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Fall/Winter 2017

Get your home ready for holidays with Clinton store

Fulton High School’s new official grew up not far down the road

First Candelight Inn celebrating huge milestone this year r i v e r

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Has Someone You Love Been


of Whiteside County ...PRESENTS in partnership with the Whiteside County Senior Center



ELDER SCAM ALERT FORUM Wednesday, October 25, 1-3pm First Presbyterian Church, 311 9th St., Fulton

Call 815-625-7973 to sign up today! This forum will be presented at the First Presbyterian Church, 311 9th St., Fulton. Please call the United Way at 815-625-7973 by October 19 if you plan to attend to reserve your seat. Space is limited. Call the United Way today.

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. LIVE UNITED® 2

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Publisher Don T. Bricker Advertising Director Jennifer Heintzelman Editor Jeff Rogers Magazine Editors Lucas Pauley Rusty Schrader Page Design Lucas Pauley Published by

Sauk Valley Media 3200 E. Lincolnway Sterling, IL 61081 815-625-3600 Articles and advertisements are the property of Sauk Valley Media. No portion of River City Living Magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Ad content is not the responsibility of Sauk Valley Media. The information in this magazine is believed to be accurate; however, Sauk Valley Media cannot and does not guarantee its accuracy. Sauk Valley Media cannot and will not be held liable for the quality or performance of goods and services provided by advertisers listed in any portion of this magazine.

Fly into fall at The Old Crow


CHOOSE A CENTER FOR LIVING More than a nursing home, Mercy Living Centers are centers for living where e each at life is resident is valued and respected. As a faith-based organization, we believe that a gift and strive to provide a full, quality of life for each person. • Advanced nursing care 24 hours a day • CMS Ranked Quality Measures - 5 Star • Continuity of care from hospital • Therapeutic and resident choice meals • Memory Care Unit (South Campus) • Daily social activities

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Contact 563.357.9181 to schedule a visit.

Mercy Living Center – North - 600 14th Ave. N., Clinton, IA Mercy Living Center – South – 638 S. Bluff, Clinton, IA r i v e r

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More inside 8

5 – New Fulton High official Meet the school’s new assistant principal, athletic director

8 – Photographer Dave Tackett Local man finds breathtaking photos in Fulton, all over the area

13 – Hickory Hideaway Campground provides a little bit of luxury in the woods close to home


19 – Candlelight Inn


Restaurant’s first location celebrates 50 years in business

25 – Scrapbook of summer fun 28 – Straightaway Productions Nearby studio offers space for local musicians to create, practice

19 25 28 4

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Fresh face at Fulton High

Robert “Bob” Gosch, a 29-year-old Dixon native, is the new assistant principal and athletic director at Fulton High School. Get to know him on page 6.


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New assistant principal, athletic director excited about new start


new official at Fulton High School is ready to play ball. Robert “Bob” Gosch, a 29-year-old Dixon native, is the new assistant principal and athletic director at Fulton High School, and he brings with him plenty of experience and a strong desire to help kids. “I decided to get into education because I enjoy helping kids,” Gosch said. “I enjoy helping people work together to solve problems and passing this knowledge along to students.” Gosch is no stranger to high school sports, being an athlete himself and having coached in the past. He graduated in 2006 from Dixon High School, where he was in track for 4 years and played basketball for 2 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education from Western Illinois University. Also coming to town are his wife, Kelly, and 3-year-old daughter, Evelyn. Prior to working at Fulton High, Gosch worked at ROWVA High School in Oneida, where he taught junior high and high school science for the past 5 years. He was the assistant track coach for 2 years and the varsity girls basketball coach for the past 2 years. Gosch said coaching allowed him to interact with kids on a different level. “Instead of seeing the students for 85 minutes every other day, I would work with them for an additional 2 hours at the end of the day,” he said. “That allowed me to get to know them better and figure out ways to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.” Gosch said being a coach also helped him


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understand all the different IHSA rules and regulations. “Everything from concussions to filling out different forms for participation, I had a pretty good knowledge of things that need to get done before a season.” Chris Tennyson, Fulton High School principal, said that Gosch is a great fit for the high school. “He has been eager to learn his responsibilities,” Tennyson said. “The fact that he has a science background is nice, because he is able to work with science and math teachers.” Tennyson said Gosch had terrific energy during the interview process. “He came across as passionate about Fulton and wanted to get heavily involved in the high school,” Tennyson said. Both officials supervise the cafeteria together every day. Gosch has been great at getting to know the students, especially athletes, Tennyson said. Gosch said the school year is going well so far and staff and students have made him feel at home. “We had a great start to football and volleyball,” Gosch said. “It has been fun meeting the students and everyone has been very welcoming.” “I am excited to see all the different activities and ideas that our teachers have,” Gosch said. “We have a great staff.” Away from work, Gosch loves being home and spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s a big sports fan and plays recreational sports in his free time. And just like his favorite NFL team, the Chicago Bears, Gosch is ready to bear down and get to work.

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Gosch said the school year is going well so far and staff and students have made him feel at home.

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Sterling photographer David Tackett has spent nearly a decade building an archive of impressive wildlife snapshots – American minks, pelicans, even the elusive kingfisher – all captured in the area.

Former steelworker finds a new life behind the lens


“It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” In most cases, one would hear this Charles Darwin quote in reference to wildlife, or the theory of evolution. A local man has taken the quote to heart, though, and in 2010, underwent an evolution of his own. David Tackett, 62, grew up in Rock Falls, always loving the outdoors, and fishing in particular. He worked at the steel mill 30 years, and when it closed, the Rock Falls High School grad picked up a camera and began his transformation. Tackett, now of Sterling, has spent nearly a decade building an archive of impressive wildlife snapshots – American minks, pelicans, even the elusive kingfisher – all captured locally. “I keep trying and hoping to catch one of those killer shots that goes viral,” Tackett said. Facebook likes and exposure are not the only things that motivate him to rise before the sun every day to capture this imagery. This becomes obvious after noticing the wry smile on his face when he tells stories of encounters with otters, and a run-in with an injured bald eagle. Continued on page 11


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A group of pelicans – call ‘em a pod or pouch, a scoop or a squadron, or even a brief – but to Dave Tackett, they’re fodder for a photo of life on the river.

More online

You can see even more of Dave Tackett’s photos, and read his blog, at or by finding Dave Tackett Photography on Facebook. Contact him at or 815-625-3473 for more information.

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World Class Orthopedic Care. Proven Results. When you choose Mercy Specialty Clinic - Clinton, you can be sure you are getting world class care with proven results. Look no further than our team of Board-certified and Fellowship-trained Orthopedic physicians: With national and international experience in orthopedic surgery, Dr. Foad trained under world-renowned orthopedic surgeons as he completed his trai Residency in Orthopaedics at the University of Texas and Fellowship in Resi Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy at the International Olympic Trauma Spor and Research Center in Norway. Dedicated to excellence in patient care, Dr. Foad has the experience and skill to enhance performance in athletes at aall levels— from the Olympics, to professional sports, to the occasional weekend athlete. we Specializing in: • Complex Shoulder Surgery and Sports Medicine • Arthroscopic Knee Reconstruction, Cartilage Repair and Transplantation • Partial and Total Knee Replacements • Single Incision Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Abdul Foad, MD Board-certified and Fellowship-trained Orthopedic Surgeon

Comm Committed to compassionate, patient-centered care, Dr. Magnus brings expe experience and dedication to the field of orthopedics while delivering an exceptional care experience. Specializing in total joint replacement and exce revisions, he has provided advanced and innovative care for more than revisi to patients in the Eastern Iowa communities of the Quad Cities 20 years y and Dubuque. Specializing in: • General Orthopedic Surgery • Trauma Care • Total Joint Replacement Surgery and Revisions – Knee and Hip

Robert Magnus, MD Board-certified and Fellowship-trained Orthopedic Surgeon

To schedule an appointment, call 563.244.5900.

Choose Confidently. Choose Mercy. Mercy Specialty Clinic - Clinton 1410 North 4th Street Clinton, IA 52732

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Here’s a sight you don’t see very often – a turkey flying just above the river, one of the countless shots Tackett’s captured through the years, trolling for those picture-perfect moments.

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Tackett braces the cold and patrols the Rock River with his dog.

How can Services @Home help me? Good Samaritan Society-Services@Home is part of a notfor-profit organization striving to transform the aging experience through the services and housing we provide for seniors. If you are looking for some help around the house or assistance running errands, Services@Home may be exactly what you need. The Good Samaritan Society’s Services@Home offers non-medical, home based services. This type of care may also be known as private duty care, home care/non-medical care. We can help with mediation reminders, meal preparation, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and any other daily tasks to help you stay as independent as possible. Our caregivers are available 24 hours a day. We also offer short-term services, like coming over for an afternoon while your family runs errands; or maybe just an hour or two in the morning to help you get your day started right. Our services donot require a deposit. There’s no minimum time commitment. And you don’t need a doctor’s note to begin services. Call us to set up a free in-home consultation to learn more about our services. During that initial visit we will create a schedule and care plan that is individualized to you. Once the visit is completed, a simple phone call is all that’s needed to set up services. Our services are available at any moment, giving you and your family peace of mind that we’ll be here for you whenever you need us. Please call 563-242-2308.

Continued from page 8

He is a member of the ecosystem, an active observer of the world around him, driven by a love of nature. The Rock and the Mississippi are favorite haunts. “I just enjoy getting out. If you’re rich, you get a house on the river, but if you don’t have a lot of money, you can go out on a boat and you have the whole river,” he said. “You don’t have to sit in your one little spot. I can just troll around, and it’s like I’m living on it.” Tackett does a good job of staying out of everyone’s way while he is out shooting. He spends most of his time floating or trolling down the Rock in a small fishing boat, waiting for the right shot to present itself. He prides himself on his persistence. “If you keep going out, sooner or later something will happen, and you’ll get it.” One day, he did get it. After a freezing February drive to Fulton, Tackett broke up 2 inches of ice, by hand, just to get his boat in the water. Then he trolled down the side of the river, searching for a shot to make all the effort worthwhile. That’s when he spotted three pileated woodpeckers flying wildly around the high branches of a tree. Through the lens of his camera, he spotted the cause of the commotion: a sharp-shinned hawk. The woodpeckers tried to scare the hawk away, but they only provoked it to strike. After a brief game of cat and mouse between the bravest woodpecker and the hawk, the predatory bird left. Luckily, the images Tackett scored that day haven’t left his camera. Such moments are rare in the wild, but make for great photos and even better stories. “That’s what I enjoy seeing, and that’s what I’m out there to get.” s

he fact you can’t be T there doesn’t have to mean they can’t live there.

To learn more, call (563) 242-2308.

All faiths or beliefs are welcome.

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Sherry and George Vidinich own and operate Hickory Hideaway in rural Shannon.

Creature comforts – and critters, too Take trip to Hickory Hideaway just down the road STORY BY PHILLIP HARTMAN & PHOTOS BY MICHAEL KRABBENHOEFT FOR RIVER CITY LIVING


tranquil view, the occasional fox roaming the landscape and wireless Internet. It’s like the best of all worlds at Hickory Hideaway. The 10-acre campground on Payne Road near Lake Carroll is the creation of George and Sherry Vidinich, former Chicagoland residents who bought the property in 2004. “A lot of people don’t even realize we’re here,” Sherry, 54, said as she looked out over the

12-cabin campground that wraps around a central fire area and a clubhouse with a hot tub and nautical theme. Variety and comfort are major themes at the year-round campground. The Vidiniches offer four one-room luxury cabins and four tworoom cottages, each with two-person whirlpool tubs, and four extended-stay country cottages with two rooms. Part of what sets Hickory Hideaway apart is its

service. The cabins have private baths, heat, air conditioning, linens, running water, towels, coffee, sugar, and the aforementioned Wi-Fi. The duplex country cottages have fully equipped kitchens, and the other cabins have country kitchenettes. “We even have a toothbrush if you forgot yours,” Sherry said. About the only amenity not available is cable TV, but you can pick up local channels. Continued on page 15

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The duplexes also features a door between them, which comes in handy for some guests. Sherry cited the example of a mother staying in one cottage and a daughter in another. Look around and you’ll see little touches that make guests feel more at home. In one of the cabins, tiles from a Scrabble game spelled out “Welcome” and “Relax.” Barbecue grills, picnic tables and benches, a volleyball court, disc golf, bean bag tosses, other yard games, and the occasional stargazing night are other features. Sherry said the night sky at Hickory Hills is one of the darkest in the Midwest. A masseuse can even be scheduled by request. Family reunions, church retreats, golf outings, road trip stopovers, fall color viewing trips, bachelorette parties, and weddings all take place at the campground. A motorcycle group was scheduled to stop the weekend of Aug. 6. While Hickory Hills doesn’t really have theme days, it does have a New Year’s bonfire, and work with other area businesses to make guests welcome. “We work with Silver Moon Winery and Dollinger’s Christmas Tree Farm,” she said. “We also grow produce on site.” Just want to get away and enjoy nature? There’s a walking path that goes around the south side of the property, and a variety of animals can be seen along the way. “We have owls, rabbits, opossums, eagles, deer, fox, and coyotes. We don’t allow hunting, but we do have hunters stay,” Sherry said. For the most part, the Vidiniches themselves maintain the property. George, 64, snowplows the drives, and does lawn care and other maintenance, both inside and outside. Despite being relatively hidden in the Carroll County hills, Hickory Hills has had at least one set of visitors from far away. “We had a family come in from India,” Sherry said. The family got an Uber from the airport, so the couple drove them to a grocery store. That’s the homespun hospitality people can expect at Hickory Hills. s


The Old Crow Country

Hickory Hideaway

Address: 24336 Payne Road, Shannon Phone: 815-8642099 Online: and Facebook

ABOVE: The Hickory Hideaway luxury cabins offer a whirlpool tub and a cozy feel. LEFT: The family-size, extended-stay country cottages are duplexes that feature a small kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom.

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Rhonda Kearns owns The Old Crow in Clinton with her husband, Brian.

County-style comfort

Clinton store boasts charming atmosphere, vintage vibe



whimsical painted crow strutting on a red checkered sign beckons visitors into The Old Crow in downtown Clinton, where they “take the old and make it feel new.” The store, featuring country primitive gifts and antiques, immediately surrounds customers in the warmth of an era gone and elicits fond recollections of simpler times. And simpler times were just what Rhonda Kearns and her husband, Brian, were looking for when they opened store in 2011. Although the Clinton natives had moved to Chicago to pursue their careers, they always knew they wanted to return to their hometown. With Brian approaching retirement from Union Pacific Rail Road, the timing fell into place when Rhonda’s father and stepmother

decided to close their floral business. The Kearnses then took the plunge and established The Old Crow in the former Burke Florist building on Sixth Avenue. It would be another 2 years until Rhonda ended a 22-year run as a business systems analyst and move back to Clinton permanently. Brian retired and joined her a year later. The store has since moved to the corner of Second Street and Fifth Avenue. “No regrets,” Rhonda said. “We love being back home.” The store’s name has some history behind it, too. “My husband’s friends call my sister and me ‘The Crows,’” Rhonda said with a laugh. “I tell myself it’s an endearing nickname. It must be, right?”


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The store offers a mix of old and new, with a smattering of antiques selected mostly by Rhonda. There are also hundreds of decorative accent pieces reflecting the warmth and country charm of the primitive era. “It’s the cutest little store in downtown Clinton,” frequent customer Sharon Hesselman said. “Items fit well with antiques, and you can always find just the right gift.” Just what the country-primitive style is has evolved over the years. Historically, it was furniture handcrafted by farmers in the 1700 and 1800s featuring function over style. It has expanded to embrace the concept of repurposing something old for a new use. It is a décor that is simple and tells a story. Rhonda has her own description.

“If someone wants to throw something away, try to find a new use for it,” she said. “An old galvanized bucket might work great next to a fireplace with flowers in it. A step ladder on the curb could be repurposed as towel holder in your bath room.” Customer Tina Armstrong said every time she goes into Rhonda’s shop, she finds something she likes. “I probably have bought enough to open my own store,” she said with a laugh. Her favorite purchase was an antique cupboard that she repurposed to hold wine. Braided rugs, crockery bowls, linens, galvanized containers, textiles, flowers, handmade quilts from estate sales and crocheted doilies are several items that stir nostalgia. Visitors can also find unusual seasonal items. The shop is currently filled with Halloween and autumn decorations. “The fall is huge. It almost surpasses Christmas with it comes to decorating,” Rhonda said. “We also have locals that make items and sell them on consignment, but I’m very picky,” Rhonda said. “I’m looking for items that enhance what we already have, and I have some great people to work with.” Gary Jungen, one of the artists Rhonda works with, creates signs from wood he gathers from old barns. One especially quirky sign spells out I-O-W-A in letters configured from old pieces of metal hardware. Watercolor prints from Paula Soesbe are sold at the store. She’s a former Clinton resident, and her city and rural scenes feature river showboats, city landmarks and country landscapes. As the business has grown, the store has added new food, wine, candles, handmade greeting cards and fragrance offerings. “The caramels are ridiculously good,” Rhonda said, speaking about the Dutch House caramels made in Minnesota. The Old Crow carries wines from Eagles Landing Winery in Marquette, Iowa, and always has some chilled for sampling. Also available is an entire line of jams, and barbecue and grilling sauces. The store recently added whole bean and ground coffees from Clinton-based Summit Lake Coffee. Savory seasoning packets for dips and crackers are also customer pleasers. “We sell a ton of candles,” Rhonda said. “Buttered maple syrup continues to be the most popular scent. “We also just introduced a line of home scent sachets, candles and reed diffusers with a more flowery fragrance. The whole store smells terrific.” A real crowd pleaser is the store’s line of Shaggies. The super-absorbent chenille towels and clothes were created when the company founder recycled an old chenille bathrobe into cleaning clothes.

TOP: Wines, including many bottles with fun labels, are big sellers at The Old Crow. ABOVE: Halloween, Thanksgiving and autumn decorations are always popular.

The Old Crow

501 S. Second St., Clinton 563-242-1155 Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Pets also have their own line of products. Favorites are dog bone woven rugs, collar scarves and catchy signs proclaiming such sayings as “Always Kiss Your Dog Goodnight.” One of the store’s partners makes catnip toys that “sell like crazy,” Rhonda said. The Kearns are big supporters of the Clinton Humane Society and Midwest Pets for Life,

donating a percentage of summer sales to the two organizations. They also helped with the Race of the Wieners during the Clinton Oktoberfest. They have had four rescue dogs in the past, and hope there is another one in their future. “We want to spread the word for animal welfare,” Rhonda said. They also pride themselves on buying from local vendors first, Iowa vendors second and then products made in America. Imports are a last resort. Whether you’re looking for something specific or just shopping around, The Old Crow provides is a welcome window into the past where country charm and vintage style radiate comfort. s

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n the unstable reality that is the restaurant business, certain elements are essential for prolonged success: good food at a fair price, a connection with customers and community, and a willingness to evolve while still maintaining the core of what got you there. The Candlelight Inn has mastered all of these, which explains why, after 50 years, the restaurant continues to flourish. The original Candlelight Inn opened in June 1967 on West Third in Sterling, under the ownership of Chuck Sisson, Lyman Prescott and Bob Prescott. Before long, Chuck and Lyman left the business. In 1989, the restaurant moved to its current location on North Locust Street. In those early days, Bob Prescott, along with his wife, Jan, demonstrated another critical component of success: hard work. It’s something they passed along to their son, Matt. Bob would often finish work around 2 a.m., and in those days, because the Candlelight Inn served breakfast, be back at it at 5 a.m. to prepare for the morning’s customers. “[They were] very present and very hands-on,” said Melissa Ryan, the restaurant’s marketing and community engagement director, of the Prescotts. “They were at the restaurant day in and day out.” Tom Frump, general manager of the Rock Falls restaurant, said Jan, who passed away in 2016, “was always the hardest working person in the business.” According to a recent newsletter, “Employees always stood a little straighter, moved a little faster and made sure they were always at their best when Jan was on the floor. It was not because she demanded it, but because everyone knew she deserved respect.” Continued on page 21

Fifty years of family, friends and famous fried chicken A plate of fresh Chicken George sits on a table with some Jan’s Sauce, a side of French fries and an iced tea at Candlelight Inn (also shown below).

Candlelight Inn

The three Candlelight Inn locations are 2907 N. Locust St., Sterling; 2200 First Ave., Rock Falls; and 511 Riverview Drive, Clinton, Iowa. Call 815-625-2600 in Sterling or 815-626-1897 in Rock Falls. Visit for more information, including: the company overview and history, menu and pricing, information about its charitable programs, photos, and catering and banquet information for each location.

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Matt (left) and Bob Prescott sit inside Mister P’s Lounge at the Rock Falls Candlelight Inn. The business is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Continued from page 19

The modeling of that hard work ethos, along with their continual proximity to others, engendered within the Prescotts a love not only for their customers, but for their employees. Jan was described in her obituary as having a compassion for other people that was second to none. With Frump, Ryan, Matt’s assistant Laura Hoyle, and Sharon Kanellis, a 40-year employee and manager in Rock Falls, one senses the deep reverence all have for the Prescotts. Though Frump and the others are quick to point out that neither Bob or Matt – who has taken over ownership duties – ever seek any recognition for their “good deeds,” such kindness deserves mention. “Sometimes, a person would come off the street looking for free food,” Frump said. “‘Do I know him?’ Bob would ask Sharon. And Sharon would reply, ‘Well, yes, he’s been here before.’ So Bob would tell her, ‘OK, give him a bowl of soup and some crackers and a cup of coffee.’ And she would.” Ryan said the Prescotts will do anything to help other people. According to the restaurant’s website, more than $125,000 has been donated to the community.

Laura Hoyle, Tom Frump, Sharon Kanellis and Gaston Gragert stand in front of Candlelight Inn in Sterling.

Continued on page 23

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What undoubtedly launched Candlelight’s financial success more than anything else was its signature dish, Chicken George, made by a cook, George, in the early 1970s. Jan’s Sauce came later. Like many fortunate “inventions,” it was created on a whim. It was made to satisfy a customer, Roger Young, who was looking for something different to eat, something not on the menu. George had been making the chicken for himself for some time, and when he made it for Young, well, the rest is history. “People had heard about it and were ordering it before it was even on the menu,” Hoyle said. These days, the three restaurants serve more than 6,000 pounds of Chicken George a week. But it’s just fried chicken, right? Not so fast. “What makes it special is the chicken’s freshness,” he said. “The fact that we use the tenderloin of the chicken breast, the tenderest part, and the batter is consistent.” It gained notoriety before chicken tenders became the now ubiquitous menu item of restaurants and bars and fast food joints everywhere. Other menu items have impressive followings, too. “I tell people that we have the best prime rib in the area,” Frump said. “And if they disagree that it’s not the best they’ve ever had, I’ll buy their dinner for them.” In the years since Frump has made this claim, he’s only had to buy someone’s dinner once Candlelight’s sandwiches and salmon dishes and gourmet salads, such as the relatively new Kale and Quinoa Power Salad, are also popular. These menu items’ very existence is evidence of a restaurant’s need to appeal to a wider demographic, including more health-conscious individuals. In 2004, Matt Prescott expanded the Candlelight Inn by opening a Rock Falls location, on First Avenue, and again in 2010, on Riverview Drive in Clinton. All three sites provide banquet facilities and space for parties and

Jan and Bob Prescott stand in front of the Sterling Candlelight Inn in a newspaper article on the restaurant’s 30th anniversary.

formal occasions. They also cater events. The restaurant has catered weddings as small as 20 people and as large as 300, and has gone as far as Galena. Need a drink for a special toast at one of those events? The Candlelight Inn now boasts two wines of its own making, both created to honor the restaurant’s central employers: Queen P, a white wine that pays homage

to Jan Prescott, and Sunshine, a red wine to honor Bob Prescott, who calls all his female employees “Sunshine.” Though, according to the restaurant’s newsletter, when Bob first called an employee Sunshine she likely felt like she belonged and that her job was secure, one of the managers offers a different perspective, perhaps only slightly tongue-in-cheek: “It could be that with all of those female employees,

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he just forgot their names.” Tom Frump notes the basic component of Candlelight Inn’s success this way: “Bob told me that as long as you make people happier when they leave than they were when they arrived, you’ll always be a success.” At its core, this could be why Candlelight Inn has been firmly rooted in the Sauk Valley for 50 years. And why it endures still to this day. s

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THROUGH THE LENS | RIVER CITY RESIDENTS Photos By Peter Balser, Earleen Hinton, Michael Krabbenhoeft and Alex T. Paschal For River City Living


essica Vandereide (left), 18, of Fulton, crawls through an obstacle course during Fall Sauk Fest on Aug. 30 at Sauk Valley Community College. Vandereide is one of the many Fulton and Clinton, Iowa, residents Sauk Valley Media photographers captured on camera throughout the summer. Take a look back at some of your neighbors making some good memories here and on page 27.

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Mixing it up in Morrison

Steve Bearsley of Straightaway Productions works the sound board at his Morrison studio. The recording engineer grew up in Mount Carroll.

Recording engineer has worked with dozens of local, national acts STORY BY DANA FRANCIS & PHOTOS BY PETER BALSER FOR RIVER CITY LIVING


t was a quilt shop when chief engineer Steve Bearsley moved his studio gear in 5 years ago. Before that, a restaurant, a church, and a school. But it’s the juxtaposition of quilt shop to Straightaway Productions recording studio that is most jarring – and slightly amusing. “When we moved in,” Bearsley said, “there were baskets everywhere.” Bearsley began removing the baskets and any other remnants of the quilt shop, and started some interior construction – when he could find the time. He closed off what for decades had been a large open space into smaller spaces, creating soundproof isolation booths and a control room. Now, the recording studio not far down the road functions as the studio that hip-hop, blues, rock, and even gospel artists come to create their sound, a skill for which Bearsley is clearly qualified to assist, and in many ways, create.

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Bearsley has worked on thousands of songs over the years, from his time in Florida and Chicago, his few years in Sterling, and now Morrison, and with artists including Creed, Britney Spears, Jay-Z, and R. Kelly. “Music, music, music; it was just music all the time,” he said, remembering what he was like as a child and teen in Mount Carroll. After graduating from Mount Carroll High School, he and his cousin attended Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. The college opened its doors in 1979 and offers degrees in entertainment, media, arts, and technology. After getting his associate degree in Recording Engineering, Bearsley worked as an intern at Transcontinental Studios in Orlando, then later spent time as a drummer in Conscious Pool, a Chicago band. He also spent time working for Sound Investment, a live production company. “I’d get in my car and wouldn’t even want to turn on the radio,” he said. “You kind of get burned out on hearing the music. It turns into a job just like anything else.” Bearsley knows that when clients come to see him now, often with something raw that they’ve recorded in a home studio, they’re often in “Now what?” mode. So, his role as recording engineer has to be more than just a job for him. Artists and

Decor is shown atop the piano at the studio.

bands are there for his help – to edit, to mix, to master what they’ve created on their own, often to take their sound to a place that they themselves could not have conceived. “I have to pull back and adjust to the sound and the music, to see it through their eyes,” he said.

Though he is a recording engineer with extensive experience, Bearsley describes himself first and foremost as a musician, mostly a drummer, but he also sings, plays some guitar and piano, and creates tracks with the keyboards. Continued on page 30

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Continued from page 29

It’s his experience and skill that helps him understand what an artist or band needs from him as he sits at the soundboard or just works with them in general. “There’s a certain cadence to a session. It’s a matter of a few seconds when an artist is ready to sing,” he said. “There’s a certain timing that you need to keep the creativity going. You definitely have to anticipate what the artist is going to do. If you’re not fast enough and the artist is waiting for you, they’re going to lose interest and lose the creativity. If the band is ready for a new take, you should already be rolling.” Steve said he really tries to keep the timing of the session, to hit that sweet spot or that flow. “Otherwise, it’s like dead air on the radio.” Many of his clients prefer to work at night, often around 10 p.m. or later. “They have completed their obligations for the day, and now they can come to the studio and just focus on the music,” he said. Others prefer different times, such as first thing in the morning. Whenever they have the time, but also when they feel most creative and energetic. Steve tries to accommodate his clients’ wishes in that regard. “This is not a 9-to-5 job,” he said with a smirk.

Bearsley estimates that he’s had 30 to 40 steady clients over the past 5 years, as well as some “one-timers,” artists or bands that may seek his services only once. Current clients – who come from all different areas – include The Dirty Beet Brothers, The Rotten Drapes, Robbie LeBlanc and the Real Live Show, High Five Sinners, Frank F. Sidney’s Western Bandit Volunteers, A.Rem, and Matt J. As far as the future goes, Bearsley has some plans for expansion. “I want to start holding events here, for people to come see the bands, to watch live music,” he said. He also has an idea to stream

live music from his studio to other destinations, such as bars or clubs either in or outside Morrison. Ultimately, though humble about his work, Bearsley is aware of the critical role he plays with those who come to him. “You can take five different mix engineers and have them work on the same song and it’ll sound five different ways – at least that’s my experience,” Bearsley said. He tries to make it sound good to his own trained ear, “but the input from the artist is huge.” “I try to get them from the start to the finish of the project, to make sure they’re comfortable the whole time.” s Serving the Sauk Valley Area for Over 35 Years!

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Members of The Dirty Beet Brothers – shown here and on page 12 – rehearse at the studio. They are one of the many area acts that use the space professionally.

For more information

Find Straightaway Productions, 13690 Lincoln Road in Morrison, on Facebook for more information, and check out to see a list of Bearsley’s credits. Call 773-355-0669 with questions or to set up a session appointment.

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River City Living Fall Winter 2017  
River City Living Fall Winter 2017