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November / December 2010

Features

Dream Parties

The party season is fast approaching. Don’t let new ideas wane. We asked a local event planner and caterer to design a fantasy bash to spark your imagination. Here are the rules: There are no rules. Here is the budget: The sky is the limit. Here is your invitation: You are the guest of honor.

Uncommon Ground

Wearing his best Stetson hat and khaki pants, Paul Mann Sr. climbed atop an ancient Native American mound on his farmland, television cameras following him. It was the mid-1970s, and Mann’s Posey County farm — long fabled to harbor rare artifacts — just had been named to the National Register of Historic Places. As a skeptical TV reporter asked about the relics buried deep underground, Mann glanced down, bent over, and plucked an arrowhead from the soil near his feet.

White Winter Eve

For 36 years, regardless of whether or not it’s snowing, Billie Rothschild has celebrated a white Christmas with family and friends at her Evansville home on Stonegate Road. “My home always has provided a neutral background for my many collectibles,” says Rothschild, “no matter what season it is. But Christmas has to be my favorite time of year. When that big white reindeer is nestled under the tree on top of my old fox fur coat, I know the holidays have begun.”

Good Living

Fantasyland

Before 1993, the tree limbs at Garvin Park were bare every winter, but ever since, Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights has transformed the empty landscape into a wonderland of holiday-inspired light displays. For the past 16 years, more than 200,000 visitors — from families packed in minivans to couples snuggling in horse-drawn carriages — have visited the annual event boosting the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center to see flickering and fun exhibits.

Hank’s Tank

One year from now, the new stadium is expected to open Downtown — much to the chagrin of a vocal opposition, a few of whom dubbed the yet-unnamed project “The John” after Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, a major arena supporter. The 54-year-old Roberts Stadium, so beloved today, wasn’t well received when it first opened.

Brad Hill

In 1978, soon after graduating from the University of Evansville, artist Brad Hill sketched a tranquil, wintry scene: a police officer standing on a hill under a starry sky, looking down on a snow-covered city. He mailed photocopies of the drawing to friends and family as Christmas cards, and for nearly three decades, Hill has carried on the tradition of spreading good cheer by delivering hand-drawn holiday greetings (now scanned, colored, and printed via computer) to more than 500 people.

Inside

Gather

The snowbirds are calling. Southern Indiana folks who make Evansville their home six to eight months of the year have headed south. By the time you read this magazine, the midday sun here will be sinking to a low spot on the horizon, and darkness will fall soon after 4:30 p.m. Those winter days, I will awaken needing a nap and slip out of the office into the dark evenings with the very same thought. The snowbirds head south to enjoy an hour or so more of daylight and a midday sun that’s higher on the horizon. Maybe they’re seeking a tranquil beach, too.

Departments

In the Navy

Christian Bennett’s role as a petty officer in the U.S. Navy requires toughness. Look at her picture — the portrait of a fierce warrior. Yet, Bennett, a 20-year-old North High School alumna, is a sweetheart. “She always had a smile on her face,” says Sherry Fisher, a school social worker. “She’s just a very, very strong young lady. I knew once she set her mind on something that she was going to do it.”

Passage to India

When I was in sixth grade, I was assigned to create a travel brochure on the Taj Mahal, a stunning 17th-century building in Agra, India. I handed in a construction-paper leaflet with images copied from library books and pasted on with rubber cement. It was anything but sophisticated, but ever since, I’ve been fascinated with the country and culture that produced such an architectural masterpiece. As an 11-year-old at Oak Hill Middle School in Evansville, I never dreamed that I would not only travel to India but spend a year living there on a Fulbright research grant.

McCartyism

Chris Lowery has kept in touch regularly with Walter McCarty since their days attending Plaza Park Middle School together in the mid-1980s. The two Harrison High School graduates have had plenty to talk about. Lowery became an all-Missouri Valley Conference guard at Southern Illinois University and now is in his seventh season as the coach of the Salukis. McCarty played for a national-championship team at the University of Kentucky in 1996 and went on to a 10-year NBA career.

Branson’s B-Side

With 58,559 seats spread across 50 theaters, Branson, Mo., offers more theater seating than New York City’s Broadway. And for many of Branson’s 7.8 million annual visitors, its live music shows are its signature song. But the city’s greatest hit may be the one playing beyond its opulent theaters and the frenetic stretch of Highway 76 known as “The Strip.” 

Home Style

Santa Claus is Bringing Visitors to Town

Philip Koch swears he was born in Santa Claus, Ind., when the small town one hour east of Evansville had only 37 residents. Today, about 2,500 call Santa Claus home, and every summer, thousands of visitors converge at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, a local amusement park with nationally acclaimed rides.

Bugging Out

I may pen this column, but I don’t work in the Evansville Living offices. As a designer with Landscapes by Dallas Foster, my workspaces are my clients’ yards and gardens except for a crisis call to this magazine’s office, which teems with vibrant plants — besides a dying hibiscus tree. The two writers near it, who are brilliant at editing my columns, weren’t as adept at figuring out why the plant looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. They watered it regularly and kept the plant near the window.

A Neighborhood’s New Life

Before the Evansville Living Downtown Idea Home opened to the public in September, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel noted, “Our hope is that the home at 620 Washington Ave. will be a catalyst for additional revitalization in this historic area, a gateway to Downtown Evansville.”

Platter Up

Credit the Japanese for Imari, named for the Japanese port city known for exporting the art pieces — white translucent porcelain platters with a cobalt blue underglaze — in the 16th century. The Chinese saw what a racket the porcelain-plate business was and copied. Hence, Chinese Imari.

City Life

EDT Artistic Director Lisa Dillinger

Before Lisa Dillinger’s fifth birthday approached, she convinced herself she’d become a ballerina. Her parents bought Dillinger a book — heavy on pictures — about dance technique, and the preschooler practiced in her bedroom. At 6, she surpassed her fellow students in ballet class. Her passion, aided with her slim, flexible, long limbs, created a beautiful ballerina. “I just happened to fall in the right gene pool,” Dillinger says.

Brian and Crystal Wildeman

Echoing the laid-back yet elegant atmosphere of the Evansville Living Downtown Idea Home Preview Party, Brian and Crystal Wildeman strolled into the event wearing harmonious dress-casual attire. The young couple admits their outfits often complement each other, but “we don’t do it on purpose,” says Crystal. “It’s not until we’re dressed and out at the event that we notice our wardrobes are somewhat complementary.”

Caring Hands

Today, Deaconess and St. Mary’s health systems employ thousands of Tri-State residents, maintain large medical campuses, and offer state-of-the-art care. Each health system began its legacy of caring for sick and injured residents more than 100 years ago, and pieces of that history currently are on display at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science. “Caring Hands: Evansville’s Early Hospitals” features photography, newspaper clippings, advertisements, and historic medical equipment and attire. The exhibition runs through Feb.

Close Ups

Call us partial, but we like magazines. So does Barbara Kinney, an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been published on the covers of Time, Newsweek, and People magazines. Kinney, an Evansville native, also was the staff photographer for the White House during the Bill Clinton administration. In one famous photo, she captured Clinton, the then-Israeli prime minister, the Egyptian president, the king of Jordan, and a Palestinian leader simultaneously adjusting their ties just before signing a Middle East peace accord.

Light the Way

Long ago, Philip Koch envisioned his home in Santa Claus, Ind., like Chevy Chase’s suburban dwelling in the 1980s flick Christmas Vacation. In the iconic comedy, Chase, the middle-class family’s patriarch, goes wild on outdoor Christmas lights, causing a power outage on his block. Koch wanted the beautifully lit house without the embarrassing side effects. Still, when Christmas came along, Koch jokes, he couldn’t run his microwave in fear of shorting a circuit.

Taking on Sacred Ground

Christmas season is here, which means it’s time for holiday tunes and movies. Specifically, it’s time for the 24-hour TBS showcase of a leg lamp, a Red Ryder BB gun, and a tongue frozen to a flagpole: the 1983 comedy A Christmas Story. The annual movie marathon starring Ralphie Parker, a young boy in Hammond, Ind., on a quest to get a BB gun for Christmas, begins Christmas Eve. If you can’t wait that long, Evansville Civic Theatre will bring the iconic film to its Fulton Avenue stage starting Dec. 3.

Dining

Chew On This

Cup & Chaucer Café has reopened in Central Library (200 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.). The menu: sandwiches, paninis, salads, and snacks. … Valerie Ewers has reopened Jeanne’s Gelato & More (2003 Lincoln Ave.) near the University of Evansville. A variety of gelato flavors joins a menu of sandwiches and soups. … In the basement of the former Hilliard Lyons building comes 329 Main Street Grille (329 Main St.).

Great and Small

Growing up in Mexico City with a Spanish father who loved to cook, Sandra Soto remembers eating plates of steaming paella: a traditional dish of fragrant saffron rice, fresh seafood, and vegetables. When she moved to Evansville and began teaching Spanish classes, “people wanted to learn more about the culture,” Soto says, so she planned outings for her students. Mexican restaurants? Check. Spanish food? Nowhere to be found.

Chicken Chili

I met Jerlene Cannon, a co-owner of Stonewall Farms, at Penny Lane’s locals-only market where farmers from within 100 miles of Evansville displayed their fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, and dairy products every Saturday through October. The regional farmer with a bounty of pastured, free-range poultry; grass-fed lamb, beef, and pork; and free-range turkey and eggs earned my trust that I’m buying a wonderfully healthy product — without skimping on the taste.

Recipe Records

What do you get when you combine a former radio personality in St. Louis and a budget-minded mom of three in Evansville? A close friendship, a recently published cookbook, and more than 150 clever recipes inspired by rock ‘n’ roll.

Global Market

Born in the Bronx, a New York City borough with a tough reputation, Frank Spadavecchio lived far from the boot-shaped country of his ancestors. But Spadavecchio, a third-generation Italian, was surrounded by tiny bakeries, meat markets, and delis. When the former pharmaceutical sales representative moved to the Tri-State, he learned that fans of Italian cooking sometimes drove to St. Louis for ingredients. “If I can save you a full day of driving,” he says, “why not?”

Pure Evansville

Window Shopping

Long before Eastland Mall opened and traffic jams blocked Green River Road every weekend in December, shoppers headed Downtown for holiday gifts. With animated storefronts and window scenes, retailers such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Schear’s Department Store (pictured here in December 1948) once defined the holiday shopping experience in Evansville.

Online Exclusives

Link Up

Inspired by local happenings — and news from Evansville Living magazine — we present these links that made us click for more.

Grits Casserole

For Evansville Living’s feature story “Dream Parties” (Nov/Dec 2010), independent caterer Ronnie Lee crafted a menu that feels right at home in meat and potato country, but is sophisticated enough for a dinner bash. Lee gave us his recipe for cheesy grits casserole, served as a side dish with beef tenderloin.