With restrictions lifted, full-scale conventions and events resume in Central Illinois

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PEORIA, Ill (WMBD)– After a 15-month hiatus, full capacity conferences and events are back, and so is the revenue that comes with it.

This week alone, the Peoria area is hosting two conferences and a softball tournament estimated to bring in $300,000 to the city, said MacKenzie Taylor, marketing coordinator at Discover Peoria, the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s a really great feeling as we continue to grow our economy back, as we restore and recover, it’s just really incredible to be able to welcome our visitors back to Central Illinois,” she said.

The Illinois Juvenile Officers Association is hosting its annual state conference at the Holiday Inn in East Peoria from Tuesday through Friday.

IJOA board member Fred Chinn said in-person conferences just don’t compare to meeting over Zoom.

“It’s really amazing to have everybody back, cause the face to face conferences is amazing, because we get more information out, people can interact instead of using Zoom. People can ask questions, cause when you have a Zoom conference, you can ask question but everybody talks over each other, so its really the networking,” he said.

Chinn said vendors are down from 12 in 2019 to four this year.

“People didn’t really budget because of the Governor [J.B. Pritzker]. We didn’t know what he was going to open up yet and let us have,” he explained.

At the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria, high school softball teams are duking it out Wednesday and Thursday for the state championship title.

“People are thrilled to be back on the field. We see fans excited to have the opportunity to be here for their cheering for these kids and for these kids, especially after the challenges of last year,” said Tracie Henry, assistant executive director at Illinois High School Association.

Henry said they started planning the tournament about three and half months ago with capacity limitations.

“From our standpoint we were really thrilled when we got up to 100% capacity and have fans here and create a fun environment for all these student-athletes,” she said.

Joe Bolen, director of operations at Louisville Slugger Complex, said with the restrictions lifted, they can book events without worrying about ever-changing guidelines.

“Now we can actually start working forward, start planning things ahead, that you’re really handcuffed with everything that was going on, it makes it very difficult,” Bolen said.

The Illinois Soybean Association is also holding a conference at Four Points Sheraton from Wednesday through Friday.

Taylor said Discover Peoria has six conferences with more than 500 room nights and two smaller conferences in the pipeline between now and August 1.

“Being able to see our city brimming with life is an incredible feeling, to be able to showcase all of the fantastic things happening in Peoria,” she said.

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