ELGIN, IL – A “Support Our Troops” rally that shipped goods overseas to American soldiers, a Shrimp Festival that brought more than 9,000 people to a riverfront community and a “Hawg Night” event that filled the streets of a town with neighbors, motorcycles and ‘50s music are just a few of the Main Street programs that Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn commended at the Illinois Main Street State Conference.
The Illinois Main Street State Conference took place in Elgin on October 8-9. The community, which won four awards last year for its innovative Main Street initiatives, hosted this year’s 10th anniversary celebration that included mayors, program managers and hundreds of volunteers from the 57 Illinois Main Street communities.
Communities throughout the Main Street program, which helps communities with programs that revitalize their downtown districts while emphasizing the town’s historic character, submitted entries for exceptional programs with regard to Main Street’s “Four Point Approach” of Organization, Economic Restructuring, Design and Promotions.
There were many winners from the hundreds of attendees, but taking home the first-ever Premiere Project Award in Illinois Main Street history, was Main Street Orion for the restoration and opening of their Central Park Bandshell that the community rallied to save and restore to its original glory days.
“The Orion Central Park Bandshell project is an outstanding example of the many elements that make up the Main Street philosophy,” said Quinn, noting the rich history of Orion, just south of Moline. “Main Street helps communities such as Orion appreciate the treasures in their midst, and fosters a spirit of volunteerism, a sense of place and a new civic pride."
The Central Park Bandshell was first built in 1913, but by 1967, the facility had deteriorated so much that village board members wanted to demolish it. Going door to door, supporters of the bandshell collected enough money to make the necessary repairs and the structure survived. Last year, the wrecking ball came knocking again – it was recommended that the bandshell be torn down and replaced.
Once more, supporters banded together and after raising more than $70,000, the facility was made new again. The towers were rebuilt, a solid foundation installed, the façade repaired and the electricity brought up to current standards. To top off the renovation project, the Central Park Bandshell was given a fresh coat of paint.
Today, the Orion Central Park Bandshell is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to a new 25-member Orion Community Band, which recently performed at the 90th birthday of the beloved historic structure. It serves as a model of what individuals can do to breathe new life into their community.
Orion, however, was not the only community in a celebratory mood during the conference banquet and Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence ceremony at the Elgin Wonderland Center. Other winning Main Street communities include Blue Island, Collinsville, Danville, Eldorado, Elgin, Galesburg, Genoa, Golconda, Jacksonville, Libertyville, Marshall, Paris, Pekin, Plainfield, Princeton, Quincy, Rock Island, Springfield, St. Charles, Staunton, Tuscola and Waukegan.
During welcoming remarks at the opening session, Quinn applauded all Main Street communities and singled out newcomers. “It’s my pleasure to welcome Bloomington and Momence to the Main Street family,” said Quinn, stating that the Illinois Main Street Advisory Council recently approved both communities. “Both towns have a unique heritage and can greatly benefit from the revitalization support of the Main Street program.”
Although the nationally acclaimed program that promotes volunteerism fell victim to arbitrary budget cuts last year, Quinn vowed to revitalize the program. He added the launch of the new Main Street component at www.patquinn.org would serve as an electronic town center for communities across Illinois by keeping them abreast of the latest news regarding the program.
Quinn also mentioned that the Office of the Lieutenant is working with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to offer architectural design services to Main Street communities. Each community will be able to submit one project proposal per year.
This year’s state conference was themed “Celebrating Main Street,” and included 16 interactive workshops covering aspects of downtown revitalization. Breakout sessions and round-table discussions took place in The Centre of Elgin and in various locations around the downtown area. Trolley tours escorted attendees through Elgin’s downtown district and historic neighborhoods.
The Illinois Main Street program was created as an initiative from the Rural Affairs Council in the Lieutenant Governor’s office in 1993. Over the past decade, the Main Street program has grown from nine towns to include 57 communities across Illinois.
The Lt. Governor’s Office administers the Illinois Main Street program that is based on a national model that offers communities help with issues such as downtown improvements, historic preservation and economic development. Illinois is one of 40 states that belong to the National Main Street Program, administered through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Illinois Main Street represents one of the state's most effective public-private partnerships for economic development and community renewal. Since it's inception, designated communities have reported net gains of more than 1,300 new downtown businesses, and created 2,892 full-time jobs and 2,053 part-time jobs. Main Streets have spurred more than $103 million in public improvements and more than $315 million in private reinvestments in their downtowns.
Other Main Street communities throughout Illinois include: Aledo, Alton, Batavia, Belleville, Belvidere, Cambridge, Carbondale, Crystal Lake, DeKalb, Dixon, Dwight, Elmhurst, Fairfield, Forest Park, Harvard, Lincoln, Macomb, Marion, Mascoutah, Monticello, Mundelein, Murphysboro, O’Fallon, Paxton, Pittsfield, Pontiac, Prophetstown, Rushville, Taylorville, Vandalia, Westmont and Winfield.