Ask 'Mimi' March 30, 2014

Ask 'Mimi' March 30, 2014

From concerts at Allerton to the Boneyard Arts Festival to hanging out in downtown Champaign, Melissa "Mimi" Merli has the answers.

Q: When's the first outdoor concert of the season at Allerton Park near Monticello?

A: April 18, though it's sort of inside — in the beautiful renovated loft of the Dutch-style hay barn on the west side of the park.

Billed as the Allerton Barn Dance, it will be from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring music by the BowDacious String Band, Sam Payne and Friends, and the Curses — all local groups!

Derek Peterson, associate manager of park operations, said there will be 10 concerts altogether this season at Allerton including a children's concert, a Ravinia-esque classical concert, and another with a national bluegrass act from West Virginia. Look for more information in an upcoming e3 cover story.

What's new at the Boneyard Arts Festival April 10-13?

Kelly White, executive director of 40 North 88 West, the Champaign County arts council that organizes the mega-event, tells me significantly more Campustown venues and new businesses in C-U are involved.

As you likely know, the Boneyard is a sprawling arts festival in Champaign, Urbana, Campustown and surrounding towns. Some people grumble about that; they would prefer a festival in one place.

I say there are plenty of those. I like the Boneyard because it has you moving around to various places — more than 100 traditional and non-traditional venues showing art or hosting performance events. Plus, there will be outside performances in downtown Champaign and Urbana.

I like for the participating venues to put balloons out front to designate themselves as Boneyard venues. That makes the event more festive.

When does the outdoor-cafe season in downtown Champaign get underway?

Well, I like to say as soon as it's warm enough. T.J. Blakeman, a city planner in charge of downtown, says as soon as the temperature hits 60 degrees F.

Actually, the city sent out applications the week of March 17 to businesses that want permits for outdoor cafe seating on public property.

Mike 'N' Molly's and the Blind Pig on Neil Street are among businesses that don't need the permits because their outdoor seating is on private property.

The permit runs the calendar year, from January to January. If a business hasn't renewed its permit, the city would close down the cafe seating until the permit is renewed, Blakeman said.

Last time he counted, downtown Champaign alone had 1,000 outdoor seats. Of course, they give the city a happening vibe.

"It's been one of the most successful programs in turning the perception and image of downtown around," Blakeman said.

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