From our news release:
"What do wedding receptions, concerts and an AKC dog show have in common? Not only are they forms of tourism, but they’re all events held at the Pavilion this year,” explained Jon Musgrave, executive director of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, which also manages the Pavilion.
“It’s hard to find such a variety of events in one place,” Events Coordinator Cherri Flinn said. “The Pavilion is a rare commodity with its 54,000 square feet of space and an Expo Hall that can hold 4,000 people.”
This Thursday the public is invited to the Pavilion’s first Business After Hours which is open from 4 to 7 p.m. Guests will be treated to free appetizers, drinks and personal tours of the facility.
Organizers say the event will be a great way to spread the word not only about tourism’s impact on the region but also what is offered at the Pavilion.
“This is an opportunity to let the community come in and see what services we offer,” Williamson County Tourism Marketing Director Nic Skovgaard said. “The Pavilion is unique just from the simple fact we can go from MMA cage fights to a cheerleading competition to a cat and dog show – and sometimes the set up happens overnight.”
Since the Pavilion opened in 2004 it has been host to hundreds of events – business meetings, celebrity fundraising events, proms, outdoor shows and even Mixed Martial Arts cage fighting.
“Tourists spend an incredible amount of money in Southern Illinois. Right at $450 million in 2006 in the 17th southernmost counties from I-64 south,” explained Musgrave. “All that money helped finance a payroll of $95 million and 4,050 jobs. That makes quite an impact.”
In Williamson County the biggest projects over the last few years have been Rent One Park and the Williamson County Pavilion.
The ballpark attracted a quarter million visitors to Marion last year and the Pavilion drew more than 54,000 visitors through its doors spread over 347 bookings.
“Both attendance and bookings were up more than 121 percent last year and the first three months of this year saw another 67 percent increase in attendance,” said Musgrave.
Larger crowds at the Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show and the Spring Home Show were two reasons he said, as well as a new gun and knife show.
In terms of lodging, Williamson County has seen new cabins or bed and breakfast inns open or expand in Herrin, Johnston City and Marion with another one soon to open in Hurst. This spring developers of a new Country Inn & Suites broke ground on a new 67-unit hotel below the Hill near Exit 54A. Another hotel and two more major restaurants are expected to follow later this year.
Besides the dog show, other upcoming events at the Pavilion include Drifters in concert also in June, a cat show in July, and the Colgate Country Showdown Illinois State Finals in September.