Bob & Tom’s Excellent Adventure: Al Fresco

Bob & Tom’s Excellent Adventures

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Once upon a time in Peoria, this was the entertainment center of central Illinois…Al Fresco Park on the Illinois River.  

There were free band concerts, outdoor shows, a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a wild west show, a little railroad, photo galleries, and a gypsy camp.

Al Fresco Park was the brainchild of Vernon Seaver, an entertainment mogul who arrived in the river city in 1904. Seaver got Peoria’s streetcar company to invest in the park and as a result, streetcar tracks went directly there.

There were photo galleries and an electric theater, swimming, boating, fishing…and more. All of that for a dime. But eventually, times changed, floods came, and Al Fresco became a beach, a bar, and a trailer park.

This is Al Fresco Park today; a vacant lot along the Illinois River. But it may not stay that way.

Developer Kim Blickenstaff wanted to redo Al Fresco park with outdoor activities, a wildlife habitat, and the reason is personal.

“Al Fresco itself is near and dear to him because of his mother,” said KDB Group General Manager Lori Birkland. “We do know she visited Al Fresco park, so he knows she did go there. In the diary, she talks about swimming there. Okay, like my mother was here, so I want to recreate this.”

115 years after it first opened, Al Fresco park may again be a part of the Peoria entertainment picture.

And again, it’s because of a businessman who’s come to town with some big ideas.

Peoria’s Al Fresco park was a trolley park, meaning that streetcars ran directly to its entrance. In fact, the streetcar company in Peoria invested in the park. You can learn more about such parks at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JkIGvWemPQ

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