Two of the year's biggest events were an overwhelming combination.
Even by Champaign-Urbana standards, last weekend was extraordinary.
Between the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon and the Roger Ebert Film Festival, things were hopping — even if traffic at dozens of intersections was, at times, slowed to a crawl. It serves as another reminder of what's possible in a unique community that is home to the University of Illinois as well as many thousands of creative, energetic people willing to contribute their time and energy to make things happen.
People here, of course, are used to the hustle and bustle of football weekends and basketball games, graduation day and Mom's Weekend. The community plays host to a wide variety of events that draw people to downtown Urbana or West Side Park in Champaign.
Rarely, however, does it play the host's role to so many out-of-town visitors as it did during Ebertfest and the marathon.
The sixth annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon continued its extraordinary run of success. It's been a smash hit from day one. Obviously, this was an idea whose time had come — more than 20,000 runners and nearly 4,000 volunteers combining to create an event that was both impressive and touching. People of all ages, range and abilities participated over two days in a wide variety of events (the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, full marathon, wheelchair marathon, relay marathon), each with his own story to tell.
There are hardly enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe the festivities. Suffice it to say, the marathon generated a sense of excitement that is hard to beat.
Then, there was Ebertfest, the 16th annual film festival created by the late film critic and local-boy-who-made-good Roger Ebert. This year's events drew mainstays of the film industry — directors Spike Lee and Oliver Stone, to name just two — an eclectic collection of films and the usual audience of film buffs who come as much for the post-film discussions as for the movies themselves.
The film critic's death a year ago leaves a noticeable void. Yet his wife, Chaz Ebert, as emcee, and event organizers carried on well. If past is prologue, Ebertfest has a bright future.
All in all, it was most impressive. The weather even cooperated. Champaign-Urbana doesn't get much better.