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Despite this week’s snowy, chilly weather, spring has sprung and things are growing. And we’re not just talking, flowers, grass and butterflies.

In Rantoul, construction has started on a miniature golf course and family fun center sprouting just north of the new Rantoul Family Sports Complex.

Travis Flesner, who is part of a seven-person group developing the project, said the mini golf portion will be done in June as the work is completed in phases.

There will be two 18-hole courses. Nine holes of each form the perimeter, and combined they create an 18-hole ADA-compliant course. Anyone with mobility issues can play.

He said a pro shop, where mini golf equipment, putters, balls, scorecards and apparel will be available, will also likely be finished in June.

There will be two multi-sport simulators that will offer golf swing analysis, PGA courses and competitions along with more than 30 golf options ranging from baseball to hunting, bowling and dodgeball.

“The Fringe plans to host numerous leagues and tournaments,” Flesner said.

An elevated observation deck with views of the championship field will be included in a later phase of construction.

The building will encompass 5,280 square feet. The entire Fringe project sits on 3 acres. A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week.

Flesner earlier said the facility will be ideal for people attending games at the sports complex who are looking for entertainment, refreshments/food and to spend time between games.

The Fringe will be open year round, with mini golf likely available from mid-March and as long as weather permits.

Flesner said earlier he and Jeff McKaufsky have had a dream to open a mini golf facility since high school.

Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer called the The Fringe “a terrific community story.”

“Two individuals who years ago were drawing miniature golf courses on napkins in high school are now making that dream a reality.”

He said village officials had hoped, as they talked about construction of the sports complex, that some from the community would realize the potential “and be willing to invest in their hometown, and this is a perfect example of someone willing to take that initiative.”

Other members of the development group are Flesner’s wife, Nikky; McKaufsky’s wife, Katie; Bill and Sandy Roos and Randy McKaufksy.

Flesner ventured out to the sports complex, which opened to baseball and softball games last weekend. He was impressed.

“It was definitely an experience,” he said. “You didn’t feel like you were in a small town like Rantoul because of the magnitude of the facility. It was pretty awesome — maybe the best in the Midwest.”

He said The Fringe is as much for the community of Rantoul as it is for those visiting the sports complex.

“The Fringe’s mission is to provide an upscale, safe, family-friendly entertainment venue for the community and visitors of Rantoul,” Flesner said.

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Two students from the Grasshopper classroom at Next Generation Preschool, Champaign, with their class’ acrostic poem about butterflies.

Preschoolers learn about butterflies

Children at Next Generation Preschool, Champaign, have been learning about the life cycle of a caterpillar from a milkweed plant to a monarch butterfly.

The preschool and Twin City Garden Club worked a pollinator garden area at the school in the past as one of their community involvement projects. The children’s display on the life cycle of the butterfly will be on display when the garden club holds a plant sale from 8 a.m. to noon May 1 outside at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on South Prospect Avenue.

Taylor Braastad, science teacher at Next Generation, said the preschoolers and garden club have been teaming up for three years, and each year there is a different project.

“Our program typically hosts about 300 children between the ages of 3 and 5 at any given time,” Braastad said. “All of our students contribute something and reap the benefits of this wonderful partnership from weeding and watering the garden to writing poetry about plants and pollinators. Everyone has something to share.’

She said one of the facts the preschoolers are thrilled to learn is that butterflies taste with their feet.

“We have great fun running around outside and touching things with our toes to be ‘just like a butterfly.’”

C-U at Work Begins Second Season of Prosperity Gardens Partnership

The second full season of the C-U at Work program is beginning this month.

The program will bring fresh produce to local markets and is a joint project of C-U at Home and Champaign Township.

Prosperity Gardens Director Nicole Bridges led a recent walk-through of the garden sites and buildings at 302 N. First St., Champaign.

“It’s April,” she said, “and that means it’s time to get started prepping the garden plots and getting seeds in the ground.”

Last year, project participants built a dozen raised planters in the west gardens, which will be used to raise a variety of crops for produce to be used at Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and farmers markets.

“We are extremely proud of the Prosperity Gardens project and the work that our participants are doing,” Supervisor of City of Champaign Township Andrew J. Quarnstrom said. “Our partnership with C-U at Home has been the key to our success, and the growth of both the C-U at Work program and Prosperity Gardens is extremely exciting.”

Participants in the C-U at Work program earn a weekly wage while working to benefit the community. To remain in the program, they are expected to be reliable and to be looking for housing and permanent work.

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Lemonade is a staple at the summer market at Crossroads Church.

Churches to host winter, summer markets

The final winter market of the season is coming up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 1 at First Presbyterian Church, 100 N. Franklin St., Danville. A summer market follows later in the month at another locale.

Susan Franklin, an organizer, said the winter markets feature crafts, homemade baked goods, candles and soap, while the summer markets feature those types of items plus produce and generally has between 20 and 25 vendors.

The summer market will be held from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday beginning May 15 at Crossroads Church, 3613 N. Vermilion St.

“Almost every Saturday we spotlight a local charity group/organization and assist them in fundraising or whatever mission they might have (signatures, food collection, raffle/ticket sales, whatever they decide),” Franklin said.

A customer loyalty card is also available for anyone who spends $20 with any vendor over any period for which he or she will get $2 in farmer market bucks.

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The public is being asked for help removing garlic mustard plants, an invasive species, from area forest preserve district facilities.

Mean Mr. (Garlic) Mustard

Not all of the plants growing in the area are desirable. No, we’re not talking about just dandelions. Champaign County Forest Preserve District officials are asking for help getting rid of garlic wild mustard.

Lisa Sprinkle, forest preserve district marketing coordinator, said garlic mustard is an invasive species that will take over an area and threaten the native plant life around it.

“Removing garlic mustard is a great reason to get outdoors, breathe some fresh air and help us in our mission to promote native biodiversity,” Sprinkle said.

Once the plant is pulled, it must be removed from the area. The plant will continue to grow and produce seed even after pulled out of the ground.

“You can drop off whatever you have picked at our designated burn piles or at the maintenance shops,” Sprinkle said.

Volunteers already gathered to remove the invasive plant on Thursday, Earth Day. However, two more opportunities remain to help — from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at Homer Lake Forest Preserve and 1 to 3 p.m. May 5 at the Lake of the Woods bike path.

Sprinkle said volunteers are also welcome to pull the invasive plant on their own. There are maps of the designated areas online.

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Sandy Bailey, Mitch Bailey and Melissa Henry look over information on groups that provide gospel music for Morey Chapel Church of Christ.

Country chapel to resume concerts

Morey Chapel Church of Christ, rural Danville, will continue a tradition started before Y2K when it hosts a gospel concert at 5:30 tonight.

Started in 1997 when member Mitch Bailey came up with the idea, the concerts are held the fourth Saturday evening of each month from March through October.

The concerts have featured an array of musical solo, duet and group acts from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

Some of the groups scheduled for this season are The Christian Cavaliers, The Padgetts, Judy Montgomery and Family, The New Jerusalem Singers and Sarah and Carey Collins.

The concerts are followed by a carry-in meal and fellowship. The public is welcome. Masks and social-distancing will be required.

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ABOVE: All of the staff at J.W. Eater Junior High School are shown who bought a shirt to benefit the Rantoul City Schools autism program. RIGHT: Emily Stratton, social worker at Eastlawn, and staff members from The Autism Program at the University of Illinois, Amber Dorn and Kelin Mendoza.

Group raises funds to benefit autism assistance

Rantoul City Schools 137 autism team recently completed its district-wide fundraising project.

The team consists of special education teachers, social workers, a counselor, a school psychologist, an occupational therapist and speech and language pathologists.

The team works to raise awareness and acceptance for people with autism.

They donated the funds raised to The Autism Program at the University of Illinois. TAP provides free services for RCS staff and students.

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Emily Stratton, social worker at Eastlawn Elementary, Rantoul, is shown with two staff members from The Autism Program at the University of Illinois, Amber Dorn and Kelin Mendoza. Money generated at a recent fundraiser was donated to TAP, which provides free services for RCS staff and students.

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