Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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Tourism celebrates the silver

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[April 24, 2012]  Friday morning the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County celebrated a milestone. The organization has been an integral part of Lincoln and Logan County for 25 years. They marked their silver anniversary with an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast at the American Legion.

During the morning, tourism promoters gathered at the Legion to enjoy the food catered by Lincoln Land Catering, visit with old friends, make new ones and enjoy the program hosted by tourism director Geoff Ladd.

At the beginning of the morning, Ladd welcomed the room full of guests and then went right into introducing the recipients of the tourism bureau's Silver Anniversary Award.

He named Paul Gleason first as the current bureau chairman. He next acknowledged Charles Ott, who has been with the tourism bureau since its beginning. The final three he introduced were Thressia Usherwood, former director of the bureau; Lucille Pech; and Ivan Ray.

Ladd first invited Gleason to say a few words. Gleason drew laughs when he promised his speech would be shorter than the Gettysburg Address. Gleason went on to speak briefly about the history of the tourism bureau and the good times and bad times the group has gone through together.

He touched on the preservation of The Mill and spoke about Route 66 being the highway of his day. He said the bureau will continue to work toward promoting tourism in Logan County, and he also hoped that more people would work toward the goal of preserving our historic old buildings.

Usherwood was the second one to the microphone. She talked briefly about the trials she went through in trying to get the tourism bureau certified with the state, which she did accomplish. She noted that she very much enjoyed her career with the tourism bureau.

To Ladd she said, "I was with the bureau 17 years, so you've still go 10 years to go."

Charles Ott, who is well-known in the community as a portrayer of Abraham Lincoln, said it has been a privilege to represent Logan County over the years. He noted that it was his birthday and that he is now 80 years old.

Ladd told the audience about his experience in playing Abraham Lincoln during a Middletown celebration. He said he was referred to in the media as a "short and portly Abraham Lincoln."

Lucille Pech was the fourth award recipient. Instead of focusing on herself, she took a moment to remember Ernie Edwards, saying that losing him was perhaps one of the toughest things the group has gone through.

Finally, Ivan Ray was asked to come to the front. Ray said what he'd learned from being with the tourism bureau was the power of positive thinking. He finished by saying he is proud to be a part of such a fine organization.

Following the presentations of the anniversary awards, Ladd acknowledged several community leaders in the room. He noted the presence of Lincoln City Council members and Mayor Keith Snyder, members of the Logan County Board, and other elected officials. He noted that members of the Clinton tourism bureau were in attendance, as well as the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership and the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce. In addition he noted Ivan Rademaker, mayor of Emden, as a guest.

Other guests were Bill Kelly, the executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, and Heather Wilkins, representing the Land of Lincoln Tourism Development Office. And finally Ladd noted the special guest of the day, Sen. Larry Bomke.

The invocation was given by the Rev. Simon Taabu.

During breakfast, live music was provided by Hugh Moore.

After breakfast, one of the first highlights of the day was a video recording of Ernie Edwards that had been made by the Land of Lincoln Tourism Development Office.

Kelly of the National Scenic Byway spoke briefly first. He talked about the wayside signage projects, including the scenic byway signs in Logan County. He said the Scenic Byway program has a variety of projects they are working on, including the most recent one that involved Edwards.

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Kelly turned the program over to Wilkins, who spoke briefly and fondly about Edwards. She asked how many in the room knew him personally, then explained they would be able to relate that Edwards was a storyteller who loved to talk about his days at the Pig Hip, Route 66 and a variety of other things.

She said she had ordered a video interview with Edwards just three weeks prior to his death. Because of their familiarity, she had decided not to do the interview herself, but sent someone Edwards didn't know.

"You know how it goes," she said. "A story that should last an hour will last three if you're someone he knows."

Her comment drew knowing laughs from several in the audience.

Wilkins said the video is now on the Illinois Route 66 Byway website. To view it, visit http://illinoisroute66.org/.

As the morning began to wind down, Ladd offered a few other special recognitions.

Named as this year's Friends of Tourism was the group behind the annual Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival, the balloon fest committee of the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce. Members of the committee are Jennifer Lovett of the chamber and volunteers Annette Chapman, Connie Dehner, Pam White, Deron Powell and Patrick Doolin.

Andy Anderson was awarded the bureau's Exceptional Service Award.

The tourism Business of the Year Award was given to Richard Sumrall and the Lincoln Public Library.

The CENTS recognition for this year was given to the Lincoln Corn Maze. The CENTS program was originally introduced by tourism staff member Misty Bell. CENTS stands for "Community Events Needing Tourism Support."

Finally, Bomke was introduced as the Lifetime Friend of Tourism recipient. Bomke has announced that he will not run again for the Senate this year. He spoke about that as he accepted the award, saying his decision had come from the state of Illinois redrawing its districts. The area he has served over the years is no longer his, and he said because of this, he felt it was time to step aside. He also said he would not have done this had the districts remained the same.

In his history in the Senate, Bomke has been highly visible in Logan County. He has attended many events sponsored by the tourism bureau and other local organizations; he worked to try to save Lincoln Developmental Center; and he was very vocal in defending Logan Correctional Center when it was being threatened by state budget cuts.

Bomke spoke only briefly, saying that over the years he and his wife, Sally Jo, have made many friends in Logan County. He said he wanted to commend the tourism bureau for all their work. He acknowledged all the residents of Logan County and singled out Mayor Keith Snyder, remembering his days at the Capitol.

During the course of the morning Ladd also called to remembrance another dear friend to tourism who died recently, Terry Werth.

In addition, Ott was congratulated on his 80 years with a special birthday cake and a chorus of "Happy Birthday" from the audience.


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