March 25, 2017
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Expressive Transformation

Paige Talbert finds creative prowess in art therapy
Paige Talbert, a 12-year-old Newburgh, Indiana, resident with autism, shows off one of her landscape works of art.

Paige Talbert of Newburgh, Indiana, was very young when her mother Jenna, a physical therapist, and father Marco, an engineer at Vectren, suspected something was amiss.  Just an infant, Paige was inconsolable at times. At six months, doctors fitted little Paige with her first set of glasses to help her visual impairments. At nine months, she began refusing food, was diagnosed with three food allergies, and began feeding therapy to help her eat.
 
By age 6, doctors diagnosed Paige with autism. Like most autistic children, Paige — now 12 years old and attending Holy Spirit Catholic School’s Marian Educational Outreach program — struggled with many things. However, with the help of therapy and her family — including three older siblings Sam, Will, and Claire — she has thrived.

“Paige has truly overcome obstacles of things we were once told she would never do,” says Jenna. “We are so proud of her and grateful for our family.”

One form of therapy that has given Paige a release is art. While attending a birthday party of a friend with a similar condition, she was introduced to MnemeTherapy, a type of art therapy originally developed for Alzheimer’s patients. Paige took to the activity right away, prompting Jenna and Marco to contact Beautiful Minds LLC therapist Tina Gibbs.

“There’s all these super highways going on in our brain, and when a brain has been damaged or is underdeveloped, there is a bridge or connection that’s blown out,” explains Gibbs. “What this therapy does is create a detour around that and form a new connection.”

Every other week, Paige sits down with Tina, paintbrush in hand, and begins to create a new work of art. They discuss what painting she would like to do before picking out colors and getting started.

“In the beginning, she was very apprehensive, but now she takes less guidance and does her thing,” says Gibbs. “She’s not afraid to make her own decisions.”

In the past three years, Paige has created 86 pieces of art. The response from family and friends has been so positive, Jenna decided to make a calendar of Paige’s creations as Christmas gifts. From there, the Talberts began to sell the calendars to the public, raising funds to continue Paige’s therapy. So far, 75 calendars have been purchased.

“She loves to paint landscapes and she really likes to paint animals,” says Jenna. “All the money raised from this project is used to pay for Paige’s art therapy, which is not covered by insurance.”

For Marco and Jenna, the art therapy has changed Paige in positive ways. It has helped improve Paige’s bilateral coordination, aiding her in learning how to ride a bike. Her visual tracking and fine motor skills have improved as well, says Jenna, allowing her to legibly write and read close to her grade level. Gibbs agrees Paige’s immense talent has given her more confidence.

“When she gets done with a painting and it looks awesome, it helps her self worth,” she says. “It gives her that extra boost to maybe try something else.”

For more information about Paige’s art calendars, visit her Facebook page, Facebook.com/artbypaigetalbert.

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Girl On A Mission

Jaimie Sheth inspires others to give back with her book “My Life Is Not My Own”
Author Jaimie Sheth began her foundation, the JD Sheth Foundation, to give back through needs-based projects.

Jaimie Sheth’s inspiration for mission work began 10 years ago in India on a trip to visit the school where her grandmother taught. Two years later, she went to Vietnam where she met people who were building playgrounds, which inspired her to go to Cambodia to build a school.

Fast-forward to today and Sheth has her own foundation, the JD Sheth Foundation, dedicated to needs-based projects around the world, as well as a new book titled “My Life Is Not My Own.”

Sheth, who grew up in Evansville and attended Reitz Memorial High School, the University of Southern Indiana, and the University of Evansville, says the goal of the book is to help people know where to start in accomplishing major projects like hers. The book starts where her charity story begins and outlines all of the projects she has completed so far.

“I was writing a journal that was just for myself,” says Sheth. “As I started to do project after project, my friends told me I should write a book about this because there are a lot of people who are interested in doing [charity work] but just don’t know how to do it.”

The book dives into projects all over the globe in countries like Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Haiti, Thailand, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her next stop will be the Philippines where Sheth is trying to partner with Delta Air Lines to build a school and feeding house, and support an orphanage.

“Each one I do I take away something from it,” says Sheth. “I think in each project the most meaningful thing is meeting these people, realizing their situation, and looking at it from their perspective of what that water well did for their life or that school or that house and how that benefited them and makes their life better.”

For more information on Jaimie Sheth and her foundation, visit jdshethfoundation.org. Her book can be found online at amazon.com.

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Golden Brown

Cooking star talks about his new tour
Alton Brown hits the stage at Old National Events Plaza on May 4.

 “A devilishly handsome raconteur who enjoys telling tales about food and its preparation,” Alton Brown quickly spouts when asked if he can describe himself in one sentence.

The fact is, the guy is modest. In direct opposition to kitchen “unitaskers” he so loathes, Brown does it all. He’s known as a culinary authority, an award-winning author, a TV host, a musician, a cinematographer, and a proud science nerd. “AB” is an omnipresent Renaissance man — or rather a man for all seasonings.

Brown and his crew last visited Evansville in 2006 while filming the series “Feasting on Asphalt,” riding motorcycles to the then-neglected historic Greyhound station, the YWCA Tea Room, and the Hilltop Inn for brain sandwiches. Taking on yet another project, the showman returns to the River City on May 4 for “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science” at the Old National Events Plaza, the follow-up to his “Edible Inevitable” tour.

Moderately obsessed with Brown since the early days of his show “Good Eats,” I hushed my inner “fangirl” (well, a little) to chat with him about our city, the show, and the South.

Do you recall any specific memories of Evansville or have an impression of our area that you’d like to share?

Alton Brown: Two things I remembered the most strongly — one, the bus station. I don’t know why that place struck me the way that it did. I was looking for a place to really talk about vending machines as part of the American road experience, and I remember leaving going “somebody needs to get hold of this and do this place justice.” So I am so happy to see that is happening, and I can’t wait to see it. The other thing, of course, is that I was looking for brains.

What inspired the idea for your variety shows, and what are you hoping to accomplish with them?

AB: I’ll tell you the flat out truth about this. What made me come up with the idea for a culinary variety show was Sonny and Cher. I was a child of the ‘70s and adored variety shows. You had musical numbers, you had comedy routines, you had bizarre circus acts, and it was like vaudeville on television. And I miss it. So I decided that I was going to design the culinary version of that very thing, and did with “Edible Inevitable.” Played it, toured it for two years, and adored every moment of it. When it was over, I was like, “You know what, I want to go again, I want to ride again.” So I came up with a new show.

On the last tour you built a huge version of the Easy-Bake Oven called the “Mega Bake.” Please tell us there is another mega appliance in the new show?

AB: Ohhh, baby. Oh, baby, is there a new appliance.

Can you, without giving away too much, tell me a little bit about it?

AB: No, I’m not going to tell you anything. I’m not going to tell you a gosh darn thing, other than there’s another appliance, and it’s bigger. (laughs) Although, it’s hard to beat the Mega Bake. It’s a huge amount of fun, and I still use it.

Is there a particular food or drink that you seek out when you travel from city to city on the tour?

AB: We’ve been doing this hashtag program on social media called #ABRoadEats. We have a different one for every city. About a week before we come there, we’ll post the hashtag for Evansville, and people will put in their votes and their suggestions for where I should eat. The cool thing about that is by show time, I’ve already got a relationship going with my audience, because I’ve eaten the food they told me to eat.

You’re from the South. Evansville is technically a Southern city, also. What do you believe distinguishes the culinary identity of the South?

AB: The absolute desire and need to consume animals that anyone else would throw away. This is why we have things like burgoo. You’re more Kentucky than you are Indiana, in a way. The food identity I got when I was there was most definitely Southern, which is delightful.

For ticket information, call 812-435-5770 or visit oldnationaleventsplaza.com


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Pure Imagination

Stephen Libs presents a chocolate wonderland
Stephen Libs continues the tradition of chocolate making his father Robert P. Libs brought to Evansville in 1950.

Fictional candy maker Willy Wonka famously said the only way to make chocolate just right is churning it by waterfall. Evansville’s own chocolatier Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates may not boast a waterfall and oompa loompas, but the family-owned company certainly has a claim on quality chocolates.

The shop, located at 6225 Vogel Road, showcases a storefront that would put Wonka to shame. Shelves lined with assorted chocolate boxes, caramel pecan supremes, crèmes, roasted nuts, chocolate-covered fruits, seasonal and special occasion treats, and more present a chocolate lover’s dream.

But it is behind the counters, down a small hallway, and in the back of the building where the true magic lies. Employees line along machines and countertops, monitoring as treats are coated in milk, dark, or white chocolate before they are decorated, cooled, and then placed in inventory boxes ready for packaging.

“Depending on what we’re making, I would guess we produce anywhere around 200 to 300 pounds of chocolate a day,” says owner Stephen Libs.

He and his wife Marjorie started their little chocolate factory in 1985. Stephen was taught the art of chocolate-making from his father Robert P. Libs, who brought the unique Libs technique to Evansville from Eureka, California, in 1950. The secret to the high-quality chocolate is not in the recipe, says Stephen, but in the process.

“You can give a recipe to different people and the same recipe turns out differently,” he says. “We just have our own technique and try to follow that.”

The freshest and highest quality ingredients are a part of that, Stephen adds.

“You can’t take low quality and turn it into high. You have to start with good stuff to end up with good stuff,” he says.

Each night, Libs employees cover their chocolate pots and turn the temperature up. In the morning, they will cool the chocolate and temper it properly. Tempering helps create a smooth, glossy chocolate by getting the cocoa butter to the right consistency. Once the chocolate is tempered correctly, it’s ready to pour over nuts, caramels, creams, fruit, peanut butter, and other treats offered at Stephen Libs.

“It’s a very great place to work,” says Brenda Stone, who has packaged chocolates at the company for more than 10 years. “There’s a happy family atmosphere here.”

For more information on Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates, call 812-473-0048 or visit stephenlibschocolates.com.

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Artist in Residence

Tony Treadway comes back to New Harmony to share his art
Treadway first became acquainted with the artistic community of New Harmony during his days as a ceramics student.

Tony Treadway keeps an old theory on clay in his mind as he works — hand-thrown pottery pieces should be affordable to everyone.

“I’ve always taken that to heart,” says the New Harmony, Indiana, resident.

Treadway started throwing clay in 1979, after a football injury in high school damaged his hand. After 18 weeks in a cast, his doctor told him he had two choices — learn to throw pots or play the piano.

“I looked at him and said, ‘There’s no way I’m playing a piano,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ll introduce you to a potter,’” says Treadway with a laugh.

From there, his passion for pottery and the arts flourished. The Robinson, Illinois, native would attend and graduate from the University of Evansville with a bachelor’s degree in ceramics and a minor in printmaking, and from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, with a master’s in ceramics and sculpture.

Through his undergraduate years at UE, he became familiar with New Harmony and its artistic culture — first in 1984 working on a photography project then again in 1985 and ‘86 as a ceramics student intern at the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Potter’s House studio.

After being away from the small arts community for 30 years, the Illinois native and his wife Christy moved to New Harmony in 2015 to essentially pick up where he left off.

“For me, coming back here is repaying the kindness that Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owens showed me in those days when I was here as a student from UE,” says Treadway.

Today, along with his thriving ceramic art, which he displays and sells under the name Treadway Clay, Tony throws clay in his backyard studio; runs the 609 Gallery; serves on the Arts in Harmonie and Christmas in Harmonie boards; is vice president of the business association; and lives as most artists in New Harmony do — sharing his craft and prompting the creative minds of the small town.

Where do you draw inspiration?

Inspiration, for me, goes back to the river. Everything goes back to the Wabash River for me. My family tradition runs back four generations on the river. There’s an association to this kind of river community lifestyle for me that works.

Is there a specific type of piece that you enjoy making the most?
I enjoy doing platters. One of the reasons is it gives you a surface to really be expressive on. The jar forms are always fun and I love making teapots, but I don’t do it as often as I used to.

Teapots are unique; they are multiple pieces that are assembled together. It’s always fun, and it’s always a challenge. Platters are not what I consider a challenge, but the use of the surface of the platter is where the fun comes from. The same thing goes for the low, shallow bowl forms. I can really play with those — you can carve, you can paint, there’s all types of things. Then you can just let the glaze do some wonderful things as well.

How do you sign your pieces?

Well, I have an arched T, which is homage to my mother. (Treadway’s mother was one of the first women to graduate from University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, with a degree in mathematics.) The arched T is very much like the Pi symbol for mathematics.

For dating, mine always has a month and a year on it and, since I’ve moved here, every one of them has New Harmony on the bottom of it — either NH with Indiana, or New Harmony, Indiana, completely written on the bottom. Part of that is because I’ve worked in three different cities that are within 150 miles of each other.

So by looking at the bottom, I know what series a piece is coming from and where it was developed.

Have you worked with any other mediums?

Yeah, I paint, I draw. I spend a lot of time on design theory. But the potter’s wheel always just was the one thing I felt most comfortable with. And part of it is because I think it is the history buff in me. For me, the work is all a connection to history.

When you think about it, as I sit down and throw clay, outside of the electricity running the wheel, this is the same way they were doing this 8,000 years ago. This is basically, outside of beating two rocks together, one of the oldest art forms there is.

What brought you back to New Harmony, Indiana?

It’s a funny story. My wife Christy and I brought work down to the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art in 2015 — we were living in Shelbyville, Illinois, at the time, and she worked as an advocate coordinator in the state attorney’s office. She had never visited here before.

Christy really got hooked on the community. We came back for a second trip and she said she felt so at home here. But I recognized that some of the vitality was gone and I really started to think about what it would be like to be back here.

After a weekend trip down here, she called me from work on a Tuesday in June and said, “Call a Realtor and have them start looking for a house down there. We’re moving to New Harmony.” On Oct. 15, we moved into this house.

I’m a devoted disciple of the Jane Blaffer Owen school of thought. She had a strong belief that the arts were a part of this community, — they are. The history, the archeology, and there’s all these things here that I truly love.

For more information on Tony Treadway, visit theartisansgalleria.com.

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Farewell Act

Ron Glass is honored by UE and AAM

Inside the Evansville African American Museum sits a unique display honoring the life and work of an Evansville native who had a successful career in Hollywood.

Ron Glass, who graduated from the University of Evansville, passed away Nov. 26, 2016, in Los Angeles at the age of 71.  An exhibit created in 2007 to illuminate Glass’s distinguished career now stands in his memory at AAM and was the centerpiece during a recent ceremony honoring his life. 

On Feb. 25, UE and the AAM recognized Glass with a presentation titled “A Celebration of Life Honoring Ron Glass” at Shanklin Theatre on UE’s campus. The service included words from AAM Executive Director Lu Porter, UE theater professor John David Lutz, UE President Dr. Thomas Kazee, and Glass’s friend, retired Marion Superior Court Judge David Shaheed, as well as a video montage of Glass’s work. There was a moment of silence to honor his life before guests were invited to visit the museum.

“Ron always was connected to the museum and the community of Evansville,” says Porter. “He encouraged students to think globally and expand their knowledge.”

Among the items on display at the museum are Glass’s detective badge and various cast photos from the show “Barney Miller,” a Distinguished Alumnus Award from UE where he studied drama and literature, an image from his days as a history teacher in NBC’s prep school comedy “Mr. Rhodes,” and his 1982 key to the city of Evansville.

Glass remained in touch with the community of Evansville throughout his television and film career. Scholarships in his name are offered through the Evansville African American Museum and the University of Evansville. Lutz remembers first meeting Glass in 1965; Glass’s sophomore year at the university and Lutz’s first year as a faculty member.

“Ron was very intelligent and had great work ethic during his acting career; always go, go, go, driven onto the current project,” he says.

Lutz directed him in numerous productions. He also shared the stage with Glass during a production of Hamlet, playing the lead role and Glass portraying Horatio. They stayed in touch for the next 52 years. During Glass’s film and television career in California, Lutz visited and remembered a lot of laughter between them.

“He was outgoing and an inspiration to students,” says Lutz.

For more information about the Ron Glass display, call 812-423-5188.

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Living in the Past

Museum curator educates public about Evansville’s history
Tom Lonnberg is all about the history. As curator of the subject, he has overseen a large amount of projects during his career.

Tom Lonnberg is a man of history. The curator of history at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science has an intimate relationship with local heritage.

“I always was interested in history since I was a kid, so that became my undergrad major, and then at graduate school I had the opportunity to intern at the William Hammond Mathers Museum in Bloomington, Indiana,” he says.

Born in Anderson, Indiana, Lonnberg moved to Posey County, Indiana, at an early age. After completing his undergraduate studies at Indiana State University Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) and graduate work at Indiana University, Bloomington, Lonnberg found himself presented with an opportunity in Evansville — a job as the first history professional at the Evansville Museum.

He is passionate about sharing Evansville’s history with the general public. Lonnberg has organized a wide range of exhibits over the course of his 29-year career, focusing on topics from Ohio River history to Evansville’s valiant participation in the Vietnam War and World War II. These exhibits have honored those who served in the wars and those who worked on the homefront in plants serving the military cause.

Evansville Living: What were your main objectives when you started as history curator?
Tom Lonnberg: I wanted to emphasize more of what made Evansville special and its history. Many of the exhibits throughout the years have been topical of Evansville, bringing a greater understanding of the city’s past.

EL: What is your biggest achievement since arriving at the museum?
TL: That would be the Evansville Museum Transportation Center Project that has been here several years now. It opened in 1999, but in the mid-90s we started on that project, building a separate building to interpret Evansville’s early transportation history and provide a new home for the museum’s train. That was one of my major projects as far as the interpretation and building — from the brick and mortar phases, but also to deciding what exhibits to stage. That was certainly a very important project for me.

EL: What has been your favorite exhibit at the museum?
TL: I think one of my favorites was an exhibit about a guy named Frank Kramer. It was one of my favorites for a few reasons, one of which was I didn’t know who Frank Kramer was until I did the exhibit. A community person asked me, “Do you know about Frank Kramer? He was a champion bicyclist back in the early 20th century and he lived in Evansville in his younger life.” It was suggested we might look into doing an exhibit about Kramer. At that point, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame was in Somerville, New Jersey, and they had an exhibit on him. So I traveled with the museum’s registrar to New Jersey and looked at their stuff, then literally got in a Ryder truck and hauled things back here for this exhibit about Kramer. It was interesting because no one really knew about him. He was one of the highest-paid athletes of his time, extremely successful; he won multiple national and one world championship.

EL: What is in store for the future of the history collection at the museum?
TL: We are looking at that right now. We would like to move forward to interpreting, on a permanent basis, more of Evansville’s past. We do that rather regularly in changing exhibits and displays that are here for three or four months, built in-house, and changed to something else. But we’d like to interpret Evansville more wholly on an ongoing basis through long-term exhibits that can be enjoyed here for many years.

For more information about the Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, visit evansvillemuseum.org.

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Home Sweet Home

Don Mattingly discusses the comforts of Evansville
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly spends off-seasons with his family at their North Side home.

Nine months of the year, Don Mattingly is all business. From spring training until the grueling 162-game Major League Baseball season ends, it is never-ending, 12- and 13-hour days in a rapid-fire succession of cities.

After a stellar playing career with the New York Yankees, Mattingly — a 1979 graduate of Reitz Memorial High School — became the team’s hitting coach under his friend and mentor Joe Torre. He followed Torre to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and became the team’s manager in 2011. Mattingly and the Dodgers agreed to part ways after the 2015 season and he became manager of the Miami Marlins, quickly turning them around in his first season.

But what’s life like in Evansville during the off-season?

Just before Mattingly reported to the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, for spring training, Tucker Publishing Group President Todd A. Tucker sat down with Mattingly in the kitchen of his North Side home (where he said he would be “most comfortable”) and discussed why Mattingly always will call Evansville home.

Evansville Living: What do you miss about home when you are gone for an extended period?
Don Mattingly: Family — my wife, kids, and brothers and sisters. I really only look back during the season and wish I was home when I’ve been away for a while and I’m kind of tired — it is the Fourth of July-times I miss.

EL: Do you sometimes wish you had a simpler lifestyle?
DM: Well, the good thing I get when I am home is to be able to do some things I want. The time I am here, I usually don’t have any true time obligations. As far as work, I can be on the phone or email without having to be in any specific place.

EL: Say it is mid-December, with no demands on your time — what is your ideal day?
DM: Usually it would start with Louis (Mattingly’s 2-year-old son) sleeping in. It’s nice for Lori and I to hang out. You know, we got into yoga a bit this last year. Just to leisurely get lunch, work out, and to get out and shop.

EL: When you return home after the season, what do you do?
DM: When I get home, it’s weird. It’s hard for me at first because I have been working and I just don’t know what to do. I end up cleaning out drawers, the garage, driving Lori crazy by doing stuff that makes her ask, “What are you doing?”

EL: Tell me about Mattingly Charities; there seems to be a lot of momentum.
DM: We try to reach those less fortunate, under-served kids and give them more opportunities through sports. That’s what took us to the Boys & Girls Club starting out, then combining with the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana. We’re now talking with the Glenwood Leadership Academy.

EL: You could be living in larger, more glamorous markets where you have been during your career — New York City, Los Angeles, and now Miami. Why do you feel you will always come back to Evansville?
DM: It’s just back to home for me. Lori and I have talked about it. We always will have a place here. As you get older, you look for warmer weather at times, but we always will have a place here and I think it is the comfort of being home.

EL: Who are a few local people who have influenced you the most?
DM: Certainly my brothers Randy and Michael from a family standpoint. And my father (Bill), but I didn’t realize until much later how much he influenced me. He never pushed me and never criticized. That helped me play without fear.

People around town I looked up to were Bob Griese (former quarterback for the Miami Dolphins), who made it big. Quentin Merkel (former Memorial High School baseball coach and coach of Mattingly) was a huge, huge influence on me. He would just push me to get better, to improve.

EL: Ever run across Midwest players who have backgrounds similar to yours?
DM: Yes; guys who love it, play, and have fun. A lot of the Midwest guys are hard working, grinding type guys.

For more information about Mattingly Charities, visit mattinglycharities.org.

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The Living Record

We remember those we lost in 2016

With each passing year, we mourn and celebrate the lives lost of members of the community who made a difference in their places of work, to civic organizations, and to their families and others. We pored through death records and obituaries to find notable men and women who helped shape the Tri-State through their contributions.

Frederick Bumb, 94 — Dec. 30, 2015
Fred established Bumb Farms, Inc., and served as director of the Indiana State Fair board. He was a 4-H leader and president of both the Vanderburgh County Fair Association and the 4-H Center Board. Fred was named “Farmer of the Year,” Mayor Jonathon Weinzapfel proclaimed Nov. 12 “Frederick Jacob Bumb Day,” and he received the designation of Sagamore of the Wabash.

Robert Seibert, 83 — Jan. 3, 2016
One of the first members of the Mater Dei High School wrestling program, Bob raised his son Garren to become a member of the first Mater Dei State Championship team, and many of his grandsons carried on the tradition. After serving in the Navy, Bob returned to Evansville and owned several businesses, including the Copy Bar, AA Roofing, and Foxx Pools.

Phyllis (Igleheart) Kerdasha, 88 — Jan. 15, 2016
A descendent of one of Evansville’s original founding families, the Iglehearts, Phyllis was involved with the YWCA and Reitz Home Museum. She also was a member of the Evansville Museum, Evansville Country Club, and Evansville Kennel Club. She founded the Aline and Edgar Igleheart Foundation, an arboretum, gardens, and bird sanctuary in memory of her parents.

J. Glenn Babb, 90 — Feb. 6, 2016
Glenn served as chairman of the Convention Bureau of the Evansville Chamber of Commerce, bringing in 56 conventions and revenue of about $3 million. He co-founded Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana and served as co-chair of the New Image Committee of Evansville’s Future, Inc. He also was president of Evansville Sales and Marketing Executives, director of the Zoological Society, and chairman of the community fund drive for the Boys Club of Evansville.

Betty Buck, 82 — Feb. 12, 2016
Betty served on the board of directors of the Philharmonic Orchestra for 16 years and sat on the executive committee for a portion of that time. She owned Betty Buck Interior Design, served as president of the Three Arts Club, and was a member of the Weed and Seed Garden Club and Evansville Kennel Club.

Sarah Jessee, 78 — April 5, 2016
As a longtime Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation health and physical education teacher, Sarah coached basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and track. Her passion for golf led her to coach the Reitz High School team for six years. She was a member of both Helfrich Hills and Fendrich ladies golf associations, where she served as an officer. She won several club championships and helped on many tournament committees.

Walter “Siggy” Vanover, 85 — April 14, 2016
Siggy was Central High School’s basketball team captain, football quarterback, and baseball pitcher during winning seasons. He joined the Evansville Police Department at 19 and retired as a lieutenant after 30 years. Siggy also served as the president of Hadi Shriner’s Oriental Band and owned several businesses: Sig Vanover’s Painting and Wallpaper, Vanover’s Lease Your Way Motorhomes, Mom & Pops, The Old Manhattan, Vanover’s, and The Grand Slam.

John “Jack” Chaddock, 85 — April 11, 2016
Jack co-founded Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana, served as Knight Township Trustee, and worked as a real estate professional. He was one of the founders and first president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Evansville, the first male president of Harrison High School PTA, and a president of Evansville Board of Realtors. Jack also worked with Evansville Goodwill Industries, Newburgh Town Council, Evansville Rotary Club, Evansville Boys Club, and Historic Newburgh, Inc.

Alberta Matlock, 71 — April 26, 2016
As city clerk, Alberta secured millions of dollars of child support payments, married more than a thousand couples, swore in countless police officers and firefighters, and taught classes on the election process. She received the Common Woman Award from the local chapter of the National Organization of Women, Governor’s Distinguished Service Award, Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Lifetime Achievement Award, and Albion Fellows Bacon Center Award. She also received a key to the city from three mayors.

Mary Kurtz, 95 — May 1, 2016
Mary opened a dance studio, which eventually became part of Evansville College Music Preparatory School. She later opened Chanticleer Wools in her basement and started an Evansville chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America. She gained teacher certifications from the EGA and the American Professional Needlework Retailers, developing and teaching courses, workshops, and seminars. Mary also was a member of the Evansville Stamp Club and Evansville Fine Arts Camera Club.

Irma Friedman, 76 — June 1, 2016
Irma was a co-founder of Victoria National Golf Club and participated in many philanthropic efforts, including the Warrick County Community Foundation Alliance. She was recognized in 2010 by Cambridge Who’s Who for managing Victoria National with dedication, leadership, and excellence.

Alan Nunn, 79 — June 14, 2016
The Purdue University alumnus returned to Evansville to work in the family business and went on to own and operate Nunn Milling Company, Stockyard Feed and Supply, Midwestern Pet Foods, and the Pet Food Centers. He supported the Vanderburgh Humane Society and the Salvation Army.

Dolores “Dee” Browning, 93 — July 10, 2016
Dee was a volunteer with vision who enhanced the Girl Scouts, St. Mary’s Medical Auxiliary, and the Daughters of the Revolution with her talent. Dee, with her husband Charlie, helped found Browning Funeral Home and create their “Gift of Genealogy over the Last Century.” Dee created the biography program “Every Life has a Story to be Told,” which continues today. Dee was named to the YWCA “100 Years, 100 Women,” honoring women who gave significant contributions to our city.

Marvin Gray, 75 — July 27, 2016
Always carrying one of his collection of more than 600 flags, Marvin was known for supporting all Evansville sporting events. He raised the flag and operated the scoreboard at Bosse Field and often wore red, white, and blue.

Dr. L. Charles “Bud” Greif, 87 — Aug. 2, 2016
Upon returning to the U.S. after serving as a captain in the Army and director of a dental clinic in Frankfurt, Germany, Dr. Greif practiced dentistry on Newburgh Road and later worked with the St. Mary’s Mobile Dental Clinic. He was appointed to the Indiana Board of Dental Examiners, was awarded a fellow and masters in the Academy of General Dentistry, and served as president of the Evansville Parks Board.

Thomas Powers, 94 — Aug. 8, 2016
Tom was the oldest living member of the West Side Nut Club. He graduated from Memorial High School, served in the Navy, and went on to own Tom’s IGA.

Frank Robert Krug, 82 — Sept. 1, 2016
Bob spent 30 years with Indian Industries/Escalade Sports and retired as president. He often volunteered with Evansville’s SCORE and ARC chapters. He also served on the Indiana ARC board and the St. Mary’s Medical Center internal review board.

Judith Heiken, 82 — Sept. 14, 2016
Judith and her husband Jack traveled the U.S. and ran the Heiken Puppets for more than 50 years. Judith created all of the puppets and was a master sculptor and puppeteer.

Donald J. Ulrich, 88 — Sept. 21, 2016
Don was the second-oldest registered piano technician in the country. He owned and operated Don’s Music Center and served as a choir director for St. Anthony and St. Mary Catholic churches. Don also was a Boy Scout troop leader and served as president of the St. Henry Society.

Adeline Wallace, 109 — Sept. 30, 2016
Adeline came to Evansville in 1945 and worked at the General Cigar Company factory. She also worked at Jerry’s Market and attended Line Street Church of Christ.

Rev. August Busch, 86 — Sept. 30, 2016
Rev. Busch served the Diocese of Evansville as a pastor for 40 years and then continued as a chaplain and substitute pastor for another 18 years. He attended the first Source + Summit Youth Retreat and continued to support the program until celebrating its March 2016 closing Mass.

Wesley W. Weber, 93 — Oct. 2, 2016
Wesley owned Weber Equipment Co. and worked there until retirement in 1984. He was a lifetime member of Old Tyme Auto Club and a charter member of a Tri-State club for Model A Fords.

James “J.P.” Johnson, 99 — Oct. 11, 2016
J.P. founded and owned Johnson and Son Construction Company Inc., which employed 10,000 people over J.P.’s career and was one of the largest black-owned businesses in the state. He also served as a deacon, trustee, and choir member at Greater St. James Missionary Baptist Church. J.P. received the Hoosiers Award and a key to the City of Evansville.

Bonnie Kolb, 99 — Oct. 20, 2016
Bonnie was a founding member, officer, and board member of the West Side Improvement Association. She served 20 years as the first chairwoman of the association’s West Side Nut Club Fall Festival food booth. She also worked for Citizens Commercial Realty and was a president of the Lady Elks.

David Locker, 68 — Oct. 26, 2016
David worked with the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, Willard Library, and Newburgh Library systems. As manager of the former Central Library, he was instrumental in the development and construction of the current Central Library. With his passion for sharing knowledge, David also led book-discussion groups.

Donald Ingle, 95 — Nov. 12, 2016
Don served in World War II, where he was among the heroes involved in the Battle of Anzio. He later served as president of the Evansville City Council, led the Rotary Club of Evansville, and was instrumental in the development of Roberts Municipal Stadium. Upon retirement, Don took to sculpting. His works include busts of Purdue University presidents, a bust of Governor Robert Orr, and the sculpture of William Tell now at the City Hall square of Tell City, Indiana.

David Rinehart, 46 Sophie Rinehart, 17 Ruth Ann Rinehart, 74 —Nov. 13, 2016
David served as the worship and music pastor at Crossroads Christian Church. He played a major role in organizing the Worship Arts Academy and created the church’s youth choir. Sophie was a junior at Castle High School, where she participated in marching band and show choir. She also led youth worship at Crossroads. Ruth Ann was a member of the YWCA board of directors and taught music in EVSC elementary schools. She also participated in Crossroads Choir and was an accompanist at several churches.

Mary McCullough, 91 — Nov. 21, 2016
Mary and her late husband Harry started H.G. McCullough Designers in 1948. Both also were original members of Corpus Christi Catholic Church. Mary’s love of entertaining was displayed through the many wedding cakes she created over the years.

Comment

Best of the City 2017

Ah, the sweet taste of victory!
View the full feature in the January/February 2017 Evansville Living issue.

Selected by the readers and editors of Evansville Living, these local businesses, restaurants, people, and events are the best of all our city has to offer.

Donut Bank Bakery

& Coffee  Readers’ Pick

Best Bakery, Best Place for a Cup of Coffee

Forget the neon signs and an overload of coffee drinks — when it comes to fresh doughnuts and bakery treats, readers head to locally owned and operated Donut Bank. Last year’s Best Of winners for cup of coffee and breakfast meeting spot, the shops started by Harold Kempf claim a new title of Best Bakery. To showcase the company’s tasty talents, Evansville Living worked with Donut Bank’s bakers and decorators to create a unique cover to celebrate the annual Best Of list. We have to say, it was a tasty way to ring in the New Year!

* Nine locations in Evansville, Newburgh, Princeton, Indiana, and Henderson, Kentucky, donutbank.com

Old Town

Best Place for a Men’s Haircut   Reader's Pick

▲ Old Town Barber Shop’s Nicholas Goodman. Photo by Zach Straw.

Step into Old Town Barber Shop at 400 S.E. Second St. and be ready for an experience not many places can replicate. “I try to mostly create a comfortable environment for everyone to be in,” says shop owner Nicholas Goodman. The Victorian home in Downtown may not be a traditional choice to house a barber shop, but it has worked well for Goodman and his crew, who offer hair cuts and colors for men and women, young and old. “There is a homey environment. People feel really comfortable when they come in here,” says Goodman. Want to relax a bit while your hair is trimmed? Goodman says Old Town now offers beer and wine for customers to enjoy.

* 2400 S.E. Second St., 812-449-0706, facebook.com/oldtownladiesandgents

SugarBakers Home Fashions

Best Home Accessories Boutique   Reader's Pick

“When a customer visits SugarBakers for a project, selecting beautiful pieces to meet their needs is only a small fraction of what we do,” says Ann Pate, interior designer and owner of SugarBakers. Winner of the 2016 Best Place To Accessorize Your Home, SugarBakers Home Fashions claims another home décor victory from Evansville Living readers. Along with its full retail storefront, the four interior designers on staff can help customers design and furnish their homes exactly how they wish. “We can help you create the space from floor to ceiling,” says Pate.

* 1100 Tutor Lane, 812-475-1344, sugarbakers.us

Mystique Winery & Vineyard

Best Tri-State Winery   Reader's Pick

Nestled in the woods near Lynnville, Indiana, just a short 40-minute drive from Evansville, rests Mystique Winery & Vineyard. With a motto of “Where friends meet and the wine is unique” and a Mardi Gras feel, it’s no surprise readers chose the winery as their favorite. Opened in 2008, the vineyard produces six wines and offers a patio which hosts musicians, parties, and events throughout the year. On your way out of the tasting room, don’t forget to grab some Mardi Gras beads as souvenirs.

* 13000 Gore Road, Lynnville, IN. 812-922-5612, mystiquewine.com

YMCA Camp Carson

Best Overnight Summer Camp   Write-In Pick

▲ YMCA Camp Carson located in Princeton, Indiana. Photo provided by YMCA.

In the second year Evansville Living has offered a write-in category for Best Of, readers made their voices heard by voting YMCA’s Camp Carson as the Best Overnight Summer Camp. Camp Carson is about growth and guidance, not to mention summer fun. Activities are chosen by the campers themselves and include classics such as horseback riding, archery, and woodworking to more nontraditional activities like water zip lines, dirt bike trails, and human foosball. At Camp Carson, kids are “ACE — Accepted, Challenged, and Empowered,” providing them a positive environment that teaches them how to take on challenges and succeed.

* 2034 Outer Lake Road, Princeton, IN, 812-385-3597, campcarson.org

Cisse’s Bakery

Treats Worth the Dough   Editor's Pick

If you have a craving for European food, you don’t have to travel far — just head to Cisse’s Bakery and enjoy any of the freshly made treats. Idrissa Cisse — a classically trained baker originally from West Africa — makes pastries, breads, cinnamon rolls, and muffins at his bakery, which opened in 2015. During the summer, Cisse also sells his baked goods at the Downtown Farmers Market and Franklin Street Bazaar. While each confection is downright delicious, the chocolate- or fruit-filled pastries are especially sweet.

* 4711 Bayard Park Drive, 812-589-2768, facebook.com/Cisses-Bread-Bakery-556784534460021

Turoni’s

Best Pizza   Reader's Pick

Even with all the new competitors on the scene, Evansville Living readers still choose Turoni’s as their favorite pizza pie. Year after year, Turoni’s pizza and its cracker crust, secret sauce, mozzarella cheese, and vast selection of toppings keep the Tri-State coming back for more. Many also choose to sample one of Turoni’s many on-tap beers, including its local favorite Honey Blond Ale.

* Three locations in Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana, turonis.com

The Refinery

Best Antique/Vintage Store   Tie!

▲ The Refinery in Historic Newburgh, Indiana. Photo by Rachel Mathew Photography,

All it takes is vision and some paint for co-owners and mother/daughter duo Deb Rhodes and A.J. White to turn vintage furniture into modern masterpieces. Rhodes and White opened Re:Creation Designs Studio in 2014, but changed the name once they made the historic Newburgh Country Store the business’s new home in 2015. “It was such a refining process for us,” says Rhodes. “Once we saw the building, we realized how this was going to complete the vision we had — with the ability to bring in a coffee shop and a space where people could gather upstairs while shopping for different and unusual things. It just encompassed everything that’s been important to us.”

* 224 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN, 812-629-2250, therefinerynewburgh.com

Riverside Antique Mall

Best Antique/Vintage Store   Tie!

Open seven days a week, the Riverside Antique Mall features more than 50 independent dealers who buy and sell items such as antiques, collectibles, and handmade décor. Inventory changes often, so visit regularly to find the item you didn’t know you needed.

* 1205 E. Riverside Drive, 812-469-2255, facebook.com/Riverside-Antique-Mall-360319270739855

Amy Word-Smith

Best Local Community Advocate   Readers' Pick

▲ Best Local Community Advocate Amy Word-Smith with employees of Lamasco Bar & Grill, winner of Best Live Music Venue and Best Bar. Photo by Jerry Butts.

Amy Word-Smith may be stepping down as president of the Franklin Street Events Association (FSEA), but don’t expect her to stop advocating for her hometown anytime soon. Five years ago, Word-Smith — who owns Lamasco Bar & Grill and The Dapper Pig — founded FSEA, which now hosts about 45 events from parades and summer bazaars to Dickens Christmas and movie nights. “It’s not that I’m going anywhere, I’m just refocusing my energy into what would be best for our community,” says Word-Smith, who will turn her attention to long-term planning for FSEA. “You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”

* 1331 W. Franklin St. 812-480-0323, fallinlovewithfranklin.org

Lamasco Bar & Grill

Best Live Music Venue, Best Bar   Readers' Pick

After a renovation in 2015, Lamasco Bar & Grill quickly became a hotspot for both musicians and music-lovers. Attendance at Lamasco’s shows — 250 a year, featuring local favorites such as Factor Primo, The Henhouse Prowlers, and Calabash — skyrocketed. Owner Amy Word-Smith says sometimes she still can’t believe how quickly Lamasco has become a city favorite. “When the room is full, the masses are dancing, and there is nothing but smiling faces, it is the most profound moment for me,” says Word-Smith. “It’s all I have ever dreamed and wanted for it — to share music, laughter, and love.”

* 1331 W. Franklin St., 812-437-0171, lamascobarandgrill.com

Haynie Travel Service

Best Local Travel Agency   Readers' Pick

▲ Owner Bob Haynie with agents of Haynie Travel Service. Photo by Zach Straw.

When it comes to travel, Bob Haynie and his agents of Haynie Travel Service know collaboration is key to the perfect vacation. “The bottom line is we’re here for our clients before, during, and even after the trip,” says Haynie, owner of the agency at 641 S. Hebron Ave. The business got its start in 1938 when Bob’s grandmother Mildred Smith Haynie began booking trips for customers from her home on Sunset Avenue. Today, Haynie Travel is a member of the Signature Travel Network and an affiliate with Frosch International, a $1.5-billion, privately owned agency. “It really gives us enormous clout with various travel suppliers,” says Haynie. “It’s one thing that really sets us apart.”

* 641 S. Hebron Ave., 812-477-8833, haynietravel.com

Tin Man

Best Local Beer   Readers' Pick

With four years under its belt, Tin Man — which takes its name from helping re-revolutionize the beer industry trend of packaging brew in aluminum cans — again is voted Best Local Beer; the company first took the honor in 2014. Owners Nick and Sara Davidson have taken their beer north with the December 2016 opening of a Tin Man tap room in Kokomo, Indiana’s historic train depot.

* 1430 W. Franklin St., 812-618-3227, tinmanbrewing.com

West Side Nut Club Fall Festival

Best Outdoor Festival   Readers' Pick

Fall is not official in Evansville until the Nut Clubbers set up on West Franklin Street for their annual week-long West Side Nut Club Fall Festival. Like a well-oiled machine, members close off the street and set up space for more than 126 food booths, entertainment stages, rides, and more. Munchie maps in hand, folks here become food connoisseurs and peruse treats from deep-fried elephant ears and bread puddings to pronto pups and walking tacos. Rumor has it the Fall Fest is one of the largest street festivals in the U.S. Judging by the crowds each year, it is easy to see why this Evansville tradition is one many visitors flock to as well.

* nutclubfallfestival.com

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

Best Running/Walking Event   Readers' Pick

Be more than pink, and you will do more than you think! The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure held annually in October in Evansville brings more than awareness to breast cancer, a disease that touches so many lives. It also helps raise funds so people can receive life-saving detection, treatment, education, and other services. The 2016 race drew more than 7,700 people and raised about $410,000 to make an impact locally.

* komenevansville.org

Rachael Goldman

Best Local Comedian   Editor's Pick

On the stage of Bokeh Lounge at Haynie’s Corner, Rachael Goldman takes hold of a wireless microphone, moves to the edge of the stage, and strikes a pose. “It’s easy to be a female comedian. I know this for a fact because so many men have told me so,” she jokes. A fifth-generation pawnbroker at her family’s business Goldman’s Pawnshop, 107 S.E. Fourth St., Rachael has moonlighted as a comedian in Evansville and around the Midwest for three years. “The first time I got on stage at Bokeh Lounge, it was okay. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it, but it was great,” she says. “So I kept doing it, and it turned out I loved it.” Rachael draws her comedy from things she does every day, from work and family to her hometown of Evansville. She describes her favorite jokes as “sassy” and isn’t afraid to poke fun at herself. “It just keeps going along,” she says. “You just keep working, keep hustling, keep being funny hopefully.”

* Twitter: @rachaelgoldman

Le Merigot

Best Hotel   Readers' Pick

Whether for a vacation or a staycation, Le Merigot is the people’s choice for lodging in the River City. As Evansville’s first and finest boutique hotel, Le Merigot’s rooms and suites offer amenities such as glass-enclosed showers with multi-unit body sprays and overhead rainmakers, Italian bed linens, goose-down duvets, and plush micro-fleece robes that are sure to please even the most discriminating traveler.

* 615 N.W. Riverside Drive, 888-633-1770, tropevansville.com/hotels/le-merigot-hotel

Harmonie State Park

Best Place to Camp   Readers' Pick

▲ Harmonie State Park in New Harmony, Indiana

Those who live in scenic Southern Indiana know there are numerous places to pitch a tent for a few days and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. But if you’re looking for a spot close to home with walking, biking, and hiking trails to keep you busy, then Evansville Living readers recommend Harmonie State Park, 3451 Harmonie State Park Road, New Harmony, IN. The camp grounds reside on the banks of the Wabash River and feature cabins for rent, 200 camping sites, a nature center, picnic areas, a swimming pool, and more.

* 3451 Harmonie State Park Road, New Harmony, IN, 812-682-4821 or in.gov/dnr/parklake/2981.htm

Fusion Spa & Boutique

Best Place for Spa Services   Readers' Pick

Owner Theresa Baggett says Fusion Spa & Boutique’s combination of services from massage and skincare to hair and makeup — everything but injectibles — combined with personal care is what makes the spa and boutique stand out. “We have a lot of personal services to offer. We’re in a unique position,” says Baggett, who encourages her staff to build a relationship with each client. “We want to give them a very personal experience when they come in here. Everybody on staff takes it very personally. We try to over-exceed expectations.”

* 7144 E. Virginia St., 812-402-6004, fusionspaevansville.com

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke

Best Community Leader   Readers' Pick

At the beginning of 2016, after winning his second mayoral term, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke told our City View staff, “I believe the best thing about Evansville is its citizens.” And Evansville residents feel one of the best things about the city is their mayor. Born and raised in the River City, Winnecke and his administration have been on the front line helping implement new development projects, particularly new work Downtown. “The thing I enjoy most about being mayor is knowing I have a role in solving problems,” says Winnecke. With Evansville moving forward and Winnecke at the helm, the future is looking bright for the city.

* evansvillegov.org

Tony Maslan

Best Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer   Readers' Pick

▲ Tony Maslan and Troy Peachee. Photo by Zach Straw.

Tony Maslan knows if he doesn’t show up, neither will his clients. While helping clients achieve results, Maslan also finds ways to make working out fun. “I really focus on being present when I’m with them. The real key is the personal connection with the client,” says Maslan, director of personal training at Bob’s Gym. “If they enjoy their workouts, they’re going to keep coming back.”

Troy Peachee

Best Massage Therapist   Readers' Pick

After Tony Maslan brings the pain, let Troy Peachee massage it away. As a massage therapist with 25 years experience and manager of The Spa at Bob’s Gym East, Peachee creates experiences as unique as his clients and their needs. Peachee helps his patrons achieve total health with his therapeutic sessions. “I’m passionate about what I do, so I give as much mental and physical focus as I can for each individual,” says Peachee.

* Three Bob’s Gym locations in Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana, 812-402-2627, bobsgym.com

G.D. Ritzy’s

Best Burger   Readers' Pick

G.D. Ritzy’s just keeps on sizzling. Voters have chosen the restaurant’s burger as the city’s best four other times, making this year’s honors the fifth in Evansville Living’s Best Of history. Top it the way you want — lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, bacon, or plain — and order it with a side of Ritzy’s shoestring fries or a hand-dipped ice cream. Delicious!

* Three locations in Evansville. For more information find each location on Facebook.

Jeff Lyons

Best TV Personality   Readers' Pick

“If you don’t like the weather in Southern Indiana, just wait a day!” It’s a phrase most Tri-Staters are familiar with. To get a jump on the weather, our readers turn to Jeff Lyons, chief meteorologist at 14 News. Tracking storms, snow, and fair weather in Evansville and Southern Indiana since 1988, Jeff has a knack for nabbing Best Of wins — a six-year consecutive winner of best weather anchor and three-time winner of Best TV Personality. When not on screen, Jeff travels to area schools and visits civic groups to tell tales of weather forecasting. He also serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Southern Indiana.

* 14news.com

Sky Zone

Best Place for a Child's Birthday   Readers' Pick

One trampoline can provide hours of entertainment for children. Now imagine a room full of bouncing surfaces where your children and their friends can be unleashed, and you have Sky Zone Trampoline Park. With private party rooms or the options to rent the entire park, Sky Zone is the best place to celebrate your child’s special day, according to our readers. The Evansville location, which opened its doors in 2014, also offers fitness classes, a SkySlam court, the chance to flip into a pit of foam cubes, glow parties, and more.

* 49 N. Green River Road, 812-730-4759, skyzone.com/evansville

Evansville Riverfront

Best Place to Take a Visitor   Readers' Pick

▲ The Pigeon Creek Greenway is among the draws to the Evansville Riverfront. Photo by Laura M. Mathis.

Picturesque sunsets; the Four Freedoms Monument; the Pagoda; the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science; and more greet visitors of the riverfront in Downtown. When spring and summer come to the Tri-State, the paved path bustles with the traffic of walkers, runners, and cyclists. Crowds find their way to the lower plaza in the summer for Shriners Fest shows and other events. Along with a new Upgrade Bikeshare station at the Pagoda, the River City’s namesake waterfront is the best place to introduce our city to guests.

* visitevansville.com/attractions/riverfront-dress-plaza

Mission BBQ

Best BBQ   Readers' Pick

Evansville’s Mission BBQ opened in March 2016. The eatery is founded on giving back to the men and women who serve our communities — soldiers, firefighters, police officers, and first responders. Like other locations nationwide, Evansville’s restaurant — located in Eastland Shoppes — offers six sauces to complement its chicken, brisket, ribs, turkey, pork, sausage, and salmon.

* 1530 N. Green River Road, 812-213-0200, mission-bbq.com/node/801

Just Rennie’s

Best Caterer   Readers' Pick

Executive Chef Doug Rennie says the recipe for his catering company’s success involves choosing both quality ingredients and employees. Whether he’s serving up his most-requested pecan-encrusted tenderloin or training employees, the key is consistency and quality. “We only buy the best food,” says Rennie, who co-owns Just Rennie’s with his wife Marla. “You also have to hire the right people to be successful. You are only as good as the people you hire.”

* 100 S.E. Fourth St., 812-401-8098, justrennies.com

Doug Duell

Best Person to Watch Shark Week With   Editor's Pick

▲ Shark Aficionado Doug Duell. Photo Provided by Doug Duell.

Diving into shark-infested waters with just a cage between you and 16-foot Great Whites may seem like a nightmare to some, but to Doug Duell, it was a great adventure. “I love sharks, I’m not afraid of them,” says the owner of Evansville Mazda, Kia, Volvo and Evansville Hyundai. “They’re just beautiful.” In October 2016, Duell along with a group of divers from Evansville traveled to Guadalupe Island in the Pacific Ocean to dive with the crew of the Solmar V, a live-aboard dive vessel based out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The trip provided Duell three days to be submerged in a cage with sharks ranging from 12 feet to 16 feet long. There are few places that offer the chance to dive with sharks, according to Duell, and trips on the Solmar V often fill up quickly. “People are afraid of them, thinking they are going to attack, but the sharks don’t,” says Duell. “They’re just amazing animals.”

Wesselman Park

Best Public Park   Readers' Pick

There’s something for everyone at Wesselman Park, which offers a playground, golf course, softball fields, and a nature preserve. Owned by the city and operated by the Wesselman Nature Society, the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve features some of the state’s oldest trees and unspoiled land for walking, hiking, canoeing, and learning. Support conservation with a membership to Wesselman Nature Society and receive free admission to the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve and its new Welborn Baptist Foundation Nature Playscape, set to open in the spring.

* 551 N. Boeke Road

Mary Allen

Best Local Artisan or Craftsman   Readers' Pick

A decade after a chemistry experiment with her daughter, Mary Allen has turned soap making into an art. Sixth Street Soapery, which celebrated its one-year anniversary Dec. 1, 2016, is Allen’s endeavor into the business of natural soap, face and body care, bath products, and more. “I love making soap,” says Allen, a certified soap maker, “but probably the most enjoyable part about my business is the customers.” For those new to the natural soap game, Allen cheerfully offers this advice: “Think about replacing one item in your home. Going toward a more natural living is a journey, so don’t get overwhelmed.”

* 44 Washington Ave., 812-431-3835, sixthstreetsoapery.com

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library

Best Resource to Rediscover   Editor's Pick

Did you know we have eight public library branches in Evansville? The patrons who visit annually do. Of course, we love to visit the “new” Central Library, now open more than two years — its sheer size and programs continue to impress us. But so do the two Carnegie libraries — East and West branches — and our newer branches, like the Oaklyn Branch with its rooftop garden. While we encourage visits, e-books can be checked out via the system’s slick app.  Our resolution is to set reading goals for the New Year!

* Eight locations, 812-428-8200, evpl.org

The Lollipop Tree

Best Boutique Store for Kids   Readers' Pick

When Amy Bagby purchased The Lollipop Tree in August, it was because she wanted to share her love of fashion with others. “I have three daughters and they’re little divas as well,” she says. “I love being able to dress other people up and help them feel good about themselves.” The store carries upscale casual clothing in women’s, girls’ (newborn to 14), and boys’ (newborn to 6) sizes. Bagby also purchased LaPetite Demoiselle in October 2016. “My hope is to eventually merge the two stores and have it be more of a family store,” says Bagby.

* 5625 E. Virginia St., Ste. D, 812-401-8733, facebook.com/lollipoptreeboutique

Pizza Revolution

Best Food Truck   Readers' Pick

For two years running, Pizza Revolution has captured the taste buds of Evansville Living readers with its larger-than-life food truck. It’s hard not to be curious about a double-decker red bus offering Aaron and Stephanie Peckenpaugh’s signature wood-fired pizzas. The thin-crust pies are cooked in the bus’s first level oven; customers can take their pizza upstairs and enjoy the views.

* Various locations in the Tri-State, 812-430-5945, facebook.com/The-Pizza-Revolution-166603110134924

Combs Landscaping

Best Landscaper   Readers' Pick

Trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, gifts, garden staples, and unique plants — green-thumbed readers of Evansville Living make their way to Combs Landscaping when they’re looking to spruce up their gardens in the spring. Located at 3801 N. Burkhardt Road, family-owned Combs has offered a multitude of plant and gardening options to the Tri-State for more than 30 years. If you lack that special talent with greenery, Combs has a comprehensive landscape design and installation service to tackle your landscape for you.

* 3801 N. Burkhardt Road, 812-477-2869, combslandscape.com

Claire Ballard

Best Radio Personality   Readers' Pick

▲ Hot96’s Claire Ballard. Photo by Randy Land.

In December 2015, the University of Southern Indiana graduate returned to her hometown station Hot96 after working in radio in Las Vegas. She soon took over the morning show. “It was kind of a dream-come-true scenario, one I thought could happen years down the road,” says Ballard. “When the opportunity came up, I just went for it.” Tune in weekdays to hear Claire make morning-show magic with cohorts Shelby and Cooper.

* hot96.com/shows/show/Claire, facebook.com/claireontheair

Brinker’s

Best Place to Buy Jewelry   Readers' Pick

While they strive to have the best selection, the experts at Brinker’s Jewelers also think outside their iconic Little Green Box to keep customers coming back. What keeps them golden with customers? “We have two family mottos that we run our business by — treat each customer’s piece like it’s your own, and treat others how you want to be treated,” says Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Kyle Brinker. For the fifth year in a row, Brinker’s is the gem of the city.

* 111 S. Green River Road, 812-476-0651, brinkersjewelers.com

Café 111

Best Workday Lunch Spot   Readers' Pick

The lunch hour trifecta – jewelry, gifts, and delicious soup and salad (and more) – that’s what readers profess to like for a second year, naming Café 111 as the best workday lunch spot. While the menu is very nice, surely some of the appeal comes from the ease of shopping at Brinker’s and Brinker’s Etc. before or after lunch.

* 111 S. Green River Road, St. D, 812-401-8111, cafe-111.com

Tanner Logan

Kid Who Stays on Pointe   Editor's Pick

While many high school sophomores were studying for driving examines, Tanner Logan of Evansville was poring over college application forms. The deal from her parents was for Tanner to apply to colleges of her choice before leaving Memorial High School to train year round at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “She realized at the end of her sophomore year while at a summer intensive (a summer ballet program) in Miami that if she was going to go to the next level of dance, she needed to stop going to traditional school,” says Tanner’s mother Donna. And that’s exactly what Tanner did. After enrolling in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation’s virtual school to continue her high school classes, Tanner auditioned and was accepted to train at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. While traditional students spend their days in math, science, English, and other classes, Tanner and other dancers take dance education courses. “Tanner likes to perform, but she enjoys the daily classes the most,” says Donna. “It’s the challenge of doing something better the next day than she did the day before.” Tanner also performs in productions put on by the PBT School — The Nutcracker was the chosen performance for December with another show planned for the end of spring. “I think she’s a brave girl,” says Donna. “We’re proud of her. She’s very talented and beautiful on stage.”

Calabash

Best Local Band   Readers' Pick

Although the band had its beginnings in Nashville, Tennessee, Evansville’s burgeoning music scene drew Paul Wiemeier, Jarod Heim, Greg Smitha, Ryan Hadley, and Zach Slingerland back to the Tri-State in 2009. Heim says it’s the band’s timeless, diverse style that keeps crowds coming to see them play. “There’s nothing like playing live music. It’s a good feeling,” says Heim, lead singer and rhythm guitarist. “Not one show is ever the same.”

* 812-618-7698, facebook.com/calabashband

Helfrich Hills

Best Golf Course   Readers' Pick

The 120 acres of rolling hills at Helfrich Hills Golf Course offer more than a picturesque view — they also present a challenge. The course featuring lakes, Bermuda grass fairways, and bent grass greens has been testing golfers’ skills for years. “We’ve been an integral part of growing the game here in Evansville,” says Dave McAtee, Helfrich’s head golf professional. The course is open to the public every day of the year, weather permitting.

* 1550 Mesker Park Drive, 812-435-6075, vanderburghgov.org/index.aspx?page=571

Pangea Kitchen

Best New Restaurant   Readers' Pick

Owner Randy Hobson took a huge risk when he opened Pangea Kitchen in March 2016 — not just because he left a job in the corporate world, but also because nothing like the restaurant’s eclectic menu had been tried in Evansville. “This is my way of giving back and trying to create a better food culture here,” says Hobson. “People in Evansville were ready for this. I think our timing was good.” Pangea’s fare includes Neapolitan pizza, Thai noodle bowls, gelato, and French macarons.

* 111 S. Green River Road, 812-401-2404, tastepangea.com