During spring at Jones Orchard, families gather to bound through the territory’s rows of fruit, peeling back leaves to get at the ripest morsels hidden deep within the thicket. Since growing their first peaches more than seven decades ago, the Jones family continues to ripen juicy varieties of peaches, strawberries, and other fruit on their 600-acre farm, eschewing long-distance produce shipping for local distribution, mostly available at farmer’s markets and during the orchard’s pick-your-own fruit season. Inviting families to pick fruit together is one of many ways the Jones family lures visitors to their orchard seasonally—come autumn, the farmers transform the fields into a vast corn maze. Visitors not content to wander the idyllic grounds can enjoy the orchard’s bounty at the Country Café, where matriarch Juanita Jones flavors her fresh pies and preserves with fresh-plucked fruits.
Despite being blessed with a mellifluous, five-octave voice and an unwavering desire to sing, Brett Manning couldn’t find a vocal coach who would give him the results he wanted, always slipping back into the same problems and frustrations. That all changed when he met a wizened old gentleman who had spent his career amassing effective exercises and training some of the country's top singers. Taking classes from his new mentor, Manning began his own experimental foray into vocal training, streamlining his newly discovered secrets and adding new tricks to enhance his lessons. Before long, he was helping Broadway casts, Grammy-winning artists, and big-label singers to improve their vocal performances and shame all other party invitees in renditions of "Happy Birthday."
At Brett Manning's studio, a hand-selected coterie of coaches—each individually trained in Manning’s method—helps to shape up aspiring crooners, bringing a wide range of experiences to lessons. Classes are available in person, over the phone, or on Skype, allowing students to hone their pipes from across the country or safely hidden in the studio's air ducts.
In 2011, WBIR-TV reported that local racecar driver Trevor Bayne dropped by Oakes Farm to see his face carved into the cornfield. The farm had adopted Bayne as that year's maze theme, shaping the field to look like his face and his racecar when viewed from above. On the ground, however, the maze was a tangle of curves and dead ends that often took guests 90 minutes to solve, longer if they neglected to learn ancient Greek in order to ask the minotaur directions.
The farm updates its agricultural labyrinth annually to reflect a new motif, but it never fails to entertain explorers with its routes and interactive games. Just as delightful are the hayrides that ferry visitors to and from the pumpkin patch, the smell of autumnal sweets from the Cornfections stand, and the echoes of laughter from inside the Mine Shaft—a giant slide in the farm's Back 40 entertainment area. These attractions, alongside animal exhibits, pedal karts, and open zones for freeform play, draw families to the seasonal hotspot. In the days approaching Halloween, however, the farm endeavors to make patrons flee with its haunted attractions and pop quizzes for school children.
When they were just little girls, Marian and Laura Jones cooked up the dream of working together once they were old enough. Years later, after both had undergone classical training in metallurgy and jewelry making, the dream became a reality. Today, the duo draws inspiration from organic textures such as the surface of seeds and the shape of raw stones as they sculpt wax, batter metal, and cast objects in bronze to create custom necklaces and earrings. In just four years, their designs have made a splash, leading to collaborations at Chicago Fashion Week and a LA Oscar gift-bag giveaway.
Their collections center on specific themes, such as with earrings and bangles that echo the texture of banana leaves. They also shape pendants whose sterling-silver and semiprecious-stone arrangements evoke antique architecture or New York windows that haven’t yet been cracked by Santa.
Marian and Laura also share their passion for and understanding of the process of jewelry making through classes. During in-studio workshops, they delve into the skills needed for beading, basic metalsmithing, and casting. Their pupils form shapes imitating organic materials such as leaf pendants or strawberry-smoothie bracelets.
The mechanics at Cycle Center outfit bike enthusiasts with custom equipment fittings, expert tune-ups, and a rolling stock of more than 500 bicycles dispersed between the company's two locations. In the interest of both safety and performance, the team makes sure all bikes are carefully assembled and tuned up before the rubber meets the road. They also stock an impressive lineup of apparel and gear, from air pumps that keep tires aptly inflated to helmets that keep heads more protected than a presidential motorcade covered in mosquito netting. In-stock brands include Fuji, Cannondale, and Dahon, a manufacturer renowned for its revolutionary folding bikes.
The Cookie Store helps its customers to satisfy their sweet teeth with an extensive assortment of fresh-baked cookies and seven types of smoothies. From classics such as chocolate chip to more inventive flavors including snickerdoodle, honey oatmeal raisin walnut, and heath-bar toffee, The Cookie Store’s bakers concoct a spread of delicious bite-size treats daily. In addition to cookie trays and tins, bakers create custom cookie cakes in a variety of different shapes, including hearts and circles that can be decorated with birthday messages, cartoon characters, or interpretations of Jackson Pollock masterworks.