Several years ago, during a filming of WTTW's Wild Chicago, Novelty Golf & Games owner Craig's brother stood next to a 10-foot fiberglass chicken and lamented, “This is the world’s loneliest chicken.” Its match had recently been stolen, and every fiberglass fox in the city had a solid alibi.
Shortly after the taping, a viewer called in with a tip: he’d seen the missing hen roosting in a backyard, clearly visible from the window of the Brown Line train. Boarding the "L" himself, Craig confirmed the spotting, and soon enough, the Loneliest Chicken's counterpart was on its way back home in the bed of a pickup truck.
Thus reunited, the two chickens stand proudly today over the 36 mini-golf holes at Novelty Golf & Games, along with the full menagerie of bears, elephants, mermaids, circus seals, and dinosaurs that the course has accumulated over its 63 years. Some of the attractions are as old as the course itself, including a 15-foot fiberglass shoe hand-built over a chicken-wire frame. While the statues are often replicated, Craig and his business partner Cassandra continue to design new obstacles the only way they know how, often sharing margaritas as they sketch their designs on cocktail napkins. “We change things,” they say, “but not for the sake of change.”
The course, after all, has always been a place of innovation. In the 1960s, Craig's mother opened an onsite restaurant and promoted the rabbit statue on the 14th hole to head doorman, earning the eatery its perennial nickname, “Bunny Hutch.” Throughout the years, the family has also acquired popular games, including four pinball machines, Dance Dance Revolution, an authentic photo booth, and a 1950s metal-stamping machine. Though they welcome each new addition, they strive to maintain the course’s classic appeal, insisting that “you can’t improve on perfection.”
On the same token, you can't just sit idly by when perfection flies the coop.
Matt Feeney and Joel Berman share a disability and a dream. Feeney broke his neck diving off a 100-foot cliff and Berman lost his ability to walk after a runaway flatcar hit him while laying rail tracks. Together they founded Adaptive Adventures to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through participation in sports and outdoor recreation. The organization runs progressive sports programs year-round for children, adults, and service members who have been severely injured in conflicts abroad. They cater to people with a wide range of disabilities, including spinal-cord injuries, amputations, and cerebral palsy. The programs help build confidence and social skills in participants who could not otherwise afford equipment, training, and travel for recreational sports.
Dedicated to advancing the economic, professional, and cultural well-being of the northern suburb, Lincolnwood Chamber of Commerce & Industry fosters a sense of community and civic pride through a host of activities and programs. The annual home and garden show—replete with booths of goods and services set up by area businesses—provides guests with the resources and tools needed to landscape yards or renovate aging blanket forts, while the Lincolnwood Wine Expo includes tastings and seminars centered around all things wine related.
The private rooms at Lincoln Karaoke act as a lyrical playground for parties of crooning compatriots fueled by audience admiration and refreshments from the kitchen and bar. Sofas cushion spectators as soloists belt out the lyrics displayed on flat-screen televisions, and two additional wireless mics aid in a capella renditions of the theme from Ghostbusters. A range of rooms is available to accommodate groups both small and large, with the biggest rooms seating up to 30 people. A menu of Italian and Asian favorites—such as pizza, dumplings, and orange chicken—sate hankerings and specialty concoctions from Dave the bartender wet parched throats between sets.
Deemed by the Miami New Times to have the Best Exotic Frozen Desserts in 2009, Via Veneto Gelato serves up oodles of distinctly flavored gelato and confections to sweet tooth collectives. Score a small dish ($4.59), large dish ($5.50), or sugar cone ($4) packed with 1 of more than 40 frozen flavors such as almond chocolate, Nutella, or tiramisu gelato. The three-scoop waffle cone ($4.99) comes stacked with a toothsome trio such as lychee, pistachio, or Super dulce, which pairs a heroic dulce de leche with chocolate-chips sidekicks to fight against bland, soft-serve foes. Sorbets such as blackberry, mango, and passion fruit nest deliciously in a cup cone ($3.25) and fat-free, sugar-free Doppiozeros such as coconut and strawberry can be whisked out of the establishment in bambino ($2.80), giovani ($3.95), or signor ($6.95) to-go containers. The confectionery also crafts cakes and offers snacks for dessert diners looking to thaw out their palates.
Born in Bulgaria in 1959, fencer Hristo Etropolski soon traded his rattle for a saber, competing twice in the Olympic Games—including a fifth-place finish in 1980—and earning medals in two World Championships. After settling down in 2005, Hristo founded Midwest Fencing Academy, where, as head coach, he draws on almost 40 years of competition and teaching experience to sharpen students’ sparring skills. Of his past protégés, one received a gold medal in the Junior World Cup, and many have secured fencing scholarships at Ivy League universities, where their mighty swords reign undefeated against opponents' puny pens.
Midwest Fencing Academy specializes in the lightest of fencing's three weapons, the saber, whose required speed and quick thinking puts students' hearts and reflexes to the test, building discipline and good sportsmanship. The facility boasts five regulation strips, four of which are wired with electronic scoring, and includes a large viewing space for friends or parents to shout French translations of witty retorts from the sidelines.
Home to a gymnasium, an indoor track, and a stable of 63 sets of cardio equipment, Niles Family Fitness Center is a 5,000-square-foot sanctum of wellness. The child-friendly facility features a wide range of options for the younger set, from childcare services ($6 per child per visit) to the 100-foot waterslide in the aquatic center, ideal for launching intercontinental cannonballs. Besides access to the health haven's fields of equipment, membership benefits include unlimited group exercise classes such as yoga, core conditioning, and cardio dance, all taught by trainers with either national certifications or a master's degree in exercise physiology. Students in Body Flex use hand weights, bars, and exercise balls to develop a toned, strong body, whereas turbo kickers raise their heart rates with an intense combo of kickboxing and dance fitness. Locking lockers and towel service are also provided to members, as is access to the sauna and the whirlpool, where athletes and their perpetual broccoli companions can enjoy steamy relaxation.