Monday, February 26, 2007

Christmas Craft Market & Holiday Book Fair on the Way

The Williamson County Pavilion will play host to the first (and what organizers hope will become an annual) Southern Illinois Christmas Craft Market later this year during the first weekend of December.

Glenda Kelton & Alexis Wilson of Yarn Creations out of Carterville are organizing the event. The Williamson County Tourism Bureau is co-sponsoring it.

"Crafting is becoming a lost art. We want our show to be a rue craft show, no buy/sell items, no items from kits, etc.," the pair explains in their letter to crafters going out this week.

Selection will be a jury process and the organizers will be asking for photos to be enclosed with the application forms.

I'm looking forward to this event because I think it will be pull together the various Christmas season events that normally take place on that weekend.

While the craft market is taking place in the Expo Hall, we're also looking at filling the ballrooms with a Holiday Book Fair focusing on authors from around the region and neighboring states.

For more information on the Christmas Craft Market contact Glenda Kelton & Alexis Wilson at either 618-922-4815 or at 618-771-2956.

For more information on the book fair contact us here at the tourism office at 618-997-3690.

We're also looking at a third event for the ballrooms, but details on that won't be released until we have everything in place.

Dinosaurs Looking For Place to Roam in Region

Could Southern Illinois become host to the world's largest dinosaur museum? That's what one pair of developers, CM Studio, is considering for Collinsville.
BENLD — Charlie McGrady peddled his dinosaurs one daspletosaurus at a time. But, he figured, there had to be a better way.

Fifteen years ago, he gave up a bank job on Wall Street to focus on dinosaur sculpting, a skill that started as untrained tinkering and took off from there.

Since then, he and Brian Page, who is his partner and nephew, have built about 600 life-size, lifelike dinosaurs and sold them to museums and businesses around the world. Now, the partners are looking for a place of their own.

They want to build in Collinsville the world's largest museum devoted to dinosaurs. The team is working on designs for a $2.5 million complex that would feature 100 dinosaurs, 50 skeletons and a theater in a 25,000-square-foot building.

Check out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the rest of the story.

Marion Receives Public Preservation Grant

The governor's office is announcing that Marion and Carbondale will receive nearly $8,000 in historic preservation grants. The awards are part of eight announced yesterday for communities around the state.

Marion will receive $4,900 for a public education campaign involving the development and creation of a local landmarks brochure, publication of articles, public service announcements, property owner education, and cooperative interaction with the Williamson County Tourism Bureau.

Carbondale will receive $2,975 for a historic preservation awards program, as well as a tram tour of historic neighborhoods with an accompanying brochure highlighting the city’s most significant cultural resources.

Marion's proposal includes development of a brochure for both the existing 24 designated historic homes, as well as those in a proposed historic district stretching along South Market Street.

Part of the grant will help promote the awareness of historic sites in the city. In addition the city's Historic Preservation Commission will work us here at the tourism bureau to help develop and promote heritage tourism in the city.

Marion's Director of Economic Development Gail West wrote the grant submitted on behalf of the city.
Communities that have achieved Certified Local Government status under the National Historic Preservation Act were encouraged to apply for $45,935 in grant funds that are available this fiscal year through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA). These federal funds are specifically earmarked for local grants in the areas of public preservation and development.

The federal grant funds administered by IHPA were awarded on a matching basis, with the federal funds paying for up to 70 percent of project costs and local funds making up the remainder. The projects must relate to historic preservation and could include planning, public education workshops and heritage publications, National Register of Historic Places property listings, and development.

"The Certified Local Government program allows municipalities and counties to participate as partners in state and federal preservation activities," said Catherine O’Connor, Certified Local Government program administrator for IHPA. "Currently, we work with 62 such communities in all regions of the state."

Other communities will receive funds for the following programs:

ROCK ISLAND will receive $11,666 to reprint popular and extensive architectural and historical walking tour brochures that highlight the city’s recent “Preserve America” project. These brochures emphasize the Centennial Bridge, Mississippi River heritage attractions, and other heritage tourism sites.

EDWARDSVILLE will receive $7,028 to design and produce a guide featuring the city-owned Colonel Benjamin Stephenson House. The guide will be used to train educators to interpret the house for elementary students.

URBANA was awarded $3,150 for a day-long workshop with a lecture and demonstration by Bob Yapp, a nationally-recognized preservation expert. His hands-on, multi-media presentation will address the proper care and repair of windows in historic structures, as well as working with lead paint in historic properties.

MARENGO will receive $2,216 to produce a guide that highlights locally designated landmarks with descriptions and photos. They will also produce a brochure that helps residents better understand the landmark and historic district program and procedures.

WILL COUNTY was awarded $7,000 to develop brochures that provide a general overview of the function and role of the Historic Preservation Commission in Will County, as well as landmark designation information with a list of the County’s significant historic resources.

CHICAGO will receive $7,000 to develop and make 30,000 copies of the 2007 Chicago Landmarks Map Brochure, one of the City’s most widely available public information resources, which will be updated to include new local historic landmarks designated in 2006.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Prices Drop for Williamson County Flights

Thanks to increased competition for air passengers flying out of Williamson County, not only are air fares to St. Louis dropping, but four companies are now vying for the Lambert Field contract.
RegionsAir this week announced a new fare structure... One-way fares start at $99 each way, with a maximum of $169. Round-trip fares run the gamut from $109 to $159.

Today's Southern Illinois has the story.

Friday, February 23, 2007

State-Wide Indoor Smoking Ban Considered

An Illinois House committee voted 9-0 yesterday to send to the full chamber a bill that ban indoor smoking throughout the state, a measure that would greatly benefit the health of hospitality workers.

The Bloomington Pantagraph has the story.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Golf Association Goes Online

The Southern Illinois Golf Association's new website just went online. Find it at

I attended their annual meeting two weeks ago. They're working on some exciting projects that would not only enhance the bottom line of the courses themselves, but tourism in general for the area.

The association has been serving its members here in Southern Illinois since 1924.

Major Development Set for Lake of Egypt

Efforts by the Southern Illinois Power Company to sell off part of their land holdings along Lake of Egypt to a large developer have been circulating for at least a year, if not longer.

If anyone is keeping track of entries for "Worst Kept Secret Award" this one should be in the running, or better yet, "Biggest Story Not Yet Covered" might be a better category.

Last November, The Cypress Company of St. Petersburg, Florida, filed the deeds for hundreds of acres of power company lands with the county clerk's office in Johnson County.

According to their website, they're planning a $25 million development with 427 housing units as well as some commercial development. No word yet, if any the development would be specifically tourism-related.

The biggest hurdle will be water, believe it or not. Despite being on a lake, the Lake of Egypt Water District is short water and had been planning on securing water from Marion's new lake before the Army Corps of Engineers decided to kill the project.

Post-Dispatch Columnist Recalls Presley Anecdote

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Pat Gauen recalls a funny anecdote in today's paper about the late Southern Illinois tourism activist Wayman Presley, founder of Presley Tours and one of the main organizers of Bald Knob Cross.

Gauen uses the anecdote as a set-up for the subject of his column. Presley's story, he noted, allegedly took place during the early days of Giant City State Park just in time for a bus tour visiting the site, and represents a practical joke that we can only wished would have been videotaped, had such technology existed at the time.
[Presley] explained that he had made an advance visit to prepare the women's privy.

Wayman said he lined the two-holer's seat with mink scraps, and dangled a speaker into the pit below from a wire linked to a small amplifier and microphone outside.

After watching a tourist slip in for a little luxury-upholstered relief, he said, he would yell into the mike: "Hey lady, would you mind moving to the other seat? We're working down here!"

For the rest of Gauen's column headlined, "Ty-D Bol one-upped; maybe call it Chide-y Bol?", check it out online.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Localized Almanac Provides Clues to Region

Nothing like linking to a Southern Illinoisan article that's been picked by the Associated Press and placed online by another newspaper — in this case the Daily Register — but Les Winkeler's story about the region's own almanac should be publicized.
CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Spicebush begins blooming in Southern Illinois about March 13. Mississippi kites begin heading south for the winter around Sept. 2. Collard greens should be planted between April 1-30.

These things may seem like minutia. However, these facts and thousands more are common knowledge for readers of "The Waterman & Hill Traveller’s Companion 2007 Nature Almanac." Well, maybe not common knowledge, but at least readily available.

The Waterman & Hill Traveller’s Companion is the 10-year-old brainchild of Jim Jung of Carbondale.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rail Travel Up With New Chicago Train

Passenger travel increased on Amtrak between Carbondale and Chicago since a third route began last fall. The numbers are up 68 percent for November, December and January over the same time period last year.

The Association Press has the story.

Although the vast majority of travel on the old Illinois Central track from Carbondale to Chicago is Windy City-bound, there is a small segment of inter-city travel just here in Southern Illinois.

I was just told today about a couple from Marion who took the train from Carbondale to Centralia for dinner at the Centralia House restaurant, a historic eatery that catered to both Lincoln and Douglas prior to the Civil War when then Illinois Central was the only railroad in the state.

They took the 4 o'clock train up and the 8 o'clock train back.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cruise Nights Returning to Herrin

The Southern Illinoisan has the story.
HERRIN - Organizers are already planning a major tune-up for Cruise Night, Herrin's venerable slice of Americana.

The first classic car won't roar into Herrin until June 1, but organizers from the Herrin Better Business Association are already busy looking for sponsors to keep the event a popular attraction.

A Herrin tradition, Cruise Night is held each Friday night on Park Avenue in Herrin. Classic cars line the sides of the street, and music from the 1950s to early 1970s is played as car fans have the opportunity to view the vehicles.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Chicago Air Service Returns to Williamson

The first flights of Mesa Airlines began yesterday from Williamson County Airport. The Southern Illinoisan has more.