Pulse: Earth Hour, Blackwell, Kline Creek, Charles Vincent George Architects

The city of Naperville is switching off its downtown tree lights for the last time Saturday during Earth Hour. It might just become a tradition — the nod to the conservation initiative already is in its second year.

“It’s a symbolic gesture on the part of the city to recognize this global event,” communication specialist Kate Schultz said. “We are encouraging residents and businesses alike to turn off non-essential lights and other electronic items.”

Earth Hour is an initiative sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund designed to raise awareness about conserving the planet’s resources and launching initiatives to cultivate a sustainable world.

DuPage County also will observe Earth Hour, which begins at 8:30 p.m. Pete DiCianni, commissioner on the DuPage County Board, said the county has participated in Earth Hour the past eight years and continues to turn off all nonessential security equipment and lighting.

“This year, organizers are also promoting ‘beyond the hour’ by undergoing energy audits and identifying additional improvements that can be made,” DiCianni said. “We have accomplished the ‘lower-hanging fruit’ and are now taking this to the next level.”

International acclaim

Architectural firm earns spotlight

Two very different custom homes designed by Charles Vincent George Architects have been featured in luxury design magazines in Chicago and internationally recently.

The Naperville architectural firm, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is known for its custom residential designs and renovations throughout the Chicago suburbs, as well as a variety of commercial and recreational projects.

A fall 2013 cover story in Luxe Interiors and Design offered a 10-page spread on a 7,000-square-foot English cottage-style home in Naperville designed by the residential design team at the firm.

In an article titled “European Redux,” the journal described the five-bedroom, eight-bath home as a transitional house combining the best of old-world charm with present-day amenities and a lighter color palette. From the outside, the house has classic French Country elements, including arched windows and doorways, steeply pitched roof lines, and detailed cupolas and natural cut stone. An inner courtyard connects the study, main gallery, dining room and kitchen.

In contrast, the home featured in the winter 2014 issue of Modern Luxury Interiors focuses on a 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath, four-square American farmhouse with plenty of contemporary touches for a family moving from the city to Elmhurst.

This home also is scheduled to be featured in the well-known Italian luxury magazine Ville & Casali, which focuses on prestigious country living, and is distributed in Italy, France, Germany, England and Spain.

“Charles Vincent George Architects is blessed with very talented residential designers,” CEO and President Bruce George says. “This is certainly confirmed by the fact that these well-respected design magazines have chosen to publish our work.”

Growing accolade

Blackwell named Best of the West

If you’ve ridden your bicycle or spent the day at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, you know why it’s such a great place to experience nature.

Readers of West Suburban Living Magazine know this, too, naming it the best park or forest preserve in the magazine’s 18th annual “Best of the West” readers’ poll.

“Blackwell has been popular since the initial acquisitions were made in the 1960s, and it’s gratifying to know that generations of visitors have been able to take part in new activities as the preserve has grown,” said D. “Dewey” Pierotti Jr., president of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, in a press release.

Blackwell is the fifth-largest forest preserve in DuPage County and tops the charts in recreational features, including 7 miles of trails, three fishing lakes, an archery range, a youth-group campground and an off-leash dog area.

In summer, visitors also can rent boats on Silver Lake or spend a night under the stars at the family campground. The McKee Marsh area is home to one of the district’s first habitat restoration projects, and the stretch of the West Branch of the DuPage River that runs through the preserve has recently benefited from the district’s involvement in a large-scale restoration project along 8 miles of the waterway.

Other forest preserves in DuPage County honored include Danada in Wheaton, third best, and Greene Valley in Naperville, Herrick Lake in Wheaton and Waterfall Glen in Darien noted as other favorites. The Graue Mill and Museum in Oak Brook, which is owned by the Forest Preserve District and operated by a nonprofit group, was named second best historic landmark or attraction.

“It’s clear that our readers recognize that one of the best things about living in the western suburbs are the many beautiful open spaces and outdoor recreational facilities offered through the Forest Preserve District,” says Chuck Cozette, editor of West Suburban Living.

Ewe coming?

See newborn lambs at Kline Creek

Mary had a little lamb — we all know that rhyme. If you’d like to see a real one, kids and adults alike can see several lambs at Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living-history farm at 1n600 County Farm Road in West Chicago,

A few lambs have joined the flock of Southdown sheep, and several ewes were expected to give birth during the last few weeks.

“Sometimes mom can do everything on her own, but our staff and volunteers are at the ready this time of year to intervene if needed for a successful birth,” says Keith McClow, manager of Kline Creek Farm. “We’re always ready to share the historical perspective with visitors, too, so they learn how lambs provide income for farmers and what it takes to raise them.”

Visitors may see the lambs and talk with staff and volunteers about their care during the farm’s hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays. Outbuildings, including the sheepfold, close at 4:30 p.m. Admission to the farm is always free.

Staff and volunteers prepared for lambing season by caring for the mothers-to-be with prenatal vaccinations and a bit of extra feed during pregnancy and thoroughly cleaning the barn.

The flock will take center stage during sheep-shearing weekend April 26 and 27. For information on these and other opportunities at Kline Creek Farm, call 630-876-5900.

Grand champs

Waubonsie Valley show choirs rock

Why not save the best for last? That’s what Waubonsie Valley show choirs Sound Check and Girls in Heels did during their final competition of the season March 15 at the Grand River Singers National Invitational in La Crosse, Wis.

“Both groups had their best performances of the year, which is always our goal,” said Mark Meyers, choral music educator at Waubonsie. “I’m a 2001 graduate of North Central College; toward the end of this competition season, I decided to borrow the classic (cross country coach) Al Carius philosophy of ‘run for fun and personal bests.’”

Apparently the sport motto works with music as well.

Both Sound Check and Girls in Heels were named grand champions of their respective divisions, beating out choirs from around the country.

“I have appreciated the hard work and dedication of our students; we ask so much of them, and they always rise to the occasion,” Meyers said. “They are incredibly positive in rehearsals and just a lot of fun to work with.”

Check out the talented groups during their final concert performances of the year April 11 and 12 at Waubonsie Valley High School. Tickets ($15 for adults/$10 for students and seniors) can be purchased at www.wvhsmusic.org. Also follow them on Twitter at @WVHSshowchoirs.

Just business

Virtual grand opening at Neuqua Valley

It’s only fitting that a virtual company should have a virtual grand opening, and that’s just what they did March 24 at Neuqua Valley High School.

Business students from the three Virtual Enterprise International classes welcomed parents, community business leaders and school administrators to the grand opening, ribbon cutting and all.

“Each class period of Virtual Enterprise International operates as a virtual company, with students performing tasks required of a real business,” said teacher Mandy Dunham, who facilitates the course along with teacher John Hanson.

“The event was held as a way to recognize the hard work and authentic learning that the students have been engaged in since the start of the school year.”

In the innovative course, students are hired for positions ranging from CEO to employees within departments like marketing, accounting and human resources. Throughout the year, the teens run their companies in the virtual enterprise world where they buy and sell virtual products from other schools within the program.

Now that’s getting down to business.

A little Cloudy

Getting her Irish up?

A distraught woman called Naperville police earlier this month to her home in the far west-central part of town.

The 38-year-old told police she had experienced a “suspicious incident,” and “reported discovering a wooden table knocked over and damaged in her apartment, as well as two small scuffs on the screen of her television she could not account for,” a written police narrative stated. The damage apparently occurred between noon March 14 and 8 a.m. March 15.

The woman “initially believed someone entered her apartment and committed the damage while she was out at a St. Patrick’s Day party,” the narrative continued. “But the apartment was locked, there was no sign of forced entry (and) no one else has keys (or) access to the apartment …”

All that having been said, the woman conceded “she did consume a significant amount of alcohol during that time, and admits it is possible she inadvertently did the damage herself.”

The police investigation of the matter has been classified as “inactive.”