The Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival coming up the weekend of Aug.
22-24 is Hake's first priority, one that "throws me right into the
fire," she adds. But, her enthusiasm for the project and experience
with event planning are sure to make it an exciting one. There are
returning favorites and new features we can look forward to at the
35th annual art fair and 20th annual balloon fest this year. The
tethered balloon rides and helicopter rides will make a6 comeback,
and there will be a new balloon -- a giant blue dinosaur-like
creature named Azul.
[photo courtesy of
Chamber of Commerce]
Hake tells us what else we have to look forward to: "At the
airport this year we are adding commercial vendors. We are doing a
'test run' of a new feature -- the rental of a party space for a
business or family. This will replace the corporate chalet from past
festivals." The renters provide their own catering, tents, tables,
music and entertainment. The chamber will promote this next year for
corporate parties and family reunions. This gives the renters
"special amenities like a skybox at an airport." Also new downtown
will be a small children's carnival at Kickapoo Kingdom.
Other upcoming priorities this new director will help to tackle
include a revamping of the chamber's online site to make it more of
a community resource and tool, as well as more user-friendly and
up-to-date. This process will include three phases. First, there
will be a cosmetic makeover, or "facelift" for the site, then new
content, such as a site search engine, so that visitors to the site
can look up realtors, motels, restaurants and other chamber
businesses. This phase will also include member pages -- a feature
that will benefit members such as smaller businesses without their
own online site, who could use their member page as their Web
presence. The final step will be to develop a Web-based database on
The other top priority at first is member recruitment and
retention, to add to the member base, including a more diverse cross
section of businesses. "With the economy being tight, I don't want
businesses to see it as a hard decision to make (joining the
chamber)," said Hake, who wants to add even more value to the
already great benefits that members enjoy. Hake feels that new
businesses should be able to get most of their needs met from the
chamber, including training and advertising opportunities. In fact
the chamber's marketing committee met last week and is in the
process of implementing a plan that would bring a job fair to the
community one year and a business expo the next, continuing to
rotate the events every other year. Informative seminars will be a
part of these programs.
[to top of second column]
Hake's previous job experience helped to make her new position a
given. "I'm finally at a job where I can utilize all my skills,"
said Hake. The new chamber director worked 11 years for the YMCA in
Kankakee and Clinton and in Champaign County and held several
positions -- interim executive director, program director and
membership services administrator. She also served as vice president
of marketing and sales with Sports Publishing.
Her experience with the YMCA showed her the importance of the
value in a membership -- to "involve and engage early." Hake feels
that at the chamber, that premise is the same. She also did a lot of
event planning and marketing at the YMCA and did a lot of work with
volunteers and on committees. This prepared Hake for her work at the
chamber, where volunteers are critical to the art and balloon fest.
At the publishing job, she gained even more valuable marketing
experience but on a commercial business level versus on a
non-for-profit level working for the YMCA. "My authors were my
clients, and I gave them and their books the best marketing
campaigns possible," said Hake. She looks at chamber members in the
same light -- "clients coming together for the greater good."
Hake is a self-professed "workaholic," but when not working, her
son Cooper's sports activities, baseball and football, keep her
quite active. She is also engaged to be married. Her fiance, Jeff,
works at Illinois State University as a graphic designer. The couple
just recently bought an older home in town and are remodeling. Andi
is also an avid reader. She even lends her hand as volunteer for the
Lincoln Heat baseball program, working with three teams -- age
groups 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14.
We welcome Andi Hake to her new job and to our city and county!
[By GEOFF LADD]