You can't go to Swedish Days, but you can read 'The Swedish Days Swindle'

Having the Swedish Days festival in Geneva canceled because of coronavirus was a tough blow to area residents who look forward to that major summer event.

The Fox Valley region is not alone in this sort of disappointment. Nearly every city across the country is suffering through the same bummer as favorite events cannot take place and favorite venues cannot open.

But not every event has a book written about it, especially a thriller in which the summer festival takes center stage.

We can thank Chicago author JB Michaels again for bringing a major Geneva event into a different light - one in which his detective team of Mac and Millie have to save the day.

He did it last year with "The Christmas Walk Caper" with Geneva's annual Christmas Walk as the setting, and now he's delivered "The Swedish Days Swindle."

"I wanted to follow the same formula as 'The Christmas Walk Caper,'" Michaels said, in explaining he actually wrote another Geneva-based thriller called "Valentine Dine or Die" just before he delivered the Swedish Days mystery.

"Now that Swedish Days is canceled, it doesn't mean we can't have Swedish Days in some other way, like the book," he said.

Michaels made it well known last year that he loved going to events in Geneva with his wife, Ashley, who is originally from Geneva.

So, it's been no coincidence that Mac and Millie, who go on dates at Geneva events often in the stories, solve mysteries together in the city.

As a side benefit, it hasn't hurt Michaels' book sales that The Little Traveler owner Mike Simon has sold the books in his popular Geneva store.

In "The Swedish Days Swindle," the detective couple suspects a "very organized and infamous group of thieves is going to rob the Geneva Chamber of Commerce during Swedish Days," Michaels said.

There's a murder mystery thrown in to pique even more interest. It's no surprise that reviewers describe Michaels' work as "supernatural novels."

They have plenty of magic and mystery. Just enough for a good book, but maybe not enough to actually bring Swedish Days back to life this summer.

<h3 class="leadin">Wait for the cars:

A month or so ago, there was a glimmer of hope that maybe some summer events scheduled for August could survive this health crisis. Reality has set in, and those events are falling by the wayside as well.

So, we'll have to wait until August of 2021 to see all of the classic and antique cars that line the streets of Geneva during the Geneva Concours d'Elegance.

The show was set for Aug. 23 this year, but those who look forward to the event have to mark Aug. 22, 2021, on their calendars.

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A sign of the times: The statue of Col. Edward J. Baker in downtown St. Charles now sports a face mask. Courtesy of Dave Heun

That masked man:

The statue of Col. Edward J. Baker sitting on a bench in front of his beloved Hotel Baker has been an icon of downtown St. Charles for 15 years now.

St. Charles artist Ray Kobald created that likeness of one of the city's greatest philanthropists in 2005 through commission from the Downtown St. Charles Partnership.

For the first time, that statue has an "addition" that is a sign of the times because the colonel is wearing a face mask. It's part humor and part reminder that it is not only a good idea to wear protection, but also a state requirement when among groups of other people.

Col. Baker and his family certainly understood the dangers of contracting a disease that was hard to control. Henry Rockwell Baker, their 22-year-old son, died of tuberculosis in 1914. It was 12 years before the family opened the Baker Community Center in 1926 in Henry's name and to also honor World War I veterans. Two years later, the Bakers opened the Hotel Baker along Main Street.

<h3 class="leadin">Renovation time:

Some readers have noticed the same thing I have in "wandering around" the area since the coronavirus quarantine - a lot of restaurants and entertainment venues are undergoing renovations or deep cleaning.

We hope they all can open and get business back to normal soon. But given the current circumstances, what better time than now to complete an interior or exterior project?

Arcada Theatre's Ron Onesti was just starting to take over the storefronts on either side of the downtown St. Charles theater when the shutdown hit. Since then, nearby dumpsters have been filled from interior work.

Reader Richard Glover sent a note to say he noticed some work taking place at the Alley 64 pub along Main Street in St. Charles, and the Preservation Bread and Wine site on Third Street in Geneva.

"There's a new brew pub under construction in St. Charles called Ed's Basement (at 219 W. Main St.), and it looks like it will be a great addition to the community," Glover said.

We've also noticed that Sophie's Market, next to and operated through Nobel House restaurant in Geneva, is posting on Facebook that it is open for pickup and delivery.

We remain anxious to see Wahlburger's open on the west side of St. Charles, and also what sort of operation will take hold at the former Little Owl site in Geneva.

Some others spots were just getting their footing when the pandemic hit. One of those areas would be Flagship on the Fox and the Pollyanna Brewery along Riverside Avenue in St. Charles.

On the downside, of course, a few places are likely to never reopen. It looks like DeGeo's on the east side of St. Charles, a good lunch spot, might be one of those.

It all makes it hard to believe that nearly three months ago a couple of my columns shared ideas from readers about where they would dine if they ate all three meals out over a two-day period.

My idea there was to mention many of the fine restaurants in the Tri-Cities area, in addition to knowing a few people who actually do eat out that often.

Today, the message would be that those who want to see their favorite restaurants survive during this shutdown period might want to add a few more carryout trips to their activities.

<h3 class="leadin">My latest carryout:

It's no secret that Country House, at Kirk Road and Fabyan Parkway in Geneva, has long made some of the best burgers in the area.

My recent visit proved that is still the case, even during this carryout-only phase we are in.

But it was also interesting to chat with general manager Jim Thorson about the struggles to keep the restaurant afloat at this time. He sounded like things were OK with carryout orders, and he also mentioned he had received his small-business loan for payroll protection.

He has a certain period of time to use that money, or return some of it. He has employees who have worked for him for many years, but there's a conflict in decision-making now for everyone. Take part of the loan money as your paycheck, or stay on unemployment, which has offered extra funds because of the uncertainty of when anyone can get back to work and stay there.

Think of the number of small businesses and restaurants facing that same dilemma.

In the meantime, don't forget the burgers at Country House, in Geneva or for those in Clarendon Hills, for your carryout list. They are really good.

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