Travel: A fairy tale castle

By Vivienne Mackie

Ask 'Mimi,' April 3, 2016

Did you know Stephen West is coming to C-U?

Ferry godmother

CHAMPAIGN — As an Ebertfest hostess, Amani Ayad ferried around a festival guest in 2014 whom she had never heard of before.

Of course, before heading to Willard Airport to pick her up, Ayad did some research — and washed her Nissan Rogue.

Two years later Ayad would see the actress, Brie Larson, pick up the Academy Award for best actress for portraying a captive mother in "Room."

Rob Kanter/Environmental Almanac: You don't have to go far to see great things

In recent years, I've been fortunate to have some pretty exotic spring breaks, camping in Florida with my family and touring Costa Rica with University of Illinois undergraduates in a course I teach.

Not this year. But my more local spring break had its moments all the same.

Top of the morning, April 3, 2016

A Volunteer To Know

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In 2004, the very first ChessFest drew 26 students to an Urbana elementary school classroom.

Today, it requires a Champaign middle school cafeteria to squeeze in all the K-8 contestants (above).

Bob Swisher: Hitting the road with my brother

My brother, Jim, who lives in Savoy, called with two ideas that he wanted to pursue. Would I be willing to go along?

First, could we drive to Flat Rock, where our mother was born, and attempt to find the grave site of our grandparents and great-aunt who lived to be 99 years old?

Area history, April 2, 2016

Today is Saturday, April 2, 2016. Here are news reports from this date 100, 50 and 15 years ago:

In 1916: The Illinois secretary of state reports that within Champaign County, there are 2,500 automobiles, including 950 in Champaign, 750 in Urbana and 150 in Homer. A fair estimate of their value would be more than $2 million.

Who lives here? April 2, 2016

Each week, The News-Gazette will show a screen shot of a home from a movie or TV show and ask readers, "Who lives here?"

Sandra Mason: Demystifying hydrangea pruning

Every spring, we stare forlornly at our super-sized 6-foot-tall shrubs. We reminisce about the plant label that stated, "Grows to 3 feet."

With our great soil and generally adequate moisture, plants often exceed their usual height.

Weekend planner: A rail love affair

The romance of railroads lives on among members of the Midwest Central Model Railroad Club and others, and in the club's annual Model Train Show. The 35th annual event takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Square (admission is free).