It was an exciting time for the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as we hosted our annual meeting June 21 at the Peoria Civic Center.
Our honored guest speaker was Tim Chester, director of the Public Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The PACVB annual meeting is also a time for the Bureau to recognize local leaders who have given their time and talents to strengthen the Peoria area tourism and convention industry.
Awards presented at our 2001 meeting included:
- The Hometown Hero Award—Bonnie Noble, director of parks and recreation for the Peoria Park District; and Robert Johnson, Peoria Park District trustee.
- Peoria Area Sports Commission Friend of Tourism Award—Dan Cunningham, executive director of EastSide Center.
- Hospitality Industry Friend of Tourism Award—Debbie Ritschel, general manager of the Peoria Civic Center.
- Media Friend of Tourism Award—Jan Wright Vergon, owner of Central Illinois Business Publishers.
- Volunteers of the Year—Art and JoAnn Gross.
- Advocate of the Year—Theresa McCabe, Midwest Lodging Associates.
Chester was first introduced to the Peoria area tourism industry when a group of delegates visited his museum this past March for ideas on how to collaboratively develop a regional museum on the Peoria Riverfront. The potential draw of a regional museum in the Peoria area is illustrated by the response the Grand Rapids museum has received since it opened a little more than six years ago.
Today, more than 450,000 visitors go through the doors of the museum annually. A major portion of the site’s success has come from the partnership of the hotels, civic center and community of Grand Rapids.
The regional museum concept has the potential of becoming a major tourism draw for our entire area. Annually, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry has 2.2 million visitors to their site—and 70 percent of these visitors are non-Chicago residents. Of that 70 percent, 45 percent are from out-of-state.
With one of the richest entertainment histories of any community in the United States, the Peoria area museum could become one of the hottest cultural stops in the Midwest through the development of a solid plan, a well-designed project and the proper promotion.
As for the solid plan, our local team is off to a great start with a cooperative agreement between the Peoria Historical Society and Lakeview Museum, along with an influential cross-section of community leaders. The success of the museum in Grand Rapids is evidenced in their planning, fund-raising, construction and exhibits.
If the Peoria area is to grow as a tourism destination, we need a major attraction that will not only stand out among the rest, but also draw visitors to the region. That attraction could one day be the regional museum. IBI