Academy (of the Sangamon) Awards


Yes, it’s that time of year again! The time when rich, glamorous and fabulous people at the height of their careers give awards to other rich, glamorous and fabulous people who are also at the height of their careers. Yes, it’s Academy Award season!

And why should the fabulous Sangamon River miss out? So here, in a debut performance, we present the first ever Academy of the Sangamon Awards.

On behalf of wood ducks everywhere, but particularly those of the Sangamon River, the Academy presents its first award for Best Performance to Champaign resident Zach Williams. Zach, as his Eagle Scout service project, built and placed some very nice nest boxes for area wood ducks along the Sangamon River corridor. And while we can’t be sure any actual wood ducks moved in this year, more wood ducks have in fact been spotted along the river.  Fabulous performance, Zach, just fabulous!

The Award for Best Performance in a Dramatic Role goes to USRC Member Chuck Berschinski for spearheading the USRC’s effort to “adopt” a section of Illinois Highway 47. In bestowing this award, the Academy felt that it doesn’t get much more dramatic than working closely with the bureaucracy of the Illinois Department of Transportation. Yet Chuck pulled through, and now the USRC is the proud new owner of its very own stretch of Illinois highway (that just can’t seem to clean up after itself).

Best Picture: As part of this year’s cleanup of the Sangamon River sponsored by Illinois RiverWatch, there was this really great picture of Nate Keener. Nate serves as Director of Illinois Riverwatch, and in this picture, he posed victoriously with fists extended into the air atop a huge pile of over 27 tires that were pulled from the river by several volunteers. Fabulous picture, Nate! And now, this brings us to the Award for…

Best Supporting Actress, which, all nepotism aside, goes to USRC Member Carol Hays for coordinating the amazing cookout lunch for the 38 volunteers who helped pull those tires and a total of nearly two tons of junk out of the river. Volunteers also cleaned up Lake of the Woods, removed invasive bush honeysuckle and other trash, which made all who participated extraordinarily hungry. So Carol acted just fabulously in support of all of our cleanup volunteers!

Best Score: Hey, you can’t get any better score than “first place”, right? So this year’s award for Best Score goes to Number 376, the first place duck in this year’s Second Annual Duck Race! Despite low water from the summer’s drought season, feisty #376 pushed ahead of over 450 other contenders to score first place. Way to go 376! And that leads us to…

Best Supporting Actor, which goes to local resident Matt Pommier. Matt sponsored #376 with his generous donation on behalf of the Mahomet Area Youth Club. So all of the $500 Grand Prize winnings went to support MAYC and its efforts on behalf of the youth of Mahomet. Fabulous supporting, Matt!

Best Documentary: This award goes to Sarah Bales of the Illinois Natural History Survey for leading the effort on “It’s Our River Day” to document the mussels of the Sangamon River. Sarah is truly just fabulous at documenting mussels. In fact, with the help of 34 volunteers, Sarah collected over 300 mussels and documented over 14 different species, including those with such fabulous names as pistolgrips, pimplebacks, plain pocketbooks, and pink heelsplitters, which sound suspiciously like those shoes worn by several of the women attending this year’s Ceremony!

Best Direction: This year, the Academy had several great directions to choose from all along the Sangamon River. But we all know our way around the Sangamon River pretty well (and for a cool interactive map, see So for this award, we settled on ‘head South toward Arcola, just past Rockome Gardens, and around the little curve in the road and then just ahead on the left’, which is the directions to Schrock Sawmill where several volunteers picked up several brand new white oak timbers to replace the rotting, aging timbers on the deck of the Sangamon River’s Historic Hazen Bridge. And here, a second “Best Supporting Actor” nomination went out to Matt Pommier of Mahomet Landscapes for loaning the USRC an awesome truck to follow these directions and pick them up.

Best Screenplay: Technically, there weren’t any contenders in this category but, all humility aside, the Academy is of the opinion that any number of “Notes from the River” columns would make a fabulous screenplay for a feature film, documentary, and/or comedy. Interested producers or directors should contact Scott at at their earliest convenience.

Best Actor in a Presidential Performance: I know, I know, you’re all thinking “Daniel Day Lewis”, right? But he can get his award from some other Academy. As for the Academy of the Sangamon, we bestow our award on Bruce Colravy in a long running performance as the President of the USRC. As president, Bruce’s performances included spearheading the efforts for the duck race, the mussel survey, the Sangamon River cleanup, and numerous other fabulous performances.  Fabulous presidenting, Bruce (and remember, Bruce did the work, Daniel just played one in the movies).

Well, that about wraps things up for this year’s Academy of the Sangamon Awards. I think all of our winners would like to thank Mom, Dad, and their other loved ones for all their support and especially the Sangamon River for providing the inspiration to make their fabulous, glamorous and generous success possible!

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, December 28, 2012, by Scott Hays

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