JOLIET, IL — 2020 was a year that most of us are ready to forget because of the coronavirus pandemic. But on a lot of fronts, it was a memorable year for Joliet, and I was able to capture the year in thousands of photos that I published throughout the year with my Joliet Patch articles.
As the year draws to a close, I decided to go back and capture Joliet's year in photos. One photo for every month. This was hard because several months had lots of major news events taking place. We had several major storms that created havoc and uprooted several city blocks on multiple occasions this past summer. There was also the added inconvenience of learning that the Jefferson Street Bridge was being closed in July by the Illinois Department of Transportation. A temporary shutdown lasted throughout the year, and now the bridge won't get fixed until spring. Ugh.
My bridge photos did not make the cut for this story. Neither did many of my storm photos from this past summer. Instead, I selected photos that I think captured the essence of Joliet at that moment of time.
January Photo: On the first day that Illinois' new state law allowed for the sale and consumption of marijuana for recreational use, Joliet's new Rise recreational marijuana store near the Louis Joliet Mall opened at 6 a.m. On New Year's Day, Joliet customers could purchase up to 30 grams of flower, 500 milligrams of edible products or 5 grams of concentrates. "It's a good location," remarked Derrick Levy, who is the district manager. "We're excited to be a good addition to the community. We're going to strive to be the best neighbors and contributors to the community."
February Photo: The Malnar's Tap on Clement Street in Joliet's Cunningham Neighborhood was left in ruins after a 7 a.m. fire swept through the two-story building. The fire left significant damage to the bar, the second-floor apartments and the attic area. The fire chief said the blaze appeared to have originated in the kitchen area of Malnar's Tap.
March Photo: About 100 skilled union laborers and tradesmen gathered for a rally near the proposed NorthPoint Development's Compass Business Park on the southern boundary of Joliet. The Will & Grundy Counties Building Trades Council organized the event. Some of the trades at the rally included Local 151, Carpenters Local 174, District Labor Council 175, the International Union of Bricklayers, Laborers' District Council Labor-Management Cooperation Committee and Ironworkers Local 444. "Going forward, I hope the Joliet City Council understands that this is definitely a big economic impact for the city of Joliet," remarked Timothy Rossborough, business representative for the International Union of Bricklayers.
In April and again in December, the Joliet City Council approved plans for the NorthPoint project.
April photo: Employees at a small local company, Rytech, donned hazmat suits and took control of the Joliet Police Department downtown parking lot, sanitizing about 100 squad cars to ward off the coronavirus. Joliet's Rytech company donated labor and cleaning supplies to the city of Joliet, free of charge.
Rytech business owner Ray Gallant, along with Bill Dimitroulas, owner of DMT Insurance Service Inc., joined forces to make the in-kind donation to the police department. "We're trying always to give back to the community," Dimitroulas said. "The minimum we can do at this point is to support as much as possible the first responders ... they are exposed more than anybody else."
May photo: The Joliet Police Department arrested 30 people as a result of Sunday night's incidents promoting civil unrest, inciting violence and committing numerous crimes across Joliet, the city police announced on Monday afternoon. One Joliet resident, Chuck Andrews, produced a Facebook Live video of the incident around 8 p.m. In his video, Andrews remarked that people in the crowd gathered at Jefferson and Larkin were throwing plastic water bottles at the officers and the Joliet Police Department called in several more officers to break up the crowd and shut down the intersection.
June photo: A three-hour protest rally organized on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement started off rather loudly with a handful of people trying to be confrontational with Joliet police standing nearby. However, by the end of the protest rally at Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue, in front of the White Castle restaurant, several demonstrators were interacting with the officers and even posing for pictures with them. Several demonstrations were organized in Joliet over the summer in response to the death of 46-year-old George Floyd who died in May after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video with his knee on Floyd's neck during an arrest.
July photo: About 280 Joliet nurses were participating in the strike at Joliet's AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center. While the nurses were striking, AMITA was spending $5 million for seven days worth of temporary nurses, including airfare, meals, hotel accommodations and transportation. "We know they're trying to union bust," said Pat Meade, head of the nurses union at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center. "They are temp agency nurses. They fly them in and pay them for room and board and $65 an hour, plus transportation."
By July 20, the strike ended at AMITA St. Joseph's and the union nurses returned to work.
August photo: Joliet's Hill-Top Drive-In movie theater along U.S. Route 6 had stood for decades, but a fierce storm and high winds destroyed about 80 percent of the concrete fortress. That evening, at least 50 to 100 people had pulled into the dirt roadway leading into the abandoned theater to snap photographs or make videos of the storm ruins.
The theater was a popular place to watch movies during the summer back in the 1970s. "I can't believe it's gone," Joliet resident Norma Zambrano told Joliet Patch's editor on Monday evening.
September photo: Dan's Homemade Candies at 1003 Plainfield Road was the place to be. There was a constant line of eight to a dozen customers waiting their turn to purchase the caramel apples that arrived the day before.
Every Fall, Dan's sells its share of caramel apples, caramel apples covered with chocolate, caramel apples with peanuts, caramel apples with chocolate and pecans. There's also the jumbo apples.
"When caramel apple season is here, there really is no slow time," remarked long-time Dan's Homemade Candies Plainfield Road store manager Karen Nolan. "
October photo: Less than three years after Will County judges and local politicians braved the cold weather in mid-December 2017 to mark the groundbreaking of the new Will County Courthouse, 100 dignitaries gathered in October to mark the ribbon-cutting.
A total of 1,700 men and women built Will County's new 10-story courthouse over the past three years. The building features terrazzo floors and solar panels. There are escalators from the first to second floor and from the second to third floor. There is also an in-house eatery.
Wight & Company was the design and construction team. Gilbane was construction manager and HOK served as court design architect. The project cost Will County taxpayers $215 million.
November photo: Milano Bakery, Joliet's old-fashioned scratch bakery at 427 South Chicago St. since 1915, came up with a tasty way for customers to celebrate their favorite candidate for president. The night before the presidential election, one of the bakery's managers made a couple dozen sugar cookies for Donald Trump as well as for Joe Biden. The Trump cookies were out selling the Biden cookies by a large margin, the manager said.
On election night, the citizens of Joliet and Will County overwhelmingly cast their vote at the ballot box for Biden, not Trump.
December photo: A brand new Fox TV dramedy pilot took over the Rialto Square Theatre to start filming "The Big Leap." The giant Rialto marquee posted an announcement proclaiming: The Big Leap. Auditions Today. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. "The show revolves around a group of diverse underdogs from all different walks of life who compete to be part of a competition reality series that is putting on a modern, hip remake of 'Swan Lake,'" Deadline reported.
The ability to attract Fox to spend more than a week filming its new television show was a wonderful way for the Rialto to bring 2020 to a draw, remarked Val Devine, the theater's executive director.
Devine told Joliet Patch that Dec. 8 marked "nine months to the day" since the Rialto began canceling all of its booked concerts and shows for the year because of the deadly coronavirus. Having "The Big Leap" here in Joliet "is just a wonderful feeling seeing the stagehands and people inside the theater," Devine said. "It was like normal. The theater has been closed nine months. Nine months. People give birth to babies in less time."