There is no question that people are passionate about their favorite eateries, especially when it comes to ice cream. Many folks have that ONE place they grew up eating, and while other ice cream shops may be good – they simply don’t compare to the ONE. To celebrate and promote the many wonderful ice cream establishments in the southern region of the state, Discover Downstate Illinois has launched their Bracket Challenge – Ice Cream Edition.
Discover Downstate Illinois is a state-certified tourism bureau that represents 21 of the 36 counties in the southern portion of the state. The 21-county region makes Discover Downstate Illinois the state’s largest tourism bureau in terms of geography – which means the area has a fantastic array of ice cream shops spanning from Chester all the way to Casey. One of the most fun and engaging ways to promote these establishments is to include them in the always popular Bracket Challenge competition. This is now the fourth year for the Bracket Challenge, which has featured everything from attractions to best burger joints. This year’s Ice Cream Bracket consists of 26 different shops that people can vote for on a matchup basis. The Challenge can be found on the Discover Downstate Illinois Facebook page, and the overall winner will receive a free feature video produced about what makes their ice cream so special. This year the tourism bureau changed their approach a bit and let people on social media decide what the Bracket Challenge should promote – with a vote between ice cream and coffee. From there, Discover Downstate Illinois relied on their followers again – asking them for recommendations of ice cream shops in their region.
“It’s very important to us that our followers and other folks in the region are the ones that decided the topic and contestants of this year’s competition,’ explains Andy Waterman, Communications Director for Discover Downstate Illinois. “In just the last month our posts about the Bracket Challenge - Ice Cream Edition have reached more than 130,000 people, which is just mind-boggling because the competition hasn’t even started yet! That shows you just how
popular the Bracket Challenge has become, and it really picked up last year with the competitions around burgers and pizza. Between the two tournaments in March and October, we reached over 800,000 people organically, which helped our Facebook page pick up more than 5,000 new followers in just a few weeks. That type of publicity and exposure is great not only for our bureau, but for all of the establishments that are part of the Bracket Challenge,” Waterman adds.
Businesses like Chuck’s Place in Salem, the Moonshine Store in Clark County, and Mascoutah Community Lanes all saw higher customer traffic and, in some cases, even record sales days in the wake of the Bracket Challenge competition.
“We had people tell us that they didn’t even see these competitions as a bracket, they saw them as a checklist – they wanted to visit all of them. We have learned that people will absolutely travel for food, and that just drives economic development for all of the communities involved. That’s the ultimate goal,” Waterman explains.
Voting for this year’s Bracket Challenge Ice Cream Edition starts on March 12th, and will wrap up on Tuesday, April 4th with the crowning of a champion. Matchups will be posted daily with rules on how to vote, so make sure to visit the Discover Downstate Illinois Facebook page often to cast your votes. Another great feature is the Discover Downstate Illinois app – which can be downloaded for free on any mobile device. The participating ice cream shops are all listed on the Ice Cream Bracket Trail so that people can easily find the hours and location of the establishments.
To find all the information regarding the eateries included in the bracket, be sure to download our free app! You can also look up events, venues, and discover other trails!
For Android users: Download the app here!
For IOS users: Download the app here!
This year’s Ice Cream Bracket Challenge features the following businesses:
ILLINOISouth Tourism currently covers the following counties: Bond, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Cumberland, Edwards, Fayette, Hamilton, Jasper, Lawrence, Madison (City of Highland only), Marion, Monroe, Perry, Randolph, Richland, St. Clair, Wabash, Wayne, White