Monday, May 19, 2008

Region's Beaches Ready for Summer

It's a long way to the beaches in Florida, but Southern Illinois has some great ones right in our back yards.

Some of them like Sandusky Beach at Rend Lake and the public beach at Pounds Hollow Lake in the Shawnee National Forest. Others will open Memorial Day weekend.

Cedar Lake - Poplar Camp Beach (Jackson County) south of Carbondale opens Friday, May 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

State certified lifeguards are on duty during beach open hours. Admission is $2 per person with children under four admitted free. The beach and lake are operated by the City of Carbondale. Passes are available for 10 visits for $15 and 20 visits for $25. Passes are good for the entire esason and can be used by anyone at anytime.

For information on beach closings, call 618-549-8441 or 618-549-5302. Alcoholic beverages, glass containers and fires are prohibited at the beach.

Crab Orchard Lake (Williamson County) - The beach at Crab Orchard Campground will open for the season on May 26. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. There is a lifeguard present. Admission is $2 per person per day. No alcoholic beverages or glass bottles permitted. For more information contact the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge at 618-997-3344.

Lake Glendale (Pope County) - The beach at Lake Glendale opens May 24 with hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Lifeguards are present. Admission is $3.50 for persons 6 and over and $2.50 or persons 5 and under. The admission is for the entire day and swimmers may come and go. No alcohol or glass bottles permitted. The lake and beach is part of the Shawnee National Forest.

The concessionaire at Lake Glendale also offers paddle boat and canoe rentals.

Pounds Hollow Lake (Gallatin County) - This is a free day-use area in the Shawnee National Forest. The beach is open during daylight hours. No lifeguards are provided.

Rend Lake - Sandusky Beach is currently the only beach open at Rend Lake from 8 a.m. to sunset.

No lifeguards are on duty though. Admission is $1 per person up to $4 per vehicle (per day). Children 12 and under are admitted free. No alcohol or glass bottles permitted. Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sam Dale Lake (Wayne County) is part of the Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area that's open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

The swimming area is a buoy-marked area with a large beach area for sun-bathers. No life guards present. Swimmers under 17 must be accompanied by an adult. No alcohol allowed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Celebrate National Tourism Week at the Pavilion

We're celebrating National Tourism Week this week May 10 through May 18, with an open house, business after-hours event this Thursday afternoon, May 15, from 4 to 7 p.m. here at the Williamson County Pavilion located at 1602 Sioux Drive behind the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

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.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Herrinfesta Offers Opportunities to Help

The Herrin Civic Center is looking for help during Herrinfesta Italiana and Memorial Day weekend:
If you would like to support the Herrin Civic Center and the HBBA, please contact Ed Schullian at 727-0245 or the Herrin Civic Center at 942-6115. Also, anyone who can donate cakes, pies, cookies or some type of dessert to sell, it would be much appreciated. They can be dropped off at the Civic Center Friday, May 23, 2008 after the prayer breakfast. We appreciate your help and support of the Civic Center and Herrin Festa Italiana.

Monday, May 05, 2008

HerrinFesta Italiana Gearing Up for Later This Month

The HerrinFesta Italiana is a five day festival every Memorial Day week-end that celebrates the heritage of Herrin, a Southern Illinois community. The festival provides a sense of community spirit, as well as a homecoming for former residents and a welcome to thousands of travelers from all over the Midwest. This year the HerrinFesta Italiana dates are Thursday, May 22-Monday, May 26.

One of the largest and best known festivals in the state, the HerrinFesta Italiana has always brought top notch entertainment to the Heartland. The festival has featured such top names as The Dixie Chicks, the year they won Female Country Vocal of the Year. Other Country Stars have also appeared including Herrin's own David Lee Murphy, and Phil Vassar.

Entertainment groups have included everything from Jazz, Blues and Folk to Rock, Funk, Country and Zydeco.

This year is no different as sixteen top musical groups from all over the midwest are scheduled to appear. Thursday night features The Hairbangers Ball a Chicago group doing musical memories from the 80's. Friday night and Saturday night will highlight "Monsters of Rock", Danny Seraphine (formerly with Chicago) and California Transit Authority on Friday and John Waite on Saturday.

Also on Saturday's "Parrot Head" afternoon Doyle Grisham a member of the Jimmy Buffet Band will make a special appearance with the Boat Drunks. Jake Owen is featured on Country Sunday. Jake was nominated for Top Male Vocalist of the Year this year. The festival culminates on Monday night with the popular LoCash cowboys.

Top entertainment is not the only activity at the Festa. There is an authentic Italian food and beverage garden. A wine garden. A clean friendly carnival. An arts and crafts show. A parade, beauty pageant, and children's activities. A live video telecast direct from Italy of Mandolinisti Bustesi a famous Italian orchestra performing seven Italian Operatic selections will be included in Sunday's activities.

This year The Incredible Hulk will make an appearance on Saturday. A Saturday car show features many custom vehicles.

There are also bocce, volleyball, and golf tournaments, road races and special Italian contests. The HerrinFesta Italiana has always included something for the entire family.

For additional information visit the website at or call the information hotline at 1-800-IT-FESTA.

Carterville Farmers Market to Start in June

The Farmers Market in Carterville will operate on Friday afternoons this summer beginning June 6 at the First Baptist Church parking lot. Hours are 3 to 6 p.m.

Booth costs for vendors are just $5. Persons interested can contact the Carterville Chamber of Commerce office at 985-6942.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lodging Election Kicks Off

The spring lodging election for representatives on the Board of Directors of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau kicked off today.

WCTB Board Secretary Judy Attebury and I opened the nominations that came into the office last month. The following were nominated and will appear on the ballot:
  • James Baker, manager of America’s Best Inn
  • Anna Bordenave, co-owner of Oakridge Manor Bed and Breakfast
  • Barb Lomax, Barb Lomax, manager of Hampton Inn
  • Ashok Patel, co-owner of America’s Best Inn
  • Robert Toupal, former owner of Toupal’s Country Inn

Ann Hindman and Greg Triplett were also nominated, but since they are already on the board as lodging representatives and their terms are not up they will not be listed on the ballot.

All lodging facilities in Williamson County who are current on their county bed tax will receive ballots. A check was made this afternoon. Ballots will go into the mail tomorrow morning and are due back in the office by May 27, 2008.

The ballots will be opened during the regular board meeting scheduled for noon on May 28, 2008. The new terms begin at the June meeting.

Two seats are up this year among the seven lodging representatives on the 19-member board. Those two seats are currently filled by Anna Bordenave and Barb Lomax.