A Publication of WTVP
Meet a hero. Meet Curt Burdett.

Curt is a retired homebuilder who works part time in the appliance department at Sears. He's invited friends to come to Peoria.

Next month, some 500 of Curt's friends will come to town. They'll stay five nights in downtown hotel rooms, spend $27 a day on food, $17 a day shopping, etc. All together, they'll spend $130 a day here. Do the math, and you're likely to come up with more than a quarter of a million dollars pumped into the local economy.

Curt is a member of the Travelers' Protective Association (TPA). That group furnishes safety materials to schools and boasts one of the largest child safety programs in the country. You may know them for their "Watch That Child!" bumper stickers.

Curt shares the hero's mantel with the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. PACVB contacted TPA headquarters, asked for a local contact, and received Curt's name.

Curt and the PACVB met here, and then the Peoria folks joined up with him at the TPA convention in Norfolk, Va. Together, they pitched Peoria to the delegates, who in turn selected Peoria over Columbus, Ohio.

So June 9 to 13, five years-yes, five years-after that Norfolk trip, the Peoria area will host the TPA national convention.

And what will those delegates expect once they get here? A PACVB-provided advertisement in the TPA magazine boasts of Lakeview, Forest Park Nature Center, the George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Gardens, the zoo, and Par-A-Dice. They're told that "Peoria is a city that will charm you with its hospitality and believes in treating its visitors like guests."

And on the heels of the TPA conventioneers, we can all hope for more visitors to the area, attracted by magazine advertisements touting "Illinois River Country. One destination, so many ways to play."

This winter, there was a lot of emphasis on that "many ways to play." The Discovery Forum in February highlighted the need to look at the role creativity plays in a community. The message was cultural diversity. Cities need to look at cultural factors that make people want to live-and we would add "visit"-there.

Traditionally, the arts have been recognized as a key contributor to a city's quality of life. That remains true, but there's a need for a deeper appreciation of the arts for that "live and visit" impact. There's real money involved here. Arts and tourism must be viewed as investments, a lesson "Governor Chicagojevich" would do well to learn.

Peoria isn't the first to discover this. Cities are chasing after young adults, ages 25 to 34, like they used to chase potential employers. The demographers tell us this is a group that works to live, rather than lives to work. A group that selects where it wants to live and then worries about finding a job. A group that craves cities with diverse lifestyles. A group that looks at the educational system. It's a group that expects the jobs to come to them. And that's happening.

The Peoria Prize for Creativity, a $10,000 award designed to promote creativity in the arts and sciences, is a great step. The proposed Caterpillar Heritage Park in East Peoria (talk about something that's decades overdue) and the proposed and expanded Lakeview Museum will certainly draw more people.

As sure as coffee shops are replacing the shot-and-a-beer bars, the times are changing. It's an exciting change; one we should herald and embrace-and support. Glance at the PAVCB Web site ( and get a look at the area we all could appreciate more.

There's a role for everyone in this. What organizations do you belong to? Do your employees belong to? Call the PACVB and give them contact names. They'll take it from there.

Oh, and the next time you're at Sears, stop by the appliance department and shake Curt Burdett's hand. IBI