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Thumbs up, at least in a limited fashion, to the return of Halloween to Carbondale. There was a time in Carbondale’s history when the annual Halloween celebration brought thousands of visitors to town for a weekend of spirited revelry. For many years, the celebration featured hundreds, probably thousands, of costumed partiers on the Carbondale Strip. The costumes were incredibly creative and the fun was harmless. Unfortunately, the celebration morphed into the kind of chaos and violence worthy of Jerry Springer episodes. Halloween was legislated out of existence in Carbondale. Some hypothesize that the elimination of the annual celebration is part of the downward trend in Southern Illinois University’s enrollment. We’d like to see some data before we accepted that as fact, but anything Carbondale can do to make itself more attractive to students, while maintaining a safe environment, can only help. Hopefully, today’s students can create a new tradition that is good for the town and the university.

Thumbs up to Debra Sarvela, the director of SIU’s Center for Environmental Health and Safety, for creating the university’s first-ever DACA Student Assistance Award. The scholarship program offers a minimum of $500 per semester. There are just two stipulations, the student must be part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and must maintain a B-average. Sarvela decided to establish the scholarship after watching a student documentary entitled “I, Too, Dream American.” She funded the scholarship by swearing off Starbucks. The first recipient of the scholarship is Giovanni Galindo. “I wish our country would acknowledge the fact that these are the kind of people we want to have here. This is their country. This is where they were raised, and this is the culture they’ve grown up with. They work hard, just like the rest of us,” Sarvela said.

Thumbs up to the American Duchess, a 166-passenger paddle-wheeler, that is trying to revive passenger travel on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. OK, so traveling on Illinois’ two major rivers doesn’t sound as romantic as cruising the Danube, but the ship’s maiden voyage this summer, from Alton on the Mississippi to Ottawa on the Illinois, gives hope for tourism in the state. The boat’s ports of call included Peoria and Havana. "This large of a passenger boat on the Illinois River hasn't happened, if ever, for many years," said Duchess Capt. Randy Kirschbaum, who's navigated inland waterways for four decades. "There's a lot of excitement around it. Not only for us on the boat ... but for the towns."

Thumbs up to Levi Laird of Waltonville and other young men and women like him that are striving to keep alive the dream of the family farm. After high school Laird strayed from farming, working for an electrical construction company. But, his heart was on the farm. “I worked here my entire childhood,” he said. Laird got back into farming gradually, raising hogs as a contract grower, raising animals without the use of antibiotics. Now, he’s at it full-time on his grandfather’s Jefferson County farm. “I’m a hog farmer. It’s strange to say that in this awful market, but we’re thriving and striving. I’m doing it by myself, with the help of grandpa and others. I’m right where I want to be,” Laird said.

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