A Publication of WTVP

How many times have you heard colleagues, family, friends-maybe even yourself-comment about the features we lack in our community? It can be easy to take for granted the environment we've grown so accustomed to and focus on what we should have, what we don't have, and what others already have.

In a classic case of "the grass is always greener" mentality, we often take our area's assets for granted. Sometimes people lose perspective, focus on the negative, and, in turn, forget the good stuff. We forget all of the wonderful reasons we chose to reside here in the first place and how fortunate we are to live in a region with the perfect balance of amenities. We have a great place to live and raise a family. Top-notch arts, golf, sporting events, entertainment, education, rich history, fortune 500 companies, and medical facilities are available to us. We have award-winning park districts and boundless nature-based opportunities surrounding the beautiful Illinois River valley. Virtually any of these can be experienced within a 15- to 30-minute drive from Peoria.

Having lived in this region all my life, I've certainly heard my share of negative comments; however, being part of the Convention and Visitors Bureau has afforded me the opportunity to see our region through a visitor's eyes. Once we get people here, our sales job is easy. Visitors-whether leisure travelers, meeting planners and convention attendees, or tour groups-are continuously surprised at all we have to offer. They praise our scenic, accessible riverfront area, its numerous venues, and the annual events it hosts. They compliment our atmosphere-particularly enjoying the "big city" offerings we have such as arts, entertainment, a lively downtown, and sports teams, mixed with convenience, friendliness, and value. Some enjoy attractions such as the Spirit of Peoria, PAR-A-DICE Hotel-Casino, and theatre or musical offerings, while others cruise through Grand View Drive, bike or hike a nature trail, and make a stop at Wildlife Prairie State Park, Glen Oak Zoo, one of our museums, or shopping spots.

Comments such as "how clean," "how friendly," and "great service" are what we consistently hear. We stand out as a hospitality industry-not only because of the team effort among our hotels, but also because of extensive community volunteerism for events such as IHSA March Madness. Our greatest hurdle is perception. Marketing helps us share our story, and the more we're able to do this, the more we'll see growth for our community. Then, maybe our local residents-and the world at large-will understand what a true treasure we have.

We're an amazing destination today. Think of what we'll be in three years when we have an expanded Civic Center, a world-class regional museum, the Caterpillar Experience, the Caterpillar Heritage Center, the expanded Glen Oak Zoo, the Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum, and a cohesive network of nature-based tourism opportunities. A change in our perspective, combined with growth and positive change, will help us discover the pleasant surprises we have-right in our own backyard. IBI