Thursday, August 23, 2007

Whew! Governor Doesn't Cut Tourism

After weeks of delay the state of Illinois apparently has a budget according to The Capitol Fax Blog.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich submitted his veto message to the General Assembly earlier today. It included major revisions, but none on page 252 in the line item that directly impacts certified tourism bureaus across the state.

Therefore, it looks like the 10 percent increase for local convention and tourism bureaus is protected and should result in at least a 10 percent increase in our state funding for the Williamson County Tourism Bureau.

The funding in this program has stayed the same since the 2004 budget. The new money was only added by the General Assembly in this last budget bill passed.

UPDATE 5:34 p.m. August 22
However the veto pen did take a bite out of the Illinois Wine and Grape Council, slashing their line item from $165,000 down to $150,000. Considering the impact the wine industry is having on tourism in the state that won't help.

UPDATE 8:55 p.m. August 22
Looks like state funding for the Illinois Main Street program was wiped out totally - all $204,000 that flowed through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Food Network to Focus on 17th Street's Ribs

Bon App├Ętit declares Southern Illinois' 17th Street Bar & Grill the best rib joint in America and you can watch the episode on the Food Network this weekend.

The show will air at 4 p.m. Saturday and repeat at 5 p.m. Sunday (CDT). The show is the Food Network's special, "Top American Restaurants: Bon Appetit Picks the Best".

More on 17th Street can be found on the web at

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Developers Eye Gun Creek at Rend Lake

Today's Southern Illinoisan has an update on Rend Lake Conservancy District's efforts to attract private investors to develop the Gun Creek area northwest of Exit 77 on Interstate 57.
Three of the proposals call for the land to be developed into a resort or resort-type complex that could include such amenities as an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, hotels, shopping, cottages, condominiums, marina and a nature center.

A fourth group has proposed a residential housing complex for the site. [RLCD Manager Keith] Thomason said the group would like to construct 140 villas.

Hopefully the district will take one of the three proposals for tourism development rather than the residential development. I've got a problem with using eminent domain for what would be a luxury subdivision.

A mixed use development would provide additional lodging, sales tax and attractions that would bring in even more tourists.

The latest figures released earlier this summer showed Franklin County with the second worst rate of growth of any county in the state when it comes to tourism expenditures. As home of one of Illinois' Seven Wonders that shouldn't be the case.

To see what you're missing at Rend Lake, check out this video from YouTube.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Burden Falls Flows on YouTube

One of the Shawnee National Forest's hidden gems isn't hidden as much now with this user created video on YouTube taken last New Year's Eve.

Burden Falls is located in northern Pope County near Bell Smith Springs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Visitor Center Operating in Equality

Carolyn Baltimore, one of the volunteers with Gallatin County Tourism and the Ohio River Scenic Byway Visitor Center in Equality dropped by the office yesterday.

I've driven by the new facility which is located in downtown Equality, but not while it was open. It was funded with a transportation enhancement grant matched with another grant.

It's open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays from April through mid November to catch the deer season.

The address of the facility is 101 W Lane Street (which is the tip end of Route 142), Equality IL 62934.

Gallatin County is working on a brochure now and has a new website at

State Tourism Funding Up in Air

The budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly last week included a 10 percent increase for local tourism and convention bureaus, the first increase in four years.

That amount was up from what the governor proposed this spring and what the House of Representatives passed in their budget earlier this summer.

It's not clear though if the governor will use his line item veto to reduce the amount as he has threatened to do on other items.

The final budget is House Bill 3866. The appropriations are found in Senate Floor Amendment #1.

MMA Cage Fight Set for Saturday at Pavilion

The family that fights together, smites together.

Five sibling fighters, including the big sister will be competing Saturday at the Cage of Fury MMA event Saturday night at the Williamson County Pavilion.

The Marion Daily's Tom Kane took the photo on the left. Clockwise from the front, the five Holmes Family fighters are Detsonie Davis, 28 and 119 pounds; Zach Holmes, 15 and 145 pounds; Derrick Holmes, 23 and 155 pounds; Edward “Bubba” Holmes, 26 and 165 pounds; and Austin Holmes, 18 and 130 pounds.

Other local fighters on the fight card are Kenny Mayhall, Bill Irby and Robert “Bucky” Neal of Harrisburg; Darrell Coleman, Andrew Trammel and Steven Campbell of Marion; Dustin Bloodworth and Damian Jeffro of Herrin; Jason Hobbs of Desoto; Aaron Essary of Johnston City, Brian Sanders of McLeansboro, Jill Fickes of Carbondale and Hayeley Weintz of Christopher.

Saturday night’s fights start at 8 p.m. and doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets prices are $125, $75, $55, $45 and $25 and may be purchased at the Williamson County Pavilion, Bookworm in Carbondale or S&M Fitness in Harrisburg.

To place an order for tickets, or for more information, call the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at (618) 997-3690.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ATA Grand American Heats Up — Literally

The American Trapshooting Associations Grand American event kicked off Monday at the World Shooting and Recreation Complex up near Sparta.

This is one of the largest events to take place annually in Southern Illinois.

The Southern Illinoisan has good coverage so far:

Monday, August 06, 2007

Talent Search Begins for Southern Illinois Opry

It's time for the region's would-be country singers to start warming up.

Rick Johnson's Southern Illinois Opry will be conducting a talent search on Saturday, August 18, at the center court of the Illinois Centre Mall.

The top four or five singers will get to perform with a live band at the inaugural show of the Opry on Saturday, September 29, at the Williamson County Pavilion in Marion.

"We feel there is a lot of talent in this area," [Illinois Centre Marketing Director Penny] Strobel said. "There are a lot of people in this area who have beautiful voices that do not get the opportunity to sing. It's a chance to let our area know we appreciate all the talent here."

Johnson said he would like to showcase and bring forth local talent.

"There is going to be a lot of good times and it's going to be a good show for everyone," he said.

The event will also feature the Jackie Martin Band and the doo-wop group Blend.

Tickets for the shows on the 29th will be $12 for table seats and $10 for general admission.

Johnson said. "People can come out and have a good time without spending a fortune. I'm trying to keep the prices as low as I can for the people of Southern Illinois."

Tickets can be ordered online by credit card through PayPal.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Williamson Shoots for Third Airline

The Southern Illinoisan's new Williamson County reporter Megean Sexton broke the story this morning of a possible third carrier coming to the Williamson County Airport.

Airport Manager Doug Kimmel told her that the airport and Allegiant Air are "very near an agreement" to provide air service from Marion to such vacation destinations as Orlando and Las Vegas.

Allegiant specializes in flights two or three times a week from smaller markets to major vacation destinations. They currently fly out of MidAmerica Airport on I-64 near Mascoutah.

"We do believe there is an opportunity in this market for our brand of non-stop, low-cost jet service to vacation destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando," [Allegiant Air Spokesperson Tyri] Squyres said. "We generally start (flights) at two to four times a week — keep the seats full and that ensures we can keep our fares low."

Unlike the smaller planes used in the flights to Chicago (and soon again St. Louis), Allegiant's planes can carry 150 passengers.

The possible deal with Allegiant puts pressure on the airport now to replace its out-dated and soon to be too small terminal which is around 30 years old.

The Federal Aviation Authority awarded the airport a $1 million grant last month for three projects, one of which would pay for a terminal design study.

As to the grounded St. Louis service, no word yet when flights will resume.