MATTOON — Applications are being taken through Monday for the city's annual drawing on Aug. 3 to assign waterfowl hunting privileges at Lake Mattoon.
The city has 12 blind locations designed for waterfowl hunting at the lake. Applicants for these blinds must reside in Coles, Cumberland or Shelby counties and be at least 18 years old.
The application deadline is 4 p.m. Monday. The annual drawing to assign waterfowl hunting privileges will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Lake Mattoon Beach pavilion.
More information is available by contacting Lake Supervisor Joel Pittman at 217-254-6680, park office staff member Debbie Crean at 217-234-3611, or the clerk's office at 217-235-5654.
JG-TC coverage of Bagelfest in Mattoon
Watch now: Janie Youhas named volunteer of the year at Bagelfest
MATTOON — Bagelfest organizers named Janie Youhas as their volunteer of the year on Saturday night on the main stage. Youhas was all smiles as she accepted the award on the last night of Bagelfest.
“She really is an awesome person, always happy and just ready to do whatever you need her do and that's a true volunteer,” said Bagelfest organizer Kim Janssen.
Youhas has been helping with Bagelfest for nearly 20 years, setting up the event and working in any conditions.
“Sometimes it’s rain, as we all know, this week,” said Tourism and Arts Director Angelia Burgett as she announced the award on the mainstage before the Resurrection: A Journey Tribute Band concert. “Volunteers like Janie are what keeps us going.”
The obstacle of rain cannot be ignored when it came to this year's Bagelfest. The torrential downpour on Thursday night caused the cancellation of Scott Wattles' band shell concert and threatened even more activities.
"We've never had that much rain," said Burgett on Friday. "There was just no way to get ahead of it."
Keeping that in mind, volunteers like Youhas and more were tasked with draining the backstage area with buckets, eventually making it possible for patrons to see Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder on Friday night.
"There's always a smile on her face and she's always willing to do anything anyone asks her," said Janssen.
This year, Youhas was particularly happy to get back to Bagelfest because it meant getting back to normal: doing what she loves to do.
"I was really upset to not be able to help out because of the COVID, and everything," said Youhas.
The COVID-19 pandemic made hosting large events a danger to the health of community members, so Bagelfest was canceled last year.
Lucky for Youhas and many others, Bagelfest came back in full swing this year.
“I like the people, the atmosphere, and just feeling like I'm doing something really special,” said Youhas. “You know, I love making people smile. And they make me smile.”
The recognition came as a surprise to Youhas, as the Bagelfest team kept the award a secret until it was revealed Saturday night.
"I didn't even know it," said Youhas, amazed.
Youhas is retired and lives in Mattoon with her husband. She has two daughters and is expecting a granddaughter in September.
Youhas also volunteers at the Family Worship Center, where she goes to church.
The Volunteer of the Year Award was created in memory of “Big Al” Al Krietemeier, who was heavily involved as a vendor and more in the creation of what Bagelfest is today.
He died in 2015, and his family was present at Saturday's award ceremony.
Other volunteers who have been recognized in the past include John and Leann Polston in 2015, Carlos Hood in 2016, Aaron Black in 2017, the Johan Peter family in 2018, and Clayton Leffler in 2019.
Watch now: Bagelfest brings the party to Mattoon
MATTOON — Bagelfest is always a special tradition for the Mattoon area, but many agreed as they gathered on the final day: This year is special.
“I'm just glad we are back to normal,” said Jewel Harbin, who came with her whole family to the parade. “My God, the first day back, there was a ton of people and everybody was just all echoing the same thing: ‘We are just happy to be out and get that normalcy, to get back in touch.’ We were just happy. You see, we brought all the kids out.”
Last year's Bagelfest was canceled to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The lifting of several precautions and the vaccination of thousands of people allowed the festival to go on this year.
The morning began with the Mattoon YMCA Run for the Bagel at 6:30 a.m., followed by a free bagel breakfast, music at the Rotary Bandshell, and the parade.
“I will say the parade is (my favorite) because I'm like a big kid,” said Harbin, laughing. “And even at night when the festival lights come on, I love that.”
“My favorite part is the candy,” said Harbin’s nephew, 10-year-old Davon Johnson. Johnson also loves the carnival rides.
Among the favorite activities for kids this year were the carnival and the bubbles at The Bubble Lady tent in Peterson Park, which let people of all ages make bubbles large and small free of charge.
“It’s been rainy and we can’t bubble with rain, but it’s looking good, today. A lot of people are out and we’re going to get a lot of bubbles up in the air,” said The Bubble Lady owner Jill Markland after the parade.
This year’s Bagelfest was troubled with bad weather at the start, but Saturday’s weather was ideal: a sunny day no hotter than 80 degrees.
“At least right now, it's not that hot, it's not that cold, it's not raining — that's the best part,” said Romel Torrepalma, who has been coming to Bagelfest for 19 years. He also brought his family from Charleston to enjoy Bagelfest.
Some attendees came from out of state to see Bagelfest and connect with the community. This includes Marilyn and Gary Wooddell, who were originally from Mattoon but now live in Texas. They often come to visit Marilyn’s mother, June Ground, this time of year. Catching Bagelfest is always somewhat of an unofficial reunion.
“We get to see people we know that we don't get to see very often,” said Marilyn Wooddell. The pair also loved the vendors and the free music.
This year, patrons were relieved to see one of the big performances: Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, which played on Friday.
“The city does well. I’m a little old for the (carnival) rides, but I like the entertainment that they bring in,” said Bill Eisel, who has lived in Mattoon for over 30 years. Eisel was pleased to see Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. “I don't know how we got somebody of his name in here so cheap; the tickets were just unbelievably cheap. If you put them in Las Vegas, you’ll pay $75 to $100 for the same act.”
The excitement for live entertainment is a breath of fresh air for performers, too, including the weekend's final performers, Resurrection: A Journey Tribute Band.
"We are happy they let us into the festival and there was a lot of happy faces," said lead singer Ryan Christopher after they arrived in Mattoon around 2 p.m.
"It makes what we do that much easier," said drummer Jim Handley. "People want to come out, they want to have a good time. They want to see their friends."
Resurrection: A Journey Tribute Band performed in town a few years ago and was scheduled to come back, but they were delayed once in 2019 and one more time for the pandemic. This is their first year back, and they have been touring the country.
"It's getting back to what we love to do," said Christopher. "I'm sure there's a lot of people out there, it doesn't matter what they do as far as their employment, they're just happy to be able to get back around their social circle and around what they love to do."
"Everybody is here," said Bagelfest organizer Kim Janssen. "It's a celebration and they can come out and just enjoy today. That's what I'm enjoying as I go through there: The carnival is packed, the midway is packed. Tonight it will be, too. This is just a party."
Watch now: Bagelfest rebounds after bad weather on Thursday
MATTOON — Vendors and patrons hoping to enjoy Friday’s Bagelfest activities found pleasant surprise: the weather was finally cooperating, though it didn’t look promising at first.
“This morning didn't look so great, but it started to clear up,” said Mattoon Tourism and Arts director Angelia Burgett.
Severe weather Thursday pushed the festival to cancel the performance of I Am They and forced many vendors to close shop early. Burgett and other Bagelfest facilitators worried early they would need to make alternative plans for Friday’s performance of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder.
“We have such an unusual situation with number of people who have already purchased tickets: we just don't have that instant place where we can just move it (the performance) inside,” said Burgett.
By Friday afternoon, 1,200 people had already bought tickets to see the performance of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder on the Main Stage. They determined there is no indoor venue in Mattoon that could host that number of people.
“We have lots of great spaces, they're just not huge,” said Burgett, noting that most venues could not hold more than 500 or 600 people. “And, of course, having a stage and a sound system: we don't have that ready to go on any location, too. So that's another challenge.”
More people came to enjoy the carnival rides on Friday, and do some shopping with the vendors who had set up tents in more favorable conditions.
“It’s nicer today than it was yesterday; it was pretty muggy then,” said Mike Shine, owner of Champaign-based Dreams Custom Works.
Shine set up his space in the rain on Thursday and stuck around until it proved too wet to stay open.
"We did OK, we didn't sell anything yesterday but I sold some stuff today just in the short period of time I've been here," said Shine.
The rain was a history-maker for Bagelfest.
“It was the worst I've ever seen. We never canceled music, before,” said Burgett, who has been working with the local events for 16 years. “We canceled small pieces, but even that, usually we can put it off to a different time.”
Watch now: New generation of Lender connects with family's bagel roots at Mattoon plant
MATTOON — Carl Lender's visit to Mattoon this week was an opportunity to once again visit Bagelfest and reconnect with his family's roots.
Lender's grandfather started Lender's Bagels, which are solely produced at a plant in Mattoon.
For his daughter, Olivia Lender, it was a working trip.
Olivia Lender has been interning at the Lender's Bagels plant in Mattoon for parent company Bimbo Bakeries USA. The opportunity makes the 21-year-old college junior the first of the fourth generation in her family to work for Lender’s Bagels.
"I wanted her to have the experience of working for Lender's. That was very important to me," Carl Lender said Wednesday night after he and his wife, Rachel, arrived in Mattoon with Olivia.
Carl Lender grew up working on the factory floors and in the offices of the Lender's Bagels company that his grandfather, Polish immigrant Harry Lender, founded in 1927 in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, the late Murray Lender, served as chief executive officer for Lender's as the company pioneered mass producing bagels and freezing them for shipment to supermarkets in the 1960s.
The Lender family sold the company in 1984 to Kraft Foods. Lender's Bagels subsequently opened its Mattoon plant in 1986 in a repurposed Kraft factory at 3801 Dewitt Ave.
Carl Lender, who now resides in South Florida, said he brought his daughter to Mattoon in early June because he wanted her to tour the factory for the first time before she started her human relations internship with Bimbo Bakeries USA. The Mattoon bakery is the sole production facility for Lender's Bagels, which Bimbo Bakeries USA purchased last year.
Olivia Lender said she is thankful to have an intern position, particularly one affiliated with Lender's Bagels, at a time when many companies still have not fully restarted their internship programs or are only offering virtual programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bimbo Bakeries USA internship has given Olivia Lender, who is a human relations and psychology major at High Point University in North Carolina, experience in her field of study. She has gotten to work with billboard placement, interview scheduling, and other projects.
"As a student internship opportunity, this was a great thing for her this summer," Carl Lender said. He added that Olivia has developed human relations skills that will help her in her future career and has worked diligently, even during times when she would normally be relaxing on summer vacation.
Olivia Lender said most of her work has been remote, but this has given her the opportunity to talk with Bimbo Bakeries USA employees and job applicants from across the country. She said she was looking forward to getting to help on-site at the Mattoon plant this week and to attend the festival. She said the plant has been busy with its normal operations and with its Bagelfest preparations.
Community leaders organized the first Bagelfest in 1986 as a way to welcome Lender's Bagels to Mattoon and their celebration subsequently became an annual event. Olivia Lender's grandfather, Murray, was a frequent visitor to Bagelfest in its early years and her father has attended in the past, too.
"I have never been to Bagelfest before, so this is going to be interesting," Olivia Lender said, adding that she plans to take part Saturday morning in the Run for the Bagel. She also plans to attend the free bagel breakfast that morning at the Demars Center with Carl and Rachel Lender.
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder's concert still on for Friday at Bagelfest
MATTOON — What was expected to be a rainy day stayed dry, giving the all-clear to many Bagelfest activities.
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder are still scheduled to perform on the Main Stage in Peterson Park at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15 each.
The carnival is open and vendors are selling refreshments and more.
Concert ticket can be purchased online until 4 p.m. at www.mattoonbagelfest.com. In-person sales are at the Peterson House until 4 p.m. and resume at the concession stand at Grimes Field at 5 p.m.
Gates open at 6 p.m.
"Keep your fingers crossed that all parts of the day are rain free and proceed at scheduled," officials wrote in a Facebook post.