Monday, April 23, 2007

Pavilion Enters the Black

After five months on the job it looks like the Williamson County Pavilion is operating in the black after years of red ink.

Forget about fancy accounting, for our board members the bottom line has always been the balance in the operating account of the Williamson County Events Commission which oversees the Pavilion.

Ever since the building opened in August 2004, the amount in that checking account has gone down as operating expenses exceeded operating income every year.

On Nov. 15, 2006, when I started as tourism director, the balance for the Events Commission’s Operating Account stood at $87,056.79. Five months later on April 15, 2007, our balance totaled $94,421.39 and that didn’t include a large deposited following the DragonsCage event on April 14.

A lot of the growth from this year compared with last year’s is due to interim Director Jeanette’s action last fall repealing my predecessor's unilateral decision to block all but one caterer from working the Pavilion.

We’ve also been more aggressive in negotiating rates where we know we have competition. The other major factor is the additional media coverage we’ve been generating with the additional events.

More and more area residents are finally waking up to the idea that the Pavilion actually exists. It's also helping that our lodging operators are providing more referrals to us.

The Southern Illinoisan's story on our accomplishments ran Sunday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Little Egypt Arts to Host Quilt Display

The volunteers at the Little Egypt Arts Centre are installing a new quilt and fiber arts exhibit today just in time for the big quilt show in Paducah next week.

"The Art of Quilting" is a new exhibit at the Centre runs from April 21 through June 15. Works include heirloom quilts as well as photographs and paintings that celebrate quiltying. Current works by artist Colleen Thompson and other LEAA members will be displayed in the gallery and in the windows.

The arts centre is usually open between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., but will stay open to 7 p.m. next Thursday and Friday.

Here's the information on the 23rd Annual American Quilters Society Quilt show in Paducah which will bring hundreds of guests to the motels in Williamson County:
Paducah, Kentucky, becomes Quilt City USA® each April as thousands of quilters from around the world come to view hundreds of quilts in the AQS Quilt Contest. New for 2007 in the AQS School of Quiltmaking: Classes begin on Tuesday, the day before the show opens! Hands-on longarm classes will be included in the 135 classes offered this year. See page 18 for information on earning college credit from classes taken at AQS Quilt Shows.

And, don't miss these special events: An Evening with Jim Shore on Wednesday; MAQS Quilt Auction on Thursday; AQS/Hobbs Bonded Fibers Fashion Show on Friday (NEW DAY); A Musical Encore by Ricky Tims on Friday evening, sponsored by Ken's Sewing Center; Brunch with Ami Simms on Saturday; and the NEW Show & Tell, sponsored by Handi Quilter, on Saturday. Check out these ongoing special events too: Build Quilts for Love sponsored by Baby Lock USA, and the Paducah Booth Hop sponsored by Windham Fabrics.

Shop the Merchant Malls: Visit over 300 vendor booths featuring the latest quiltmaking supplies, gifts, and antique and new quilts. Vendors are located in six different areas - so be sure to visit all of these areas: Paducah Expo Center, 1st and 2nd floors of the Convention Center, Pool Atrium, and Pool Annex at the Expo Center/Executive Inn complex; and at the AQS Vendors on Kentucky (2nd & Kentucky Ave.), where you'll find the Hurt Books Sale.

For more information check out their website .

Sahara Woods, 'It's Unbelieable'

The Southern's Les Winkler provides an update in today's paper on what's next for Sahara Woods.
The roughly 4,200 acres that comprise Sahara Woods were given to the state by Sahara Coal several years ago. At that time, opening the site to the public was a distant dream - a dream now reaching fruition.

When the state took ownership of the land there were huge gob piles and rusted out hulks of trucks and draglines littering the area. Although the restoration of the park is almost complete, no firm date for opening has been established.

"Everything is up in the air," [Site Supt. Eric] McClusky said. "Right now, we have no running water or electricity anywhere in the place. We are scheduled to start renovations on the office this summer."

Other plans include the rifle range (already built), boat ramps and eventually a campground.

Crossposted also at the Sahara Woods blog.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Trail of Tears Spring Meeting Set for April 14

The Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will hold its spring general membership meeting at Camp Ground Cumberland Presbyterian Church near Anna on Saturday, April 14, at 1 p.m.

The gathering will kick off the Illinois Trail of Tears Oral History Project and all persons interested in the trail or that might have family stories or information relative to the trail are encouraged to attend.

The meeting will be an informal gathering where those with stories or information relative to their families and the Trail of Tears are invited to share them. Videotaping and audiotaping services will be available to record those stories. Individuals with stories to share may do so in front of a gathered audience, or privately in a small room if they prefer.

Also, everyone is asked to bring family diaries, newspaper clippings, photos, drawings, maps, documents and any other papers they may have relative to the Trail of Tears. Copying and scanning equipment will be available so that copies of these items may be added to the Illinois Trail of Tears Oral History Project and individuals can then take their original photos and papers safely back home with them.

Also, Harvey Henson of the SIU Geology Department along with some of his students will be demonstrating and explaining remote sensing techniques at the Camp Ground Church Cemetery.

The public is invited to the meeting. For more information e-mail Sandra Boaz at or call her at 618-833-8216, or Cheryl Jett at or by phone at 618-567-6895.

To reach Camp Ground Church take I-57 south to Exit 30. Turn west on Route 146. Almost immediately (200 feet) turn back north on Campground Rd. The church and cemetery is at the intersection of Campground Road and Tunnel Lane.

For more information on the Trail of Tears Association check out their website.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Public Smoking Ban Passes Senate

The Illinois Senate voted 34-23 last week to pass Senate Bill 500, the Smoke Free Illinois Act, which would prohibit smoking in public places such as restaurants.

The bill "prohibits smoking in public places, places of employment, and governmental vehicles," according to the state's synopsis. It also prohibits "smoking within a minimum distance of 15 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited."

Southern Illinois' lawmakers from both parties voted against the measure, which isn't surprising as the region boasts (suffers) from some of the highest adult smoking rates in the state.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. If it passes and the governor signs the bill, Illinois will become the 16th state in the nation to pass such legislation since New York became the first in 2001.

In case some might wonder why the bill is needed. Here's what the Illinois Department of Public Health says:
More than 20,000 Illinoisans die each year as a result of cigarette smoking. Nationally, smoking is responsible for one of every five deaths. In fact, cigarette smoking kills more Americans than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined.

In 2003, 24.3 percent of all adults in Illinois smoked compared to 22.1 percent nationwide. Even scarier was the fact that a 2002 survey showed 29.2 percent of high school students smoked cigarettes.

Motel Revenues Up in February

Motel revenues continued to increase in February for Williamson County's lodging operators.

As of April 2, all but two of the lodging operators had paid their February bed tax by the end of March as required by county ordinance. The county's five percent bed tax took in $42,992.47 so far compared with $40,390.74 last year.

That's up 6.4 percent from year to year. For our fiscal year which begins in July (but includes taxes collection in May), revenues year-to-date this year are up 6.2 percent or more than $42,000 over the same period last year.

Roughly another $2,000 is due from motels delinquent in either their January or February bed tax.

January figures were also up three percent over January 2006.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Checkers Attracts Tourists From 12 States

This past weekend's Illinois State Checkers Tournament drew contestants from at least 12 different states. The Illinois Centre Mall in Marion hosted the event.

The tournament even drew a world champion to play here at the Hub of the Universe.
MARION - Few if any people passing through Illinois Centre Mall this weekend probably realized they were walking by a world champion at work on his craft.

There is little surprise: The world of checkers is much a mystery to the uninitiated, said Gary Ellison, president of the Illinois Checkers Association.

"It's not a spectator sport so a lot of people don't know that much about it," Ellison said.

Alex Moiseyev, the world champion of three-move checkers, participated in the Illinois State Checker Association's state tournament along with 32 other competitive checkers players who were eager to practice their skills against their peers.

Moiseyev says checkers is a wildly popular game at all levels.

Check out the rest of Ashley's story in today's Southern Illinoisan.