Above: Photographer David Vernon with Bob & Joan Ericksen in front of the great oak tree at the Sun Foundation Art & Nature Center, May 22, 2020
Like everything else in 2020, our Local Legends program looks a little different this year. When the pandemic hit, we were still working to notify our honorees. COVID-19 added an unwelcome layer of uncertainty. How would we interview and photograph them during the lockdown? And how would we host an event to celebrate their work and achievements?
We managed to work it out, while taking great care with social distancing. We conducted one interview over Skype for the first time, while photographer David Vernon dutifully wore his face mask to ensure everyone’s safety. But the event would not be dealt with so easily…
Every July for the last seven years, we’ve hosted an intimate reception to celebrate our Local Legends. Knowing that would be impossible this summer, we initially cancelled the reception. But as time went on, we kept thinking we had to do something more to honor these amazing couples who have given our community so much, even if we couldn’t bring their friends, family and colleagues together in the same space.
Thanks to the support of our sponsors, what we came up with was two-fold. We partnered with the Peoria Riverfront Museum on a mini-exhibit featuring David Vernon’s beautiful portraits and significant historic objects from each couple. So when the museum opens back up to the public, you’ll see them there—along with the can’t-miss Ken Hoffman exhibit!
Second, we are collaborating with videographers Jeffery Noble and Tim Sotter to host three live Q&A sessions on Facebook. When events came to a screeching halt in March, Jeff and Tim stepped forward with new, state-of-the-art equipment to bring superior quality to streaming performances, presenting a polished look that can’t be produced on a smartphone alone. Besides their stellar work for the Peoria Symphony Orchestra’s #PSOAtHome initiative, they recently launched a new series of online music performances entitled the Six Foot Sessions—visit sixfootsessions.com for more information.
Later this month, contributing writer/interviewer Mae Gilliland Wright and I will join Bob & Joan Ericksen (July 15); Junior & Jackie Watkins (July 22); and Sid & Flo Banwart (July 29) for a series of fun, lively and insightful conversations. Each event will kick off at 6:00pm and last about an hour. Best of all, it’s free to the public… so mark your calendars and join us on Facebook Live! —Jonathan Wright, Editor In Chief
PS: If you have questions for this year’s Local Legends, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.