Stories by patty wetli

In Sugar We Trust. Chicago Bakery Has a Sweet Take on Inauguration Day

Vanille Patisserie has a full menu of Inauguration Day baked goods. (Courtesy of Vanille Patisserie)

Vanille Patisserie has a full menu of Inauguration Day cookies, cakes, pies and tarts, because why not? “We’re bringing a little joy and laughter,” said owner Sophie Evanoff. “We’re in the celebration business, so anything we can celebrate, we do.”

MLK Day of Service: Take a Hike Through the Forest Preserves and Pick Up Litter

Show appreciation for nature on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (photoforyou / Pixabay)

The Cook County Forest Preserves are encouraging people to give back to nature on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Head out on a self-led litter cleanup hike at one of the preserves’ nature centers or Dan Ryan Woods.

New CPS School in Belmont Cragin to Have Unexpected Landlord: Chicago Park District

A new CPS school will be connected to the existing field house at Riis Park, 6100 W. Fullerton Ave., in Belmont Cragin. (Riis Park Advisory Council / Facebook)

During Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Chicago Park District Board, commissioners unanimously agreed to lease property within Riis Park to Chicago Public Schools for the construction of a new elementary school.

Chicago Botanic Garden Cancels Orchid Show, Wilts Under COVID-19 Restrictions

The Chicago Botanic Garden has canceled 2021's Orchid Show. (stanbalik / Pixabay)

The annual show was to have opened in February, but the garden’s greenhouses are still closed due to mitigations put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

With Lake Off-Limits, Chicago’s Polar Bear Club Says, ‘Plunge Where You Are’ — Icy Bathtubs Included

A scene from the 2020 Chicago Polar Bear Club’s plunge into Lake Michigan. This year’s “plunge where you are” will look different. (Courtesy of Chicago Polar Bear Club)

“We can jump in the lake next year. People are just going to have to plunge where they are,” said the head of the Chicago Polar Bear Club. The 2021 event is going forward, virtually, to raise money for families in need.

Pritzker: Feds Holding Back ‘Enormous Stores’ of COVID-19 Vaccine

Gov. J.B. Pritzker takes questions from the media after delivering an update on COVID-19 in Illinois on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (WTTW News via BlueRoomStream)

With fewer than 350,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine administered to date in Illinois, Gov. J. B. Pritzker urged patience among residents, stating: “We all want this to happen faster.”

This Herd of Goats Recycles Christmas Trees in Chicago by Eating Them

Urban Growers Collective maintains a herd of 17 goats at its South Chicago farm. (Courtesy of Urban Growers Collective)

Where humans see a messy pile of dried needles, goats see a tasty meal. The herd at Urban Growers Collective’s South Chicago farm can dine for weeks on recycled Christmas trees.

The Eagles Have Landed. Here’s Where To See Them Near Chicago

(Andreas Hoja / Pixabay)

Thousands of bald eagles spend their winter in Illinois and there are a number of prime eagle-spotting sites in the Chicago region.

Michigan Comes Through with Cash for Illinois’ Asian Carp Defense System

Charmayne Anderson holds a large Bighead carp caught in a lake in Morris, Illinois, in 2017. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

When it comes to keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Illinois is the last line of defense, but the state’s not alone in the battle. Michigan will transfer up to $8 million to Illinois via an intergovernmental agreement as part of an effort to keep Asian carp at bay.

South Side Activist Started Cleanups After Last Year’s Looting, And Has No Plans of Stopping

Kierra Wooden (center holding sign) started Southside Cleanup following last summer’s looting, and her mission keeps expanding. (Southside Cleanup / Instagram)

Kierra Wooden founded Southside Cleanup in the aftermath of 2020’s protests, and now the young activist finds herself at the head of a movement that’s about so much more than picking up trash.

The Pileated Woodpecker is 2021’s Bird of the Year

Here’s where to see this raucous beauty near Chicago

A male pileated woodpecker, distinguished from a female by the red stripe on his cheek. (Veronica Andrews / Pixabay)

With its flaming red crest and distinctive cackle, the pileated woodpecker is a favorite of birders, not least because it resembles Woody Woodpecker. Though sightings have been rare in urban areas, they can be found in the Chicago region’s forest preserves.

Can This Building Be Saved? Preservation Chicago Issues Call for ‘Most Endangered’ Nominations

The Thompson Center was named to Preservation Chicago's most endangered list in 2020. (Gabriel X. Michael)

Preservation Chicago has thrown open the nominations for historic buildings that are “too special to lose.” The organization will announce its list of the year’s most endangered buildings on Feb. 24. 

Beach or Habitat? Advocates Want Park District to Add Plovers’ Nesting Site to Neighboring Protected Nature Area

Montrose Beach Dunes Natural Area on the left, and the proposed section of Montrose Beach that would be incorporated into the protected area. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Chicago’s birding community is already preparing for the return of Monty and Rose, the piping plovers that captured national attention two summers ago when they made the surprising choice to nest on Chicago's lakefront. But will their favored habitat be secure in 2021?

Chicago Notches 5th Warmest Year on Record in 2020

Chicago set a number of weather records in 2020. (Adonis Villanueva / Pixabay)

2020 was a wacky weather year. Chicago was warmer and wetter than normal in 2020, according to a National Weather Service climate summary.

The ‘Wildebeest of the Great Lakes’ Is Just One of the Region’s Unsung Aquatic Wonders

A group of suckers on the move in Door County, Wisconsin. (Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)

Walking along Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, it’s difficult to imagine an underwater world teeming with life. But it’s there, promises Karen Murchie, a research biologist at the Shedd Aquarium, and we have to protect it.

Bid Adieu to 2020 on an ‘Aw’ Note with Brookfield Zoo’s Montage of Animal Cuteness

Hudson, Brookfield Zoo’s 14-year-old polar bear, frolics in the snow. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Both Brookfield and Lincoln Park zoos will temporarily close during January and February, but they have plenty of online content in the works to remain connected with the public.

Chicago Park District Suspends In-Person Winter Programs Set to Start in 2021

Chicago Park District in-person programming is suspended, but virtual sessions are still open for registration. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Winter programs have been suspended due to mitigations in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but people are still welcome to enjoy park trails and outdoor spaces.

Chicago’s Tumultuous Year: Looking Back on 2020

(CDC / Pixabay / WTTW News illustration by Rebecca Palmore)

From the pandemic to protests to the power of nature, 2020 has been a year for the history books. We take a look back at the year that was — warts and all.

CTA Piloting Free Face Mask Dispensers on 20 Bus Routes

CTA free face mask dispenser. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)

Disposable mask dispensers are being installed on 200 buses serving 20 routes, including the No. 56 Milwaukee, No. 91 Austin and No. 77 Belmont. If successful, the program will expand to all bus routes, as well as to rail stations, the CTA said.

Winter Finally Shows Up, Mix of Snow and Freezing Rain Coming Tuesday

Chicago typically notches an inch of measurable snow by Dec. 7. (David Mark / Pixabay)

Beginning late Tuesday afternoon, a mix of snow that could be heavy at times and freezing rain will descend on the Chicago area, according to the National Weather Service.

Don’t Trash Your Tree. Chicago’s Christmas Tree Recycling Program Starts Jan. 9

Christmas trees. (Lisa Fotios / Pexels)

Starting Jan. 9, you can drop off your tree for recycling at one of two dozen Chicago parks. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Shutdown? Zoos and Aquariums Still Operate 24/7 Even When Closed To Visitors

Paul Eberhart, a lead animal care specialist at Brookfield Zoo, spends some time with the Nigerian dwarf goats. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society

For institutions with “living collections,” there’s really been no such thing as a shutdown during the pandemic. Even with no visitors coming through the door, zoos and aquariums are still caring for their animals around the clock.  

Mayor Proposes Huge Hikes in Fines For Repeat and ‘Egregious’ Air Pollution Violations

A still image from a video taken of the demolition of the Crawford Coal Plant smokestack, April 11, 2020. (Alejandro Reyes / YouTube)

The current $5,000 maximum fine for air pollution violations could jump to $50,000 under a proposed ordinance. The hike was prompted by events including a botched demolition of a smokestack in Little Village this past spring.

Don’t Believe the ‘Christmas Star’ Hype, But Something Amazing IS Happening in the Solstice Sky

A photo taken on Dec. 13, 2020, shows Jupiter (the bright "star" on the right) closing in on Saturn to the left. (Bill Ingalls / NASA)

Jupiter is preparing to pass Saturn, an event known as a great conjunction. On Dec. 21, the two planets will come closer to each other than they’ve been in nearly 400 years — and it will be visible to the naked eye. 

Monarch Doesn’t Make Endangered Species Cut, Gets ‘Wait-Listed’

A monarch butterfly on butterfly milkweed. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region / Flickr)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the monarch butterfly warrants inclusion on the endangered species list but due to a lack of resources is being wait-listed behind higher-priority plants and animals.

Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count Is the Research Gift That Keeps on Giving

Cardinal. (tlparadis / Pixabay)

The National Audubon Society’s annual bird count is underway. Now in its 121st year, the tally gives researchers and conservationists a good picture of how North America’s bird populations are changing.