Stories by Erica Gunderson

WTTW News Explains: How Did Dibs Become a Chicago Winter Tradition?

Every winter, Chicago stands divided around a practice commonly known as “dibs” – when car owners use janky household objects to reserve their precious shoveled-out parking spaces. So how did it begin? 

The Maybeland diorama by Ronald Konecki. (Erica Gunderson / WTTW News)

Wanted: A New Home for Miniature ‘Maybeland,’ a Fantasy Christmas Display Inspired by an Old-Time Radio Serial

In suburban St. Charles, a whimsical Christmas fantasy of lollipop forests, root-beer oceans and glittering ice castles lies hidden away. The fanciful landscapes of “Maybeland” were handcrafted in intricate miniature by a Chicago father who made it all to display every Christmas season.

Daniel Regueira, Chicago Cane Cooperative co-founder, is pictured in May 2023. (Erica Gunderson / WTTW News)

After Devastating Crash, Co-Founder of Cooperative Distiller Still Working to Bring Caribbean-Style Rum and Aspirational Practices to Chicago

A recent accident gave local rum distillery Chicago Cane Cooperative a big challenge just months after starting. But the owners of the business are moving forward with their big plans.

Brookfield’s Galloping Ghost Arcade is home to more than 950 games. (WTTW News)

At Brookfield’s Galloping Ghost Arcade, Video Game Culture Gets a Power-Up

From the beckoning screens to the bleeping chiptunes, the sounds and sights of a video game arcade are unlike anything else. Those who crave that in-person experience need look no further than Brookfield’s Galloping Ghost Arcade.

Tacos from Penelope’s Vegan Taqueria. (Erica Gunderson / WTTW News)

Making Mexican Food Meat-Free at Penelope’s Vegan Taqueria and El Hongo Magico

When it comes to tacos, the first thing on many people’s minds is what kind of meat is going to be inside that tortilla. But these days, about 20% of Mexicans identify as vegan or vegetarian, and a growing share of America’s Latinos do as well.

Driver David Mangnall was the 2022 champion in the Chicago Republic Road-eo. (Erica Gunderson / WTTW News)

Trash Haulers Trade Horses for Garbage Trucks in Annual Chicago Road-eo

On a recent cool and sunny Saturday, 14 trash haulers mounted their trucks to compete in the annual Republic Road-eo. The competitors had a singular focus: to become one with their craft as they safely navigate an obstacle course of trash cans, traffic cones and judges.

(WTTW News)

Obtaining Legal Representation While Wrongfully Incarcerated is a Difficult, Lengthy Process

More than 3,300 wrongfully convicted people have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations. That time on the inside adds up to more than 30,000 years unjustly spent in prison for many of those people.

(WTTW News)

WTTW News Explains: From Mud City to Second City, Where Did Chicago’s Nicknames Come From?

Maybe it’s because the city’s actual name comes from a smelly wild onion, or maybe it’s because other cities like to drag our city through the mud, but Chicago has had a whole lot of nicknames over the years. We break down where they came from. 

(WTTW News)

Report Examines Unequal Effects of Climate Change on Lake County Communities

A new report from the Brushwood Center found Lake County residents face significant race-based disparities in health outcomes, environmental quality and access to nature.

A still from a performance of “Oídos Sordos” by La Dame Blanche.

Hip-Hop Highlights for Your Hispanic Heritage Month Playlist

Since its beginnings in the Bronx, hip-hop has become an inextricable part of the musical landscape across Las Americas. For Hispanic Heritage Month, music journalist Sandra Treviño points to Latine artists who are weaving traditional music into their takes on the uniquely American genre.

A file photo of previous annular eclipse. (Courtesy of NASA)

Partial Solar Eclipse is Coming on Saturday. Here’s How to View It in Chicago

On Saturday, Oct. 14, Chicago astronomer Joe Guzman advises Chicagoans to turn their eyes to the skies — but only with proper protection — to witness a partial solar eclipse.

Inside Rubi’s Tacos. (WTTW News)

Nonprofit Helps Chicago Restaurant Entrepreneurs Serve Up Success

DishRoulette Kitchen offers free classes and support to restaurant entrepreneurs. The mission is to share information about how to start, run and scale up restaurant businesses in ways that make sense for entrepreneurs.

(WTTW News)

As Rates of Suicide Rise Among Young Black People, Research Shows Early Intervention Can Help Save Lives

The CDC said suicide rates increased by 37% for Black people 10 to 24 years old, the highest rise of any category, from 2018 to 2020. A National Institutes of Health study found among children ages 5 to 12, Black children were twice as likely to die by suicide as their White counterparts.

File photo of a hospital hallway. (WTTW News)

Prostate Cancer Survivor Offers PSA for Talking About Cancer, Mental Health

Prostate cancer can be a touchy subject for men to talk about, but discussing it with a doctor can be a literal lifesaver.

Members of the Major Taylor Cycling Club ride their bikes along the trail. (WTTW News)

How Major Taylor Trail Helps South Siders Get on the Road to Wellness

For members of the Major Taylor Cycling Club, riding along the Major Taylor Trail is a big part of staying healthy in mind and body.

A still from the “Y Ahora” music video from MULA.

Twists on Traditional Tropical Music for Hispanic Heritage Month

It’s getting to the time of year when people in Chicago start thinking about spending time someplace a little warmer — a tropical island, perhaps? If that’s where your head is, music journalist Sandra Treviño is right there with you.

(WTTW News)

Celebrate Latino-Owned Businesses During Latin Restaurant Weeks, Oct. 6-20

If you’re looking for delicious ways to enjoy Latin American culture this Hispanic Heritage Month, you’ve got two weeks coming up that will fit the bill. From Oct. 6-20, participating Latino-owned restaurants throughout Chicago are offering special menus to celebrate the cuisines of Latin America.

(Courtesy of Little Village Chamber of Commerce)

Rethinking Chicago’s Mexican Independence Day Celebrations

About 20% of Chicagoans claim Mexican heritage, according to U.S. census data. That’s a distinction that makes itself especially evident every September when people celebrate Mexican Independence Day.

Baratunde Thurston canoeing down the Suwannee River in Georgia. (Part2 Pictures for Twin Cities PBS)

Connecting People and Places in PBS Series ‘America Outdoors’

In the PBS series “America Outdoors,” host Baratunde Thurston explores our country’s relationship to its natural places.

"Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power"

Chicago Author Wants Black Women to ‘Stop Waiting for Perfect’ – and Thrive

Perfectionism might sound like a good thing, but in practice, it can perform more like procrastination – and waiting for perfect scenarios can prevent us from getting the credit and success we deserve. 

South Side Science Festival (Credit: University of Chicago)

Get Your Geek on at South Side Science Festival on Sept. 30

The event brings out hundreds of University of Chicago scientists who will take over the campus offering panels, experiments and demonstrations to fascinate the whole family.

DACA protesters pictured in file footage. (CNN)

With DACA Again Under Threat, Recipients and Families Express Confusion and Fear

It is expected the final decision on DACA’s future will lie in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court – that would be the third time DACA has come before the high court since it was instituted by executive order during the Obama administration in 2012.

(Credit: Cabeza de Chivo)

Get the Hispanic Heritage Month Party Moving with Cumbia Music. Here’s Some Picks

It’s the second week of Hispanic Heritage Month, so it’s time to kick the party into high gear with some truly celebratory music. Music journalist Sandra Treviño says one of the best ways she knows to get people on the dance floor is with the sounds of cumbia.

For the past few years, the Southland RISE collaborative has awarded funding to community-based violence prevention programs to help them continue their work. (Provided)

Violence Prevention Organizations Team Up to Train on Best Practices

The Southland RISE collaborative brought together hospital trauma center staff and violence prevention street outreach workers in a shared training workshop. The goal was an exchange of ideas and resources focused on curbing violence on Chicago’s South Side.

Music journalist Sandra Treviño recommends Beats y Bateria, the group shown here. (Provided)

Meet Música Mexicana, the Latino Sensation That’s Sweeping the Nation

Music is a big part of any celebration. So for Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve asked music journalist Sandra Treviño to dial in on a few music styles, genres and trends across the Latino diaspora.

Migrants are sleeping in tents outside Chicago police stations. (WTTW News)

As Tensions Run High at Police Station Migrant Shelters, Volunteers Speak Out on Shelter Conditions

Currently, about 1,600 migrants are living in police stations across Chicago — a solution that was intended to be temporary. But many of those men, women and children have been sleeping on floors or in tents outside police stations for months.