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Armstrong: State tourism director praises DeKalb County CVB

The DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau was honored to host another visit from Cory Jobe, state director of tourism, on Sept. 8. We celebrated the 5.5 percent rise in DeKalb County visitor spending over the previous year to an all-time high of $98.8 million.

Jobe also was eager to check on the progress of the new Whiskey Acres Visitor Center. Co-owner Jamie Walters treated us to a private tour. The 4,000-square-foot facility now is enclosed as work continues. The center will allow Whiskey Acres to be open year-round, accommodate larger tours and meet the demand for private meetings and events, as well as office space. There will be expanded retail space and educational exhibits devoted to sharing their story. The owners are targeting a “Black Friday” opening for the center if all goes well.

Many of the visitors at Whiskey Acres that day were University of Utah football team fans who had flown into DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport or made the drive to see their team’s game that night at Northern Illinois University. Some had even spent the week leading up to the game in Chicago and its suburbs.

A big hit for many were bourbon slushies, one of Whiskey Acres’ specialties. The drink also has been featured in one of the targeted marketing initiatives the Illinois Office of Tourism has worked on to support our CVB’s marketing efforts in conjunction with Illinois’ bicentennial celebration. IOT reaches out to all its certified bureaus to provide them with information for projects such as this on a regular basis.

Several publications have been working with certified bureaus to develop bucket lists of things to see and do throughout the yearlong festivities. In July, the Chicago Tribune recommended a list of local drinks that folks could use to toast the state’s 200th anniversary and Whiskey Acres’ Bourbon Slushie was No. 1 on the list. With the increase in demand, thank goodness the new visitor center has more freezer space to keep those slushies flowing.

Jobe, taking in his first Huskies game, had the perfect game day experience thanks to our partners at NIU Athletics. We tailgated with Huskie Nation at the Huskie Athletic Foundation tent, shopped for Huskie gear, listened to some great music and enjoyed tasting local wines from Jonamac Orchard. He and I joined Ryan Sedevie, senior associate athletics director; Brad Hoey, special projects coordinator and DCCVB chairman; along with local dignitaries DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith, Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang and state Rep. Jeff Kiecher, taking the field as NIU Athletics acknowledged some of the local contributions that shaped our history in honor of the state’s bicentennial.

Earlier this year, the invention of barbed wire was selected as one of the top 10 innovations by the Illinois Top 200 project. The invention of barbed wire by DeKalb’s Joseph Glidden in 1874 helped transform the landscape of the American West and beyond. Glidden and fellow barbed wire barons Isaac Ellwood and Jacob Haish helped found Northern Illinois State Normal School, which became NIU.

The 13th annual DeKalb Kite Fest went off without a hitch. Our thanks to Dave Zavell from Chicago Kite, who recruited more than 25 professional kite flyers to perform. Many of these folks, who represent six states, return each year to display their love of flying kites for our residents and visitors.

Our thanks to the generous sponsors, co-chairman Doug Nelson, volunteers, nonprofit booths, vendors and all those enthusiastic and smiling faces who came out to enjoy this multigenerational fun-filled family event on NIU’s campus.

We look forward to seeing all of you again on Sept. 8, 2019.

We also spent a full day on a photo shoot in Sandwich at the Opera House and the Sandwich Fair. The fair draws about 175,000 visitors over five days to see 25,000 exhibits. It is one of the biggest annual events in DeKalb County. Kudos to the organizers, exhibitors, volunteers and everyone that pitched in for the 131st edition.

We are busy gathering information for the 2019 visitors guide. Email Lisa Angel at to reserve ad space. Our guides are displayed at nine tourist information centers, four Oasis Tollways and multiple visitor kiosks in the suburbs, as well as Union Station. Our reach is far and wide. We are proud of what we generate in economic impact with our promotion of DeKalb County as a premiere destination for business and leisure travelers.

During this busy stretch, we helped sign a new event for our area. The “Husky Nationals” wrestling competition will be held Dec. 14 and 15 at DeKalb High School with more than 750 youth competitors and their families making DeKalb County their destination that weekend, along with thousands more who will be attending NIU’s commencement. That weekend alone should put an estimated $350,000 into our local economy. The more dollars local partners invest with the DCCVB, the bigger the return. DeKalb County can count on us to deliver!

Bring on October!

Until next time. Safe travels.

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

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