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Tourism Alive and Well along Heritage Corridor

Travel and Tourism Industry Strong along Heritage Corridor ~
Summer Sizzles with Great Events and Activities

Contact: Robert L. Navarro, Ph.D., President & CEO
Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau
800-926-CANAL (2262); or Direct at 815-588-7944

June 7, 2012, Romeoville, IL – Heading into the second weekend of June, local tourism officials are already thrilled with the great number of people at area event and activities. While focusing on great summer activities along the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal Corridor, the organization also emphasizes its strength as a driver of economic development in the region. The destination marketing organization promotes historic and cultural attractions, events, shopping and dining opportunities along the 92-mile stretch of the nation's first national heritage corridor region.

Last weekend found Star Wars Days, held at the Joliet Public Library downtown, drawing record numbers of participants, as did the Gus Macker Basketball Tournament in Morris. This coming weekend, both the Two Rivers Wine and Jazz Fest in Ottawa, and the Heritage Tractor Adventure in Morris are expected to better-than-ever numbers of local and visiting tourists to the annual events.

"Travel and tourism along the Heritage Corridor is alive and well, and our member businesses can be proud of the role they play in boosting the economy locally day in and day out," said Bob Navarro, President and CEO of the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Navarro and his staff coordinate tourism marketing, development and promotion with 175 partner organizations in five counties, from Putnam County to the Chicago Portage region. The Bureau also assists with four Visitors Centers and six affiliate Visitors Centers.

The Power of Tourism

According to Navarro, "Nationally, visitor volume and expenditures prove that this industry continues to be one of America's largest, and that our region is one of the State's strongest in drawing visitors and staycationers." He contends the numbers speak for themselves. "Travel expenditures in the I&M Heritage Corridor were just over $750 million, with $541 million from Will County and $54 million in Grundy County alone, according to the most recent figures (for 2010)," according to Navarro. "Tourism in our region creates more than 8,000 jobs, which are held in our local businesses, whether hotels, restaurants, museums, events, or entertainment venues, and range from executive and management roles to service-oriented occupations," he added.

“We draw people in from other parts of the state and throughout the country to see the diverse travel and tourism offerings — whether for top entertainment, cultural and recreation options, mom and pop shops, historical gems, casinos or classic sites like Starved Rock, as well as the terrific events our members host," said Navarro. "I'm thrilled to be able to work with and promote such a strong network of business professionals, who understand that travel and tourism are vital to the overall wealth and economic development of the region," he added.

Summer Sizzles with One-of-a-Kind Tourism Events

"Heading into summer, the focus on travel and tourism is a great opportunity to share our positive message about the strong economic impact our industry has on the country, and in our communities all along the Heritage Corridor," said Navarro, who works out of the historic Fitzpatrick House at Lewis University in Romeoville. As travel plans for summer are being made, the Heritage Corridor Bureau members are well aware that many local tourists are budgeting for staycations and short weekend getaways, whether from another state or another town.

"We encourage people looking for low cost travel to consider how many great gems can be found within 30-60 minutes of home," said Navarro, adding, "Whether it's a stop along historic Route 66, time spent learning about the history this region holds with the many great events, there's so much to do and see for all ages and all interests."

In June alone, early summer events are already drawing record travelers and tourists. The first weekend in June found "Star Wars Day," taking place at the downtown Joliet Public Library, which drew more than 3,500 people. Also that weekend, the City of Morris successfully hosted the popular Gus Macker Tournament. In the state's most visited State Park, Starved Rock Lodge featured the Legacy Girls, a take-off on the Andrews Sisters, on June 4, with many other events planned throughout the entire summer season (www.starvedrocklodge.com).

Heading into the month's second weekend, Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau staffers are putting the finishing touches on planning two widely-heralded events — the Heritage Tractor Adventure, with nearly 180 participating antique tractors participating this year, travels throughout Grundy County from June 8-13. According to Heritage Corridor Vice President Mary Beth DeGrush, the event's organizer. She encourages local residents and tourists to visit the one-of-a-kind event for great stories, food and photo opportunities (www.heritagetractoradventure.com). The Two Rivers Wine and Jazz Fest in Ottawa will kick off Friday, June 8, running through June 10, with ticket sales nearly four-fold last year's, thanks to expanded marketing outreach.

Among the many top name jazz artists, the event features the daughter of legend BB King, and draws guests from LaSalle, Cook, Will, DuPage Counties, among others, as well as neighboring states who have become annual loyalists to the Wine and Jazz Fest (for schedule of events, check out www.ottawatworiverswinefest.com).

The State's largest yard sale, More on 34, covers 120 miles of goods on June 15, and the following day finds thousands involved in the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run, beginning at the Veterans Memorial in Marseilles.

WWII History Buffs Take Note
For history buffs and World War II veterans, Seneca Shipyard Days Festival, from June 20-22, offers a glimpse back in America's history, according to Michael Ellis, coordinator. As a partner in the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ellis runs the oldest hardware store in Illinois, an Ace Hardware Store (now celebrating its 140th year) in Seneca, and is the lead planner for the Shipyard Days Festival, with other local history and tourism volunteers. Spotlighting the region's role on the international stage during World War II, this year's event will offer a tremendous combination of history and historians. Art Carlson, whose life's work is building a full scale replica of a Landing Ship Tank (LST) — both Art and the replica are expected at the event; Gene Yeager, author of a memoir called Flat Bottom Odyssey, will be available on Friday, June 22, for a book signing. Also, Marshall Caulk, one of the only 3 survivors of the LST 625, will be at the festival at Seneca Historical Guild booth for a meet and greet. "The Way We Were" Smithsonian Institute program on Seneca's Boom Time Lecture will be replicated with a discussion of how the area handled a population boom from 1200 to 10,000 people (visit www.senecashipyarddays.com).

Closing out June along the Heritage Corridor, Marseilles Fun Days takes place from June 24-30. Then it's on to the host of events and activities throughout the remainder of the summer, allowing travelers, from near and far, the chance to check out great finds and great fun every day. Looking ahead, here's a rundown of upcoming 2012 Heritage Corridor events:
Route 66 Raceway NHRA Nationals, June 28-July 1;
Annual Heritage Fest Outdoor Street Festival in downtown Lemont, July 14;
50th Annual Antique Tractor, Stem-Gas Engine Show in Channahon, July 19-22;
NASCAR STP 300 Nationwide Series at Chicagoland Speedway, July 22;
Ottawa River Fest, from August 1-5;
Three Rivers Fest in Channahon, August 8-12;
Mendota's 65th Sweet Corn Festival, August 9-12;
Vintage Illinois Wine Festival, Matthiessen State Park in Utica, September 15-16;
and the Grundy County Corn Festival in downtown Morris, September 26-30.

For more information on the attractions, events and other places to visit, click onto www.HeritageCorridorCVB.com or call 800.926.CANAL (2262).

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