Peoria IL, Balloons, and Concession Stand Duty

If you are a new reader to my blog, welcome.  I hope you like what you read and will join me often.  Welcome back to those of you that are regular readers.  Thank you for your continued support.  Whether this is your first time reading my blog or you’ve been following along for some time, please feel free to leave me a comment about the blog or to recommend future topics.  And of course, I hope you will share my blog with your friends.  Hey, here’s a challenge, let’s see if we can get 1,000 readers over the next two weeks.  Simply forward the link to this blog to your friends.  I’m curious as to how quickly we’ll reach 1,000 readers.

So today, I’m going to write about a few items, so let’s get started ….

Peoria, Illinois

My family and I recently drove up to Peoria, Illinois to meet some family.  In all the time we’ve lived in St. Louis, we’ve never had the opportunity to make the three-hour drive to Peoria.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend as I had to be back home by 6:00P for my “Concession Stand” duty at school (more to follow on this).

According to Wikipedia … Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River and the county seat of Peoria County.   The city was established in 1691, making it the oldest European settlement in Illinois.  It was established by the French explorer Henri de Tonti, Peoria, and is named after the Peoria tribe (hey, getting back to my Native American roots!).  As of the 2010 census, the city was the seventh-most populated in Illinois, with a population of 115,007. The Peoria Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 373,590 in 2011, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the state after the Chicago metropolitan area, and the Metro-East portion of the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Peoria has become famous as a representation of the average American city because of its demographics and its perceived mainstream Midwestern culture. As they say “back in the day” on the Vaudeville circuit, it was said that if an act would succeed in Peoria, it would work anywhere.  The question “Will it play in Peoria?” has now become a metaphor for whether something appeals to the American mainstream public.  Peoria is headquarters for Caterpillar Inc., one of the 30 companies composing the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  Although we didn’t get a chance to do any sightseeing,   from the quick trip we had, we all agreed we’d really like to get back there soon and see more.

The Great Forest Park Balloon Race 

This weekend was the 40th Anniversary of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race at Central Field in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri.  In the past, we’ve seen the Balloon Glow as well as the actual race, but that was years ago.

The Great Forest Park Balloon Race was founded by renowned balloonists Nikki Caplan and John O’Toole in 1973, and taken over by four, young, enthusiastic balloonists: John Marlow, John Schaumburg, Dan Schettler and Ted Staley in 1977. What started with four newly certified balloonists and a whimsical group dubbed the Mississippi River Balloon Transit Company, today hails as the organization of the most well-attended, single-day balloon race in the country.

I share this with you, because, as we were rushing back from Peoria, we crossed over from Illinois into Missouri on I-64/40 just in time to see the balloons as they floated from Forest Park heading west.  I’m including a few pictures in the slide show that follows.

Concession Stand Duty!

My kids have played soccer for years.  And as part of the program that we belong to, when you register the kids, parents make a commitment to work in the Concession Stand one time (for about three hours) during the season or pay a $100 commitment fee.  Now, my grandson has been playing soccer for about five years and I have been very happy that each year, either because of rain or some other game cancelling issue, I was able to escape this.  As a matter of fact, all of the parents I know dread concession stand duty.  And wouldn’t you know, in our final year in youth soccer and my luck wore out.  This year I’d need to fulfill my commitment.

So after racing back home from our wonderful day trip to Peoria, I got to the Concession Stand at my appointed time of 6:00PM.  Being the friendly guy I am, I introduced myself to the Director and explained I had never worked in a Concession Stand before.  He said great and for the next few minutes proceed to conduct my “on-the-job” training after which he let me know he was taking off for another commitment, I’d be on my own for the next hour, and he’d be back before the end of the night.

What?  On my own?  Is he for real?   I guess this is payback, for all those times I escaped.

So I started by making popcorn.  I turned on the theater-style popper and dumped in the oil and seasoned corn.  It finally started popping as people were coming up to buy their “delicious” refreshments.

Two sodas – no problem

A candy bar – go it

A pretzel – got it right here (thank goodness they had some hanging on that pretzel merry-go-round thing.

As I cashed folks out, I smelled the popcorn … burning.  OMG!  My first batch was burnt!  So I quickly threw it away and started a second batch.

More sodas – no problem

A couple of ring pops – OK

Nacho’s and cheese please – WHAT?  Where are the nacho chips and cheese?  I felt bad but I had to tell them to come back later because we were just getting things warmed up.  They looked at me with that questionable look, but walked away.

I put a few hot dogs onto the heated roller machine figuring someone would certainly want a nice warm hot dog during the game.  Just then, a young soccer player came running up saying he needed a bag of ice for another player who twisted his ankle.  Wow, terrific!  I’m trained in First Aid/CPR, I teach emergency preparedness class across the United States, and I’m a member of a Search and Rescue team.  This is right up my alley!  I had the ice machine full of ice, I just need a bag.  Where are the bags?  I saw the AED hanging on the wall.  I saw the first aid kit, but no bags for ice.  The more cabinets I looked in the less I saw and now I started to panic.  All I need is a freak’in plastic bag for ice.  Where are the freak’in plastic bags????   Finally, I found a zip-lock bag, filled it with ice and sent the young man on his way to help his friend.

I had a moment to relax.  Hmmm, that smells like smoke.  I burnt the popcorn again!  Why me????

So I cleaned out the popper again and started a third batch.  While the corn was popping I also figured out where the nacho chips were and how to get that orang goo they call nacho cheese out of the machine.  But still no hot dog sales.

Finally, after an hour, two moms showed up saying they were there to help out for the evening.  I introduced myself to them and they both said hesitantly that they had never worked in a Concession Stand before.  Needless to say I said “No problem, I’ve done this many times and that I’d help them get settled in by showing them what to do”.

I’ve also included a picture from the Concession Stand.

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CERT Videos

I want to leave you with a couple of links to some comical CERT videos that were made this week by students attending CERT Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager classes at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg, MD.  My fellow instructors (great instructors and good friends) Paul, Wilson, Joe, and Alan taught there this week.  From these video’s, it appears we missed a couple of great classes.  These video’s are TERRIFIC!

The CERTurian 

CERT Buddy 

Getting Prepared In a Year

We continue on our journey to becoming prepared at home.  Here’s a few more things  you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

From your local Grocery store, pick up the following items:

  • Canned meat (tuna, chicken, ravioli, chili, beef stew, Spam, corned beef, etc.)
  • Can vegetables (green beans, kernel corn, peas, beets, kidney beans, carrots, etc.)
  • Box of large heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Kleenex
  • A box of quick-energy snacks (like granola bars or raisins)

Things to Do:

Find out if you have a neighborhood safety organization and join it.  If you aren’t sure, call your local police or fire department (please do not dial 9-1-1) and ask.  If you don’t have a neighborhood safety organization, consider starting one.


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