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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois • Page 21

The Pantagraphi
Bloomington, Illinois
Issue Date:
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Friday, Nov. 9, 1990 The Pantagraph C) fm I hm Inn is a good choice But for the hour wait to be seated, we could remember only good things about our last trip to Minier's Village Inn almost three years ago. We distinctly recall that cold, crisp, clear night, a full moon dramatically lighting the majestic, expansive flatness of Midwestern landscape. Distant lights from the small towns and the many isolated farm houses dotting our route seemed to gracefully show us the way. This time around, unfortunately, we were greeted by spurts, sputs, then downpours of intermittent rain, ungracious drivers and, surprisingly, lines of traffic stealing away from Stanford and Minier towards Bloomington-Normal.

By the time we reached The Village Inn, we were quite ready to settle Into a nice meal. We purposely arrived early so we wouldn't have the hassle of another wait, but again found that the Tn Pifflagr.pMOni ANN COOK Dennis Farmer of Jacksonville, president of the Illinois Country Music Association, is enthusiastic about the ICMA and its potential for the future. 112 S. Main Minier (309) 392-2327 Food: Service: Hours: 5-9 p.m. 5-10 p.m.

4-8 p.m. Sun. Reservations accepted. Attire: Casual. No credit cards accepted.

Full bar service. Price range: No-smoklng area unavailable. Difficult for the handicapped. Illinois Country Music Association Inn was full, or at least was going to be: There were reservations through 7:30 p.m. We peeked into the great little bar, noticed no one there, and coaxed for a booth in the back.

To our surprise we were led to a table and offered a menu. A good thing, too, because moments later the dining room, waiting rooms and bar were filled with patrons. The menu remains basically the same as before. Appetizers (about $2 to $3) include onion rings, potato skins, fried cauliflower, clam strips and shrimp cocktail. Hoping the recipe hadn't changed, we ordered onion rings, then perused the rest of the menu.

Entrees cost about $6.35 to $12.50 and include salad bar, choice of potato (baked, french fried, hash browns or, for an extra price, au gratins) or rice. For meat eaters, broiled and deep fried pork chops, barbecued ribs, prime rib, rib eye, fried chicken, broiled chicken breasts and chicken wings are proffered. On the fish side come broiled and fried catfish, red snapper, scallops, shrimp and cod. The Village Inn also offers a variety of Cajun blackened dishes: chicken breast, pork chop, red snapper and rib eye. We ordered catfish with a baker and prime rib with au gratin potatoes.

Shortly afler we received our drinks, the rings arrived, and to our relief, their preparation was still good. The steaming hot, thin slices came piled high on a large plate. Lightly coated with a flour, egg, salt and pepper combination, these vegetables had a distinctively crunchy exterior and a sweet onion flavor inside. They were, however, quite greasy this time around. We made our way next to the salad bar, which just might contain more items than any other we've found in Central Illinois.

Not only was there the standard iceberg lettuce, fresh mushrooms, shredded carrot, egg, broccoli, cauliflower, bacon bits, cherry tomatos, real croutons and seemingly homemade dressings a delicious blue cheese and an adequate, if disturbingly pale green, ranch but also a tangy potato salad, three or four pasta salads, bean salads, pea salad, cauliflower salads, carrot salads and numerous others that our plate just wouldn't hold. All those we did nosh seemed to be made with exceedingly fresh vegetables. Most were dressed in a distinct, seemingly homemade vinaigrette or a light mayonnaise. Homemade breads, puddings and gelatin concoctions are also served up at the salad bar. An amazing spread.

Last time around we were disappointed in the prime rib. It was thinly cut and overcooked. This time, however, was a different story. Supposedly a small cut, this piece of beef was large and thick, easily outweighing its purported 8 ounces. And it was perfectly prepared.

Swimming in its scumptious juices, the prime rib was tinged brownish on its exterior and vibrant pink inside. Though not tender enough to cut with a fork, it did have a convincing, delicious beef flavor. The accompanying au gratin potatoes were also very good, quite different from most others we've sampled in the area. Here, the potatoes were a shade underdone, making them the slightest bit crunchy, and they had been enhanced with only slivers of onion and an extraordinarily mild, light cheese sauce (perhaps a mild Cheddar.) No hint of salt, pepper, herb or spice. Different, intriguing, good.

The catfish, which we had ordered scored on the advice of our waitress, had been barely coated with a thin rornmeal batter before being deep fried. The exterior was quite crisp, the Interior a little dry and overcooked. The fish had an innocuous flavor, and the scoring seemed to alleviate the typical greasiness of this preparation. The accompanying baked potato was just your ordinary, foiled variety. We recommend the country drive to the Village Inn in Minier.

Good food, nice atmosphere. But make a reservation before you go. to Be a Cowboy's donated a pair pf her boots to the museum. And she was inducted into the ICMA Hall of Fame. Farmer said the ICMA goals are to promote county music in Illinois; promote Illinois artists; preserve and document country music in the state; and establish a museum honoring Illinois and its wealth of countryblue-grass and gospel music entertainers.

The next event is a Christmas show on Dec. 9 at a place to be announced. "We've gotten so big in such a short time, we felt a need to get back to smaller things, so we're planning a small concert," Farmer said. An April concert will be the next big event Farmer said the ICMA will try to move the concerts around the state so everyone can hear such award-winning performers as Jack Lewis, entertainer of the year; Cindy Suttles-Moore, female singer of the year; Mark Barrow, male singer; Wildwood, best dance band; Illinois Country Jamboree, best stageopry band; Todd and Juanita Raymond, best duo or vocal group; Otis Henry, best comedian; and Polly Farmer, musician of the year. "I've been doing promotions for other performers all these years, and the ICMA is just a natural flow of events," Farmer said.

"We can't make stars out of our award winners, but we can give them the awards and recognition to help them along, and they can make what they can of it," he said. "If I could do this for the rest of my life, I'd feel I had a purpose. I always get gratification out of promoting others, and yet I still have the opportunity to sing my own songs and tell my jokes. But I get a lot of enjoyment from helping other people sing their songs," Farmer said. ICMA membership is $10 for a year or $17.50 for two years, which includes a subscription to the Prairie Country News and Views magazine and ensures members a vote in next year's election for the top country music entertainers in the state.

Each issue contains information and pictures of national stars who are Illinois and of Illinois artists as well. The address is ICMA, Box 1111, Jacksonville 62651. still growing. "To vote for award winners, you had to be a member of the ICMA, so a lot of musicians and entertainers pushed along the membership drive," Farmer said. A blank ballot was included in the Prairie Country News and Views magazine, which members receive every two months, he said.

Farmer said he studied the national and Colorado country music associations as examples for setting up the Illinois group. He expects to head the association for a number of years and then probably become an adviser. He hopes husband-wife teams from throughout the state will submit applications to serve on the board. "The ICMA Museum is the future of the organization and an important part of documenting the history and the future of the country music industry in Illinois," Farmer said. "The museum takes care of the past, but research is expensive and the association is in need of pictures, mementoes and memorabilia from such bygone events as the WLS '(National) Barn Dance' and other similar programs that had their heyday in Illinois.

"The 'Barn Dance' was a forerunner of The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and is an Illinois country music treasure. Nashville has continued to ignore it, although many of the early Grand Ole Opry stars came from the 'Barn Farmer said the ICMA would like to have its own building to house the country music memorabilia and is looking for investors and studying grant possibilities for such a project "It would be a shame for all of this history to go by the wayside because no one did anything about it," he said. The ICMA is looking for patrons of the museum and donations of cash, memorabilia and artifacts, he said. So far, the ICMA has obtained "Barn Dance" souvenirs: 1939 and 1943 live recordings of the "Barn tapes of two WGN "Barn Dance" television shows, an offspring of the WLS program; old Lula Belle and Scotty recordings; clothing from country music stars of the 1960s; photographs; and musical instruments. During the October awards show, Patsy Montana, former "Barn Dance" star and first female country music singer to sell a million records Want, By NANCY GORDON Pantagraph staff Usually, it takes only one person with a dream to make things happen.

Especially when that person is dedicated and determined. That description fits Dennis Farmer of Jacksonville, who began working on the idea of an Illinois Country Music Association about 15 years ago. Farmer approached the idea in 1974 when he started a magazine through the Illinois Country Opry in Petersburg. There was an awards show in 1975 with three people inducted into the ICMA Hall of Fame before the magazine folded in 1976. One of those inducted was Uncle Johnny Barton of Clinton country music radio station WHOW.

Then the idea of forming an official Illinois Country Music Association was put on ice for a time, Farmer said, while he went to work in the insurance business and continued working as a singer, musician and comedian for area country oprys. Farmer worked for Country Companies and lived in Bloomington for two years. He also performed for a number of years, until recently, with the Nashville North house band in Taylorville, as did his wife, Polly, a registered nurse who is also a musician and songwriter. Both perform with the Illinois Country Jamboree, the former Nashville North group. Last month, on its first anniversary, the Illinois Country Music Association had its second awards show and first since 1975.

There were 1,200 people at the Decatur Holiday Inn Conference Center for the all-day musical showcase spotlighting some of the best and best-known country music entertainers in the state. It took Farmer and his co-officers of the ICMA his wife, Todd and Juanita Raymond and Rick and Sherry Roy, all of Decatur six months to get ready for the awards show. Finding a place for the event, sending ballots to the 4,000 ICMA members, obtaining artifacts for the ICMA Museum, lining up Hall of Fame candidates and signing Nashville entertainers as emcees for the awards show took a lot of time and patience, Farmer said. In a span of five or six months when word got out about the awards show, ICMA membership jumped from about 200 members to more than 4,000 and is.

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