Niche Update: Winter 2022

Welcome to the first installment of what I hope plans to be a seasonal website feature on Sauk Valley Media’s magazine publications – from the writer of most of the articles in them.

This will give a rundown of the articles that have been featured in the SVM family of magazines so far since the calendar turned to 2022.

For those who don’t know, I write almost exclusively for the magazine line (called the “niche publications” in the industry). I’ll still cover football games and the occasional other sports event from time to time, but my primary focus for nearly 2 years has been on writing feature articles for the magazines. About three magazines are published each month, on average.

Writing these articles has been an amazing experience, and it’s been thrilling getting to know different people and places. Plus, the flexibility I have in putting the articles together allows for more information to be packed into them. I can spend more time than usual to perfect them.

This rundown will give you a look at the magazines published from January to March. The rundown includes the “Living” magazines, specialty magazines, as well as the monthly editions of Lake Lifestyle for the Lake Carroll community.

First, a prologue: 2021 ended with the publication of the Sauk Valley Wedding Guide, the largest magazine that I provide articles for. Putting that together was difficult, and there were delays in getting everything in order. That, unfortunately, caused further delays in getting articles for the next few magazines done in a timely manner. Then came a couple of health issues that delayed work even further. This is something that the reader would not notice without prior mention, but on a personal note it caused a snag in getting through life. I do mention it, however, because the attempt to get out of the funk I think will lead to better things going forward, so I hope the best is yet to come.

The April magazines are coming together a lot better, and I hope that pace continues the rest of the way.

So if you’re looking for something to read on your spare time, or really want to “binge read” my latest work, let’s begin:

Northern Illinois Ag Mag

The first of three editions of the year of SVM’s Northern Illinois Ag Mag for the farming community leads with an overview of the agriculture curriculum at Sauk Valley Community College. The college is expanding its program to keep up with advancing technologies, and will add a greenhouse in time for the fall semester.

The farm spotlight is on the Krogman Farm in rural Shannon, home of Krogman Homegrown Meats. They sell choice cuts of beef from their small garage store and online. On the education front, we feature an Amboy High School student who had the opportunity to teach a middle school agriculture class, and learn her experiences of being a young teacher for a semester.

Two societies are featured: 1) The National Society Descendants of American Farmers and its mission to preserve the farming heritage throughout the nation; I did a Q&A with Illinois’ liaison to the national chapter, who hails from Lake Senachwine and was a librarian in Dixon for many years. 2) We also have a look at the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and what it’s doing to help in agriculture. (This one comes courtesy of our friends at FarmWeek.)

Carroll County Living

Four stories are featured in the first of two Carroll County Livings for the year. We lead with the history of the Emmert Stone House, which recently completed a long restoration project from near absolute ruin. It’s Mount Carroll’s second-oldest house, and its grounds have turned into a town park.

For business features, we have stories on Midwest Forestry Unlimited, who rehabs and restores prairie lands of private and public use; as well as Fella’s Pizza in downtown Lanark, and its owner who is looking to make his mother proud.

I also wrote a feature on communities and post office “map dots” that have been “wiped from the map” in Carroll County. Places such as Barth Corners, Panama, Keltner, Tysonville and Nursery (the location of an actual orchard in the county).

Kaleidoscope

Our main feature for the twice-a-year magazine devoted to seniors and senior living in the Sauk Valley is about the Foster Grandparent program at the local schools, operated by the Tri-County Opportunities Council in Rock Falls. I hope to have an additional feature on the grandparents in time for the next magazine, pending editorial approval.

We also have re-runs of two stories that were published late last year in the local “Living” magazines: 1) A story about the 75th anniversary of Rock Falls High School’s basketball team that went undefeated in the regular season, with an interview with its lone survivor. 2) A story about the Dixon Coin Club, run by a pair of seniors who meet once a month to talk about coins and auction theirs off to other members.

Small Town Living (West)

This magazine is for rural Whiteside County (East is for Lee County). We have stories on three businesses, as well as a history piece on a rural Rock Falls farmer who served as the first president of the Illinois State Grange back in 1872.

The business features include: Red Rose Reproductions, based in Emerson, which makes custom woodworking tools to restore old pieces of furniture and other wood decor. Sweet Butts Cotton Candy, based in Deer Grove, makes their own unique blends of cotton candy for local festivals and online sale. Desi Doodles in rural Prophetstown breeds goldendoodles, and has donated dogs to help comfort folks at Winning Wheels and the county sheriffs office.

Sterling-Rock Falls Living

Writing the Sterling-Rock Falls Living magazines are always fun, considering that I have lived there for my entire near-36-year life.

One article had to be split into a two-part series because of length. It’s about how the local parks got their names and the people behind the names. The Sterling parks are featured in this installment, and the Rock Falls parks will be featured in the next edition in the summer.

Also featured is the Muay Thai kickboxing youth ministry at Amazing Grace Church in Sterling, run by a former Thai fighter who is seeking to empower kids through the word of God with kickboxing as a tool. Crafter’s Mill in Rock Falls cranks out custom-made wall signs and engravings from their garage, and have select creations available at local shops. Cochran’s Pub on Rock Falls’ West Second Street strip has been back in business for more than a year now, and it’s got plans to expand mindful of people of all ages, led by an array of arcade games.

Business Journal

The first of four Business Journals for the Sauk Valley features businesses that have been around for more than a century, and their long successes.

Williams Auto Body in Rock Falls has been in business since 1897, and is currently owned by the fifth-generation. All five generations have been direct male descendants, a rarity in Illinois.

Trein’s Jewelry has had a place in downtown Dixon for more than 150 years. The name has changed over the years, but the lineage continues with the current owners, the Brantley Family, who have owned it since 1954.

Sterling Federal Bank is one of the rare “mutual” banking institutions in rural Illinois, having been around since 1885. It’s grown over the years to include branches from Clinton to Byron, and is “not for sale.”

Lake Lifestyle

This year is a special one at Lake Carroll. The private community in Carroll County with the big lake in the middle celebrates 50 years. Throughout the year, we are having historical articles and reader-submitted memories of Lake Carroll history and personal experiences of “life at the lake.”

Lake Lifestyle is a monthly magazine that features people and places both in and around Lake Carroll. We try to give it about a 50-50 mix of Lake Carroll-centric stories and regional tourism, catered to the local who seeks places to visit and hobnob.

January’s edition features a look at three places within an hour’s drive from the lake where people can work on their golf game: a range in Byron and indoor simulators in Dixon and Galt. For “list” compilations, we have ones on things to do in the winter (so plan on these for next winter as you read these), things to do in Savanna, as well as lake-based movies to watch and enjoy. We also take a look at what Lake Carroll has planned for its yearlong celebration of 50 years.

February’s edition focuses on personal stories about how couples enjoy spending time out on the lake, including one couple who first met there. The tourism articles focus on the breweries within an hour’s drive from the lake, as well as a feature on the community of Scales Mound. Our Fella’s Pizza article from Carroll County Living also makes an appearance here.

March’s edition includes stories done by Yours Truly and members of our company’s news staff (I dealt with my aforementioned health issues during the work window on this magazine). We have memories from Lake residents about their fishing days, 10 Things to do in Freeport, and a Q&A with an Eastland High School student who is becoming a leader on the school’s scholastic bowl team. We also have features on Ukulele Station in Oregon, as well as a list of things to do along the first 100 miles of Historic Route 66.

I hope you enjoy the articles. Check back in late June when I give a review of the work done for magazines published between April and June.

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