Canceled events, tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic impact local economy, businesses

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — For months, events across Central Illinois were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the end of November, local leaders said businesses and restaurants are feeling the loss even harder.

Over Thanksgiving week, the annual Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions basketball tournament in Washington draws teams from across the country, boosting the economy as people come to town and enjoy the games.

“It’s just a loss for so many of us. Like everything the pandemic has caused, this is really unfortunate,” said Washington Mayor Gary Manier.

In August, organizers canceled the tournament. Manier said it draws in some of the best players and teams from across the country.

“Zion Williamson was probably one of the top prospects that ever played here and there’s probably 10 or 12 NBA players that have been here and showed their talents here,” said Manier.

He said not having a tournament is a huge loss, not only for players, but also for the city.

“Hotels and restaurants, you know when you bring a whole team in, that kind of helps the bottom line, so yeah the revenue part of it we’ll never get back, so that’s unfortunate,” said Manier.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rick Swan said East Peoria businesses are hurting too.

“It just really is a huge impact for the whole area…the teams would at the Embassy Suites here in town, so all the teams were there, their families, and guests,” said Swan.

Swan believes people can still support their communities without the usual events and tournaments.

“That’s why it’s so important right now to visit if you can your local shops, buy in person if you can,” said Swan.

Swan also said a popular Central Illinois holiday attraction is still happening. He said people can enjoy the drive-thru Winter Wonderland during the East Peoria Festival of Lights display through January 3, 2021.

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