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Top 5 entertainment stories in McHenry County in 2013

Published: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

Add a couple more shows to McHenry County’s list of cameos. 

Television film crews descended upon at least two locales in 2013, bringing more prominence to an area already known for the 1993 hit “Groundhog Day” filmed on the Woodstock Square.  

In April, the popular Food Network show “Restaurant: Impossible,” descended upon Angelo’s Restaurant on the Woodstock Square. As part of the show, Chef Robert Irvine is given two days and $10,000 to turn around failing restaurants. The result aired in June, with the restaurant featuring more modern decor and new menus.   

October brought crews from the NBC hit drama “Chicago Fire” to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. Producers targeted the museum as an ideal spot for one of the series’ biggest accident scenes, including a train derailment and crash into a warehouse.   

The filming, which took four days, used about 150 extras recruited from the area. The scene aired as part of “Chicago Fire’s” seventh episode of the current season. The series based on the firefighters and drama surrounding the fictitious Chicago Firehouse 51 is in its second season.

It was touch-and-go for awhile, but community support and a Honda initiative saved the McHenry Outdoor Theater in 2013.  

The movie industry’s forced switch from 35 mm film to digital – a format cheaper for studios and distributors – threatened to close the theater in 2013. The theater’s owners had been trying to find a way to afford the update to the theater’s equipment, but a Kickstarter campaign to raise $130,000 fell short.  

Honda surprised theater owner Scott Dehn in September with the news that his theater had won one of five digital projectors being given away through the company’s “Project Drive-In.” The campaign was Honda’s attempt to help preserve what the company called an “Iconic part of American car culture.”  

Community votes resulted in McHenry’s selection.   

“I just fell down to my knees and broke down for a little bit,” Dehn said when Honda announced the win during an on-camera interview with a crew Dehn had been told was from a film-related website. “It was pretty emotional.”        

She was a bit late, but Rihanna came to Barrington High School.  

The celebrity singer stopped by in March on her way to a concert at the United Center in Chicago after the school’s video production class won a contest she hosted and judged.  

The Rihanna Bright Like a Diamond contest challenged students to make a video that included a “giving back to your community [and world] message.”  

Jeff Doles’ class beat out 52 other submissions from throughout the country for the ultimate prize: a Rihanna visit. Students, teachers and parents awaited the celebrity, set for a 1 p.m. appearance March 22, all afternoon in the gymnasium. Rihanna didn’t appear until about 5:30 p.m., tweeting that Chicago traffic was the cause of her delay.  

She posed for photos with volunteers from each of the groups featured in the video, including Best Buddies, a group that works to better the lives of people with disabilities; Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society group; and the Brother’s Keeper Club, which works to rebuild with Native Americans a bridge burned years ago.        

TownSquare Players might have seen better years in its 45 years as McHenry County’s oldest active theater group, but the year was a testament to the group’s sustainability.  

Faced with fewer ticket sales and money stolen from the group’s account, TownSquare Players put on the first “Sunday in the Square on Stage.” The festival served as both a fundraiser and a way to raise awareness of theater.  

It brought together the area’s major theater groups as well as numerous facets of the county, such as magicians, storytellers, student theater groups and musicians. The idea was to spread a shared love of live theater to others who don’t know what McHenry County has to offer.  

With its performance of “The Wedding Singer” scheduled for March at the Woodstock Opera House, TownSquare Players continues to endure.        

It was both a 25th anniversary celebration and a good-bye for the Trail of History.   Organizers announced last October’s Trail of History was the event’s final year.   

Hosted by the McHenry County Conservation District at Glacial Park in Ringwood, the weekend-long event served as a living history interpretive event that demonstrates life as it was from 1670 to 1850 in the former Northwest Territory.   

Relying on more than 250 volunteers in more than 150 encampments to demonstrate the crafts and trades from early settler days, it has drawn thousands of visitors over the years.  

Because of time and money restraints, as well as land changes at Glacial Park, the district’s board of trustees decided not to host the event next year. Organizers stressed the district would continue to host programs on a smaller scale in the future that allow visitors to connect with both history and the land.  

The district offers numerous special events and nature hikes, as well as more than 300 camps and public programs.

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