Rivian 20The Illinois’ Manufacturers Association has begun its fourth annual Makers Madness Contest, a state-wide tournament where the public can vote for their favorite product made in Illinois.

The contest consists of a bracket styled tournament, which begins with a public nomination period that ends Feb. 19. Once nominations are complete, voters will be able to select their 16 favorite products, which will go head-to-head until a winner is decided.

Last year’s winner was Normal Illinois’ very own all-electric truck, the Rivian R1T. The truck received the majority of over 200,000 votes last year, winning the title of “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.” Rivian Automotive is based in Normal, and have produced over 14,000 electric vehicles since they opened their doors.

Nominations are accepted through Feb. 19. The winner will be announced on March 29.

People can nominate a product here

2023 Schedule:
Nominations Accepted: February 2 – 19
Nomination Voting: February 21 – March 5
First Round (Top 16): March 7 – 12
Second Round (Top 8): March 14 – 19
Final Round (Top 4): March 21 – 26
Winner Announced: March 29

jimmyOn Jan. 13, the famed Jimmy John’s store known for delivering its sub sandwiches at the speed of light celebrated its opening 40 years ago in Charleston. The original owner, Jimmy John Liautaud, began the franchise as a hot dog stand originally. The Arlington Heights native quickly realized, however, that hot dogs were not selling well and had to turn to other options if he wanted to be successful and pay back his father for helping him out.

After some research into Chicago hot dog stands, Liautaud realized that it would be too expensive to continue that route and switched to sub sandwiches. His reasoning for picking sub sandwiches was the fact that he could get deli meat for cheap, as he was struggling to pay back his father for the loan he got from him to originally start the hot dog stand right after he graduated from high school. He felt he could easily turn a profit from having more options to provide to cater to more people. His next step would be perfecting his bread recipe, and from there he decided to venture out and start advertising his products.

After long, grueling hours and even handing out free sandwiches to dorm rooms at nearby colleges, Jimmy John's finally opened on Jan. 13, 1983. The original building was a two-car garage turned into pizza store that happened to fail so he got it for a fair price. Today, Jimmy John's is headquartered in Champaign-Urbana and has almost 3,000 locations across 43 states. After many freaky fast deliveries, Jimmy John’s continues to be another example of successful businesses flourishing from Illinois.

lagoIn the northwestern part of Illinois known as the Quad Cities lies a little bit of sweet history – Lagomarcino’s, one of the last soda-candy confectioneries in the nation. Since 1908, Lagomarcino’s has been a staple to Moline. From their own homemade ice cream to the famous soda fountain follies, it’s no wonder this place is so well loved that it opened their second location right across the river in Davenport, Iowa.

For more than 110 years, the confectionery has been making chocolates, candy, and homemade ice cream. Currently, the store has been passed down four generations within the Lagomarcino family and is still using the same original copper kettle kitchen at the original Moline location.

The story begins with Angelo Lagomarcino emigrating from Italy in the late 1800s. After getting married, he worked in Burlington, Iowa, with his brother Carl, and in 1908 Angelo decided Moline was the best location to have his own business. He created a wide array of fine chocolates, sundaes, and malts that are still on the menu to this day.

The family run store has also won a number of awards, including the prestigious James Beard Foundation America’s Classic Award in 2006. This award is given out to only a handful of owned restaurants that have a “timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” Since the creation of the institution, they have gone on to serve more than just sweet treats and have a whole menu of classic American food.

According to their website, they plan to keep going on for at least another 100 years or more. A little piece of Americana that is still prevalent to this day is a feat on its own. Every major holiday has specialty themed sweets and items crafted upon the day of celebration – from candy apples to deliciously made Christmas tree chocolates, this spot is definitely one to check out in Illinois!

u of chicago“Everything begins with an idea,” said Earl Nightingale. Ideas have the power to change the world. University of Chicago has played host to some of the most powerful ideas in the world. A new series of video shorts from University of Chicago aim to highlight the role the researchers and scientists of the University have played in changing the universe and our understanding of it. The series is called “The Day Tomorrow Began” and portrays compelling stories in video, podcast and written formats. Every story details a groundbreaking and gripping idea or discovery.

Could you ever imagine a star collapsing in on itself? A light, once shining so bright, suddenly turning into the darkest void you have ever seen. Indian-American scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar could imagine it. He is the first story topic covered, for his role in discovering black holes. In 1931, at only the age of 19, Chandrasekhar was the first person to calculate that stars would ultimately collapse in on themselves at the end of their lives. And if the star had enough mass, it would create a black hole. This is only one of the fascinating stories the series has to tell.  

Thinkers and scholars of the world have always advanced our way of life. Today, higher education and its researchers are facing challenges when it comes to lack of funding. The series was created, in part, as a hope to reinvigorate people’s passion for research and new ideas. “There’s a tremendous belief that universities need to play, and do play, a role in helping drive innovations and breakthroughs that really reshape our world,” said Paul Rand, vice president for communications at the University of Chicago.

 To watch or listen to the captivating series “The Day Tomorrow Began”, you can visit here.

ChristkindlmarketLooking for a great place to enjoy holiday cheer? Look no further! Last holiday season Chicago’s Christkindlmarket was ranked the third best holiday market in the U.S. in 2021 by U.S Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. This year the market is expected to not only maintain, but exceed expectations. Established in 1996 by the German American Events, LLC, the Chicago market plays host to international and local vendors, supplying a unique array of items for all visitors. The market is located in the Daley Plaza of downtown Chicago, and the German-style outdoor market has become so popular multiple locations in Aurora and Wrigleyville have been added over the years. This year the market will run from Nov. 18 – Dec. 24, Sundays – Thursdays: a.m. – 8 p.m. and Fridays – Saturdays: 11a.m. – 9 p.m.  

History of the market goes all the way back to 16th century Germany, where in Nuremberg the first Christkindlmarket was established. It was the first outdoor market of its kind. The Chicago market takes inspiration from Nuremberg. Every year Chicago, and its Aurora and Wrigleyville counterparts, seek to unite German and European tradition and support local and international vendors. The markets in Illinois are known for their high quality of vendor food, drinks, gifts and holiday cheer. For over 20 years now, the Chicago Christkindlmarket has been a haven for creating fun and unique family memories during the holidays.

Items that can be found at the vendors storefronts include things like Christmas ornaments from Bavarian Tradition, Belgian hot chocolate blends from Bob’s Hot Chocolate, olive wood handcrafted items like music boxes from Bethlehem Nativity, or handcrafted bags and wallets from Ecodunia. If shoppers cannot wait for the markets to open to buy these wonderful items, they can even buy them online. Illinois’ Christkindlmarkets are a staple of the holiday season in the state and they create memories that last a lifetime.

To learn more about all three Christkindlmarkets located in Illinois, and to shop from their vendors online, you can visit here.