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Armstrong: Fall peak season for tourism

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKalb County is filled with opportunities for visitors to flock to the area to enjoy all the fall festivities and attractions that we are fortunate enough to have in our own backyard.

We have many family farms that produce apples, pumpkins, cider, donuts and more. There are even haunted mazes, tractor rides, petting zoos, and weekends that feature musical entertainment. These agritourism attractions take on the personality of the owners who make their living from farming and welcome thousands of visitors each year. We salute all of these attractions for the joy they provide to thousands of visitors and the revenue they generate for DeKalb County.

As part of the Office of the Comptroller’s “Agri-Tourism Day” at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Judy Barr Topinka presented agriculture leaders from throughout the state with proclamations celebrating their achievements and continuing dedication. Topinka specifically congratulated Jonamac Orchard.

“It is incredible to have Jonamac Orchard continue to support agriculture year after year,” Topinka said. “The orchard creates a family oriented environment and promotes tourism for our state, and I thank the many people who work so hard to make it happen.”

Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Illinois in terms of economic impact, contributing more than $8.85 billion to the state’s economy annually. Agritourism is promoted through a wide range of activities, including picking farm products, riding horses, learning about wine and cheese-making, and shopping for local and regional produce or handcrafted gifts.

Conventions and tour groups also are an important focus for DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau as they generate economic wealth for area businesses.

Recently we welcomed approximately 250 Illinois radio broadcasters to DeKalb County for their annual convention. They booked more than 140 hotel room nights for their stay. Each visitor normally spends an average of $100 a day on meals, entertainment, gas or incidentals.

For November we booked a tour group with 25 visitors from Canada that will spend the night at a local hotel and tour the Monsanto plant in Waterman. We set up its itinerary, secured its hotel rooms and provided recommendations for meals. A group of this size will generate nearly $4,000 in revenue during their overnight stay.

The Pop Warner Cheer competition will return Nov. 9 to the Convocation Center. We’ve been working with the event coordinator to book hotel room nights for its judges and officials as well as securing a private room for the welcome dinner. Approximately 350 hotel room nights are booked for the event. More than 3,000 visitors will be here to support their cheerleaders. The estimated economic impact generated from the group is approximately $55,000.

All in all, it’s been a very productive fall tourism season and we’re just getting started. We had at least three hotels that were sold out for the Huskies football home opener. Huskie Nation was out in force to see NIU win its 22nd consecutive home game.

Speaking of football, the excitement continues to build as we prepare to host our first IHSA state football championships at Huskie Stadium on Nov. 29 and 30. The IHSA Destination Host Committee is still recruiting game day event volunteers, Spirit Zone hospitality volunteers and sponsors. To volunteer, visit www.ihsadestinationdekalb.com.

Until next time, we encourage you all to get out and enjoy fall in DeKalb County. Check out our calendar of events at www.dekalbcountycvb.com to help make your plans.

• Debbie Armstrong is executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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