Kicky boutiques, talented street players, and more nightlife-those were suggestions from a Chicago business publication to reinvigorate their downtown. "Visit Michigan Avenue after 9 p.m. and you might as well be in Peoria. It’s that quiet," stated the July 2004 article.

Another article talks about three theatres in the North Loop Theatre District being dark all but 25 days of the last six months. Adequate facilities are needed for top attractions to book. Conventioneers and tourists are needed to fill seats in theatres and restaurants. Hotel rooms are needed for conventions and tourists. Quality staff is needed to serve conventions, and so the circle continues. Chicago? Peoria?

Perhaps the author hasn’t been to downtown Peoria after 9 p.m. recently. Or maybe the author wasn’t referring to Peoria, Illinois, after all. While you won’t see action like that found in Shanghai on a Friday evening, Peoria is comfortably busy. Finding a parking space within a block of your destination is often difficult, but it’s never impossible to find a spot within a few blocks at the dinner hour and prior to Civic Center events. After the event, a stop for late night dinner, drinks, or live entertainment can be found in many downtown establishments. Nothing is more beautiful than driving by the Peoria Courthouse Plaza on a snowy winter night, seeing thousands of lights twinkling through the trees. Our river and skyline are exceptional at night-on both sides of the river. The Festival of Lights in East Peoria…hard to compare that anywhere.

The downtown area is home to business and entertainment. The Civic Center expansion is on track. Lakeview Museum will break ground. The Maxam is going strong. Theater and restaurant options multiply. A more pedestrian-friendly downtown with diagonal parking continues to be implemented. The additional parking spaces are also convenient to the parallel-parking-challenged, like myself. Remodeled hotels serve our many tourists and business guests. In East Peoria, new convention centers, the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, and major sports and recreational centers are thriving.

As we end the exciting year of 2004, I’m mindful of the many entertainment, cultural, and recreational venues we have in our community. Each month, Arts Alive! encourages residents and visitors to attend, participate in, and support our community. We often take for granted that dance studio, local restaurant, theatre, and even grocery store until they no longer exist. To maintain and improve our quality of life here in central Illinois, support the arts in 2005. Your participation is critical. AA!