both in this home. The house was later occupied by Lyman B. Ray, a leader of the local Republican Party, who would go on to become Illinois Lieutenant Governor in 1888.

“They’re connected with interesting people that


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EDWARD SANFORD HOUSE 440 Vine St. The striking blue color of this three-story Italianate mansion jumps out at passersby through tall trees flanking the property. The home was built in 1875 for Edward Sanford, the first principal for the Morris School District and later a successful lawyer. The property went to his son, Frank, in 1909. The home changed hands several times and stood unoccupied for a number of years until it was bought in 1979. Today, the home retains much of its original splendor, including Tiffany chandeliers, detailed woodwork and marble fireplaces. J.A. POOL HOUSE 407 W. Jackson St. This Folk Victorian-style gem still includes many details reminiscent of the era it was built. The 1897 structure, situated in an area with many other historic homes, features an oak staircase, French doors, stained glass and detailed crown molding. It was originally home to the owner of a Morris drug store and manager of the Chicago Telephone Company, which was the largest suburban telephone exchange in the country at the time. DAVID A. MATHEWS HOUSE 708 Fulton St. Built in 1912, the David A. Mathews house is a charming cottage built by a prominent

local businessman and farmer. He had the original home located on the property divided into two houses; then he moved down the street to 712 and 716 Fulton. The 716 house, now called William Burwell House, also is a Morris Heritage Home. Mathews also founded Morris Hospital in 1906, which still serves the community to this day.

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MILFORD HULL HOUSE 801 Freemont Ave. This English cottage was built in 1923 for Milford Hull, constructed from plans that came straight from Great Britain. Hull was the Morris Fire Chief and the owneroperator of the Morris Grain Co. Inside the home, there’s a grand stone fireplace, hardwood floors, and the original bathtub and stand-alone shower.

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• Information courtesy of the Historic Preservation Committee and Deborah Steffes, curator of the Grundy County Historical Society Museum.

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10/2/18 4:42 PM

Chit chat:

With Whimsy boutique owner Traci Tessone By Kevin Druley

Traci Tessone fancies her retail boutique in downtown Morris as a one-stop shop for lovers of unique clothing, fancy goods and fine events. Tessone, the owner of Whimsy boutique, chatted with Grundy County Magazine writer Kevin Druley about her vision for the store and how she got started in the retail industry. (The following is an edited transcript:)

Q: How do you feel customers perceive Whimsy? A: I feel like when people come into my shop, really what I hear over and over again is how different it is. They love just seeing displays and the mix of the items. … I really carry just anything that I love. Anything that I see that I think is unique and different; I like to carry those type of items. But I’m also very selective of what I put in, and I really try to search for the best prices that I can, so that it’s affordable, but still a great quality.

Q: Where did your aspirations for this kind of work come from? A: I went to college to be a special education teacher, and I did do that for awhile, but, while I was in college, I used to rent spaces in other people’s boutiques and do some refinishing of things if I found little antique items. I started with all home stuff, home décor items and furnishings … while I was in school, because I just liked doing that. Growing up, my parents loved shopping small – boutiques, antique stores – so that just kind of grew on me. So, I was doing that, and then I started teaching special ed.

… But what kind of started it was my sister was getting married, and we were meeting with event coordinators and florists. I felt like there was a consistent lack of creativity, I guess I would say. Any time you would say something, they would be like, ‘Oh, we can’t do that,’ or whatever. So, we really ended up doing a lot of it ourselves. And this was way before Pinterest and way before everybody was posting all these weddings online. So, you had to be very creative. So, the wedding was fantastic and so many people loved it, and so people were then asking me to start doing theirs. I would do that while teaching on the side. And then I decided that if I wanted to do this and bring back the boutique aspect of it, that maybe [I could] open a shop – display that I do events but then also I could do some of my home furnishings and antiques.

Q: You recently opened another Whimsy in Normal. How is that? How do you divide your time? A: It’s a mix of clothing and home items, and it’s in walking distance to


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the [Illinois State University] campus. My clientele is still just all over the board, which is why I think people like my store. Because you can be 13 and getting a cute little necklace or you could be 70 and getting a cardigan or something for your home. … It’s for all ages. … From [my home in] Joliet to Normal, it takes an hour-and-a-half, so it is a little bit of a haul. But I have such a great staff that it’s really easy. So, I can be there one to two days a week. … Otherwise, I’m just stopping in for part of the day, checking in on things, adding new merchandise.

Q: In addition to 3 French Hens French Country Market, in which other community endeavors are you active? A: This year, I’m the lead for a new event in town, which is called Ghouls Night Out, basically like a fun fall evening of shopping. So, that’ll be the first year. That’s Oct. 19. We’ve already got a great response, so I think it’s going to be one of those events that continues to grow. … There’s also the Morris Retail Association. All the shops really


collaborate, and we have some awesome events that our customers really appreciate. I think that really helps us, because a lot of towns, they don’t have as nice of a downtown as we do – a thriving downtown like we do.

IF YOU GO Whimsy boutique 217 Liberty St., Morris 815-513-5600

UPCOMING SHOPPING EVENTS 3 French Hens Holiday Market (Read more, page 21.)

WHEN: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 WHERE: Grundy County Fairgrounds, 8890 N. Route 47, Morris INFO: 3frenchhensmarket. Ghouls Night Out WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 WHERE: Downtown Morris INFO:

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Five more fun events Celebrate the season with 3 French Hens market and other holiday happenings By Aimee Barrows


et a jump-start on your holiday shopping at one of the best French markets in the state – the annual 3 French Hens Holiday Market on Nov. 9 and 10 at the Grundy County Fairgrounds, 8890 N. Illinois Rt. 47, in Morris.

This year’s event will feature more than 175 renowned artisans, crafters and vendors from around the Midwest. This is the ninth year of the popular event, which draws thousands of shoppers from all over Illinois and the surrounding states. While the market always has returning favorites, every year brings in new and exciting vendors. Some of the items you can find include vintage and antique goods, repurposed items, handcrafted jewelry, holiday décor, gifts and more. Market favorite Lori Baudino of Morris will be there again this year with her handcrafted vintage barn wood signs, as will local boutique Ruby Begonias, which will feature one-of-a-kind wares and clothing. Garden’s Gate, an Ottawa retailer, will have freshly-cut Christmas trees, garland, corn stalks and other seasonal décor. The Morris High School Madrigals will perform holiday music both Friday and Saturday. When you’re ready for a break, check out the homemade, home-baked goods building, where you’ll find artisan cheeses, Amish baked-goods, homemade fudge, locally-harvested honey and more, or relax in the lounge area and enjoy a meal from local food trucks. “We have some of the best vendors in the nation, and best antiques here,” says Monica Vogel, co-founder of 3 French Hens. “Three women started a market with 35 vendors [and it] has grown into a nationallyrecognized vintage market with 175 vendors. It’s truly amazing.” There is a $25 early entry fee for those who want to be among the first in the doors at 4 p.m. Friday. Tickets for regular Friday night entry, which begins at 5 p.m., are $10, while Saturday’s ticket price is $5.

“We have some of the best vendors in the nation, and best antiques here. Three women started a market with 35 vendors [and it] has grown into a nationallyrecognized vintage market with 175 vendors. It’s truly amazing.”

IF YOU GO: 3 FRENCH HENS HOLIDAY MARKET WHEN: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 WHERE: Grundy County Fairgrounds, 8890 N. Route 47, Morris INFO:

– Monica Vogel, co-founder of 3 French Hens

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‘CELEBRATE THE SEASON’ WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18 WHERE: The Jacob Henry Mansion Estate, 15 S. Richards St., Joliet Easterseals Joliet will recreate the historical Walnut Room, where guests will dine under a Christmas tree, enjoy music entertainment and visit with Santa and Christmas fairies. For more information, visit www. HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS WHEN: Friday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 25 WHERE: Downtown Morris Kick off the Christmas season with an old-fashioned Grundy County tradition. Enjoy the lighted holiday parade, a house walk, children’s activities, carriage rides and more. For more information, visit www. HOLIDAY HUSTLE 5K WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 25 WHERE: Babe’s Tap, 755 S. Broadway, Coal City Burn off that turkey dinner at the second annual 3.1-mile fun-run. This chip-timed race begins and ends at Babe’s Tap. Proceeds benefit Help for Hope in Coal City. Visit the Holiday Hustle Facebook page for more information. MIDNIGHT IN MORRIS WHEN: 6 p.m. to midnight Friday, Dec. 7 WHERE: Downtown Morris Enjoy special discounts and refreshments at downtown retailers, courtesy of the Morris Retail Association. A VILLAGE CHRISTMAS WHEN: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 WHERE: Village Community Room, 121 E. McEvilly Road, Minooka Visit with Santa while sipping hot cocoa and enjoying cookies, crafts and music. For more information, visit GRUNDY COUNTY MAGAZINE | FALL 2018 | 21

10/2/18 4:42 PM



At a very young age, Ray Grossi showed an aptitude for drawing. His talent for the arts grew and blossomed in high school, where he was selected to attend a weeklong camp at the Allerton House in Monticello, Illinois – a camp open to students from all over the country. At the end of the camp, Grossi was recognized with an award for being the most outstanding artist.


As an adult, he turned his artistic prowess to lettering, and opened a successful sign business with his wife, Rose. As the sign business became more digitalized, Grossi turned his focus back to fine art, and has entered several oil paintings into local art shows over the past few years, winning best in show and first-place awards.

Have you seen the NEW Sunshine?

Today, he alternates between oil painting and watercolors, and has been producing his best work yet, he says.

Find us at: 2850 E. Division St., Diamond 1/2 mile west of I-55 on Rt 113 815-458-6100

Grossi and his wife are founding board members of nonprofit organization The EXibit Fine Art Center, a gallery in Morris that showcases the work of local and regional artists. The center, located at 315 Bedford Road, also provides classes and networking opportunities for artists. “MISSION TRIP FRIENDS” WATERCOLOR


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For more information about the art center, visit or call 815-258-5191. To view more of Grossi’s work, find him on Facebook.

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Lighting of Chapin Park Festival of Trees Christmas House Walk & Tea Children’s Activities And Much More!

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Morris Downtown Development 105 E. Main Street, Suite 201 | Morris, IL 60450 | (815) 941-0245

Festival Trees2018 2018 Festivalofof Trees

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HouseWalk Walk&& Tea Christmas House Tea SILENTChristmas AUCTIONS Children’s Activities Children’s Activities And Much More! And Much More! Decorated Trees, Centerpieces, Wreaths and more! Raffles, too! Silent auctions of

Grundy Co. Historical Society trees, centerpieces, 510 W. Illinois Ave., Grundy Co. Historical Society 815-942-4880 Morris, IL •60450 wreaths & more!

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trees, centerpieces, trees, centerpieces, 510 Ave., 510W. W. Illinois Illinois Ave., Grundy Co. 815-942-4880 Grundy Co.Historical HistoricalSociety Society 815-942-4880 Morris, 60450 Morris, IL •60450 wreaths & more! wreaths & more! 815-942-4880 510 W. W. Illinois Ave Morris, IL 60450 • 815-942-4880 510 Illinois Raffles too! Raffles too! Ave Morris, IL 60450

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GC Magazine Oct 2018.indd 23

Shop, Dine, Enjoy! Morris Retail Association

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#morrisretailassociation #morrisretailassociation VVisit our Website for all Downtown Activities Visit V our Website for all Activities Visit V our Website for allDowntown Downtown Activities


10/2/18 4:42 PM

Mammography Screenings really do SAVE LIVES. “Annual mammography detects breast cancer at its early stages, giving the best options for treatment and the best chance for living a longer, healthier life.” ~ Terri Jacob, RN, MSN

For women at average risk, these simple guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists can help detect breast cancer early:

· Examine your breasts on a regular basis so you know how

Now offering 3D mammography at the Morris Hospital main campus and at our Ridge Road Campus in Channahon ! Call 815-942-4105 to schedule your appointment.

they normally look and feel. Report any changes to your healthcare provider.

· Have a clinical breast exam every 1-3 years

between ages 25-39. Beginning at age 40, have a breast exam by a healthcare provider every year.

· For women at average risk without symptoms of breast

cancer, talk to your provider about having an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40. 24 | FALL 2018 | GRUNDY COUNTY MAGAZINE GC Magazine Oct 2018.indd 24

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