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River Ramblers playing at Benld Park tonight

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2012riverramblersThe River Ramblers will take center stage tonight for the third CCCC concert of the summer months. Concerts are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights at the Benld City Park. The concession stand will open at 6 p.m.  tonight selling hot dogs, “big smokies,” Italian beef sandwiches, and strawberry shortcake sundaes along with water and soda. The concert will be presented rain or shine as the covered pavilion will provide excellent shelter or shade!

The group playing tonight is a five piece Bluegrass band that hales from areas surrounding Springfield Il.  The group assembled in 1987 with the commitment to maintaining the traditional bluegrass sound.  If you’re familiar with the music of Bluegrass icons such as Monroe, Stanley, Flatt & Scruggs, you will recognize nearly every tune this band performs.  To date, the group has issued three recordings which include mostly traditional songs combined with some original tunes.

Don Randle is the most recent member to join the Ramblers.  He is a computer wizard by day and plays upright bass on the side.  Don is a quick study to the music.  Don also is an accomplished banjo player and occasionally the Ramblers will sneak in a banjo tune featuring Don.

Jennifer Ramm came to the area from Michigan and quickly found a way to put her fiddling talents to use.  She has been with the group since 1993 and provides striking lead and harmony vocals as well.  Jennifer added to the band’s sound, the “final touch” necessary to bluegrass music.  She is known throughout the area for hosting the local PBS Bluegrass radio show on Sunday evenings.

Mike Smith joined the group in the early years as a bass player and converted to banjo when the original banjo player moved on.  Mike was raised in Arkansas where he first acquired an affinity for Bluegrass.  He now resides in central Illinois where he continues to enhance his “Croweish” banjo licks.  Mike has also developed his own design of “Kat eyz” banjo bridges in recent years and has enjoyed much success producing and marketing them around the world.

Marc Bourne, a central Illinois native, fills the position of guitar.  He is one of the remaining original members of the band and is enjoying continued opportunities to learn the music and instrumentation.  Marc also contributes lead and back-up vocals along with providing the “straight man” target of Duane’s big country humor.

Duane Patterson is the founder of the group.  He came to the area from Kentucky, which is, as you know, “The Bluegrass State”, and could not leave his roots behind.  He soon had the group in place and has since always played the role of band promoter.  Duane provides most of the lead vocals and plays a “Monroe – like” bold style of Mandolin.  There is seldom a dull moment when he is on the stage (or off-stage for that matter).

Duane and the River Ramblers are typically known for their entertaining style on stage as the lively music is combined with an acute degree of personal character.  They are sure to keep your attention even if you’re not familiar with this style of music.  The group attributes their longevity to enjoying the music and the camaraderie of their fellow musicians.

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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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