KANKAKEE — There has not been a downtown Kankakee Christmas parade since 1993.
Plans are in the works — led by Kankakee 4th Ward Alderman Lance Marczak, who at this point could be considered Santa’s helper — to make sure Kankakee is not like the Island of Misfit Toys.
The Kankakee City Council approved a petition from Marczak at the Sept. 6 meeting to hold an 11-block City of Kankakee Christmas Parade. The event is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 10.
The parade will begin at the Paramount Theatre parking lot and travel along Schuyler Avenue to East River Street. The parade will turn west one block and head north along East Avenue where it will conclude at the railroad depot.
While no one would ever mistake Marczak for the jolly ol’ man from the North Pole, the slender, red-haired alderman is determined to make 2022 the year the Christmas parade returns to downtown Kankakee.
Once a staple of the downtown retail district, the parade faded as retailers left the business district. Eventually the parade followed suit and it has not been a part of the city’s holiday schedule for nearly 30 years.
Marczak brought the idea to the city council in December 2021 and was told if he was interested in bringing back the parade, he should lead the sleigh.
He has done just that.
On Tuesday, he appeared before the Kankakee Development Council to inform them that a date for the parade has been set. The group, led by downtown businessman and KCD president Scott Smith, said the organization would do whatever it could to aid the effort.
Marczak is hoping for numerous floats and parade entries. The Kankakee administration is establishing a sign-up sheet and general information on its website. He noted there is no charge associated with participating in the parade.
Marczak noted he has already purchased 5,600 candy canes and a truck-load of Christmas lights.
Marczak is also seeking food vendors and perhaps someone interested in distributing hot chocolate.
He said he has a couple leads on who could portray Santa Claus as well.
The Kankakee parade would be the weekend after Bradley holds its 37th annual lighted Christmas parade along West Broadway Street.
“Whatever the KDC can bring to the table would be wonderful,” he said. He noted because the event is the first one in three decades, there will likely be some mistakes made.
“Will it be perfect? No. I have to be honest. I never envisioned myself doing this.”
But here he is.
“This is a community event. This is not just about putting on a show. Other communities have it. We need our own,” he said. “It would be nice to create a buzz in our district.”
While the idea was generated by Marczak, the city is sponsoring the event. Marczak and the city are hoping sponsors come forward so this does not need city funds.
Marczak and his mother operate the downtown bar, Out on a Limb, 139 S. Schuyler Ave.
After the meeting, Marczak noted he wasn’t seeking financial help for the parade, but rather partners in helping make the event as successful as possible.
“It’s about bring people downtown and bringing people together. This was not about money. It’s about getting people to participate.”
He said while calendar says it is only mid September, the clock is ticking quickly. He said most communities begin focusing on the Christmas parade in early summer or even before.
“As we get this process moving, I know there will be more interest. This will come together. This is our first run. We will learn from it.”
He plans on making his own float. What it will be exactly, he is not yet sure. He thinking something with a tree to represent Out on a Limb.
But like a first-year parade, he knows it more than likely will not be perfect.
The clock is ticking. Dec. 10 is less than three months away.
KANKAKEE — A Tuesday meeting between leadership of the city of Kankakee and Fortitude Community Outreach resulted in the homeless shelter organization recommitting to development of a new shelter building at North Washington Avenue.
Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis also noted the hope is Fortitude can extend its stay at the former St. Paul’s Lutheran School site in downtown Kankakee by an additional shelter season as the entities work toward gaining the needed funding to construct the building on North Washington. The extension of an additional year of shelter at St. Paul’s would need the OK from the church board.
Fortitude had initially planned to build a new complex in the 100 block of North Washington and have it ready for the start of the shelter season, which was slated to begin in about two weeks, on Oct. 1.
Plans to construct an approximate $575,000 building to serve as the new shelter on North Washington were scrapped several months ago due to skyrocketing costs of building materials, which raised the project to $1.2 million.
It was that factor which led Fortitude leadership to explore existing properties, including the former United Faith Pentecostal Church, 1284 S. Fourth Ave.
Those plans were recently rejected when the Kankakee Planning Board turned down by a 6-2 vote a change-of-zoning request needed to operate the shelter at the Fourth Avenue location.
On Tuesday, Curtis projected Fortitude needs $300,000 to $500,000 to construct the shelter on North Washington. He said the city is leading an effort with “several entities” to see if that funding can be gained.
Curtis declined to specify the organizations involved in the talks.
The city administration have been vocal that homelessness is not a situation only in Kankakee, but throughout the region. The city is seeking what it has described as a “regional solution.”
Curtis said the city and Fortitude would meet again in two to three weeks for further discussions. The goal of the city and Fortitude is to have the 2022-23 shelter season resolved by mid-October.
In a Tuesday Facebook post, Dawn Broers, Fortitude’s executive director, wrote that things are moving in a positive direction.
She noted a special planning board meeting would be held so the city council could approve the needed conditional use permit to continue operating the shelter at St. Paul’s. If that time frame is met, the council could formally adopt the request at its Oct. 17 meeting.
This time frame would allow the shelter to be open by Nov. 1.
“We are very pleased to hear that there are folks working behind the scenes to try and source funds among municipalities that will bridge the funding gap to make the new building feasible, and of course, hoping for construction costs to decrease, but there is hope,” she wrote.
She added: “I can tell you that today [Tuesday] is the first day in awhile that I feel some confidence in plans for our 2022-23 shelter season!”
The St. Paul’s shelter has housed up to 18 people, on a five-night-a-week basis. The shelter operates a 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. schedule. Occupants can receive dinner and breakfast.
In a previous Facebook post on Sunday, Broers stated she would not seek an additional year at the St. Paul location because she believed she would be going back on the promise she made to the city regarding seeking continued homeless shelter in downtown Kankakee.
KANKAKEE — Kankakee Police arrested Anycco M. Rivers, 24, of Kankakee, Tuesday on a warrant charging him with the shooting death of 15-year-old Davarion Jones, of Kankakee, last year.
Jones was shot July 6, 2021, while standing outside his family’s home in the 1100 block of East Merchant Street.
At about 3:52 p.m. July 6, Jones and a group of teens were standing in front of a vehicle in the 1100 block of East Merchant Street. They said Rivers approached them from an alley and fired into the group. Jones was struck and killed, according to a joint press release from Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe and Kankakee Police Chief Robin Passwater.
Rivers appeared before a judge Wednesday.
Besides first-degree murder charges, Rowe filed a notice with the intent of seeking a life sentence in court.
Rowe explained he filed the notice because it Rivers is accused of murder with a firearm and the victim is a juvenile.
A Kankakee County judge set Rivers’ bond at $2 million.
“I understand the sentiment of wanting cases solved quickly, especially when the loss of a child weighs so heavily on our community, but it is even more important that we get it done right,” Rowe said in the release.
Rowe said the Kankakee Police Department and investigators never gave up and got the job done.
“This murder and rumors surrounding it were the impetus for so many other acts of violence, leading to more victims and unnecessary trauma in our community.”
Passwater said Investigation Commander Donnell Austin and detectives worked diligently in bringing Rivers to justice. Detective Steven Hunter led the investigation into Jones’ death.
“The department hopes the arrest of Anycco Rivers brings some comfort to the families of the victims and the community,” Passwater said.
“The murder of 15-year-old Davarion Jones was especially troubling to the department. His murder was senseless and shocked the community. Anytime a young person is killed, all officers feel an extra sense of duty to arrest those responsible.
“Without the assistance of other local and federal law enforcement agencies, and the Kankakee County Coroner’s office, this arrest would not have been possible,” Passwater said.
ALREADY IN JAIL
Rivers is being held on federal charges for hijacking a vehicle on March 17, 2021, in Bourbonnais and leading police on a chase that ended when Rivers crashed the vehicle into a Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department squad.
A second person, Ladonta A. Tucker, 29, of Sun River Terrace, was arrested and is currently awaiting trial in federal district court in Urbana.
Both men have been charged with motor vehicle theft/carjacking and violent crime [knowingly carry and discharge firearm].
According to reports from Bourbonnais police and sheriff’s deputies, a man was sitting in his black BMW near an apartment building in the 800 block of Gettysburg Drive in Bourbonnais when two men approached his vehicle. One man, who was wearing a ski mask and pointing two handguns at the driver, demanded he get out of his vehicle, according to court records.
The men were later identified by police to be Tucker and Rivers.
They fled in the stolen vehicle while shooting several rounds out the window in the direction of the man. Two other witnesses standing on the street took cover when they heard the gunshots but were not struck by the bullets, police said.
The stolen vehicle was located driving south on U.S. 45/52. Sheriff’s deputies, along with officers from multiple other police agencies, were attempting to stop the vehicle when it crashed into a sheriff’s squad car on South Schuyler Avenue just south of River Road.
The men fled on foot from the crash scene but were apprehended by sheriff’s deputies.
Three weapons were recovered by police.
KANKAKEE — Kankakee police made an arrest in the 2014 homicide of DeArrion Harris, of Kankakee.
On Wednesday, John Magee Jr., 55, of Kankakee, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.
A Kankakee County judge set Magee’s bond at $2 million.
On Monday, an arrest warrant was issued by a Kankakee County judge. Magee was arrested Tuesday.
On Nov. 14, 2014, the 26-year-old Harris was shot multiple times inside an apartment building in the 500 block of North Harrison Avenue.
The Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office and Kankakee Police Department reviewed and reopened the case this summer, according to a press release.
“Although it took time to bring this case to a conclusion, detectives always believed this case would be solved,” Kankakee Police Chief Robin Passwater said in the release.
“Investigators are always looking back on older cases to see if evidence can further be examined or persons involved remember a small piece of information that can reignite an investigation.”
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe stated in the release the Kankakee Police Department and its detectives never gave up on solving this murder.
“Thanks to the efforts of those officers and EMTs first on scene, the investigation by detectives, the work of our Kankakee County Coroner’s office, and the cooperation of civilian and law enforcement witnesses, an arrest was able to be made and charges filed,” Rowe said.