On Thursday, October 12th, the temperature in Phoenix was 85 degrees. In Chicago, there was the earliest snow storm in history since records were kept back in 1871. Fortunately, I woke up that morning in Phoenix to tell
the Eli’s story to the food industry leaders at the Top Gun Executive Food & Beverage Forum sponsored by Stagnito Publishing. It was great to share our heritage, our vision and our commitment to quality. I was also able to hear from industry leaders, like Dean Spangler, the CEO of 100 year old, Spangler Candy Company (the maker of Dum Dum Pops and the largest candy cane manufacturer in the country), who shared that heritage, commitment to excellence and innovation.
The eyes of the nation and certainly Chicago will be on Phoenix on Monday night when the undefeated Bears play the Arizona Cardinals. The Arizona Cardinals have a long history that dates back to their first game in Chicago in 1922 just two years after the Chicago Bears started to play in Chicago.
Because of their dominance on the field in the early 40′s, the Chicago Bears became known as the monsters of the Midway, a title originally given to the University of Chicago Maroons under the direction
of famed coach Alonzo Stagg.
The Cardinals were actually closer in location to the University of Chicago and the Midway as they played their homes games at Comiskey Park on the south side. The name Cardinals actually came about when the
team received hand me down uniforms from the University of Chicago Maroons which faded red was thought to be a “cardinal red” by the then president of the team.
The reference to Midway came about because the University of Chicago is located on the Midway Plaisance, a green area designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted. In 1914, the Midway Gardens designed by Frank Lloyd Wright opened
at Cottage Grove and the Midway Plaisance at 60th Street.
The beer garden and entertainment center covered three acres–a square city block–surrounded by low masonry terraces, promenades, loggias, galleries, winter gardens, and a dance floor. It was supposed to be a festival for the eye and ear, with areas for mystery and romance–a place for good music, good food, good beer, and dancing. Soon after its opening, prohibition ruined its business and it was torn down in 1929.
One of the most famous design elements of the Midway Gardens was the Midway Sprites designed by sculptor Alfonso Ianelli. The Sprites were based on shapes . Cube was one; Triangle, Octagon, and Sphere were
the others. There were many more. A web site about the gardens described the sprites: “the Winged Sprite stood over the entrance and greeted visitors to the Gardens . . . the Solemn Sprite contemplated occupants of the summer
garden . . . and the Maiden of Mud was on the left, overlooking one of the dance floors.
Fortunately workers saved some of the Sprites when the Midway Gardens was demolished. They were in a field for a number of year until architects from Wright’s Taliesen restored the Sprites. In 1985, eight of the Sprites each standing six feet tall and weighing 450 lbs. each were donated to the Arizona Biltmore, several standing right outside the door from my speech.