Apr 282013
 






LINCOLN – Geoff Ladd, the executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday.

“After nearly eight years with the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, I have decided to pursue exciting new employment opportunities. I am looking forward to helping the bureau during this transition phase for their organization,” wrote Ladd in an email.

“Tourism remains a vital part of the local economy, and I am pleased that over the last several years we have seen a growth in the hotel tax revenue by over 30%, which means more and more people are coming to visit for the events, sports tournaments and daily attractions we have to offer. I want to thank all my board members past and present, my staff, my industry colleagues, and all our great volunteers. I also want to issue special thanks to Larry Van Bibber, who through his philanthropic efforts brought the World’s Largest Covered Wagon to Lincoln,” continued Ladd.

“Work still continues on The Mill on 66 restoration project, which is owned by the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County, and I will continue to be a part of that organization. This is an important project, and when fully restored and opened as a museum the attraction will be any even bigger tourism draw to Lincoln and Logan County,” said Ladd.

Tourism board member Ron Keller said Ladd announced his departure which shocked the group.

“It was a surprise and a shock,” said Keller.

“When Geoff took over the bureau was in a huge deficit and the tourism bureau didn’t have the respect by other organizations in the county. Since then he turned the deficit into a surplus by connecting with other tourism agencies and enhanced the Route 66 heritage that Lincoln has,” said Keller.

Keller said with the recent news of the City of Lincoln wanting to take control over the bureau it played a role in his departure.

“I think it had an affect on Geoff and I didn’t expect this to happen,” said Keller.

On an upbeat note Keller said he would still support Ladd’s future endeavors.

“I applaud his effort and wish him only the best,” said Keller.

During Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting alderman Tom O’Donoghue and Melody Anderson said they had completed the expectations of the tourism bureau in order for the City to continue funding the tourism programs. More discussion on the tourism topic will take place at the May 14 meeting.

When called for details Ladd was silent about his future.

“I sent that out to the media and that is pretty much all I have to say at this point,” said Ladd.

He did stress that he will be living and working in the Lincoln area.

Jan 252012
 



Bill Thomas remembers the response when he suggested developing the Logan County village of Atlanta, population 1,635, as a Route 66 tourist attraction.

“Fifteen years ago, that was laughed at,” Thomas said.

Nobody’s laughing today.

Communities throughout central Illinois — from Atlanta to Williamsville to Litchfield — are benefiting from efforts to market their ties to the famous road — and to attract some of the thousands of visitors who trace its path from Chicago to the West Coast each year.

In Atlanta, sales tax revenue jumped 43 percent last year during the peak tourism season of April to August compared to four years ago, before the opening of the Atlanta Museum and the reopening of the 1930s-era Palms Grill Cafe. Both buildings in the 100 block of S.W. Arch St. are owned by the Atlanta Public Library.

The two endeavors were Atlanta’s first efforts to generate revenue from the steady trickle of Route 66 travelers who drive through the town every summer.

Atlanta had long been a favorite stop with its library packed with memorabilia, a 19-foot-tall fiberglass Paul Bunyan-like statue holding a super-sized hot dog and advertising murals painted on the brick buildings lining Route 66.

Today, visitors can take a walking tour of the community, eat at the Palms Grill and trace where their corn flakes come from at the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum, housed in a restored 1904 grain elevator.

The increase in foot traffic led to the opening of two new businesses: the Route 66 Gift Shop, which sells memorabilia and vintage items, and the Arch Street Artisan Shop.

“The city really got behind this push,” said Mayor Fred Finchum, who served on the village board when Thomas first proposed the idea. “It took a while to wrap our minds around it. But we thought, what we’re doing to try to bring people in isn’t working.

“What else can we do?”

Atlanta leaders are still asking that question, but today they are looking at historical aspects of their community tourists might be drawn to.

Packaging the past

This spring, Atlanta will begin preparing a walking trail and signage around a quarter-mile of the original Route 66 pavement north of town. Officials also plan to open a coal-mining exhibit next to the grain elevator museum.

The community also has purchased an 1891 residence that served as a rooming house for Route 66 travelers in the 1940s, before motels were readily available. The city plans to offer the same service to modern travelers, although the Atlanta Route 66 Rooming House isn’t expected to open until 2013.

Copyright 2012 The State Journal-Register.