A year of firsts

2018 in Lansing, Illinois

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (January 2019) – The Lansing Journal published 1,074 articles in 2018, averaging 89.5 stories each month. Our least prolific month (July, for some reason) saw 64 stories published; our busiest month (September) boasted 113.

All those articles were “Lansing news” —they were stories that happened in Lansing, or they involved Lansing people, or they were township, state, or national stories that had a local impact or interest.

Although news by nature is “what’s happening now,” in recording it—in print and online—we create an account of Lansing’s history. And the beginning of a new year provides an opportunity to review that history in order to move forward more purposefully.

In virtually every category of news—Sports and Recreation, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Education, Environment, Health, and more—Lansing accomplished something new in 2018. Some firsts were very public, such as the opening of Fox Pointe. Others were greeted with less fanfare, such as the Lansing Public Library going fine-free. All told, there were more than 50 “firsts” in Lansing this past year. A few are highlighted here:

For the first time in Lansing—

Dogs and their owners have their own place to play

Paws ‘n Play Dog park, September 17, 2018. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
“This has been a dream for a couple of years,” said Park Board Commissioner John Kelly at the ribbon-cutting party for Paws ‘n Play dog park. “It was number one on the wish list for the community. So we heard the community, and we acted on it.” The dog park officially opened in September, and the October ribbon-cutting gave residents, government officials, and local businesses an opportunity to express support for the new venture. The event included a K9 demonstration by the Lansing Police Department, dog and owner caricatures by artist Bill Jackson, a visit from the Ted’s Feed Store mascot, and giveaways from local businesses. The park district provided a hot dog lunch to attendees. Paws ‘n Play Dog Park is located in Bock Park, along Chicago Avenue.

A Human Relations Commission has been appointed

Commissioners Darvel Stinson (left) and David Iwaszko shared some personal hopes at the first meeting of the Human Relations Commission. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
For the first time in 21 years, Lansing formed a new Commission—and it’s a Commission with a unique assignment. The Human Relations Commission has been tasked with helping Lansing develop a culture that embraces diversity, promotes inclusion, inspires involvement, and develops civic pride among all Lansing residents. Dozens of people applied for the role, and Mayor Patty Eidam selected 15 applicants to interview. Of those, she chose 9, and the Board approved them unanimously on September 18. Lansing’s first Human Relations Commission had a training meeting in November, and they conducted their first meeting of business on December 20, 2018. They will be meeting on the third Thursday of each month, and the public is welcome to attend.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed

MOU
“It was a negative event,” said Police Chief Dennis Murrin, “but it’s having a positive outcome.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
After months of meetings guided by a federal mediator, members of the community, the Village administration, and the Lansing Police Department met to sign a Memorandum of Understanding outlining a new relationship following a 2017 incident that involved a white off-duty police officer and a black teenager. The process was often frustrating, and the journey is not over, but the signing marked a new sense of partnership and commitment to a healthier future. “It was a negative event,” said Police Chief Dennis Murrin, “but it’s having a positive outcome.”

Fox Pointe opened and hosted its first event

The Fox Pointe ribbon-cutting was held on September 28, 2018, the weekend before Autumn Fest. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Fox Pointe is perhaps the biggest step in transforming Lansing into a destination, a place people will make plans to visit. Autumn Fest 2018 was the first event in the new venue, and in spite of miserable weather throughout the weekend, record crowds enjoyed the food, entertainment, programs, and kids activities. In addition, having a hometown event as the first to experience the facilities, amenities, and logistics gave Village representatives a way to test drive the venue with an actual, large, multi-day event and still get valuable feedback. “I am so incredibly proud of my community for creating such a beautiful space,” said one Autumn Fest attendee. “I enjoyed Autumn Fest, and I look forward to the next event.”

Other Lansing firsts (by month)—

The list below does not include everything that could have been considered a first-time occurrence in Lansing, but a representative sampling is included from each month of 2018. Each item is a link to the full story about that event.

January

  1. Lansing marked its 125th anniversary of incorporation, and anniversary events were planned throughout the year
  2. Curtis Granderson spoke to a crowd at First United Methodist Church

February

  1. LACE hosted their Fat Friday Bash in a new location
  2. The first Career Fair at TF South introduced students to more than 60 local businesses
  3. The Lansing Police Department was recognized for preventing 26 drug overdoses in 2017, more than any other police department in Cook County
  4. The Village Board introduced a new Public Comment policy
  5. Lansing women joined the Women’s March in Chicago

March

  1. The Lansing Journal hosted an Open House with a panel discussion of community news
  2. Hector Caballero was featured on American Pickers
  3. TF South students joined the nation in protesting gun violence with a walkout
  4. Lansing’s first Beautification Committee held their first meeting

April

  1. The Lansing Walmart began offering free grocery pickup service
  2. Lansing’s Ford Hangar was included in Illinois’ 200 Great Places

May

  1. The Lansing Public Library stopped charging fines on overdue materials
  2. The Lansing Walmart began offering online grocery delivery
  3. The Legion Riders hosted their first Kids Bike Show

June

  1. Lan-Oak Park District offered a series of movies in Lansing parks
  2. The Wentworth Avenue Walgreens installed a new kiosk for safe medication disposal
  3. Lansing community members and School Board 158 became aware of the colony of hundreds of chimney swifts taking up summer residence in the old chimneys at Coolidge Elementary School
  4. Nathan Schilling took over as Superintendent of District 158, replacing Ceal Heiberger

July

  1. Teresa Lance took over as Superintendent of District 215, replacing Creg Williams
  2. The Lansing community began joining the Legion Riders in welcoming Lansing veterans home from Honor Flights
  3. The Chicago White Sox offered Lansing residents a “Village of Lansing night” at Guaranteed Rate Field, and nine Lansing Little Leaguers were chosen for special on-field activities before the game

August

  1. Ace Pizza opened, and many long-time Lansing residents compared it to Colucci’s
  2. The first-ever Family Matters Conference was hosted by Grace Church

September

  1. Lansing Public Library hosted their first How-To Festival
  2. Lan-Oak Park District offered Drone-Making 101 as a class
  3. A semi crashed into an apartment on Torrence Avenue

October

  1. Lansing’s Sami Krusza competed in the Artistic World Skating Championships in France
  2. Honeybee advocates succeeded at changing an ordinance

November

  1. First-time voters from TF South paraded to the polls
  2. The 1943 M5 Anti-Tank 3″ Gun was refurbished and returned to the American Legion
  3. A statue of Vietnam scout dog Artus was added to the Lansing Veterans Memorial
  4. Lansing’s first virtual reality gaming lounge—Gamma VR—opened

December

  1. Lan-Oak Lanes was featured as the setting of a movie starring Jon Heder, which premiered in Chicago
  2. Village staff and Trustees held a movie night to discuss fraud prevention

Related:
For more perspective on 2018, check out the 2018 Highlights stories by Lansing Journal writers—

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