Today's Canton Daily Ledger includes a story on last Friday's tourism summit for Fulton County, home of the celebrated Spoon River.
Participants listed to speakers, gathered in small groups and hashed out ideas for tourism branding and development.
Having read the story I'm not that impressed with the summit's results, but I recognize the need behind it. Local residents and businesses have to buy into the idea of tourism. It's also something that can't be implemented top-down. It has to have grassroots support if it is to stick and spread.
About a decade ago Hartzel Black, then of Southeastern Illinois College, helped coordinate a series of four-county meetings for the Saline, Gallatin, Hardin and Pope County areas. I took an active part in those meetings and helped draft the tourism development plan that was generated from the discussion at those meetings.
Regrettably, little of those plans ever took effect, though the state did finally purchase the Old Slave House three years later.
Hartzel left SIC for greener pastures and Pope County decided to join the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau. Hardin County and Gallatin County remain unalighted and left out of the state's CVB program and Saline County loosely affiliated with Williamson in order to receive state help.
I found an article in Google's cache of stories from The Daily Register that outlines the history of "Tourism Promotion Activity Since the 1920s" that mentions some of the problems that had to be overcome.