Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sometimes I Hate Having a Scoop

I love ice cream. It can be the accompanying part of a dessert such as with a helping of bread pudding and make complete the entire dessert. And I've enjoyed this very dish at RAGIN CAJUN PIANO BAR in downtown Alton several times.

I am a reporter by nature. On occasion, I've been the person who had a "scoop" on a story. Sometimes this is a positive thing of which to be proud, and sometimes it's just another in a long line of stories.

UNFORTUNATELY --- I HAVE A SCOOP involving both ice cream and the RAGIN CAJUN. Well...sorta.

Last night on Facebook, RAGIN CAJUN PIANO BAR announced its own scoop. It will be closing this week unless an agreement can be worked out between the partners involved in its ownership.

Chris Keidel has been a face that all kinds of people from around the RiverBend have come to see inside the Ragin Cajun --- he is one of the two owners --- as far as I know there wasn't a day in the life of Ragin Cajun when Chris was away from the business. Aaron Agne is the other and was frequently seen behind the bar, in the balcony (office), outside with customers during the warmer weather, or even in a restaurant booth on the busier nights. Aaron wasn't around 100 percent of the time, but in any business one person usually takes a less hands-on approach. Such is how it is with these partners: Chris was hands-on, and Aaron --- while still a presence --- was not there every night.

If my scoop is correct (anyone who has taken a tour knows this to be true), Chris and Aaron have been putting their sweat and lives on the line to open up, maintain, and expand Ragin Cajun during one of the worst economic times in the history of any currently-living person. Despite this, countless people came in during 2010 and gave the restaurant (or the bar) a chance. Some of the spring and summer customers left thinking "I liked it, but it isn't open enough" --- thus, they expanded their hours in late summer and it was paying off. Chris and Aaron had listened to these people. There were new customers, new piano players, and bigger sales of food and liquor. As you can tell, I was partial to the food --- my family ate at the Ragin Cajun on several occasions, and even though our own personal economy tanked this fall, we still went and enjoyed ourselves greatly.

But...if the two cannot come to an accord today or tomorrow, this is the swan song for a destination for so many.


Now a bit about the "DESTINATION" part of RAGIN CAJUN PIANO BAR.

Note that key ingredient in the name: PIANO.

Over the summer, the staff who played on the keyboards grew. They added a drum set behind the keys, and suddenly it was taking a new life. This fall I was part of something special when on a Monday the musicians/entertainers were practicing. They were having a good evening, mixing it up, trying new songs out on those of us who were there --- getting some tips to improve their show. Suddenly there came a stranger into the place. We patrons didn't know what to expect, nor did the keyboard performers who had been working on their craft, when Travis sat at the keys with a drink in his hand and started playing. Actually, I think Travis said to Charlie and Jeff, "Can I sit and play one?" He did. And then another...and another...and suddenly we were all singing with him, myself included. Chris took notice. Several of us had the same reaction: hire this guy. And Chris did just that --- hiring Travis, setting things in motion for the remainder of the fall/winter. His existence helped push the younger piano talent in a positive direction --- in a matter of days there was a buzz about how much fun it was inside the restaurant on a regular basis. And the customer base was larger, spending more time and money in "the Cajun" --- the business was finally growing in a way that many of us recognized. It became clear that what happened was putting a happy face on so many people. You could see it when Charlie and Jeff played; when Carl and Travis were teamed up; when Brian beat on the drums and the electricity was in the air; when Melanie had so many customers that she couldn't rest on her trips from the kitchen to the tables and booths, and even on Chris' face on the slower nights when the bar was busy but the kitchen crew was able to do detailed cleanup. Customers, whether bar regulars or restaurant regulars, all had this feeling that we'd just witnessed the turnaround of the business at the Ragin Cajun and perhaps the entire downtown Alton economy --- because 2009 was pretty humdrum outside of the block parties. Now, we had another piece of the puzzle --- a place where the music flowed, the energy was terrific, and the atmosphere was electric. We had a destination --- even for nights when we didn't want food or drinks from the bar we could go and have dessert or a late night breakfast --- and we had musical talent enriching our lives --- Ragin Cajun Piano Bar drew people from outside of the immediate RiverBend on a nightly basis.
(One patron has so many pictures on Facebook that weeks ago I deemed her the Ragin Cajun photojournalist. She comes regularly from Edwardsville, and I dare say that her routine will be dramatically altered if this venue closes.)


It takes quite a lot to make any place a destination. But it was apparent that RAGIN CAJUN Piano Bar was a destination to hundreds of people each week.

Now, I have to wonder if there will be a last-minute savior who can keep open one of the brightest upstart businesses Alton has seen in quite a long time. I do not know what it is that Aaron wants or expects (other than money) out of a deal like this one, but if he simply wants too much money in a buyout, I guess he's going to lose a lot more than most of us. If Aaron forces the closure of Ragin Cajun, the customers cannot help him out.

What I wonder is this: is there someone in the RiverBend who can come into the picture and "save" our endangered destination? Who is he or she? Will they show up in the nick of time?

I will be at RAGIN CAJUN tonight. I need to show my personal support for these people, even though I am unable to put up the money necessary to buy out Aaron --- unless I won the jackpot of a lottery and don't know it.

It seems like an appropriate time for me to ask more questions and, as the late Paul Harvey always said, get THE REST OF THE STORY.

I sure hope that I have good news by this Friday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another Reason Why St. Louisans Should MOVE To The Riverbend

Here it is again --- the CQ Press study (flaws and all) shows the city of St. Louis atop the latest rankings for "Most Dangerous Cities" in the United States.

From our friends at News St. Louis:

Here it is (with permission from the publisher):

St. Louis is number one! Yes, it's happened again, and St. Louis' mayor and other officials are not happy about it.

A yearly study has once-again ranked St. Louis as the "most dangerous city" in the United States of America. That study, by CQ Press, has been controversial for its methodology and the subject of much scrutiny by the FBI and police agencies around the country for several years. St. Louis edged out Camden, New Jersey, as the study found St. Louis had 2,070.1 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 429.4. Citing those statistics CQ Press claims St. Louis edged Camden, which was atop last year's "most dangerous cities" list and was bestowed that distinction in 2003 and 2004 - and remains in the top five along with Detroit and Flint in Michigan, as well as Oakland, California.

The city of St. Louis maintains that it has become safer each year since 2007 and that crime is down in the past year.

The CQ Press statistics uses FBI data and population combined as basis for the statistics cited by the study, which does not take into account economic conditions and geography --- such as a city/county line as exists between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County or a boundary area such as the Mississippi River which divides the city of St. Louis from East St. Louis, East Carondelet, Sauget, Madison, and other areas in southwest Illinois which would normally border a big city.

Criminologists have been critical of the way the statistics are used because of the minimal data versus population which many say does not take all factors into account.

The City of St. Louis last year was ranked second in the study and was atop this study in 2006.


Well, okay, that should tell you something. I honestly don't know what it says for each of you who read this, but I have to admit that I lived in the city of St. Louis from 1998 to 2008 and know that the statistics are just for the city and does not take into account small crimes or the amount of people who come into the city for work and are crime victims. It also does not take into consideration the criminals who live outside the city of St. Louis and drive into the city just to take part in a crime.

It surely doesn't take into consideration the high taxation that city residents have to endure to live there or the taxation that non-city residents have to endure in order to have a job in the city of St. Louis. That one-percent city earnings or living tax is huge sometimes --- and the stretch from 2007 to 2010 is nothing short of one of those times. Boy am I glad I don't work or live in the city of St. Louis for that one-percent tax alone. But those who do live and work there honestly don't notice it unless they look at each and every pay stub and want to know "why" for this or that --- including "why is St. Louis showing up at the top of a dangerous city list when we are always being told how much better it is now because the police are doing their job?" And, honestly --- I think the study cannot be taken all that seriously because the overall criminal activity seems (in my opinion) to be a LOT LESS than it was 20 years ago. And I can account for how I felt riding the buses in 2006, 2007, and 2008 --- when you take public transit you get a good view of a city and its people, and the residents in the city of St. Louis aren't a bunch of hoodlums, which is how a study like this invisibly characterizes an entire city.

But --- again, why did I title this particular entry the way I did?

Well, frankly, I see a HUGE difference in how criminal activity is handled in Alton, East Alton, Wood River, Bethalo, Godfrey, Roxana, South Roxana, Hartford, Grafton, Jerseyville, Brighton, and all around up and down the Riverbend. Neighbors are always on the lookout for --- and reporting --- criminal activity. With that, police are not only informed about the persons involved, but react quickly and pull people off the street - jailing the offenders while investigators and prosecutors follow-up with each case. It leads to a safer overall environment, a security in neighborhoods, and a piece-of-mind that I didn't feel living in South St. Louis. [Note: my particular neighborhood near Carondelet Park was not immune to crime --- we had two murders during my years there, and I knew one of the victims. But, overall I only felt "less secure" a couple of times walking to and from the bus stops at 4:30 am --- because I was aware of criminal activity which had been reported.]

But again --- why did I use "THIS" title?

There is ample opportunity to buy an affordable home, live in a safe atmosphere, put children into decent schools, attend the church of one's choice, take part in scouts and other "family" activities, and enjoy the higher quality of life featured in this area. And one example of something relatively new and available for today's youth and families is the Community Center in downtown Alton, where they have activities for children year-round. And if you're into history, Alton and the surrounding areas have rich history to view on a daily basis. PLUS --- for business people --- now is the time to move an existing business or open a new business in the Riverbend area and take advantage of the workforce that is available, the existing base of customers, and the expanding economic climate that the region has because of its proximity to everything in St. Louis --- and there is the river, highways, trains (both freight and Amtrak), and air traffic (Regional Airport at Bethalto, and Lambert is only 15 minutes from Alton).

And let's go with this line of thinking: Sure, there's "The Loop" and other venues in Missouri, but there is a burdgeoning entertainment industry in the Riverbend that includes regional acts which regularly are featured at venues throughout the Alton-Godfrey-Grafton-Bethalto and associated Riverbend area clubs, restaurants and stages. Argosy Casino Alton has also hosted numerous acts regularly on its stage including Chuck Berry, The Turtles, Max Weinberg's Big Band, and so many others, and has made overtures that it will be bringing more acts to the area in the coming months and years. In downtown Alton alone you can find regular entertainment at the restaurants along 3rd Street between Piasa and State Streets in Bossa Nova, Tony's Restaurant, Chez Marilyn's, Ragin Cajun Piano Bar, and on State Street at Spirits and other venues. This is just a small slice of what is available, as there is the Alton Symphony Orchestra, Alton Muny Band, and other musical entertainment groups which have a long history in the area. And if you don't know about Fast Eddie's Bon-Air you've probably been in a bubble for the past 20 years or so --- because Eddie Sholar advertises enough that St. Louisans come across the big beautiful Clark Bridge regularly just to see what the hubub is about and end up seeing things all around Alton. There are a lot of people who come over to Fosterburg to eat at Castelli's 255/Moonlight Restaurant as part of a tradition --- it's been there for four or five generations --- and they have been utilizing local and regional acts to attract people, too.
And maybe in 2011 the Riverfront Amphitheater will have a LOCAL operator that has knowledge of what to do with such a beautiful venue. At least I am hoping someone at Alton city hall will actually listen and award a local production group the chance to make this venue a regional and national attraction with touring acts stopping throughout the spring/summer/fall.

Honestly, I'm not even started good on how many different things there are to do regularly as an entertainment destination --- but the Riverbend has so much going for it in the positive way that even when the news is distressing (the centerfire plant which has been in operation in East Alton for 80 years or more is closing and moving to Mississippi because of greed by both a union membership and a company plant operator), it doesn't seem to make everything come to a halt because the region always pulls together and pushes on to the next phase of life. In the Riverbend, people do things in a "new, old-fashioned way" --- using what we have in the 21st Century and yet having traditional parades, celebrations, and neighbor-meeting-neighbor times like it was 35 or 45 years ago or more.

As much as I did like living in the city of St. Louis (I did --- don't let my disparaging remarkes make me sound like a total nay-sayer for St. Louis), I LOVE living in the Riverbend that much more. And I feel that if you're in St. Louis City or O'Fallon MO (which, by the way, was ranked as the city with the second-lowest crime in that same CQ Press study), you'll enjoy your time in Alton and the Riverbend --- because you are NEVER TOO FAR from those things you've been enjoying "over there" in Missouri.

And in the 21st Century it seems that one wants to feel safe and secure at home and in your neighborhood, as well as adventurous and outgoing. I cannot tell you how much MORE adventurous and outgoing I feel here --- but it would suffice to say that on a Monday morning when I find things are "slow" outside my window, I can always take my bicycle and go for a nice ride up the Great River Road and enjoy the scenery at my own pace.

And sometimes, it's the pace you take - fast or slow - which makes you realize what piece of mind is about. I'm not sure one can find piece of mind in the city of St. Louis. But it sure is here in the Riverbend.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Union NO Vote Robs The Community of Jobs

I'm not going to rant on a national company which started as a local concern. Nope. The story is not new to the area - the company is held by people who have NO relation to the founders. They don't live here, and they truly are like every other corporate board: concerned about keeping the doors open.


(FIRST SENTENCE) ---- Well, thanks you jerks, idiots, stupid people, morons.

You THINK you're right in doing what you did. But, in fact, you're just going to find yourself wishing you'd actually listened to what others were telling you.

First off --- if you've been in a job for 35 years - and it's 2010 --- you should just freaking be GLAD to have a job at all. Or, listen to the others who have been working for 10 or 15 years and HEAR that you're retirement is going to dry up pretty soon after you've done what you've just done.

I'm talking about the members of a union in East Alton who voted - for a second time - against a contract being proposed to them by Olin. It wasn't a pretty contract, no, because it was filled with wage concessions, loss of matching 401K funds, elimination of a fifth week of vacation to senior-tenured members of the union who worked at the centerfire manufacturing operation, and other things which may or may not have been accurately portrayed by those union members who spoke to others outside the union. Meanwhile the results of that "no" vote means one thing to the people of the metropolitan area - the Riverbend and beyond: 900 union jobs and altogether perhaps more than one-thousand jobs in the region will DISAPPEAR because THE UNION MEMBERS just --- read the first sentence again to see what they ARE.

Let's review something here. 2010 - a time when the economy is bad.

Olin happens to make ammunition at this particular operation --- and we have a presidential administration which doesn't want war, doesn't much care for bullets and other ammo being made, let alone it being sold to the public. The company is looking at the bottom line. They have to look at all areas of their operation in order to make ends meet in a bad economic climate and a government which doesn't think highly of such an operation in the first place and do their best as a company to not go bankrupt. So, they stockpile the goods, sell the goods at a higher rate and price than the competition, and the company is trying to stockpile money because they know they have to possibly layoff workers, not just here, but in other operations. They have cost-cutting in mind, so they can save the company.

Meanwhile, a union member just sees what they want to see: the company is making profits, the company wants concessions in order to save more money because they will have to find ways of making their bottom line better - which means the union member may have to give up something.

Oh darn. You may miss a fifth week of vacation, a vacation "bonus", a matching fund for a few years. What is your mind thinking about here?

It's my guess that most people in the region believe YOU WANT EVERYONE TO LOSE THEIR JOB!!!

Olin had said it was considered moving it's Centerfire Manufacturing Operation to Mississippi if this vote turned out the same way a vote did three weeks ago.'re gonna lose your jobs. And you've CAUSED OTHERS to lose their jobs, too!


This isn't a joke.

BUT YOU so-called "people" who voted "no" ARE A JOKE, mister and misses and miss union member who in doing so also made clear that they voted "no to continuing other related jobs for the community".

I know there are reasons you may THINK you were right in voting "no jobs" --- but you were dead wrong. And I'm not one to pussyfoot around this issue at all --- I was a union member myself for a national company which had a local office and watched as my former (I'd already separated from the job) co-workers lost their jobs because of a company with a legal jackal.

But when you stop to consider YOUR NO VOTE is taking jobs from NOT JUST YOU, but other companies when Olin moves to Mississippi...does it make sense to you that your families are now going to start suffering --- and if you've only been there 10 years and voted "no" on this contract, you didn't really understand what you were saying. You said "I really don't care if they go or not. I want my job, but not if I have to give up something else."

You didn't think at all. You decided for everyone else because for you, "it's my way or the highway". Selfish bums.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Sure, my headline is inflammatory, and over-the-top.

It's not accurate to say the entire membership of a union says it does not want the jobs it currently holds.

But it may be more true than inaccurate due to the vote taken last weekend to reject a new contract with Olin Corporation - a contract which was filled with concessions that union members are said to not be happy with having been presented after weeks of negotiations between union officials, company officials and state and local politicians involved in trying to hammer out a compromise agreement. Armed with the knowledge that the corporate entity is looking at cost savings and possibly moving approximately one-thousand jobs to Oxford, Mississippi, the union members were presented a contract that their own union officials AGREED TO with the company. This is to say that the heads of the union made concessions in the language of the contract proposal they deemed necessary in order to get a contract they believed union members SHOULD AGREE TO because of the potential loss of ALL of their jobs over a period of time.

But, whether it was due to rumors because someone did not like a particular concession and spread it, whether it was due to rumors because someone misread part of the contract, whether it was due to rumors due to --- who cares what the reasons were because there were rumors floating about at the time of the vote? Members got a contract, probably had it explained to them by their union head, their union shop stewards, their friends, and people they just sat near when the pieces of paper were being glanced at or combed through or --- again, who cares how I interpret how they read it --- they looked, listened to whatever extent they listened and decided they did not want the contract. In essence workers who make an above-average wage voted against a contract that would have allowed them to continue to work at their jobs for at least another year without the potential that the company would change its mind and close up the centerfire operation in East Alton before the end of 2011.

Well, ya blew it. And everyone but the union members who voted against the contract realized that it was setting up this scenario: Olin will take the centerfire operation out of the area because the union costs the company bottom line too much.

BEFORE you union people get all upset with me, let me explain some things to you about ME.

I have been a voting member of a union. My father was a voting member of a union. My grandfather was a voting member of more than one union. I have a work history with union representatives, do work with a group SPONSORED by a union. In short, I am not dissing having a union. Unions were formed, historically, to ensure workers safety and allowed for contractual obligations to be negotiated faithfully for decades. And in many cases the unions in the United States of America played a great part in making our economic engines purr right along. But - times have changed, legislators made the laws tighter on some areas and looser on other areas which have led to corporate giants having the upper hand. Unions, weakened over time, no longer hold the winning cards. Union members do not have the right attitude for the times. Union members who think "we need this, that and more" when looking at a contract that has language filled with concessions must not be looking at the overall picture when it is much more important to see the overall picture than the one in their own mind. This truly is "you can't see the forest for the trees" mentality I am talking about. The honest truth is that union members who voted against the Olin contract were not seeing the impact it will have WAY PAST their own home.

Let's go here: how many jobs will be lost when Olin pulls its centerfire operation out of East Alton in however many months or years it takes to be fully gone?

Starting point: approximately 900 "current" jobs will be lost at Olin's centerfire operation. This is because the number of retirees will be up before the company actually pulls out of East Alton --- and they won't be replacing those workers with temporary workers.

Secondary work - completely guessing on my part: those who currently do simple jobs but are not under union rules or contract will number around 100 or so - these are people who do not do what the union can control, such as directly working for Olin in the part of the plant where packing the packaging takes place, or in peripheral areas such as administrative assistants, safety and loss prevention personnel, and other administrative functions which will be lost to the Riverbend but may be shipped off to Mississippi. These jobs are just as necessary for our economy as those 900 to 1000 union workers jobs. But, for the trees in front of their faces, the union membership didn't realize there was a forest. The trees are their own paychecks in the economic stream of society and the forest is the overall money exchange in the economic stream.
From being uncaring about others or being ignorant of how huge the impact of their "no" vote, the union members who voted down the contract made a loud and clear statement last Sunday:

This mindset, frankly, is completely unproductive when it is the opinion of one small segment of society. And --- I remind all of you who are related to or are members of the union membership who said "no" to those concessions --- you are not the majority opinion of the public at large in times such as these. Not only are you not the majority opinion, but you're so much in the minority opinion that when you lose your jobs and cannot find a replacement job at anywhere near the $20 per hour or more than you WERE making (see, it is no longer ARE making once you lose your jobs, guys), you'll wish you had listened to everyone who told you that the only way you would save your job is to vote "yes" on the concessions even if it hurts your pride.


I had a job with a company in the 1990s and was unfairly dismissed by a new boss. When that boss was gone, my old boss was back and rehired me. By this time the company had a union contract in place with my co-workers. The union had wiggled its way into the company between times I had worked there and was getting some good things out of the contracts. My wage when I came back to work at the company was much improved, and I liked that fact. Over a few years, I got raises, my co-workers got raises, and the company was bought by a bigger corporation - a conglomerate who has a powerful attorney. The rumors that went around during contract negotiations were many. We weren't the biggest union nor the tightest union, but we were a union and had a good attorney of our own negotiating on our behalf. Negotiations kept going for months and our good attorney was replaced by a better attorney. We had high hopes that we'd be able to get a contract hammered out and keep our jobs safe for the period of the contract. But by the time the contract was negotiated and to be voted upon, our members were unhappy because of some concessions - but the company was every bit as unhappy with the union. It took place in the 21st Century when times are different. The weakened contract was ratified, the union members were actually happy to have the jobs we had. The company, however, made sure the union didn't have enough power. Terms had weakened the position of the members --- not because of how our attorney negotiated, but because we all knew by this time that the company was going to start closing offices --- starting with offices where there were union contracts in place. This (at the time) was a nationwide company with more than 250 markets being served by this company. The corporate greed lovers said "we must have a better bottom line, and if you have that many employees to pay, you're not keeping our bottom line good enough for the stockholders. You must do something to make the stock prices good enough." And so a few months later, with many of us sitting there knowing how the climate was changing, I again lost my job, thanks to the corporate attorney and his way of figuring out how to eliminate positions one by one. This was followed by more workers losing their jobs. And eventually the entire office was closed in St. Louis. As far as I know, there are fewer than ten jobs remaining here --- but they are not paid from an office in St. Louis because that office is closed. I'm not even sure they are under a current union contract. But it should be noted that more than 15 people lost jobs because that company had the upper hand in this economic climate --- legislation allowed them to close offices due to "cost overruns" they probably brought on themselves. The union --- well, I haven't had to pay any dues since I lost my job. I don't have a job related to that union, and since the union did not exist in my life long enough for me to have any kind of investments I can say without reservation that I hope they are doing well without me. I can also say that I have seen the company wither after closing office after office across the country. Someone at the corporate office couldn't see the forest for the trees, either. Eventually the corporate attorney will leave that job and retire in his 40s for all the bonus money he made by closing offices and killing thousands of jobs. The company will be weakened because it could not continue to profit with fewer employees working. The union --- well, it was only in a few markets and doesn't have the power it once had --- will continue to negotiate from a weakened position and, hopefully, its members will still have benefits and good wages. But it is possible that "good" wages aren't even what I was making for the company ten years ago, and "benefits" are pretty much a joke now anyway, so why bother? The members wouldn't be able to afford insurance at the prices being offered or at the "good" wages which aren't as good.
This is the 21st Century plan --- work for less money, beg for insurance that you can afford (and not get it), and watch the corporations weaken themselves all the while the stockholders beg for more out of their pieces of paper.


The big picture is this: if you want things to continue in a positive manner, you never do something as rash as voting down a few concessions that will keep your jobs. Also, from the corporate standpoint, if you disarm yourself by closing plants and moving jobs, you'll suffer losses.

This, my dear union friends at Olin, is what is called a LOSE-LOSE proposition. You have voted down a contract which would have kept your jobs and the jobs of others here. Olin will move its centerfire operations and many of those jobs but, meanwhile, will be losing business a few years from now after they find out that they made a bad decision in moving because it will, overall, eventually cost them too much to rebuild what they had here.

I just wanted you to know, in case the reason you voted "no" was that you felt corporate greed was overtaking everything you worked so hard in achieving. All will lose because of your "no" vote.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Job Saving, Job Movement, Job Stealing

Looking at the various Riverbend area sources for news over the past two weeks, since a rather startling piece of news came out of Olin Corp. regarding the Winchester centerfire operations and the company taking into consideration moving the approximately 1000 jobs to their plant in Oxford, Mississippi, it came as no surprise that there have been several stories about how the different local political operators are discussing how to stop the blood-letting that losing this operation would be to the entire economy of this region.


Only the local and regional politicians and entities are doing this. Once again, no help from the state house, the state senate, the governor. Just "concern" they may - or may not - have noted for reporters who ask them about the possible loss of one-thousand jobs in East Alton and the surrounding communities which would lose several hundred more with the closure of the centerfire operation here.

Again --- stop. The local and regional persons are taking action. The rest of Illinois is sitting idly by and going to watch as we lose this business.


No, I'm not kidding. They don't support "downstate" EVER, do they?

We have cheaper wages here than in northern Illinois and Chicago. All we have to do is the same thing that the other states and communities are doing: go to the CEOs and CFOs of the manufacturers in the northern half of the state, plead our case to be "a better quality of life" and "cheaper wages" and "you don't have to change your tax status much, just conform to the local county and city wages and you'll be much better off on your bottom line."

Who wants to do this? I can only bet that the people of southwestern Illinois and the Riverbend would look at this and say "we agree, but nobody wants to put up that kind of a fight against those crooks up north."
Don't tell me you don't hear all those naysayers. I sure do. They are whining, "We're too weak to face up to them" or "they'll start raiding our jobs as soon as we take one plant away from them" --- and too many similar cries of "we can't..." because they don't want to take the time to TRY and see if we can get those manufacturing jobs back here.

I, for one, am sick and tired of seeing lazy. I'm sick and tired of being lazy. But when I get told to "quiet down before someone hears you" --- then I get really sick of being around whomever is telling me that.
Look, I was not born to be quiet, as anyone who listens to me personally can attest. I sing, I talk for a living, I write blogs and news articles and manufacture public relations pieces. There is nothing quiet about my life's work. So, please to those who will whine that I'm standing for something wrong --- tell me how wrong you are FIRST for not standing up and making things better, and THEN I will apologize for being outspoken and telling it like it is.

I would gladly apologize for scaring you half to death if only YOU WOULD DO what is necessary to keep the economic engines running.

The problem with this reality --- this isn't just a scene, but the reality of today's world and those whiners who say "don't do whatever it is you want to do" --- is that we all live in it and if we cannot see any one of you taking this stand EVEN THOUGH you know in your minds and hearts that if someone does take this stand our region will have a fighting chance to recover, then , truly I say to you --- it is assured that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. Yes, if you're not willing to stand up and help, if you're going to whine --- you are the problem. Put up or shut up. You'll be the first ones to say "shut up" and the last ones to "put up a fight" --- so, therefore, you are the problem.

STOP your whining and get off your collective butts and make noise, or we'll be a region without any manufacturing jobs --- in a region with a heritage of great manufacturing plants.

Get on the phone with the CFOs and CEOs of those manufacturers who are in northern Illinois and Chicagoland and promote this region now by saying: "We offer cheaper labor costs, a MUCH BETTER cost of living and doing business, and overall quality of life that is as good or better than what you have now."

If you tell me, personally, the names of companies you want to see here, I'll make the phone calls to the CEOs and CFOs myself. I don't need to be "in power" to make a decision like that. I just need someone to direct me to the person or company and give me phone numbers.


It's the power of the people who know things can be changed for the better who will have a positive impact on our society.

Frankly, I'm willing to be outspoken and tell others what's good about this region, even if I have to be the bad guy who helps steal jobs and bring them here.

And you cannot tell me they didn't do it first. Look at those so-called crooked politicians up there. They certainly didn't do help our region.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Things Are Moving Forward: Entertainment

I posted about the Spectrum Entertainment Group in June. Since then the group has begun producing a concert series, starting with events at the upper ballroom at the Alton Eagles Club, 424 E. Broadway in Alton.

They produced Boom! and Boom! II --- featuring (a bit obviously) Boom, a St. Louis band known for its many years in the club Kicks at the Marriott West. Two weekends of crowds showed that there is something to be showcased.

Now it's a series called "Swingin' on Broadway" - again at the Alton Eagles Club. First two weeks featuring swing dance lessons and time to get out and dance. On August 22, the concert will feature "Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers" - who have a pretty good reputation among the music circle followers in the region.

I'm posting the latest poster for this Sunday night's event featuring "The Swing Kid" and his lessons.

I am so excited because now there is even more proof that "The 3D Entertainment Capitol of the World" is Alton, Illinois (and the Riverbend in general).

There are other things planned and I will post that information as I can. Also, you can see what Spectrum Entertainment Group has planned at

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rich Town, Poor Town

I am reading the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" and came to think about my city, Alton IL. In my lifetime it has gone from being a busy and labor-intensive town to one that has weathered the times despite the loss of great manufacturing plants.

In short, Alton went from being the town where the "poor dad" worked to being the town where the poor dad survives - but barely.

Now, in this town, there has always been a "rich dad" here and there. It depends upon whom you ask, though, what the answer is to the question, "who in Alton is rich?" And the answers vary widely because there may not be truly "wealthy or rich" persons living out in the open. Sure, there are homes worth millions of dollars in the Riverbend --- look up on the bluffs above the Great River Road and you can see some of those which were built to last. Due to the location of those homes, they're worth a lot of dough. No "poor dad" would turn down such a home IF they were to ever accumulate enough money to purchase one. But, that's not my point.

In Alton, the great manufacturing companies left town. Now there is an obvious economic impact that the departure of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company left --- a wake which shook the very foundation of labor in the area. Labor, dare I say it, also felt the devastating loss when the old Alton Boxboard Company (and Jefferson-Smurfit) was gobbled up and moved out of Alton, as well as the manufacturing of shift after shift at the OLD Laclede Steel. Rail companies, long a stable influence on the economies of those with rail lines, pulled many lines out of Alton along with other smaller cities. These left what was once a heritage-laden city with huge holes --- the labor forces were not only diminished, but devastated. The population diminished from the 1950s to the 21st Century in terms of both manufacturing plants and jobs and overall population in Alton. But, most people know this if they've spent any considerable time in Alton.

But what is it that can change the outcome of Alton? A new mentality, similar to that which was present in the early 1800s in this region.

Yes, I am saying there must be a wholesale change in mindset to inject a new growth into the Riverbend. And this change will be slow if the current leaders of the city are not able and willing to adhere to a stricter change than that which they are leading.

I am making two statements which are opinions: 1) the current leaders are effecting some change in the area; 2) those changes are not enough or fast enough to stimulate a gigantic growth.

We need gigantic growth in Alton, not subtle change. We need dramatic gains, not slow and systemic walking through change --- it must be a race against the clock every day of every month of every year in the next decade --- or even the next 24 months.

So --- what will spur this dramatic growth and gain? First, make others want to be here for the tourism that the current and last generation of leaders have helped showcase. There are reasons that St. Louisans come to visit Alton --- but there must be a reason for Chicagoans, New Yorkers, those from Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Detroit, Seattle and other corners of the continent and around the world must find has attracted them to Alton and the Riverbend. But what things may all these places have "in common" in order to make this happen?

Alton needs to be the entertainment capitol that it will become. We have the universal sound of music.

When I say something dramatic must occur, I mean we have to put out the welcome mat for all musicians, singers, and music-lovers. Alton is the destination for music enthusiasts and music makers.

You want to know why and how this will occur. WHY is easy: we have always had a thriving music industry in Alton and the Riverbend, and we can capitalize upon that rich heritage and strike a chord (pun intended) in the music world and promote, promote, promote our rich musical history and those who love music. HOW is not so easy unless it is done dramatically. So, the how is this simple: once the city has opened up the opportunities for musicians to show up and for music lovers to come into town in the millions of visitors every year --- it will soon follow. And there's a "why to the how" in the 21st Century --- in that we have instant community through the internet and our wireless world to effect the change we need in order to challenge those who have never been here to see why they want to be here.

And interestingly enough, the smaller manufacturing companies will see that Alton is a good enough city to keep an international presence.

We can again see this great American city flourish and become a "rich town" again. But it must happen through the visionaries who employ a strategic slogan of:

"Come to Alton now. Come to Alton later. Just come to Alton, Illinois, and be satisfied."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When You See It Coming

I posted this to my Facebook page first --- but if I could have, it would have been simultaneously.

Sure, we all have ideas. Many times over you'll find that what you think is new --- is really an idea that is shared with others.

The Spectrum Entertainment Group met last night in downtown Alton IL. I was invited to attend the meeting and came away with nothing but positive vibes. The Spectrum Entertainment Group will be putting on shows in Alton and the Riverbend area. It's already made up of people who not only know the entertainment industry, but who have worked in the technical, performance, and other aspects of what is commonly referred to as "entertainment". It is very apparent to me that the group has some easily attainable - yet, lofty - goals set before them, including several I wholeheartedly believe can be done over the next months.

In a matter of speaking, the title of this note is because --- tooting my own horn here --- I could see this coming when I moved to Alton permanently. I've always been part of the Alton/Riverbend area because of my family --- now I not only reside here, but work here. And when I started coming to the local events last year, I could see something big was about to take place, due in large part to the completion of the beautiful Riverfront Amphitheater along the Mississippi River in downtown Alton. It was when I took my first walk around that amphitheater and in the Riverfront Park area that I came to realize that this was not going to be kept a secret: Alton was about to become a destination for more than tourists. I could easily see the entire area, amphitheater, downtown Alton (you HAVE to see how beautiful it looks at night when you go for a stroll --- sure, there are some things which still need to be fixed up, but when those are "going", this will be as wonderful as any city in the world), and up and down the Riverbend - Grafton, Godfrey, Bethalto, Wood River, East Alton, Fosterburg, Cottage Hills, Rosewood Heights, etc. - there will be plenty of places where musicians and singers and comedians and stage acts and performers come to display their talents. And (what's more is that) it is all readily accessed due to the various modes of transportation --- train, plane, boat, and vehicular traffic all have easy access to Alton and the Riverbend.

Now, the Spectrum Entertainment Group exists. From a few phone calls, emails, and personal discussions which started in April 2010, has come a group with the power to produce and promote shows at the venues in the area. With the existence of several businesses which hire bands and other acts already in place, this group foresees the Riverbend in almost an identical way to what I had envisioned before I knew anything about them: this area can soon be an entertainment centerpiece for the nation and world.

Already, there are discussions with venues, venue operators, bands, and the media taking place to ensure that this is not something left as a discussion group. This is already happening, folks. If you don't jump in now, you'll miss the early days of something that will change the world of entertainment.

There's more which is positive: this group wants to produce and promote a WIDE RANGE of artists. They plan to do work with and for non-profit groups as part of their community outreach. This is not a bunch of "me, me, me" people --- this is a group that believes in "we all have opportunities to see the benefits" of such an operation. They are expecting slow, reasonable growth through partnerships, not expecting the entire world to come in an instant --- but expecting to realize such potential over a relatively short period of time. Additionally on the plus side is finding out that SEG is looking to hire the locals for large events at Riverfront Amphitheater, and is looking for the community to tell them what they would like to see (performers) and where. It is a feedback-oriented group who are genuinely looking for the input from the average person. They ENCOURAGE emails and comments - not blow off the idea of communications. I believe this separates them from others and shows class and style.

Addtionally, although there are no new hotels and motels YET, the city of Alton is working toward the goal of having at least one developed soon along the downtown and riverfront area. This doesn't even take into consideration the bed and breakfast community in the greater Alton area, the existing hotels, or the nearby lodging at places like Pere Marquette Lodge or the dozens of places available along the rivers and across the region of Alton and St. Louis.

For those who are wanting to know more, contact the Spectrum Entertainment Group through their webpage on FACEBOOK:


--- or email them at:

This is interesting to note: this group is coming up on an occasion where it will be announcing the first in a set of concerts and/or performances in the area. But they are also looking for corporate sponsors to enable them to help promote the expected growth of the names involved in the concerts. If you are a Riverbend area sponsor - even a potential sponsor - you should think seriously about contacting Spectrum Entertainment Group about becoming a corporate sponsor.

I'm already planning to help spread the word, and can easily see the newly-formed Spectrum Entertainment Group will be beneficial to the region.

If I had not already told so many people that I could see this coming, I think I'd be called a bandwagon jumper-on-er (or something like that) --- but I know many of my friends have been not only reading my posts but also coming to visit the Riverfront Amphitheater and downtown Alton, so I don't worry about the potential name-calling.

When you see it coming --- you stand up and say something. Consider this: I'm telling you...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Existing Conditions Are Good

My previous blog mentions the idea that the RiverBend, starting with Alton, Illinois, is being primed to become the next MUSICIANS ROW --- a destination for musicians, singers, composers, lyricists, entertainers, and others involved in the arts --- specially suited for an active music community. This is one of many thoughts that may well come to be sooner rather than later because Alton IL and The RiverBend area, in general, is one of the easiest areas to access in the entire United States.

First off, discussing the accessibility issues of Alton vs Branson. Traffic jams: Branson can't stop the vehicle traffic from coming and going --- because it really has no other options. Alton IL, however, has all of the various modes of transportation. The obvious is --- the waters of the Mississippi River and Illinois River flow right to the RiverBend. The Missouri River, while lesser known for the traveler, exits at Hartford, just a short trip back upstream takes a traveler to the Alton Marina --- a magnificent piece of work which seems to become more vibrant every week. Water is not the only means of transportation to and from The RiverBend. Let's immediately go to the vehicle traffic. With Interstates 55, 44, 70, 270, and 64 all within 40 minutes of Alton, there is a plethora (always use this word to impress sports guys) of ways to get to here from out of town. And even once you're in the metro area, you have a choice of how to get to Alton. Via U.S. 67 (from 270, go north on Hwy 367, which becomes U.S. 67 at the end of Lindbergh/67 in North St. Louis County) --- continue north to the strikingly beautiful Clark Bridge --- and you're in for a treat: the bridge itself is a work of art and structure, but look at the skyline of Alton, the riverfront area --- especially the marina and Riverfront Amphitheater, and the beauty of the bluffs. If you're coming from I-270 from I-70 in Illinois, come north on Route 3 in whichever way you choose. You can go through along the "Berm Highway" just before you get to Wood River, or you can continue in to East Alton and take Broadway through town into downtown Alton.
What isn't immediately obvious is TRAINS. But, yes, the Amtrak stops in Alton. And for those who have missed the recent changes in local MCT/Madison County Transit routes, there is a bus route which comes to the Amtrak station and goes through town to the downtown bus depot, giving out of town people easy access to the RiverBend/Alton riverfront. So --- that leaves bus service. Well, okay --- you can still get to Alton using Greyhound to St. Louis and make the trip via Amtrak to Alton, or during weekdays you can grab an MCT bus in downtown St. Louis and get to the Alton area. But, there's always a friend who will help you get to Alton.
Once here --- the musicians will find that they're not alone. Sure, at the moment Alton isn't the sprawling music headquarters it is likely to become in the next 20 years. But it has a music and arts scene, tied into local musicians and venues. With the Riverfront Amphitheater now becoming a good place to stop (and the Argosy still books some interesting shows a few hundred feet away from the amphitheater), there has been interest building in the downtown Alton clubs where musicians come to perform. Bossa Nova has live music as an example. Most people who already know about Fast Eddie's Bon-Air also have come to expect live music there at least three times a week. The Jacoby Arts Center is already a local place where musicians are performing and works of art are showcased. And there's the Alton Municipal Band, the Alton Symphony Orchestra --- for the music lovers --- and if a composer writes a good piece, these organizations could be counted upon to perform a good work in a live setting.
This is going to be a fantastic move for Alton and The RiverBend area, too, to promote the wide variety of music heard here. Why, just the other day I saw them pickin' the banjo and gueetars in Godfrey. Them folk even had thems a string-bass player in the parking lot across from Lewis & Clark Community College! You NEVER know where you'll run into music, who will be performing, or lack varied styles and musical genres.
But --- the announcement isn't quite ready for "prime time". There are still some pieces of the overall puzzle to be worked out between businesses and civic organizations before a plan is announced. That shouldn't keep the music community from becoming excited about the future of MUSICIANS ROW in The RiverBend.
Musicians/singers/performers/composers/lyricists/entertainers already live here. We're just preparing everyone for the eventual influx of the same kinds of personalities to show up here between 2010 and 2030. By the time it's all done --- it may well be a city with 24/7 music in live venues, as well as a thriving writers group. We should keep in mind there are new business models being developed to replace the failing part of the recording industry --- and we should all encourage those new kinds of publishers and recording companies to locate their headquarters in The RiverBend MUSICIANS ROW, too.
Oh --- not saying it can't happen, but I'm not expecting Steve Jobs to show up in the RiverBend within the next couple of years with an Apple/iPod/iPad application to show off at the announcement for MUSICIANS ROW. Maybe someone will become brave enough to call Apple and get them to consider such a thing. You never know until you try --- and at least we are seeing people try to bring music alive in The RiverBend.
And that's going to be a great buzz for generations to come.

RiverBend Thoughts: Spring 2010

It's been a very interesting time of personal growth and introspective/perspective thus far for me. Having grown up with family from Alton, Fosterburg, Godfrey, etc., and having made friends in the RiverBend all my life, in 2009 when I moved to the RiverBend to LIVE, I discovered and rediscovered things I am thoroughly enjoying.

In short --- I'm truly happy in the RiverBend.

We have the best of everything within walking or driving distance of my residence in Upper Alton. Sundays are particularly interesting, as we usually go to brunch after church. Aunt Sam's on College Avenue near Washington Avenue has been our "regular" Sunday brunch hangout. We get to see Charley Kevilus (formerly known as Joey) "the can man" almost every Sunday midday there, and a lot of local people have made it a semi-regular habit. That's just one thing my family happens to do. We do partake of local establishments at other times of the day and week, too. Because of yardwork, I've made it a habit the past two weeks to visit St. Peters Hardware. What a great family business --- all the things I need without going to the big box stores.
This spring weather has given us pause to see some of the area on those "nice" weather days, and we did what a lot of people from our region do regularly --- took a drive up THE GREAT RIVER ROAD. We just happened to start from Godfrey this time with a bit of gasoline in the tank and rolled up Route 3 over to Grafton (for a change...see, we usually go down Washington Avenue to Broadway and go through downtown Alton, but since we were in Godfrey when we decided to go to Grafton, we did the Rte. 3 roadway). Once there, we were thinking about going to long-time favorite spot Pere Marquette State Park. However, we altered our plans and went all the way up to Hardin, down into Brussels in Calhoun County, getting to see some lovely scenery in Madison, Jersey, Greene and Calhoun Counties along the way. One has to see the bluffs along the Great River Road to appreciate some of the beauty of God's creation --- the bluffs never cease to amaze me, no matter how many times I may have already traveled along them in my lifetime.

But, here's the thing: I'm finding that I am enjoying outdoors much more in The RiverBend (okay, since I live in Alton, I'll probably be talking mostly about Alton here for a moment) than I did in St. Louis. For purposes of background, I maintain that my life would have had a great void if I didn't have the experiences of both sides of the RiverBend Region. And just so all those friends in St. Louis/St. Charles/Franklin/Jefferson Counties in MO know, it's become increasingly obvious to me that St. Louis was an afterthought to The RiverBend area around Alton. St. Louis just happened to grow faster in the mid-1800s than did Alton and the rest of the Illinois side --- where the area's real growth potential began with Lewis & Clark. I'll say it again --- many of the best things in life are right here in this region --- we have the best of everything. But look particularly along the Mighty Mississippi River, the Illinois River, the Missouri River and the confluences of each at The RiverBend, and you'll see why it's so easy to make people from other parts of the country (even the world) envious of what we have right HERE! Spring has given me a chance to see the beauty of nature, the power of weather phenomena, and the varied ideas that people have to make attractive those things and objects along the rivers, bluffs, valleys, rolling hills, and farmlands.

Farmlands: Not something some of my city friends necessarily think about or even visit. But when they do, it's easy to give them a perspective about how "we" in the U.S. can take for granted the agriculturally-based economics. The St. Louis "city folk" as some might call them (again, for purposes of disclosure, I lived in St. Louis City for more than ten years --- that doesn't make me less appreciative of my family heritage) can be informed about the great farm fields literally minutes from their homes. In Madison County, Illinois, some of the richest farming soil in the world is along The RiverBend in the bottoms. Sure, there are other places in Illinois and Iowa and Kansas and Missouri and Nebraska which could all claim farmlands which are equal to, or perhaps better than, the soil. But all are doing the same thing: growing the foods used to feed our world and make industry productive, as soybeans and corn can do for our economy. Taking a look at it weekly for a period of months would probably help those in St. Louis better understand why we have what we have in our region. The farmers' work really does make a difference today as it did in all of those yesterdays/yesteryears. And whereas the only farming I have done to date is picking asparagus and veggies from my grandparents' farm, and helping mow the grass at the field's edge, I came to have the proper appreciation for our farmers as a child.

Riverfront activities: Here is where I think we are lucky --- and St. Louisans probably will see my point, many of them agreeing in what I say (some will not). Along the Great River Road in the RiverBend area, we have this ebb and flow not only of the waters in flood seasons, but the ebb and flow of activity in the spring, causing so many from around the world to come see the some of the attractions we have to offer. Because of the beauty of the bluffs and the trees along the peaks of the rivers, our ever-changing bird population, and the easy accessibility to all of this, we are prime for our spring influx of tourism. This will ramp up even more come summer when many families take vacations and drive across the heartland of the United States of America. What I believe is that if just a few of us in the RiverBend tell our friends or relatives (Facebook friends/relatives, perhaps) to check out our area, we'll be seeing something that boosts our overall presence and economic condition when they all come to visit.
I'd like to point out that if someone does make "the pitch" to friends and family about coming to visit this area, one thing they should do is see if there is activity at The Riverfront Amphitheater along the Alton end of the Clark Bridge. Even if there is nothing scheduled, tell them to stop at the park and walk along the edge of the Mississippi River, walk over to the Amphitheater and see this beautiful structure. From the park and the Riverfront Amphitheater, they can look up at the side of the bluffs where Alton sticks out as a beautiful city. This is one of the most attractive things about Alton --- it has beautiful old structures with such varied architecture overlooking the RiverBend and the riverfront. Meanwhile, you should note to whomever you're "pitching" to come here that there's never a lack of something to do around here, either, even on a Monday (I'm curious to find out why so many restaurants and shops are closed on Mondays here). With the numerous sites to see, and the communities so welcoming and friendly, it's easy to feel invited by the residents. And if they decide to show up on a weekend in the RiverBend, there are so many different churches around that they're sure to find one that is to their liking for their worship activities. I could go along this point for paragraphs, but it will wait for another entry or two down the road.

Upswing: Not that I can truly say there's an obvious positive in the overall economic condition of our world, but it appears to me that Alton and the RiverBend has - perhaps - weathered the seriously bad economic times as good or better than a lot of communities in North America. Maybe losing glass plants, refractories, steel plants, and oil production years ago has left this area with a better and more stable economy. Sure it would be ideal to have kept all of those businesses going in the area --- but it happened, and this area is poised to grow even stronger in the next 30 years. And I'd like to point out that when I say an upswing in Alton and beyond is likely, it doesn't take an economics major to show the outsiders both the bad and the good. But, because the bad has been universal and the good not-so-universal over the past three years, the good around the RiverBend can be shown through figures that prove our regional leaders are working to making a positive long-term impact with projects such as Riverfront Amphitheater, the block parties in downtown Alton, the new business coming through the enhancements at Conoco-Phillips refinery, and even the not-so-good stuff: when the levee system is strengthened over the next decade. These are all positives, in addition to the other enhancements which will be introduced to provide economic impact through enhanced tourism.

By the way, here's an announcement that is sure to make waves: Alton is poised to become the next "musicians row" in the world. Like long ago in New York City, Alton is about to have an influx of professional musicians, music composers, lyricists, singers, and entertainers. Details will be coming out over the next several months and years. This is a long-term project, but one which will make Alton a worldwide destination for the music community AND music fans. No, we're not likely going to be the next Nashville overnight. But the RiverBend has many of the right tools and infrastructure to become a worldwide center for musicians, composers, singers, even publishers --- and dramatically so, in the next decade.

Just so you know, the Riverfront Amphitheater is one of the big reasons the RiverBend area will come to be "Musicians Row": think Branson without the headache traffic jams, and with a wider variety of music being performed. And once a few more venues have opened up, it is very possibly going to be almost Las Vegas-like because of all the 24-hour-a-day venues which will be home to music and performance. Credit also the Jacoby Arts Center for bringing this area some publicity to the world outside of this region. Yes --- word really does spread about the little things being done to enhance a place like Alton.

If there's a date to let people know more about this long-term project, it will (likely) be released here almost simultaneously with other local outlets like, Z1570 and in The Telegraph. I am excited about this spring around this region. And this summer --- whoa, baby! Look out for all those new faces coming to visit the RiverBend and seeing the enhancements and future of the region.

Can you hear the music yet?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alton Symphony Orchestra - 2009-2010 Concert # 3

Guest Conductor Leon Burke III has been both serious and light-hearted throughout the practices and rehearsals for the Alton Symphony Orchestra's third concert of the 2009 - 2010 season. On Sunday, February 28th, well see if the snow has played a factor in the 65th concert season. You see, due to snowfall in the RiverBend area, the ASO missed one of its practices --- putting Burke and the orchestra in a catch-up mode for the last two weeks of rehearsals.

The concert will feature works of Dvorak - the New World Symphony, Heinrich Hubler's "Concertstueck" - which features a french horn quartet, and some Beethoven as well.

The Alton High School Auditorium, 4200 Humbert Road, again serves as the venue for this concert. The AHS Auditorium is filling in for the third consecutive concert while Lewis & Clark Community College's Hathaway Hall undergoes renovations.

Burke is a native St. Louisan who currently leads the University City Symphony Orchestra as conductor, as well as conductor of the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Symphony, with positions at St. Louis University, East Central College (Union MO), and the Topeka Ballet, St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and with Spotlight Theater among other groups. In short, Leon is a busy music-maker.

As with the December concert, tickets can be purchased at Halpin Music (2375 Homer Adams Parkway in Alton), Dick's Flowers (2621 College Avenue in Alton), Duke Bakery (819 Henry in Alton) the Alton Symphony Orchestra website (a PayPal purchase - your tickets will be at the WILL CALL WINDOW), or at the Alton High School Auditorium just before the performance. Tickets are $5 for children up to 12 years of age, $15 for seniors, $18 for adults, and students with an AHS or LCCC are free with a valid ID.

It's another great weekend of fantastic music with the Alton Symphony Orchestra --- we hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hibernation: Smiles Abound Around Here

The economic condition of the United States of America has not dramatically improved, but there are signs that the icy stares and groans of those in our region are easing --- and in WINTER, no less!

It's a brief entry today, but only because of an observation from keeping an eye on the local media in the RiverBend. I've noticed that we don't seem to be hibernating much in Alton and the surrounding communities. "We" being the humans who reside and work in the area, not the animals which normally go into hiding --- and even some of the animals are already back raiding the trash cans after a brief three-week quiet time as the frigid cold of late December and early January came and left. Back to the simple observation: we didn't let the cold of winter slow us down very much. If the small crowds at the mall, the stores, the streets and highways and the church congregations are any indication, the people who live here were busy any moment they felt they could get out and go into the icy conditions and meet up with others.

When going out in the slick and slippery snow, the many persons I watched were mostly being cautious, but had a plan and were sticking to it: get to their destination and perform their tasks. Yes, it seems that businesses were opening - largely on-time - and not closing early, people were almost friendlier than in several years, and notes in the news were more positive about --- people.

This is not a business observation just yet. Just a happy thing to see. People were interacting in a light-hearted manner again in December 2009 and early January 2010.

Perhaps we just don't want to stay in bed all day long, or maybe we're not the kinds of people who can sit still and be bumps on a log for a prolonged period. Whatever the case, it has been nice to be able to just smile and receive a smile in a public place.


Mid-January brings about plenty of new things and a great continuation of those things which have been in our lives. I invite anyone in the RiverBend to find out what it is that makes them meet up with strangers --- and go ahead and try something new. It could be the local Alton-Godfrey Kiwanis Club, a book club which interests you, the though of the Madison County Geneological Society which would spur you into digging into your maternal or paternal roots, or the long-since-past-days when you performed music and felt compelled to join hundreds of others who - when they got the impetus to do so - wanted to get back out and play music again for the first time in 20 to 40 years. Now is a good time to explore. Take a drive up the Great River Road and do some eagle watching, or just go visit with someone you've not seen in a decade.

My bet is you have some smiles you'd like to share, and even more you'd like to see. Make some plans to go out and enjoy life soon.