What has happened to all the bluegrass and country concerts that my lady friend and I used to go to in the area parks in the summer? We used to enjoy Raven Moon, Chris Talley, George Portz and others. Now, we can't find any. -- Louis Krummel, of Fairview Heights
I'm not sure where you're looking, but George Portz jokes that he's fiddling around more than ever.
So is Chris Talley. And just a cursory check of the Internet finds those veteran boot-stompin' troubadours -- the San-an-Tones -- will give you all the country sounds you can handle free of charge from 6 to 8 Sunday in Columbia's Metter Park.
"My wife's band played Friday (Greenville), Saturday (Springfield) and Sunday (Sorento)," Earl Armstrong, Talley's husband, told me earlier this week. "She plays today (Monday) in Bellerive Park in St. Louis. There's just something constantly every weekend, everywhere. I guess it's just not getting advertised.
"Plus, a lot of people who like bluegrass are the older crowd and everything is on the computer nowadays. I think a lot of them guys just can't use the computer."
George Portz can't explain your trouble, either. His schedule has him rosining up his bow constantly between now and the end of October.
"We're just as busy as we've ever been," he said.
He admits that the recent problems at the Miners Theater led to funding problems in Collinsville and, for reasons he can't explain, O'Fallon also dropped his concert. But large crowds recently whooped it up in Troy and New Baden, and he'll be in Edwardsville Aug. 18, Alton Aug. 20, Shiloh Sept. 6 and Maryville Oct. 13. He also reminds fans that, after 23 years, he is leaving the annual Fort Kaskaskia Traditional Musical Festival to help stage the first Festus, Mo., Traditional Music Festival Sept. 21-22.
"I think (Fort Kaskaskia) has a new board, and they didn't want as much traditional music," said Portz, who also hopes to be back in Collinsville soon. "But, by golly, we've just got to stay with what has worked for us all these years. So Festus begged me and begged me, and I said, 'You know, I'm just going to bring it to you.'"
So what you should do is follow your favorites online at such sites as georgeportz.com and chris-talley.com. (The Raven Moon website is gibberish so they may no longer exist.) Don't forget to check city websites like www.columbiaillinois.com and don't hesitate to call Armstrong at the Bluegrass Shack in New Athens at 618-475-3678. And, of course, we'll continue to publish every concert we're told about each Thursday in the BND.
I ride on the local bicycle trails four to six times a week. For a year and a half, a sign at the end of the Richland Creek Connector promised that it would connect to Centennial Park in Swansea by last fall. Now the sign is gone and still no extension. What's going on? -- Harry Doolittle, of Belleville
Trust me, nobody wants to see that project -- and you -- rolling through Swansea more than village Administrator Craig Coughlin. Now, after months of "coming soon," you should be wheeling into the park by the end of the year.
Really. Honest. Hand on the Good Book. If, of course, the creek don't flood and the water don't rise.
"I'm amazed at how long things take sometimes," said Coughlin, who attended a preconstruction meeting just this week.
"But anytime you have a bridge and trails going through a wetland -- the creek area -- you have to get approval from IDNR (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) for it and that takes some time."
Add to that the acquisition of right-of-ways and easements and the awarding of contracts, and you're talking about significant time. Even now, they're waiting for one utility to move a line so a pole can be removed.
But here's the good news: If Mother Nature cooperates, Coughlin says construction should start by the end of this month. Once it does, they have 50 working days (not counting weekends or bad weather) to complete the project. So Centennial Park should be welcoming many new visitors by the end of the year at the latest.
"Right now, they're just waiting on several submittals regarding the bridge crossing the creek that the state is reviewing," Coughlin said. "But those are expected to be approved without any hitch, so we're fully anticipating they'll break ground by the end of August."
How fast does the earth travel around the sun?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: If you're looking for the world's largest collection of hand-tiled mosaics, you don't have to go very far. Beginning in 1912, 20 artists spent the next 76 years installing 41.5 million pieces of glass tesserae in more than 7,000 colors at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Blvd. Covering 83,000 square feet, it is arguably the largest such display in the world, according to the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at St. Louis University. Tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, but call 314-373-8241 for reservations. And if you don't think you know St. Louis as well as you should, consider Amanda Doyle's new book, "100 Things to Do in St. Louis Before You Die."
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.