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Italian-American Days celebrates 70 years Memorial Day weekend

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In a vibrant blend of tradition, culture, and community spirit, the Benld Italian-American Days proudly marks its 70th anniversary this year. Established in 1949, this beloved festival has become an iconic event, not only within the Italian-American community but also for all those
who appreciate the richness of Italian culture, cuisine, and heritage.

For seven decades, the Italian Club of Benld, a non-profit organization, has hosted this festival that serves as a hub for celebrating and preserving cherished traditions while embracing the fusion of Italian and American cultures. This year’s event will take place May 24, 25 and
26 at the Benld City Park in Benld, Illinois.

The festival begins on Friday, May 24 at 4:00 pm with food stands opening for service. Connor Family Amusements will provide carnival arm bands from 6:00-10:00 pm allowing unlimited carnival rides for $30.00. Klose Kuarters will provide music for your listening and dancing
pleasure from 6:30-10:30 pm.

On Saturday, May 25, the Italian Club of Benld will host its 3rd Annual Car Show. Car registrations will occur between 8:00 am-12:00 pm with judging taking place at noon. The Italian Club of Benld Car Show is held in the Benld City Park (rain or shine). Registration fee is $20.00. Cars will be judged professionally and trophies will be awarded. The first 70 entries will receive a commemorative tee sponsored by Kravanya Funeral Homes along with a dash plaque.

Festival food stands will open at 11:00 am. Carnival armbands will be offered from 12:00-4:00 pm and 6:00 pm-10:00 pm for $30.00 each armband session. Musical entertainment will be provided by the Jorrells from 6:30-10:30 pm.

The last day of the festival, Sunday, May 26, has always been the highlight of the weekend. One ton of homemade FREE SPAGHETTI will be served from the Lunch Stand from 11:00 am-1:30 pm. The musical line-up for the day includes: Fat Chance from 11:00 am-2:00 pm, Syner-
Gee from 2:30 pm-6:30 pm, and Big Shake Daddies from 6:30 pm-10:30 pm.

Our most favorite tradition of the festival is our Bocce Ball Tournament which begins play at noon. Team registrations begin at 11:00 am in the Beer Stand. The Bocce Ball Tournament consists of both a men and women’s bracket. Carnival armbands will be offered from 12:00-4:00 pm and again from 6:00-10:00 pm for $30.00 each armband session.

One cannot speak of the Benld Italian-American Days without mentioning its sumptuous array of culinary delights. Visitors can indulge in homemade cannoli, homemade Italian salami, tortellini soup, homemade meatball sandwiches, bagna cauda – all available in the Specialty
Stand. Our Lunch Stand will provide American favorites of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, Italian beef. The Fish Stand will offer cod, Alaskan whitefish and fries.

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BINGO will be played every night beginning at 7:00 pm.

Whether you’re of Italian descent or simply appreciate the beauty of Italian culture, the Italian Club of Benld welcomes you to join in the celebration of its 70th anniversary. Come experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of Italy and be part of a tradition that has stood the test of
time. Buon divertimento! (Enjoy the fun!)

Questions about the 70th Benld Italian-American Days can be made by calling (217) 825-7052, or you may follow us on Facebook at Benld Italian-American Days.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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