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Thumbs up to volunteers for helping Harrisburg High School students be able to perform at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival. Over Christmas break, the high school's band trailer was stolen. Inside the trailer were set pieces for their performance at Theatre Fest, and when the trailer was found, nothing was found inside. Theatre Fest, which runs now through the weekend at Illinois State University, is a gathering of Illinois high school students, teachers and sponsors, who get together to experience different types of theater. Harrisburg was chosen to perform this year’s musical, “Seussical the Musical,” during the festival. So volunteers gathered resources and funding, and helped the students get what they needed to perform the musical. “It’s just another example of what is great about Southern Illinois. While we have our differences from time to time, we all come together in times like these. Nobody in this community was going to let our kids not participate in this event,” said Harrisburg Superintendent Michael Gauch.

Thumbs down to the fact that gas prices in the United States are projected to be the higher in 2018. According to the petroleum experts at Gas Buddy, the yearly average gas price in 2018 will be $2.57 per gallon. Experts also said January will see the lowest prices at an average $2.41 per gallon, while May will average $2.73 per gallon, making it the priciest month of the year. But, experts say, it won’t be as bad as it’s been in the past. “Motorists probably won’t be getting pumped up to pay more at the pump this year, but should find some solace in knowing we won’t come anywhere near record prices this year while most of the country will continue to see plenty of prices in the $2 per gallon range,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis with Gas Buddy.

Thumbs up to Wednesday’s Alexander County Career and Resource Fair that was held in Cairo. Warren Riley, manager for mobility services for Quadel Consulting and Training, said more than 100 people showed up for the event. Jill VanZandt, southern regional manager for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, said the people who stopped by to chat and set up an appointment for IDES’ career services all were positive and enthusiastic. For most people in Cairo, finding steady work in Cairo has been tough, so this could be good for the community.

Thumbs up to U.S Rep. Mike Bost nominating 21 students from his district for the United States service academies. A congressional nomination is the first step in a process toward the students’ acceptance into a military academy. “Southern Illinoisans should be proud of each one of these students who represent the best our state has to offer,” Bost said in a news release announcing the nominations. A bonus thumbs up goes to those who were nominated, which, from our coverage area, include Joshua Loyd of Carbondale, Connor Rogers of Carbondale, Malachi Williams of Marion, Victoria Mueller of Johnston City, and Sean Spoerre of Carterville. Editor's note: Connor Rogers is the son of The Southern Illinoisan publisher Craig Rogers.

Thumbs up to Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who was in our region this week as part of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. On Wednesday, Sanguinetti toured the Gateway Foundation in Carbondale, where teenagers and adults live in dorm-style quarters similar to those at Southern Illinois University. Since 2013, the number of heroin overdose deaths in Illinois has doubled, and the number of opioid overdose deaths has quadrupled. It’s good that the Rauner and the rest of the state is taking time spread the word, using the task force to fight the epidemic.

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