The 16th president took center stage at last year’s Academy Awards. “Lincoln” was nominated for 12 awards, including Best Picture, and Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for best actor.
The Illinois Office of Tourism took the opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the movie and our 16th president by introducing MiniAbe in a television spot during the Oscars to promote Illinois tourism. “A Big Night for MiniAbe” was all about him preparing to attend the ceremony. He lifted weights, got a haircut and had a spa treatment before arriving in his custom limo. The tag line was “Break a leg, Abe. We’re pulling for you.”
MiniAbe even tweeted live during the broadcast. He shined bright for Illinois that night and continues to be a strong contender as one of the most unique icons to help promote tourism.
This fall the Office of Tourism featured him again on national television and the www.EnjoyIllinois.com website. “Be More Spontaneous This Fall,” resulted in a 57 percent spike in traffic to the state tourism website. He may be small but he’s definitely powerful ... and he’s in DeKalb County.
MiniAbe arrived at our office Sunday and will stay with us through Nov. 13. He was set to head to his next tourism destination Friday, but decided he couldn’t leave DeKalb County without attending a Northern Illinois University Huskies football game.
I am told that he plans to buy a ticket to the IHSA state football championships, which we are hosting at Huskie Stadium on Nov. 29 and 30.
MiniAbe also is encouraging everyone in the region to follow his lead and volunteer at ihsadestinationdekalb.com.
MiniAbe will be followed by a camera crew while he visits many of our DeKalb County tourism attractions. He won’t be able to visit all our communities during his brief stay but he will pack in as much as he can.
Be on the lookout for MiniAbe. Maybe you’ll get lucky enough to take a picture with him to post on Facebook. We plan to roll out our social media campaign featuring Abe’s visit Thanksgiving weekend during the IHSA state football championships.
You never know where he’ll pop up this week. That’s part of the fun.
MiniAbe isn’t the only important visitor we’ll welcome to DeKalb County in November. We’re expecting more than 32,000 visitors from all areas of Illinois to visit during the state football championships at Huskie Stadium. Two days, eight games, 16 teams, thousands of fans and our community will join together to celebrate and welcome them to their ultimate goal ... Destination DeKalb.
Another event that we’ve been working on for months is the Pop Warner Cheer Competition, which will be held Sunday at the NIU Convocation Center. Our hotels will book more than 350 room nights during their stay.
Last weekend, the Midwest Gridiron Classic featuring about 72 youth football teams competed in a tournament at DeKalb High School and resulted in 300-plus hotel room nights.
In closing, the countdown clock to the IHSA football championship event continues to tick. Thank you to all of our sponsors and the community members who already have signed up to help. We couldn’t do it without you. The economic impact is expected to be approximately $1 million. The exposure to thousands of new visitors is priceless.
• Debbie Armstrong is executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.