Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) joined legislators and leaders in the tourism industry to award $22.5 million in grant funding for 89 projects across Illinois through the Tourism Attractions and Festivals Grant program. Designed to support local festivals and attractions and drive tourism across the state, Illinois increased the funding available from $15 million to $22.5 million in order to support additional attractions. The additional $7.5 million was secured during the Illinois General Assembly legislative session in early January 2023 and the program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
"Illinois is the best place in the nation to visit, and now that people are finding that out through our marketing, our tourism economy is booming," said Governor JB Pritzker. "The Tourism?Attraction and Festivals Grant program has been a vital part of that success by restoring and enhancing the great events across our state that draw visitors from around the world. When we invest in projects like these — it reverberates beyond just one event or exhibit. It benefits entire communities — from small businessowners who get to attract more customers to families with young children who get to enjoy all that Illinois has to offer."
This second round of the Tourism Attractions and Festivals Grant program provides grant funding to localities, organizations, and businesses for a broad range of tourism-related improvements, events and activities. This builds upon $10 million in funding through the first round of the grant program provided to 40 localities across the state. Combined with Illinois' largest-ever tourism campaign, ‘Middle of Everything,' Illinois is prioritizing investing in our thriving tourism industry while driving millions of visitors to choose Illinois for their next trip.
Six communities in the Discover Downstate Illinois region are receiving grants for a wide array of different projects. The City of Centralia will be awarded more than $320,000 in grants for plaques and a street lighting canopy for the Historic Centralia Commercial District, the money will also be used to develop music festivals at Castle Ridge, and to help fund the ever-popular Balloon Fest this August.
“It is exciting for our community and our region to be awarded these grant opportunities,” explains Marcus Holland, Executive Director for the Greater Centralia Chamber of Commerce. “Every one of our businesses, citizens, and visitors pay taxes into state funding opportunities. By applying for the grant, we are asking for that money to come back to our community. We applaud the organizations who are taking the initiative and foresight to build a better community for Downstate Illinois! As for Balloon Fest, We plan to use the $50,000 grant to ensure Centralia Balloon Fest stays the premier event in our region. With an event that attracts 30,000 people to Centralia, Illinois, we have a lot of planning to ensure a successful and safe event. Besides the big equipment rental expenses, the focus will be to build a more attractive experience to all attendees. This includes professional stage, sound, and lighting; better entertainment; and accessibility for our guests and volunteers,” Holland adds.
Stumpy’s Spirits Distillery in Columbia will receive $500,000 from the grant in order to build a new visitor center and events venue.
“We are incredibly honored and grateful to have been awarded this tourism grant through the ILDCEO,” says Laura Stumpf, Co-Owner of Stumpy’s. “This grant will play an instrumental role in the construction of our new visitor center and event venue. Our expansion will allow us to create incredible and unique experiences for distillery visitors along with growing tourism in southern Illinois.”
Other local grant recipients include:
The City of Belleville - $424,850 for relocating the Old Town Farmers Market
The City of Du Quoin - $62,250 funding for the Holiday Lights Fair
The City of Marshall - $300,000 for the Clark County Genealogy Library
World Wide Technology Raceway - $500,000 for promoting 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Event