Illinois' First Road

Illinois South Admin
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Attractions, History, Tourism Times

Travel on the King’s Road…King Louis XV of France, that is! French colonists gave this name to the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail (KCT) in the early 1700s. More than 300 years later, the road is still used today in southwestern Illinois.

Jarrot Mansion, Cahokia

Jarrot Mansion, Cahokia

In this region, the Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Kaskaskia and Meramec Rivers converge with the Mississippi, and throughout history provided reliable transportation for exploration, settlement and trade. Overland trails were used to access interior lands beyond and between the rivers.

The KCT can be traced to American Indian people around 11,000 BC, who over time built large civilizations with mound cities along the trail. When the French established permanent settlements at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, they named these villages after the native Illini people.

Fort de Chartres, Prairie Du Rocher

Fort de Chartres, Prairie Du Rocher

Other forts and settlements grew over the next 100 years along the east side of the Mississippi River Valley. This first road spawned other routes that led to Illinois becoming the 21st state in 1818, with Kaskaskia serving as the first state capital.

Bellefontaine House, Waterloo

Bellefontaine House, Waterloo

The 60-mile long corridor connects visitors with many opportunities to discover the region’s diverse history. Explore the evolution of native cultures, French colonial roots, Revolutionary War era settlement, early Illinois statehood, westward expansion, European immigration and agricultural significance along the Trail.

The dramatic bluffs of the scenic Mississippi River Valley shape the natural landscape of the Trail. Rolling oak-hickory forests, prairies and farmlands including quaint, historic villages and rural back roads make this 60-mile journey one you will never forget.

View of the Bluffs in Monroe County

View of the Bluffs in Monroe County

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly proclaimed the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail as an Illinois Historic and Scenic Route. Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair Counties and their respective municipalities, are working together to improve and promote this historic and scenic corridor for the world to explore, appreciate and enjoy.

Call our office today (800.442.1488) to request a brochure detailing the attractions along the trail or email kctrailillinois@gmail.com for other inquiries.

This information originally appeared in the Fall 2015 Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!

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Craft Beers Bubbling Over in ILLINOISouth

Illinois South Admin
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Beer, Fall, Shop Local, Tourism Times

It’s a brew-volution, and your old best friend Bud should be wiser for it by now. Well, if you’re starting to prefer wheat, fruit- or pumpkin-flavored beers brewed in smallish batches, you won’t mind that poke at the region’s biggest, all-American (Belgian) brewery. (I mean, what’s this strawberry-rita swill the maker of the so-called Great American Lager is trying to make us swallow nowadays?)

excel Greg Rod and John from the brew crew

The Excel Brew Crew

Craft beers are the rage all around. A new proponent of the “designer” beer is Bill Meier of Excel Bottling Co. in Breese, makers of Ski and more than a dozen other soda flavors. Excel launched a new division, Excel Brewing Co., just shy of two years ago. One variety is Lefty’s Lager, named for the grandfather who founded the local bottler in 1936.

Soda sales are declining, says Meier. Meanwhile, beer industry experts say the market share of craft beers has risen sharply, more than 20 percent in the last two years. To coin a phrase, looks like Meier et al. are in the clover… well; hops, that is.

Increasingly, beer makers are coming out of their basement or garage operations to fashion brews that are local-local-local. Aficionados of these frosty, foamy adult beverages need only visit the nearest bar or family-owned pizza joint to see that there are at least a half-dozen more options nowadays than Stag or Bud Light. There may be Schlafly from St. Louis, which started almost 25 years ago as not much more than a tap room.

Or there may be a couple varieties from Kaskaskia Brewing Co. in Red Bud… and, if not today, then soon. The new owner has seen sales increase three-fold since he took over the business. In March.

Makraft

Makraft Brewery in Centralia

Mature adults prefer a better beer, beer crafters say. The kids? From underage to legal, they don’t really care. Most just want it cheap. You certainly don’t have to be a beer snob to enjoy a superior product, but you also don’t have to put up with weak, flavored yellow water, as some beer crafters call today’s corporate product.

Meanwhile, fresher product just tastes better, notes Meier. So he tries to keep his inventory as low as he can. Would you sell a pizza that’s been out of the oven too long? The four DeGonia brothers sure wouldn’t. But the DeGonia Bros. don’t spin dough; at this writing, the longtime home brewers were planning a microbrewery in a revitalized section of downtown Granite City. (OMG… how about a double chocolate stout?)

Making beer is a labor of love. But to survive in a fragmented commercial market, expansion is key, so long as you don’t get too big or grow too fast. Obviously, craft brewing is economically feasible, with industry observers today counting upwards of 3,000 microbreweries from coast to coast.

Did we say pizza and beer? In O’Fallon is Peel Wood Fired Pizza and Brewery, which hasn’t yet celebrated its first birthday. Neither has Recess Brewing in Edwardsville. Meanwhile in Madison County, Alton will welcome a second location of Belleville’s 4204 Main Street Brewing Co., if it hasn’t already. And in Centralia, you can sample Makraft Brewing Co.’s product at their tap room.

So, let’s click glasses and raise some luscious local foam to our mouths!

CLICK HERE for more information on the Breweries throughout ILLINOISouth!

This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!

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4 Great Fall Art Fairs in ILLINOISouth

Illinois South Admin
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Art, Events, Fall

The art scene in ILLINOISouth is thriving. Along with museums, galleries and specialty shops, art fairs are a mainstay for many communities across our region. Ranging from small festivals to multi-day events, art fairs draw tens of thousands of visitors and millions in revenue and economic impact to Southern Illinois.

There’s no better time to see art in full display than the fall travel season. Here are four great events coming up that you should definitely check out.

salute Midwest Salute to the Arts
Fairview Heights • Last Weekend in August
One of the area’s biggest shows, this event features over 100 artists, live entertainment and more. The three-day event fills a ball field at Moody Park at Long Acre in Fairview Heights. Two music stages, interactive children’s area with entertainment, food and cold beverages accompany the art showdrawingthousands of people every year.

While you’re there, take a walk around the park or let your kids play on one of the playgrounds!
street_artHighland Street Art FestivalHighland • 3rd Saturday in September
The Highland Street Art Festival is not your typical art show. Over 50 artists gather to create colorful, complex works of art on the street with chalk. It certainly is a sight to behold! The depth and beauty of these pieces is astounding. A local art expo and standard art-show attractions can be found as well.

Onley Arts Council Fall Festival
Olney • Last Saturday of September
Visit Olney City Park on the last Saturday in September to find art and crafts from local creators! Proceeds from the events vendor booths and concessions support the Olney Art Council’s workshops, performances and more.

While at the event, keep your eyes peeled for Olney’s famous white squirrels. These adorable creatures spend the Fall months scurrying around collecting food for the Winter!

aitpArt in the Park
Highland • 2nd Weekend in October
This annual affair takes place in Lindendale Park amidst an array of fall colors. The natural beauty, and crisp, Autumn air create the perfect setting for an exciting art show featuring demonstrations, food, wine tasting, creative children’s activities and more. Find everything from photographs and paintings to jewelry and sculpture by artists from surrounding areas and beyond!

CLICK HERE for more information about these and other great fall events in ILLINOISouth!!!

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Fall Food Fun

Illinois South Admin
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Events, Fall, Tourism Times

As we’re transitioning from Summer to Fall in Illinois South, one of our FAVORITE things to do is…well…eat. Fortunately, opportunities to do so are plentiful this time of year.

August is filled with several towns breaking out the grills for one last hurrah. Pair the delicious barbecue with entertainment, like the car shows in Maeystown or New Baden, or live music and a bags tourney in Beckemeyer and you can make a day of it.

For a taste of something different, check out the Crawfish & Gumbo Festival at the Kaskaskia River House in New Athens at the end of the month.

Further down the line, several communities hold Chili Cook-offs – some as big events where the chili takes center stage and some as part of other big events. Other locales will feature Oktoberfest Celebrations to celebrate the rich German heritage in our region. There will be more bier and bratwursts in the area than you can shake a stick at!!!

Some events feature locally made wine, beer or ciders – tasty!

Find more information below or CLICK HERE for our online calendar!

August 14 – 15
Sips & Tastes
Shiloh
Enjoy delicious food and great music.
618-377-2504

August 15
Winestock
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
618-228-9111

August 16
Maeystown Fire Dept. BBQ & Show Us Your Ride
Maeystown
Enjoy great barbecue while seeing cars, trucks, motorcycles and tractors.
618-580-5875

August 22
Little Pig Cook-Off
BCDC Park, Beckemeyer
In addition to blind judging awards, attendees will determine by popular vote, the “Best Porksteak” and the “Best Site.” Music will be playing all day, and other activities include a bags tournament, raffles, kid’s area and more.
618-227-8331

August 22
Annual Fun in the Sun BBQ & Cruise-In Car Show
New Baden Village Park
Held annually on the 4th Saturday of August, there will be all licensed makes and models, trophies and dash plaques, awards presentations, food, drinks, 50/50 raffle, music and attendance prizes.
618-588-3813

Salem Bluegrass & Barbecue

Salem Bluegrass & Barbecue

August 28 – 30
25th Annual Bluegrass & BBQ
Bryan Memorial Park, Salem
Bluegrass music and barbeque festival featuring live bluegrass music.
618-315-3877

August 29
National Crawfish & Gumbo Festival
The Kaskaskia Riverhouse, New Athens
The National Crawfish and Gumbo Festival will feature chefs from Louisiana, Florida and points all across the country! Entertainment includes legendary Zydeco Crawdaddies, “The Sauce Boss” Bill Wharton, The Funky Butt Brass Band and more.
618-475-2223

Berryville Chowder

Berryville Chowder

September 5
Berryville Chowder
Berryville Community Bldg., Berryville
Line up and fill a bowl with this local favorite!
618-839-5081

September 19
Lincoln Place Heritage Festival
Lincoln Place Community Center, Granite City
Armenian, Mexican, Macedonian and Bulgarian ethnic foods and pastries for sale. Free, continuous ethnic entertainment, featuring dancers, vocalists and music from Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Armenia, Mexico, Spain, Croatia, Scotland, Celtic Harp, Appalachian mountain dulcimer and Italian opera. Lincoln Place historical displays, quilts, Eastern European costume displays and children activities.
618-876-6400

September 25
Autumn Art Walk
Greenville
Fine art, savory food and wine and delightful music are featured at this event sponsored by Our Common Ground. Artists from the St. Louis metro region are spotlighted at this outdoor event.
618-664-9272

October 2 – 3
Chili Cook-Off
Downtown Belleville
Belleville’s Chili Cook-off features the culinary creations of individuals, local organizations & area businesses, as well as a children’s area, 5K run and entertainment throughout the weekend!
618-233-2015

October 9 – 10
Octoberfest
Steeleville
The fun begins Friday evening with a parade and continues with food, beer, music, craft fair, washer tournament, kids’ activities and a variety show.
618-559-7635

October 10
Freeburg Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off
Freeburg Village Park
Make a day of tasting delicious chili and more.
618-410-4077

October 10
Chili Cook-Off
Okawville
It’s chili tasting for all, and prizes for the best chili, people’s choice and best decorated booth. Kids activities, wine tasting, additional food items, beer, soda and other beverages are also available.
618-243-5694

October 11
Oktoberfest
Maeystown
Browse more than 50 artisans, crafters, dealers, and numerous food stands. The village specialty shops, bed and breakfast, restaurants and museum are open.
618-458-6660

October 17
Chili Cook Off & Arts and Crafts
Dupo Community Park, Dupo
In addition to the great chili booths there will be arts and crafts, prizes, food, music, games and walk of honor.
618-282-3280

October 17
Fall Fest & Chili Cook-Off
Mascoutah
This annual event has something for the entire family. There’s a Chili Cook-off, Car Show, craft & product vendors, children’s area, food and entertainment. In the Chili Cook-off you can sample over 20 kinds of chili.
618-566-7355

October 24
Chili & Soup Cook-Off
New Baden Village Park
There’s a Tasters’ Choice competition for both chili and soup with prizes awarded in both categories. Families will find a craft fair, touch-a-truck equipment display, bounce houses, etc.
618-588-3813

October 25
Oktoberfest
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
Enjoy German food, beer, wine and live music.
618-228-9111

Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston

Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston

 

This information originally appeared in the 2015 Fall Tourism Times Newsletter. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!

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Antiques – Bringing Way Back When to Here and Now

Illinois South Admin
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Antiques, Attractions, Fall, Shopping, Tourism Times

antiques twitter bannerPeople who love to trade in antiques are a very special breed. They live for the “find,” like the couple who buy the rickety old wooden chair at a garage sale for 15 bucks—then, before driving off to the next poor soul’s house, can’t resist telling the clueless sellers that it’s antebellum.

olney

Fabulous Finds by Jerri Allen, Olney

Few are that snarky, of course. They’re a community not unlike the experts on Pickers or Pawn Stars. They see through the rust, grime and flaking paint to see what’s beneath. They recognize character. And, value.

Plenty of antiquers buy and sell in ILLINOISouth, the 20-county corridor that stretches from St. Louis east to the Indiana border like a belt that holds up a paunch facing west.

Some are big, some are small, some are malls. Some trade in true antiques… that is, items that have been around a century or more… some in “collectibles.” Most have a little of some, a little of the other. For many, antique just means that they don’t make ’em like they used to, or you had something similar at home growing up, or you collect fine French china. (And don’t mind the little “flea bite” on that glazed white pitcher from around 1920. Turn the chipped side to the wall and nobody will notice.)

Some collectors love to display well-used farm implements, inside and out. There’s plenty of that around here, from Fairview Heights to Olney.

One thing to remember: Wherever it is, no antique store is ever the same place twice! So come early, come often.

  St. Clair Antique Mall, Fairview Heights:  618-628-1650

One of the region’s several antique malls is only 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis. Two hundred dealers offer a dizzying array of goodies, so make a day of it. If there was a specialty here, it would be primitives, crock ware, glassware and furniture. Just across I-64 is one of the region’s major retail malls and dozens of big-box stores, where you can take a break to shop for some new stuff.

highland

Windows Off Broadway, Highland

Windows on Broadway, Highland: 618-651-4401

There are nearly 100 windows on this building, thus the name. Want some old magazines or 45 RPM singles? Check. A butter churn or bowling pins? You got it. But the 2,100-square-foot atrium graced by all those windows? Probably not. It’s more than an antique store; it’s a destination for intimate special events with a kitchen and bar.

The Antique Mall of Perry County, Nashville: 618-336-5300

Seventy-plus vendors have it all, from quality antiques to vintage collectibles…
all on one floor, in 12,000 square feet of space.

Vintage Collections Antique Mall, Mt. Carmel:  618-262-2513

Some collectors want things that are vintage or “retro,” regardless of whether they’re truly antique. You’ll find those here, too. Various genres are available, from primitives to costume jewelry. Dealers are always welcome.

mt carmel

Vintage Collections Antique Mall, Mt. Carmel

Prairie Albion Antique Mall, Albion:  618-302-2146

albion

Prairie Albion Antique Mall, Albion

Are you a “repurposer”? This place is chock full of stuff you’ll want to work with. There are stoneware crocks, primitives and pottery, and blue “canning” jars. Or, select one-of-a-kind decorations for a banquet or country wedding!

Fabulous Finds by Jerri Allen, Olney:  618-919-0532

This unique emporium offers French Country, shabby chic, primitives, upcycled and repurposed treasures. You crazy kids might even find items that you could fashion into “steampunk”… simply from picking through what other shoppers passed off as “just junk”… here or at any other of stores we featured.

Click Here for more Antique Shops and other unique shopping throughout Illinois South!


This information originally appeared in the Fall Tourism Times Newsletter. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!

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Record Breaking Tourism Numbers Announced in Lebanon

Illinois South Admin
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Events, News

IMG_7099

Cory Jobe, Director, IL Office of Tourism

Last week the Illinois Office of Tourism came to town to announce record breaking tourism numbers across the State. The event was held Monday at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts at McKendree University in Lebanon.

Cory Jobe, Director of the IOT, reported more than 109.4 Million Visitors came to Illinois last year – a 3.5% increase over the previous year. These visitors spent more than $36.3 Billion generating over $2.7 Billion in state and local taxes.

In Illinois South alone, over $1.14 Billion was generated – an increase of over 4.5% from the previous year. In our region, tourism is responsible for over 8,200 jobs according to the most recent data. All in all, our thriving industry saves the average Illinois household $1,300 in taxes through state, local and hotel/motel taxes generated. We’re incredibly proud of these numbers and extend our gratitude to everyone who makes this growth possible.

IMG_7115

Great Numbers for Illinois South!

In addition to the 4th consecutive year of record-breaking numbers, the Office of Tourism unveiled two new initiatives. The first is a new travel magazine called “Enjoy” which will take the place of the state’s annual visitors guide. Enjoy will feature editorial content and information aimed at leisure travelers. The magazine’s production schedule, which will feature a Spring and Fall issue annually, will allow for more diverse coverage of attractions and events from all over the state.

Illinois Made Logo

The Illinois Made Logo

Another new program, called “Illinois Made,” will feature videos, online and print content focusing on items produced in Illinois. The initiative was introduced with a high-quality film featuring a multi-generation family wood shop in Dow, IL. The craftsman in the video was working on what would wind up being a large, 3-D logo for the campaign that was revealed on stage following the video.

If you have any ideas of great Illinois-made products that have a great story behind them, click here to email them to us.

We, at Illinois South Tourism are excited about the phenomenal economic impact tourism created last year, and look forward to everything the State is working on to keep our industry growing. Thank you to every one who came out to the event last week, and to Hidden Lake Winery and Marcoot Dairy for donating products for our reception!

The Enjoy Illinois Team with goodie bags from Illinois South Tourism

The Enjoy Illinois team with goodie bags from Illinois South Tourism

CLICK HERE  to see more photos from the event on our Facebook Page.

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July 4th in #ILSouth!!!

Alex Matthews
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Attractions, Events, Holidays, Summer, What's Happening

independence day blog banner

OOOOOOOOOOOH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

It’s time to celebrate Independence Day in ILLINOISouth. Beginning this weekend you can find everything from live music, to sandcastle contests, car shows to volleyball and washers tournaments. Runs, festivals and more will dot our region to celebrate the ultimate summer holiday…and, of course, don’t miss all the FIREWORKS!!!

Read below, or visit our online calendar for information on what our different communities are doing!

Jun. 27, 2015
4th of July Dam Jam & Fireworks
Carlyle Lake
Come enjoy a full day of live music, sandcastle building contest, volleyball tournament concluding with a wonderful fireworks display. The fireworks will be shot from point 1 and can be viewed by boat or shore in the Dam West and East Recreation Areas.

Freedom Day
Toledo
Celebrate independence with corn dogs, Kitten Ball and lots of contests (pizza eating, Little Miss and Mister, etc.) fireworks, music and food.

Jun. 27, 2015 – Jun. 28, 2015
West Salem 4th of July Celebration
West Salem
Town Wide Yard Sale, 5K Run/Walk, Raffle, and fireworks. Church service 10:00 a.m. on the Square, Firehouse Dinner at Noon Car Show – Registration 11:30 a.m., Awards 4:30 p.m.

Jul. 1, 2015
Annual Carnival & 4th of July Celebration
Fairview Park, Centralia
The carnival will have entertainment, good games and fireworks. Patriotic event is held in the City’s park.

Jul. 1, 2015 – Jul. 5, 2015
Patriots in the Park
Wilson Park, Granite City
This event includes an auto show, carnival with food, live entertainment and rides. Don’t miss the incredible fireworks display on the 4th!

Fantastic 4th Weekend
Market St., Mt. Carmel
Mt. Carmel shows you how to celebrate the 4th with a weekend of family events. From the parade to the car show, you’ll find lots of reasons to be in Mt. Carmel on this Independence Day Weekend!

Jul. 2, 2015 – Jul. 4, 2015
4th of July
Rt. 50, Steeleville
Have fun with carnival rides, food, live music and beer stand. On July 4th, there will be craft stands before and after the parade, 3K Firecracker race at 9:00 a.m. and fireworks that evening.

July 3
Blast Off Parade and Fireworks
Albers
The parade will line up at American Legion and begin at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks at dusk.

Fireworks
Du Quoin State Fairgrounds

Fireworks
Vandalia Lake
Fireworks will start around 9:15 p.m.

July 3 – 4
Gateway Grizzlies 4th of July Games
GCS Ballpark, Sauget
The games start at 6:35 p.m. with a great fireworks display at the end of the game.

July 4
4th of July
Alhambra
Food & fireworks

Carmi Lion’s Club 8th Annual Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show
White County Fairgrounds, Carmi
The 8th Annual Carmi Lion’s Club Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show will also have tractors, lots of trophies, dash plaques and awards. There will also be a swap meet, craft vendors, food and drinks and fireworks after dark!

4th of July Bike Parade and Celebration
Main Street & American Legion, Columbia
Decorated bikes and creative patriotic costumes ride down historic Main Street to celebrate our country! Later in the day head up to the American Legion to participate in the washer and kloepper tournaments or just enjoy the music and refreshments while you wait for the amazing fireworks display at dusk!

Picnic in the Park
Dupo Community Park
Bring the family and enjoy food, rides, games, live music, washers tournament and a large fireworks display.

4th of July Festival & Fireworks
Flora

Fireworks Display
Glik Par, Highland
Come early to enjoy food from various vendors and fun family activities.

Liberty Bell of the West Patriotic Celebration
201 First St., Kaskaskia
Come out to Kaskaskia and hear and see Patriotic music & tributes, ring bell for Liberty, French Marine Salute, traditional food available and tours.

Old Fashioned July 4th Celebration
Scheve Park, Mascoutah, IL
A hometown celebration to encourage and strengthen the relationship between surrounding communities and the city. The event will have food and craft booths, softball and kickball tournaments, rides, kids’ games, raffle, poker, artisans, music and fireworks.

Fireworks Display
Olney City Park
Fireworks begin at dusk.

4th of July Fireworks
Tri-Township Park, Troy

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Gentlemen, Start Your Engines…Motorsports Revving Up Throughout ILLINOISouth

Alex Matthews
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Attractions, Motorsports, Sports, Spring, Summer, Tourism Times

Nascar Truck Racing at Gateway Motorsports Park

Nascar Truck Racing at Gateway Motorsports Park

You don’t have to go to Charlotte, Talladega or Daytona for a great auto race. To get in gear, you need only venture across Southern Illinois, from the burgs of Madison to Highland to Flora.

Of course, ladies can start their engines, too. And they don’t have to be named Danica Patrick. Gateway Motorsports Park provides plenty of opportunities for bona fide racers to neophytes—say, a kindergarten teacher or a British squash team—to get behind the wheel of a race-prepped Camaro. Many corporate team-building getaways are held here. Not including karting, 230 events will be held this year at Gateway, within sight of I-55 and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Driving for Linemen Pace Car - Gateway Motorsports Park

Driving for Linemen Pace Car – Gateway Motorsports Park

Curtis Francois is a racer who’s parlayed his time behind the wheel to owner of the radically refurbished track and stands. Much more happens here than cars speeding around a 1¼-mile paved oval.

“The idea is to make it an entertainment,” says Francois, “and sometimes a race breaks out.”

And the karting is in a different league than what you’d find at an amusement park in Branson. These are built in France, not by Sears. You have no idea how fast these rascals go until you see and hear them up close and personal. Neither could you imagine what it’s like to be among as many as 75,000 roaring fans, even on an 80-inch screen. Want to try it yourself? Try “arrive and drive” at the new Kartplex, located within the oval itself.

April starts the season out at most tracks and speedways, whether you’re in the mood for off-road trucks in Baja-style contests, to every other type of racecar competition, officially sanctioned or not. There’s SCCA racing (Sports Car Club of America) and heart-stopping 1/8-mile NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) drag races. You can thrill to a Grand Am or marvel at pre-1972 muscle car “nostalgia” runs.

Highland Speedway

Highland Speedway

Gateway only reopened a few years ago and work is still going on to add features so would-be racers can get a feel for all racing surfaces, from the classic oval to an impossibly curvy 1½-mile road course… hold on to your stomach!

Compared to new and ever-improving Gateway, Highland Speedway is not far from collecting Social Security. It opened in 1962… and excitement is building for its 54th season. UMP (United Midwestern Promoters) DIRTcar racing here ranges from Street Stocks to KidModz (12-18).

Rt. 45 Raceway

Rt. 45 Raceway

Did we mention that nearly anyone can get involved with this sport?

The racetrack in Clay County, 2½ miles north of Flora, has been renamed Route 45 Raceway. As many as 3,500 can enjoy all classes of UMP DIRTcar racing on the 1/3-mile high-banked dirt track. And would it be auto racing without sponsors and ads on every square inch of car, uniform or grandstand? This season 480-feet of fence will be festooned with 8-foot billboards.

TriCity Speedway

TriCity Speedway

In Pontoon Beach, just south of I-270, Tri-City Speedway is a 3/8-mile dirt oval (as measured 20- feet from the outside wall). The track features 10 degrees banking in the corners and is 70-feet wide all the way around.

Rather watch drivers bust stuff up? Keep tabs on whether a demolition derby will be scheduled somewhere, probably at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville. At this writing, plans for the season there were still being formalized.

Yes, racing is exciting, whether you’re watching or participating. But, as Francois says, you don’t have to white-knuckle yourself around tight turns at a high rate of speed. Just focus on the orange cone at the apex of each curve.

As he points out, with a grin: “Racing is more of a geometry problem than guts and gonads.”

For further information, visit:
www.gatewaymsp.com
www.highlandspeedway.com
www.route45raceway.com
www.tricityspeedway.net
www.belleclairspeedway.com

This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!

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Check It Out: Route 66 Blue Carpet Corridor Festival

Alex Matthews
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Attractions, Events, Nostalgia, Rt. 66, Summer, What's Happening

BCC logoThe first annual Illinois Route 66 Blue Carpet Corridor weekend festival – “Miners, Mobsters, and the Mother Road” – will be held Saturday-Sunday, June 13-14. The Blue Carpet Corridor, from Chatham down to Collinsville, is a unique section of Route 66 characterized not only by its Mother Road charm, but also its rich mining history and colorful mobster lore.

BLUE CARPET MAPRoute 66 is known for its quirky attractions, roadside hospitality, and family fun. And on the second weekend in June, the blue carpet will be rolled out to welcome thousands of travelers all along the Blue Carpet Corridor. The event highlights 19 communities on historic Route 66 including Chatham, Auburn, Thayer, Virden, Girard, Nilwood, Carlinville, Gillespie, Benld, Staunton, Hamel, Edwardsville, Litchfield, Mt. Olive, Williamson, Livingston, Glen Carbon, Troy, and Collinsville.

A variety of events and activities awaits visitors in the nineteen participating communities along three historic alignments of the Mother Road. The cities and villages have planned a variety of activities, including festivals, car shows, live entertainment, children’s activities, and historic tours and exhibits. Food stands and eateries will be open for hungry travelers. Innovative museums, towering monuments, historic buildings, and winding stretches of original highway are waiting to be discovered. Visitors can scour antique shops, yard sales, flea markets, and unique mom and pop stores for hidden treasures.

So load the family car, start early, and join us for a whole weekend of fun on the Blue Carpet Corridor on Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14. Don’t forget to bring your camera because photo ops will be plentiful!

Edw Rt 66 festival cars

Each community’s activities and events, as well as local attractions, restaurants, and lodging, can be found on the Blue Carpet Corridor website community pages. For maps, updates, news, and complete event schedules, go to www.bluecarpetcorridor.org and check www.facebook.com/BlueCarpetCorridor for updates.

Get involved! Check out the “Selfies on 66” photo contest open to US residents ages 18+.  For more information, contact the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway at 217-525-9308 or visit www.selfieson66.com today!!!

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Nostalgia is in High Gear at Gateway Classic Cars

Bill Beggs
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Attractions, Tourism Times

gateway_blog_bIn a magical land called O’Fallon, hundreds of antique cars come to life at Gateway Classic Cars. Actually, from a slew of classic Chevys to a least one collectible Jaguar, they’re not going anywhere right now. This impressive exhibition of rolling stock is on display in an expansive new building that allows each vehicle plenty of room for admirers or prospective buyers to walk around, peer inside, but please don’t touch!

Well, for a few grand their new drivers could make them roar to life. Meanwhile, antique car aficionados may appreciate them in all their two-tone glory, red fuzzy dice optional, at a standstill. The $3 admission fee is more than worth it. But just one visit won’t do justice to this fine collection.

About 140 cars, trucks and other rides are on display any given day, but this inventory is anything but static. John Busch at the showroom-cum-museum says about 85 percent of the cars on the showroom floor go home with new owners. Gateway doesn’t actually own any of them; they are there on consignment from their owners. And cars are switched out and transferred between the company’s nine stores (as of this May), so no two visits are the same. There are about 1,000 cars from which to choose throughout the company, from Houston to Fort Lauderdale to Chicago.

And these cars aren’t just boss… they’re, well, cherry.

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The information sheets on the inside of the windshields are all a labor of love by the sales staff—also curators or docents, if you will. There are no guided tours, at least not officially, but these folks really have a gas showing off these automotive wonders. They love their work, and they know their stuff, says Busch. The information on each vehicle is exhaustive, mostly because the owners know them so well.

“Not everybody here knows everything about all the cars, of course, but everybody knows at least something about each,” he says. Most are antiques, if you go by the yardstick of 25 years old or older. But there are some recent editions, too, mostly muscle cars from a few model years back.

OMG; you’ll want to have one all for yourself.

The brand-new building, opened about this time last year, is replete with a banquet area and conference center. About 29,000 square feet of convention or tradeshow space can be configured for gearheads and wannabes. Fundraisers and business meetings fit right in. There hasn’t been a wedding booked here yet, but just you wait. Meanwhile, a movie theater runs auto-themed movies whenever anyone is in the mood. It only seats eight… although in extremely comfortable recliners… but visitors can have a glimpse at, or kick back and take in, such high-powered fare as “Smokey and the Bandit”.

And the gift shop has been lovingly stocked with die-cast metal replicas, T-shirts, plus vintage signs and placards that evoke service stations from the middle of the previous century. You could spend half your time in here.

Visit today, or check out their website for a calendar of upcoming events!!!

This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here to read it online or sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!

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