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Carrie’s first and last rodeo

By Carrie Shepherd | @cshepherd


In January 2020, my partner Matt and I were visiting friends in New York, and one of them said, “Have you heard about this virus in China? It’s a big deal.” I wasn’t really fazed. In February, during a visit to London, I kept seeing alarming headlines about the coronavirus, but still wasn’t frightened. My blasé attitude changed after a visit to Houston in late February. Of course, we went to the rodeo. On the flight home, the passenger next to us was coughing a lot.

Finally, I was concerned.

A little more than a week later, I was sick with a really bad cold.

The doctor said it wasn’t strep throat so there was a possibility it could be the coronavirus. At that time there was a shortage of tests and since I was overall young and healthy, the doctor said I wouldn’t be able to get one. 

I was scared. 

I recovered and went back to work as a reporter and editor at WBEZ. I remember the day we all learned a CPS staffer had tested positive. A group of us still in the newsroom that evening strategized about coverage. We needed to inform but not create too much fear. We needed to understand what this virus (actually a disease) is. We needed to protect the personal details of those involved. 

There was no template and I remember thinking, “I’m glad I’m surrounded by very smart, seasoned journalists because this is all so weird.”

Two years later, I’ve reported and edited stories with pretty much every angle on the pandemic — the hit to the arts community, how to care for our mental health, and many others.

Oh! And the biggest change from then to now: I helped start THIS daily newsletter and podcast, alongside the best team in the city.

Readers and listeners have been telling us the last normal thing they did before COVID shutdowns in 2020. 

☘️ Ellie Moore of Logan Square: “Two years ago, I was dancing to my friends’ Irish music show at the Levee on Fullerton and Pulaski.” 

📚 Mike Burke and Caty Normal-Burke of Albany Park: “Before the pandemic, [we] tutored reading at Kellman Elementary in North Lawndale twice a week and ushered at several Chicago theaters.” 

📲 What was the last normal thing you did in March 2020? Email, or text/call (773) 780-0246.


▪️ Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz was sentenced to 13 months in prison Thursday for wire fraud and money laundering. The ex–22nd Ward alder took almost $40,000 from the city’s progressive caucus for personal expenses. [Chicago Tribune]

▪️ CPS is looking into allegations of unfair treatment for boys and girls sports teams at Jones College Prep — one of the reasons the Local School Council voted to removed principal Joseph Powers at the South Loop school last week. [Block Club Chicago]

▪️ Ex-mayoral and U.S. Senate candidate Willie Wilson’s gasathon didn’t exactly go to plan: We talk more about the massive traffic jams on today’s podcast.

▪️ Catch a March Madness game at a bar around town. [Eater Chicago]

▪️ The spring equinox is Sunday! Thanks to Chi’s street grid, you can get a nice view at sunset and sunrise on any east-west facing streets.

▪️ This week’s must-read.


TODAY: “Ghost in the Shell” pre-party & screening in Logan Square
Go to the cyber punk DJ set before watching the 1995 classic Japanese film at the Logan Theatre starting at 7 p.m.

SATURDAY: Cycle for Ukraine in Palos Heights
Do a five-mile bike ride and join a prayer service Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

SATURDAY: Holi Festival of Color celebrations in Streeterville, Lemont
Families can celebrate with dance performances, the annual color throwing, and more at Navy Pier or at the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Tarot card readings in East Side
Get a glimpse into your past and future at the Toci, La Diosa boutique.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Maple fests, pancake picnics in burbs
Hike, watch tree tapping, and help turn maple sap into syrup at nature centers in Olympia Fields, Batavia, and Northbrook 🍁

SUNDAY: Podcast Brunch Club in Lincoln Park
Discuss selected podcasts at Red Lion Pub Sunday at noon. (It’s like a book club but for pods!) RSVP to

THIS WEEKEND: Andersonville InSidewalk sale 
Shop North Side businesses, and participate in the puzzle exchange 🧩


Looking to get the word out to Chi’s best audience? Look no further, friend.

City Cast Chicago readers and listeners aren’t just keeping up with local news, they’re out in neighborhoods, trying new restaurants, seeing new shows, volunteering, and exploring. 

Check out our advertising options, or just email


Yep, City Cast Chicago officially turned one. Big thanks to all the readers and listeners who’ve welcomed us into their inboxes and pod feeds every morning. Cheers to more stories in the year ahead 🥂

A white stone mermaid statue sits in a bed of grass near the beach. The city skyline is barely visible in the distance on a bright blue, sunny day.
The Secret Mermaid. (Image by Jacoby Cochran)

To celebrate, producer Natalie Rivera is sharing her fav episode.

“I have to go with our Secret Mermaid episode, and not just because the mermaid statue itself is such a cool hidden gem that I had never heard of, but because the story behind it is kind of its own time machine. 

Our episode, which includes an interview with one of the artists, Roman Villarreal, transports you back to the ‘80s in Chicago and subtly explores what life was like back then, especially for blue collar workers like Roman and his friends. The episode also explores how the statue is kind of a love letter to Roman’s daughter, and who doesn’t love a cute father-daughter story?”

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