Welcome to Rachel’s Ramblings!
September 14, 2018
Fall is upon us!
Hey readers! It’s Rachel.
September is here! Personally, I love summer. For the first couple months or so, you can find me on a raft next to a pontoon boat at one of the local lakes. However, when September hits, I’m ready for a pumpkin spice latte, booties, and to break out my sweaters that have been waiting in the back of my closet for what seems like a sweltering eternity. I have found that I’m not alone in feeling this way. In fact, most Southern Illinoisans are ready for fall long before our hot and humid summer is ready to give up its scorching temperatures. But, one can never be too sure when fall will grace us with its’ presence. However, there will be mornings when it feels brisk; you will want to throw on a scarf and boots and kick caution to the wind, but by lunch time you might suffer from a heat stroke. This isn’t news to the locals. However, if you’re traveling to our beautiful area during fall, here are a few things you should know and some places you should put at the top of your to-do list.
Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch in Johnston City, Illinois is a must-see! Opening on September 15th this year, Bandy’s is a family friendly attraction sure to satisfy all ages. They have pumpkins and gourds for sale, a corn maze, hayrides, concessions, a general store, and a play barn. Until October 30th, they will be open daily from 9a.m. to 6p.m. Yes, you can even bring your doggos! Head over to their website or contact Bandy’s directly for more info.
The Patch is another pumpkin patch you need to check out! Their grand opening is September 22nd. They offer mums, pumpkins, straw-bales, hayrides, a kids area, etc. They also offer private photo opportunities! They will be open Saturdays from 9a.m. to 6p.m. and Sundays from 11a.m. to 6p.m. (side note-they only allow service dogs at this facility; please contact them directly with any inquiries.)
PSA: Williamson County will soon have a standalone Starbucks (yes, with a drive-through) so you can breeze through and grab your favorite fall-in-a-cup drink. The new Starbucks is in Marion, and conveniently located just off interstate 57, close to Panda Express and Taco Bell. It’s set to open October 1st!
Don’t forget that you can sip on freshly brewed coffee made right in front of you at Crown Brew Coffee Company in historic, downtown Carterville. Stopping in here should be on everyone’s list who takes a trip to Williamson County. Come by their shop and enjoy their artistic atmosphere, phenomenal customer service, and yummy coffee!
Fall brings beautiful, breathtaking views in our scenic area. Be sure to check out Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge or the Shawnee National Forest to witness the beauty for yourself. Go for a hike, take the pups and follow some of the trails, go camping with the family, and enjoy the many kinds of wildlife in our area. The opportunities are endless. (It is always best to check the weather before you head out on an outdoor adventure, and dress in layers!)
The local wineries are also a favorite among locals and travelers alike in the fall season. Sip a glass of wine and unwind at one of many wineries in our area. Many even have live music and other events on the weekends. Lucas Brother’s Honker Hill Winery, Katy Lynn Vineyard & Winery, and Walker’s Bluff are all in Williamson County. The other wineries are just a scenic drive away if you’re up for hitting the trail.
We can’t forget all the exciting events that are coming up. From fall markets to Hubfest, there’s something for everyone! For a full calendar/list of local events follow this link to get all the details and plan your trip!
Thanks for reading another one of my ramblings, and as always if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me here in the office at 618-997-3690, and a happy fall to all!
August 24th, 2018
What is a Sister City?
Hey readers! It’s Rachel.
Hope everyone is having a fun summer. Have you ever heard of a sister city? I had not until I started this job. On my third day of working at visitSI, I headed over to Kokopelli Golf Club with my coworkers to welcome visitors from Marion’s sister city, Kanie Town, Japan! So, if you google “sister city” it defines it as “a city that is linked to another, usually for the purposes of cultural exchange”. Each year, city employees from either Marion or Kanie Town, will travel to its sister city to learn about the area and experience the culture of the city. This year, my CEO along with other city employees traveled over to Kanie Town, Japan for eight days! A special part of this trip is that visitSI sponsored a student from Marion High School to join them on their journey. We sponsored 17-year-old Noah Cash, who just started his senior year. Noah is very involved in sports and groups, and is a flight commander in the Marion High School Air Force JROTC unit. He is also in the Civil Air Patrol unit out of Herrin. Noah hopes to go into the Air Force after he graduates. When I interviewed Noah before they left for their trip, he told me that he was most excited to fully submerge himself in Japanese culture and see how it differs from his day-to-day life in the United States. Noah stayed with a host family with a household of five people while in Kanie Town. Noah was a little nervous about meeting the host family as well as how different the food would be in Japan. Upon Noah’s return, we sat down and he told me all about his adventures while in Japan. He said that the flights were his least favorite part of the trip; who can blame him on that one though? He loved staying with his host family, and Fumiya (20-year-old brother) was very fluent in English and acted as the translator between Noah and the family members. Noah had a traditional Japanese breakfast of miso soup, rice, and salmon one of the mornings, which he enjoyed. He noticed that their meals at breakfast are a little heartier and more like things that you and I would eat for lunch or dinner. Noah’s favorite part of the entire trip was a “Nagoya Dragons” baseball game that him and Fumiya rode the train to go watch. They also went to an airplane/aviation museum as well. He relayed that the biggest difference he noticed culturally, was that the people he interacted with in Nagoya, a bigger city than Kanie Town, had a small-town friendliness and were very hospitable versus Noah’s experiences in large cities in the United States. If Noah could do anything differently, he said that he would take time to learn more of the Japanese language if he were to do the trip over again. So, if you’re reading this and are a parent or student in the Marion area, stay tuned as we will be sponsoring another student to attend the next trip to Kanie Town in 2020! Thanks for reading another one of my ramblings, and check back soon for my next blog about my favorite season and all the fun things to take advantage of in our beautiful area during the best time of the year! As always, you can reach out to me via email or in the office if you have something you’d like to see me blog about in the future.
May 9th, 2018
FYI: HerrinFesta Italiana
Hey readers! It’s Rachel.
Happy May and happy Spring (finally)…. or summer? It’s 80 degrees and sunny today, as I longingly look out of my office window at this beautiful day. The weather is finally starting to warm up and that means that HerrinFesta Italiana is just around the corner! Voted Best Festival in Illinois this past year, this event takes place every Memorial Day Weekend. If you’re from Southern Illinois or surrounding areas, you probably already know all about the live music, great Italian food, Bocce, family fun, rides, etc. that this downtown Herrin event puts on each year. But- just in case you don’t know all the details or it’s your first time attending the festival-I’ll try to give you a crash course in everything you need to know!
First off, let’s dive into the live music!
If you listen to the local radio station 92.7 TAO (what’s blaring on my morning commute) then you’ve heard the commercials about the Thursday night headlining band. May 24th, Pop Evil (try and contain your excitement) will be slaying their hits like “Waking Lions” and “Trenches”. St. Louis based band, For the City, will be opening for them at 6pm. Cat Daddy’O, a bluesy cover band, will also be at the Giardino Tent at 7pm. If you like Rock music-this is your night.
Side note: ALL musicians playing in the Giardino Tent are FREE to watch. All other performances on the main stage will require a ticket for entry.
Friday night, May 25th, is Country night! Throw on your cowboy boots and enjoy country star Lee Brice! Local favorites like Kali Lynn and John Spicer will be the openers at 6pm. At 7pm, Dr. Fever and the Venus Flytrap will be in the Giardino Tent.
Saturday, May 26th, The Beach Boys will take the stage. The. Beach. Boys. Need I say more? The always versatile Corey Evitts, and the energetic Mike Renick Band will open at 6pm. The Squad Fathers and The Deplorables will take over the Giardino Tent at 4pm.
Sunday, May 27th, is the Headbanger Spectacular. Rock/Metal bands Seamstress, Slaughter, and KIX will open for Queensryche at 5pm. At 4pm, Clayton Gribble will be performing at The Giardino Tent, and at 8pm Fiddle Rick & The Bourbon Boys (one of my favorite local bands) will play.
Monday, May 28th, is Faith & Family night, and Jordan Feliz will be opening for Natalie Grant at 5pm. Four Deep will be at the Giardino Tent at 1pm.
Now, let’s go over your three viewing options for the main stage acts:
1. Pit (absolute closest to the main stage, standing only-no chairs allowed)
2. Reserved Seating (directly behind a walkway separating this area from the pit, there are two sections of sixteen rows of lawn chairs)
3. Piazza-General Admission (large open area including picnic tables in the far back, sound tent area, portable toilets, and beverage stations)
(for information regarding wheelchair/handicap accessible seating, please contact email@example.com)
All areas allow readmission if you have your armband on or your hand stamped.
Important: for the first time, HerrinFesta is doing a weather guarantee! Should a headline act cancel, ticket holders will be eligible for compensation. If a headline act is cancelled, the ticket will be valid for any other night of the festival. Cancellation refunds will only be available to customers who DID NOT use their ticket for entry on any other night. PLEASE refer to HerrinFesta Italiana’s website or call their direct line during the festival if you have any questions regarding cancellations and how to go about gaining refunds, etc.
To purchase tickets head over to: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/herrinfesta-italiana-13109403932 (tickets can be purchased online, at retail ticket outlets, and on-site at the Ticket Booth, located near the Bocce courts.)
Now that we’ve covered the tunes, let’s move onto some activities that will be going on. Each day there will be an array of contests and a fine arts and crafts exhibit to spotlight the creative talents of regional artists and craftsmen. The Midway features great food, a carnival, and a variety of vendor booths. Entry into the Midway is free, and open to all ages. Trust me-there’s something for everybody! The information below will be more like a list format and doesn’t include the live music lineup I mentioned earlier. For more information about specific events, head over to http://www.herrinfesta.com/event and click on the event you’d like to see more information about.
Saturday, May 19th
Southern Illinois Opry – Herrin Civic Center 6pm
Sunday, May 20th
Little Mr./Miss Pageant & Baby Contest – Herrin Civic Center 2pm
Monday, May 21st
Miss HerrinFesta Scholarship Pageant – Herrin Civic Center 7pm
Tuesday, May 22nd
Mayors HerrinFesta Honoree Banquet – Herrin Civic Center 6pm (ticket required)
Wednesday, May 23rd
Talent Contest – Herrin Civic Center 6pm
Thursday, May 24th
Hartley Fine Art Exhibit – Hartley Art Gallery 11am
Friday, May 25th
Prayer Breakfast – Herrin Civic Center 7am
Robert A. Ferarri Corporate Division Bocce Tournament – Herrin Bocce Court 10am
Hartley Fine Art Exhibit – Hartley Art Gallery 11am
Denzil Walker/Hal Norment Festa Golf Tournament – Pine Lakes Golf Course 11am
Kids Bike & Pet Parade – OLMC Parking Lot 4pm
Sponsor VIP Party – Herrin Civic Center & Giradino Tent 5:30pm
Saturday, May 26th
John A. Logan Tri-Festa Triathlon – John A. Logan College 8am
Hartley Fine Art Exhibit – Hartley Art Gallery 10am
Grand Parade – Park Avenue 11am
Adult-Child Bocce Tournament – Herrin Bocce Courts 12:30pm
Bigga Nose Contest – Herrin Civic Center 1:30pm
Pasta Sauce Contest – Herrin Civic Center 1:45pm
Festa Poster Award Reception – Baldwin Piano & Organ Center 2pm
Pasta Eating Contest – Herrin Civic Center 2:30pm
Italian Art Exhibit Reception – Herrin City Library 3pm
Grape Stomp – Walkers Bluff Giardino Tent 3pm
Sunday, May 27th
HerrinFesta Car Show – Herrin City Park 9am
Special Intention Mass – Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church 11am
10th Annual Poker Run – J&J Time Out Sports Bar on West Cherry St. 11am (see more info. below)
Hartley Fine Art Exhibit – Hartley Art Gallery 12pm
International Championship Bocce Tournament – Herrin Bocce Courts 1pm
Monday, May 28th
Road Races – Various Locations 7:30am
Memorial Day Service – Doughboy on North Park Avenue across from City Hall 9am
Hartley Fine Art Exhibit – Hartley Art Gallery 11am
Poker Run Info:
The friendly staff at visitSI and volunteers put on the Poker Run each year along with Black Diamond Harley Davidson! If you’ve never heard of a Poker Run, this is basically how it goes: it’s an organized event where participants, usually driving motorcycles or other means of transportation, must visit five checkpoints, drawing one playing card at each stop. The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run.
Registration begins at 11am at J&J Timeout in Herrin, and the first bike out will be at 12pm. Last bike out at 1pm. All bikes must be back at 6pm, at the final stop, J&J Timeout, to draw the final card. It’s $20 per person or $30 per couple (includes dinner from Triple E BBQ from 6pm-7pm) and additional poker cards can be purchased for $10 (limit 1 per person). Cars and motorcycles are welcome! For the first time, we have a rain date set for Sunday, June 3rd in case we experience inclement weather.
2018 Route (maps will be provided at Registration)
Registration: J&J Timeout in Herrin
1st stop: Black Diamond Harley Davidson in Marion (lunch provided)
2nd stop: Big Boys on the Loop in Vienna (you can find me at this stop!)
3rd stop: Fuzzy’s in Cobden
4th stop: Walker’s Bluff GENERAL STORE in Carterville
5th stop and last card draw: J&J Timeout in Herrin
= total mileage is 92.8 miles
The Best Poker Run Hand prize will be a $1,000 travel voucher sponsored by Mindy’s Mile Travel Agency! This will be announced between 6pm-7pm and you MUST be present to win. Everyone will also have a chance to win various gift baskets donated by our businesses on the route (no purchase necessary). We will also be doing a 50/50 drawing.
So, I know it got a little wordy and informational in here, but to wrap things up……
Things that ALL HerrinFesta Italiana-goers should be aware of:
-Parking: there are NO designated parking areas! This is an event that takes over the entirety of downtown Herrin, so park where you can find a spot! (not in someones front yard – be courteous)
-NO coolers or lawn chairs are allowed in the Piazza
-Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase inside the Piazza, but can only be enjoyed in the Piazza (if you wish to leave the Piazza area, finish your drink)
-You CAN bring food and non-alcoholic beverages in the Piazza (available for purchase in the Midway area outside the Piazza)
-If you are under the age of 12, you must be accompanied by a parent/guardian to be in the Piazza
-BE SAFE & HAVE FUN!
If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us here in the office at 618-997-3690 or contact HerrinFesta Italiana at (760) IT-FESTA or (618) 942-5055. Thanks for reading another one of my ramblings, and hope to see you all at the festival!
March 14, 2018
Hey readers! It’s Rachel.
Spring (even though it still feels like winter) is upon us, and that means it is travel season for us here at the office. We have been out and about to a few different golf shows as well as up to Chicago for the Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism! It was held at the Palmer House this year; if you haven’t had the opportunity to see the inside of this beautiful establishment I would put it on your to-do list. For three days, we absorbed knowledge from many talented speakers ranging from the director for the Illinois Office of Tourism, Cory Jobe, to first lady of Illinois, Diana Rauner, and had our share of fun and entertainment as well.
This year, for the first time ever, our county had a business that was inducted into the Illinois Made Program. Crown Brew Coffee Company of Carterville, Illinois was “crowned” an Illinois Made Maker by the Illinois Office of Tourism and Cory Jobe himself! If you haven’t heard of Illinois Made before, I’ll give you a brief explanation of what it takes to earn this prestigious title. Businesses, artisans, or craftspeople must embody the personal spirit of Illinois through and through by this criterion:
-Located in the state of Illinois
-Open to the public with an amazing visitor experience available to travelers
-Produce all crafts, products, and wares in Illinois
-Live by the “Illinois Made” mantra by sourcing materials or expertise from other local businesses or Illinoisans
You can imagine the excitement the owners from Crown Brew had to earn this kind of special recognition, and of course we were excited for them as well! Josh, Jared, and Andy joined us for the entire conference and it was such a pleasure learning more about them and their fast-growing business.
So, upon returning, I headed over to Carterville to check out the shop. As soon as I walked through the door, the aromas, ambiance, and aesthetics had me convinced that this was a place for anyone to enjoy a cup of fresh brewed coffee. I had the pleasure of being served by Justin, who has been working there for about 2-3 months (he had previously been working in Australia-so cool!).
Right off the bat he was asking me questions about what types of coffee I liked and different flavors I enjoyed. Embarrassingly I gave the generic response “I have been buying Hazelnut K-Cups”. He was patient with me and we eventually decided on a Pour Over with Guatemala beans and an addition of “Turtle” flavoring, which is dark chocolate and caramel mixed – YUM. He began his process and explained everything step-by-step. I felt like I was in a mini coffee brewing session! Before I knew it, I had a cup of coffee right in front of me in the cutest mug.
People – I cannot remember a time when coffee has tasted so rich and fresh. I sat down and let the sounds of artists like Jack Johnson and Josh Radin soothe my ears (seriously awesome taste in tunes) as I sipped my delicious drink. I relaxed and breezed through my planner as I took in the surroundings, noticing the adorable succulent centerpieces on the tables and the rustic décor. Whoever designed this needs to design my house. Justin came over to check and see if I needed a donut or scone, so we talked about different breakfast foods and he gave me some good ideas to try as well.
Fun fact: Crown Brew has a nifty loyalty system which uses your phone number so that every time you buy a drink you get a star, and once you earn five stars you get a dollar off your next purchase. No punch cards necessary! These guys are living in the future.
Anyway – the most important part of the experience is having a personal connection that leaves a lasting impression and will ensure a returning customer! Local businesses like Crown Brew offer this genuine experience, and they take the time to make sure their customers are satisfied. With all this being said – if you’re a traveler or if you need a new local spot to get your caffeine fix on your daily commute: you need to make a trip over to Crown Brew and taste the experience for yourself!
To learn more about the Illinois Made Program visit https://www.enjoyillinois.com/illinois-made/
To learn more about Crown Brew Coffee Co. visit https://www.crownbrewcoffee.com/
February 2, 2018
My name is Rachel Riffel and I am the blogger for visitSI! From here on out, I will be rambling about anything and everything going on in beautiful Williamson County. I am thrilled to be writing our first ever blog entry (this is also my first experience with blogging so go easy on me) about our very own annual event that we host here at the Pavilion in Marion each February: The Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show!
I have been with visitSI for just shy of a year now, and I am excited to be a part of this event for the first time. Our boat show falls on Super Bowl weekend each year, (don’t worry football fans, we close-up shop early on Sunday just in time for you to catch the game) making the dates for this years’ show Friday, February 2nd from 3pm – 8pm, Saturday the 3rd from 9am – 7pm and Sunday the 4th from 10am – 3pm. This year is the boat show’s 11th year, and we are expecting a great turn out for the event. In past years, the boat show has drawn anywhere from 9,000 to 11,000 guests for the weekend.
A couple of pretty awesome features about our show is that admission is FREE and ALL proceeds go to charity! That’s right folks. Proceeds will benefit the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation and Gum Drops, NFP. Each year we also collect canned goods and non-perishable food items that we give to charity as well. In the Wind Ministries will be collecting them on our behalf this year.
So, what can you expect to see at our show? Our extensive list of vendors guarantees that there will be something for everyone! This event includes boat and tackle vendors from all over the Midwest and we have unique vendors like Scentsy and Origami Owl lined up as well.
Who doesn’t want a chance to win free stuff? Friday night from 3pm – 7pm each half-hour we will be drawing for door prizes! The fun doesn’t stop there. Saturday, the SIU Bassers will have a bass fishing seminar at 10am and 2pm, and again on Sunday at 11am. Saturday, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge will give us an update on new improvements to the refuge, details about the fisheries and lakes, and a Q and A session to address any other questions you might have.
What would an event be without some live entertainment? Enjoy musical talents on Saturday from 3:30pm – 5:30pm. If you get a little hungry, concessions will be available to purchase from Martini Joe’s. Snag a burger and continue to enjoy the show. All of us here at visitSI have been preparing for the boat show for a while now, and we are excited to see it come to fruition. For more information or if you have any questions pertaining to the boat show/want to be a future vendor, you can reach any one of us at our office at 618-997-3690 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading my first rambling, and we’ll see you at the show!