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Armstrong: IESA state wrestling finals return to DeKalb County

Approximately 5,000 visitors will travel here to cheer on their school’s qualifiers for the Illinois Elementary School Association state wrestling championships to be held March 14 and 15 at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center.

The Convocation Center staff, our wrestling community and the bureau are all excited to welcome Steve Endsley, executive director of the IESA and his staff, the state wrestling qualifiers, coaches and fans back to DeKalb County. This event typically generates more than 450 hotel room nights.

Kudos go out to the Convo Center staff, local resident and tournament manager Arch Richoz and the more than 250 volunteers from the DeKalb Wrestling Family Booster Club that work with IESA officials to ensure a well-run event. Richoz has been manager for this event for 18 years. Cooperation between venues and community volunteers are essential to winning the bids for these types of events. These combined efforts along with a great venue convinced the IESA to award us the bid for the event from 2013 through 2018.

Thank you to our local hotels and their staff for providing a pleasant stay, taking good care of our visitors and offering affordable rates that provide a great incentive for groups to book events like this in DeKalb County.

The IESA state wrestling championships are open to the public. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children through eighth grade and senior citizens. Tickets are available at the NIU Convocation ticket office beginnig next week. We encourage you to attend.

Gov.’s Conference on Tourism

Last week I joined 500 tourism professionals from Illinois for the Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism, the state’s premier educational forum for the travel industry. It focuses on the importance of tourism as a tool for stimulating and continuing economic development within Illinois.

The conference provides opportunities for attendees to learn more about marketing tourism market, group tours and sales, destination best practices, how to target special markets and the hotel industry.

Gov. Pat Quinn attended the conference to congratulate and recognize our industry’s contribution to the state budget. The 2012 economic impact of Illinois tourism was $33.5 billion, which was an increase of 5 percent from the previous year. We also welcomed more than 101 million visitors, up 12 percent.

Mini Abe has now been to 17 of the bureaus for a visit. He is our state tourism icon. Many of you may saw him in DeKalb County in November and in a Super Bowl commercial. He will continue to travel the state to promote tourism in Illinois. If you haven’t seen our Mini Abe videos, check them out on our You Tube channel at:

DeKalb County tourism spending in 2012 contributed $81.46 million to the local economy and was up 3.6 percent, marking the third year in a row that we have helped increase the dollars generated by tourism spending for the county.

Our board would like to thank all of our financial partners, supporters, hotels and attractions for continuing to invest in tourism and recognizing the contributions that the travel industry provides for our economy.

On another note, we expect the Hampton Inn & Suites of DeKalb to open for business at the end of the month. This will give DeKalb County 80 more hotel rooms that we can help fill to generate more income from tourism spending.

Safe travels everyone.

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

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