Best of Springfield®

Best of People & Places

The best of the city

The Inn at 835 835 S. Second St., 217-523-4466
The predictable dОcor of hotel rooms doesn’t hold a candle to the luxury treatment offered up at the Inn at 835, this year’s reader’s choice for Best Bed & Breakfast and Best Place for a Wedding Reception. The inn is a cozy place for newlyweds and silver-anniversary revelers alike to settle in for serious snuggling. Soft linens on the beds, fresh java, and made-to-order breakfast in the morning, plus a wine tasting each evening, are just a few of the amenities that await guests in the fully renovated turn-of-the-century home. For weddings, the inn offers as much as 8,500 square feet of space for the big day, including space for 150 guests in the parlors. The Conservatory, the Inn at 835’s newest and swankiest digs, holds between 250 and 300 party people, and the dance floor sits in the middle of the room — as it should — for maximum boogie potential.
Runner-up, wedding receptions: Crowne Plaza Hotel Runner-up, bed & breakfast: Pasfield House
Tim Griffin
Seven new aldermen duked it out for this top spot, but Ward 10 Ald. Tim Griffin KO’d the competition and got away with a hands-down victory. Griffin, who has yet to really step into the aldermanic spotlight, is a Springfield native who’s been involved in just about everything. He’s held a state position for 28 years, been a representative on the Sangamon County Board, chaired the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, owned and operated several of the city’s martial-arts schools, and now volunteers as a Cub Scout leader and baseball coach for his kids. “Between being an alderman, working, and chasing my kids all around town, I’ve got more than enough things to keep me busy,” Griffin says. During his term as Ward 10 alderman, Griffin hopes to work on the continued development of Iles Avenue and Archer Elevator Road to alleviate traffic and infrastructure concerns. Runner-up: Sam Cahnman
Unlike many middle managers in media, Jim Leach actually works! After his morning show, which broadcasts 6-9 a.m., goes off the air, it isn’t uncommon to spot Leach, who holds the title of news director — he’s a big shot, in other words — out and about covering press conferences, City Council and school-board meetings, and other newsworthy events. But Leach’s work ethic isn’t the only unusual thing about him: An avowed liberal, Leach has sometimes found himself, albeit uneasily, on the same side of the ideological divide as his conservative nemeses on such issues as illegal immigration and Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Runner-up: Johnny Molson and Andy Lee, The Molson & Lee Show, WMAY

BEST SPRINGFIELD BLOG Kimberly Smoot Photography 
Admittedly we were caught off guard by this year’s readers’ pick for blog o’ the year. After all, Springfield is the nexus of the Illinois political world, and there are some pretty good blogs devoted to the subject of politics. We suspect that readers have grown tired of reading about the budget impasse — which is so passО — and special sessions that weren’t special and rarely met the criteria to be called session. Kimberly Smoot’s blog is a departure from all that. As part of your package, Smoot posts customers’ photos to the blog. Asked why she thinks the site has become so popular — some people have professed to be addicted to it — Smoot guesstimates that it’s simply because she posts regularly. That may be true, but the hunky guys, gorgeous girls, and cute kids don’t hurt, either. Runner-up:
It’s been a big month for Springfield’s second-term mayor — he’s reached that 50-year milestone, rubbed shoulders with professional golf greats Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez, and now, for the fourth year running, dominated the competition in the Best Elected Official category. Asked why he thinks he’s so popular with Springfieldians, Davlin laughs: “With me, what you see is what you get. I’m the same person that I was five years ago, and I would hope that if I was changing to be someone different my mom would kick my rear.” Rumors have circulated that sooner or later Davlin will head for Congress, and even though he admits that he’s flattered by the notion, he’s sticking around his hometown for now. “I love what I’m doing, as hokey as that sounds,” he says. “I’m not thinking about something else.”
Runner-up: State Sen. Larry Bomke
Residents of the Oak Park subdivision must be among the healthiest in all of Springfield. The subdivision’s main artery, Barrington Drive, runs straight into farmland, and every third driveway is equipped with a basketball goal. For the subdivision with one of the smallest entrance signs in the 62711 ZIP code, perhaps the biggest perk is its proximity to Rotary Park, which is literally in Oak Park’s back yard. Through a peculiarly placed opening in one neighbor’s fence, Oak Park residents have the easiest access to tennis courts, baseball diamonds, football fields, and a playground. Runner-up: Village of Jerome
Dusty Rhodes Illinois Times
Maybe it’s time to retire this category. For the third year in a row, our own Dusty Rhodes has won, this time edging out veteran State Journal-Register political columnist Bernard Schoenberg by eight votes. It’s probably not because Dusty’s better than Bernie, though. It’s most likely a result of the fact that Dusty shares a moniker with so many legendary dudes, such as the bleached-blond WWE wrestler and the New York Giants pinch hitter, and a seemingly endless assortment of long-lost Army buddies. Bernie, on the other hand, shares his name with a psychiatrist who was apparently famous in his profession but probably not so much so that IT readers would confuse him with the SJ-R’s guy. Our Dusty can’t do a figure-four leg-lock, hit a homer, or shoot straight with any long gun. All she can do is find and cause trouble in a quasi-regular fashion — which is, after all, what we hired her to do. Runner-up: Bernie Schoenberg
Lincoln Tomb Oak Ridge Cemetery, 1500 Monument Ave., 217-782-2717
With so many places to visit in the capital city, who would think that our favorite free tourist destination is one populated by the dead? Of course, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill resting place. Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, located in historic Oak Ridge Cemetery, is a must-see destination for anyone who reveres the Great Emancipator and appreciates classical sculpture. The tomb was dedicated in 1874, about nine years after the president’s death. Lincoln’s remains lie in a cement vault 10 feet below the burial room. Visitors can marvel at the tomb’s impressive sculptures depicting Lincoln and members of the military services that preserved the Union. The most popular piece is the bronze reproduction of Gutzon Borglum’s head of Lincoln, near the entranceway. Abe would probably have laughed to see his nose, shiny from the hoping-for-good-luck rubs of thousands of visitors. Runner-up: Lincoln Home National Historical Site
Pub Crawl
Just about everything has an expiration date, and that’s especially true of newspaper content. Over its 32 years, Illinois Times has published the work of hundreds of different writers, photographers, illustrators, and cartoonists. One thing, however, has remained constant throughout the years: Illinois Times is a leading source of arts-and-entertainment information, including listings of bands performing at area venues — and many of you agree, voting our Pub Crawl feature the best reason to read our newspaper. But band listings aren’t the only thing you like. In addition to shout-outs for various staffers and contributors, your answers included “Covers news no one else does,” “Fewer typos than the SJ-R,” “Good balanced coverage,” “Groundbreaking stories,” “Hilarious and predictable liberal viewpoints,” “Horoscopes,” “It is about Springfield,” “It rocks,” “Line pet cages with,” “Somewhat intelligent reading in a very, ummm, ‘complacent’ part of the country,” “Strip-club coupon,” “You can read and find out about lots of new things,” and “It’s coooooooooolllllll!” (For the record, we no longer publish a horoscope, and strip-club ads haven’t appeared in this paper in more than five years.) Our favorite answer: “Who knows?”
Runner-up: Good articles
BEST PLACE TO ADOPT A PET Animal Protective League 1001 Taintor Rd., 217-544-7387
Darcy, a sweet-tempered special-needs pooch, greets visitors at the door of the Animal Protective League with a big grin and a soft wag of the tail. She’s just one of nearly 200 forgotten animals that await new families at the shelter, a bustling not-for-profit organization that takes in 300 calls daily and finds homes for nearly 1,800 cats and dogs each year. There’s no mystery as to why the APL beat out its competition by 186 votes: It’s the only shelter in Springfield that doesn’t euthanize for space, it’s open for adoptions every day of the week, and it boasts the only low-cost spay/neuter clinic in the Springfield area, even bringing in other shelters’ animals for surgeries. It doesn’t hurt that the animals receive the best care possible, from thrice-daily walks for hounds to a special loft with nifty “cat trees” for felines, either. Runner-up: Sangamon County Animal Control

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