Marseilles council hears tourism, city identity suggestions

Nonprofit Here and Again provides council food for thought

Katie Trocolli and DeAnna Carlson of the not-for-profit Here and Again make their presentation of tourism ideas to the Marseilles City Council on Wednesday night.

If you theme it, they will come.

The Marseilles City Council on Wednesday heard a presentation from the nonprofit group Here and Again Inc. and received plenty of suggestions, examples and food for thought in regard to helping create the city’s identity and to make it a tourism destination.

Here and Again founder Katie Troccoli and Director DeAnna Carlson gave a presentation that highlighted things done in other communities to help attract tourists, businesses and jobs, and offered suggestions for how Marseilles could do the same.

They drew attention to the city’s assets, such as access to Interstate 80, the downtown business district, the lock and dam, Illini State Park, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Illinois River access and the Middle East Conflicts Memorial Wall.

The presentation also touched on the amenities available and strong community organizations.

Troccoli and Carlson also cited the need for a central theme around which to build an identity. Carlson cited several examples of what she called “big art,” showing photos of murals that have enhanced the attraction of storefronts in Streator, Lincoln and other communities.

That moved into even bigger art on grain silos around the state, including the corn mural that’s painted on the grain elevator bin in Mendota. Others depicted a patriotic theme with the Statue of Liberty and Abraham Lincoln, while others showed a Native American chief and a droid from “Star Wars,” leading to a chat about a potential outer space theme.

Carlson said being so close to the intersection of Interstates 80 and 39 brings 1.4 million people to the area, and that the proximity to Starved Rock means access to 2.2 million people annually.

In all, the presentation provided commissioners with quite a bit to mull over in the coming months.

“I liked it. I saw the presentation for the first time like we all did, and I was impressed,” Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck said. “I think we need to develop a long-term plan, lay out the guidelines and work toward it.

“I also like the idea of a theme. As we’ve been known as ‘A City of Remembrance,’ I like the patriotic theme idea.

“There were some very good thoughts and ideas, and it’s something we can work toward knowing there are grants available. Now it’s up to the council to kick those ideas around and decide what direction to go.”

Hollenbeck said the city has taken several steps toward improving facades in the downtown area. He added that the Middle East Conflicts Memorial Wall has been somewhat underused as an attraction.

“We do need tourism. We do need to market the Middle East Conflicts Memorial better. There are a lot of people who just don’t know it’s there,” Hollenbeck said. “Part of my plan for that is to reach out to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars magazines to try and get some articles and pictures of the wall displayed regionally, if not nationally. … In my opinion, that would be a very good place to start.”