Travel & Tourism
Governor Quinn Opens Rockford’s New Morgan Street Bridge PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Grant Klinzman   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 09:32

$29 Million Project Will Improve Commerce and Quality of Life on Both Sides of the Rock River

ROCKFORD – Governor Pat Quinn today joined local and state officials to cut the ribbon and open the new $29 million Morgan Street Bridge over the Rock River. The new bridge is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and build a 21st century transportation system that will drive Illinois’ economy forward.

“Residents and businesses who need to cross the Rock River now have a better way,” Governor Quinn said. “We expect as many as 60,000 people will use the new Morgan Street Bridge each day, improving commerce and the quality of life throughout the Rockford area.”

The 497-foot Morgan Street Bridge includes a 370-foot tiered arch main span anchored to each bank of the river. The original bridge, which was built in 1916, was recommended for replacement in a 2000 bridge study. The new bridge includes a new roadway plus improved lighting, railings, sidewalks and a multi-use path.

The Federal Highway Major Bridge Fund, administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), provided $21.17 million for the bridge project. $4.26 million came from Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, and $3.55 million from the city of Rockford.

“The city and state worked collectively to find the gap funding we needed in order to get the bridge built,” Mayor Larry Morrissey said. “The commitment to the project by Governor Quinn and our local legislative delegation really made the project possible.”

“We are proud to celebrate the completion of this important bridge project in Rockford,” IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “This project is a great example of federal, state and local officials working together to create jobs, improve safety, boost the local economy and help ensure Illinois’ transportation system remains among the best in the nation.”

The Morgan Street Bridge is part of a $40 million project that also involves $11 million worth of road work on both sides of the river. This includes reconstructing College Avenue from the bridge to Kishwaukee Street; Morgan Street from the new bridge to South Main Street; plus intersection upgrades. The City of Rockford also paid for land acquisition, utilities and engineering costs. Citizen input was incorporated throughout the planning process.

The project is part of Governor Quinn’s $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program, which will support more than 439,000 jobs over six years. Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest capital construction program in Illinois history, and is one of the largest capital construction programs in the nation.


Poll: Cell phones on planes? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Rep. Dave Loebsack   
Friday, 13 December 2013 10:12
There is a lot of talk lately about whether passengers on a plane should be able to make phone calls while in flight. I want to know, based on your experiences, how far you think this ban should extend. Should phones be allowed for just texting and emailing, or are you OK with calls being made? I want to hear from you.

CLICK HERE and let me know how far the ban should go!

Should it be kept like it is where you can use your phone to listen to music, or play a game? Should it be opened up to be able to send texts and emails? Or, should phone calls be allowed? The Federal Communication Commission is going to make a decision soon. What do you think?

Tell me your opinion by clicking here!

Thanks as always for your response. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.


Dave Loebsack
Iowa's Second District

“Make this holiday historic!” at unique holiday events at historic sites across the country PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Travel and Leisure News   
Friday, 06 December 2013 11:26
The “Make this holiday historic!” campaign is designed to raise awareness of the many unique holiday events held at historic sites during a time when families are looking for memorable ways to celebrate.

Marlborough, Massachusetts (December 5, 2013) - This year, individuals and families looking for unique, memorable ways to celebrate the holidays can find them on The History List of holiday events at historic sites at

The list is part of the “Make this holiday historic!” campaign, which recognizes holiday events at historic sites and in historic buildings across the country, ranging from a dinner in a Victorian mansion to a guided tour of historic neighborhoods by lantern light.

“Every December millions of Americans traipse to the mall or to the movies,” said Lee Wright, founder of The History List.  “But when we conducted research with families this fall about their plans for the holidays, we learned that nearly half would be interested in finding out more about holiday events at historic sites if they only knew about them.”  

The “Make this holiday historic!” campaign is designed to raise awareness of the many unique holiday events held at historic sites during a time when families are looking for memorable ways to celebrate.   

Some of the many listed include:


  • Learn the history of winter holiday traditions on a lantern-lit stroll through Newport, Rhode Island’s streets with the Newport Historical Society and hear how people did--or didn’t--celebrate the holidays.
  • Harriet Stowe & Mark Twain's Olde Fashioned Christmas, with tours and horse-drawn carriage rides, in Hartford, Connecticut at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.
  • A holiday lantern tour at Hale Farm & Village where you’ll be transported back to Christmas Eve, 1863, the third year of the American Civil War.  From the Western Reserve Historical Society in Bath, Ohio.
  • Visit beautifully-restored historic 19th Century homes decked out for the holidays on the 22nd Annual Holiday House Tour with the New Bedford Preservation Society in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
  • The Deadwood Cowboy Christmas Ball in Deadwood, South Dakota, an old-fashioned cowboy dance with some of the Black Hills' best performers playing holiday favorites.
  • See people and events from Houston's past come alive at The Heritage Society's 51st Annual Candlelight Tour in Houston, Texas.
  • Capture the holiday spirit with hearth cooks, guides and educators in a month-long series of traditional festive activities at Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts.
  • Aluminum Christmas trees became popular in the 1960s, and a Wisconsin business, The Aluminum Specialty Company, became the largest manufacturer of these trees. On display at the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison.
  • Escape the frenzy of a modern Christmas with gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, music, dance, and a sleigh ride, and meet Father Christmas and Santa Claus at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

These and many more are listed at

The “Make this holiday historic!” campaign is open to all organizations holding history-related events.  It includes free materials the organization can use to promote their holiday events, along with a copy of the consumer research report.  Organizations can download the materials and add their events at no cost:

The History List ( was launched last year as a way to help historic sites, historical societies, preservation organizations, history museums, house museums, living history sites, re-enactor groups, and other history organizations get the word out about their history-related exhibits and events, such as reenactments, walks and talks, author appearances, celebrations, and more.   

Introduced first in the Boston area, The History List has grown to be the largest list of history-related events taking place across the country.  Organizations add their own events.  There is no cost to participate.  

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Governor Quinn Announces $324,000 for Whiteside County Airport Improvements PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Friday, 22 November 2013 11:40

Project Will Include Drainage System Work

STERLING-ROCK FALLS – Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $324,000 capital investment for a construction project at the Whiteside County Airport in Sterling-Rock Falls. The project is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and drive Illinois’ economy forward. The contract was awarded following a competitive bidding process and addresses a critical infrastructure need while creating construction jobs.

“Investments in airports like this one in Sterling-Rock Falls make them more efficient and safer while creating construction jobs,” Governor Quinn said. “This project will continue to ensure that Illinois has a strong, 21st century infrastructure.”

The drainage system servicing Runway 18/36, a critical safety feature at the airport. will be rehabilitated for $324,976 by Martin & Company Excavating of Oregon, the lowest of five bidders. The Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics will manage the project, which includes federal, state and local funding.

“By providing funds to make improvements at the Whiteside County Airport in Rock Falls, we are further enhancing the infrastructure throughout the 36th District,” State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-Moline) said. “These funds will provide jobs and benefit the economy in Whiteside County.”

“This is the sort of development that Whiteside County needs,” State Rep. Mike Smiddy (D-Hillsdale) said. “As we improve our roads, airports and other vital transportation infrastructure, we improve our economy and our communities.”

The state funds for the project come from Governor Quinn’s $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program, which supports more than 439,000 jobs over six years. It is the largest capital construction program in Illinois history, and is one of the largest capital construction programs in the nation.


Enjoy the Holidays in Missouri PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Mary Oberreither   
Monday, 18 November 2013 14:41

Independence, Mo. – If you thought getting your home ready for the holidays was time consuming, imagine decorating more than 20 rooms in anticipation of 2,000 guests.

That’s the challenge facing a group of nearly 30 volunteers working up to nine hours a day preparing Vaile Mansion in Independence for its annual holiday celebration. The beautiful landmark home will have more than its halls decked from Nov. 29-Dec. 30, when it hosts a “Victorian Winter Wonderland.”

​​​​“These volunteers spend hours and hours getting the mansion ready,” says Carolyn Hanes, chairperson of this year’s holiday event and herself a volunteer decorator. “Even the smallest tree can take up to two hours to decorate.”

Multiply that time by anywhere from 50 to 75 trees and you get some idea of how much effort volunteers and Vaile Mansion staff put into this event.

And that’s just for the trees.

Vaile Mansion, built in 1881 for Col. and Mrs. Harvey Vaile, features 31 rooms and includes nine marble fireplaces, painted ceilings and a 48,000-gallon wine cellar. The home, known as one of the best examples of Second Empire architecture in the U.S., cost more than $100,000 to complete. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the holidays, the mansion retains its Victorian charm by ensuring era-appropriate traditions are honored. One such example is a five-foot-tall Christmas tree hung upside down to replicate the look of a chandelier; it’s found in the grand entryway.

“That’s original Victorian – that’s how they used it,” says Hanes. “It’s kind of our showpiece every year.”

That showpiece, along with the attention to detail given every section of the mansion, keeps visitors coming back year after year, Hanes says.

“I think people are just blown away by the chandeliers, marble fireplaces and the 14-foot ceilings,” Hanes says. “We’re able to have 12-foot-tall trees in a room, and the rooms are very spacious. It’s so opulent … every room is filled to the brim.”

Hanes says event organizers like to refer to Vaile Mansion as “America’s Christmas Castle,” though she points out people from around the world have taken notice of the annual event. In 2012, visitors from 20 countries were represented in the guestbook.

One of the major highlights of the month-long event is the annual twilight tour, held the first Sunday in December (Dec. 1 this year). The twilight tours include live music and refreshments for attendees.

“It’s getting dark (when tours begin) and everything is sparkling inside,” says Hanes. “A lot of people enjoy coming in the evening because you get to see what the mansion looks like ‘after hours.’”

Victorian Winter Wonderland tours at Vaile Mansion are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday thru Saturday, and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 30 (no tours Dec. 23-25). Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for ages 6-18; and free for children ages 5 and younger.

The twilight tours event is 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 1; admission prices are the same.

Vaile Mansion is located at 1500 N. Liberty St. in Independence. Call 816-325-7430 or visit for more details.

Across the state from Vaile Mansion, the city of St. Charles hosts one of Missouri’s most popular celebrations, Christmas Traditions.

From Nov. 29-Dec. 24, Main Street, in the downtown historic district, comes to life with music and costumed actors portraying beloved holiday characters. Don’t miss appearances by Santas from around the world, shopping and dining options along Main Street and the beautiful decorations adorning the entire district.

Every Saturday and Sunday during the festival, Santa and Mrs. Claus lead a parade (each begins at 1:30 p.m.), while Wednesdays and Fridays bring late-evening shopping options.

Carolers, along with a local fife and drum corps, take part in live performances presented during the annual Christmas Traditions festival, where horse-drawn carriage rides are available.

Find details and the full schedule of activities online at

Throughout Missouri, seasonal celebrations take place in large cities and small towns, offering visitors an array of choices, from parades and drive-through light parks to live music and regional cuisine. Here’s a look at more Missouri celebrations designed to get you in the mood for this splendid season.

For other holiday happenings, check out the Missouri Division of Tourism’s blog, which has a more complete listing of events.

  • In St. Joseph, Krug Park (3500 St. Joseph Ave.) and Hyde Park (8th Street and Hyde Park Ave.), along the city’s famed Parkway, become Holiday Park and the South Pole from Nov. 29-Jan. 1, 2014. A tradition since 1981, the scenic holiday drive features a dazzling display of lighted arches, trees, winter scenes and the Italianate buildings of Krug Park.
  • Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza – a 15-block retail, dining and entertainment district – hosts one of the most well-known lighting celebrations in the Midwest. Thousands of revelers join in the festival-like atmosphere on the opening night of Plaza Lights. Live music and fireworks are part of the fun from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Thanksgiving night; the official flip of the switch is 6:53 p.m. The lights shine through Jan. 12, 2014.
  • In St. Louis, Holiday Magic fills the America’s Center (701 Convention Plaza) Nov. 29-Dec. 1, offering entertainment and shopping. Carnival rides, a vendors’ district and hands-on arts and crafts projects for kids are part of the excitement. Holiday Magic is 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Holidays of yesterday are the focus of events at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. Each Saturday leading up to Christmas, the Old Courthouse shows what holidays were like: relive Christmas 1763 at the Dec. 7 event (noon-4 p.m.); move forward to 1813 at the Dec. 14 happening (noon-4 p.m.); and get a glimpse of 1863 St. Louis from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Dec. 21.
  • Get a taste of German heritage at the Kristkindl Markt, Dec. 7-8, at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann. This traditional German market features crafts, food, entertainment, hot soups and mulled wine. Saturday’s event is 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday’s is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Stone Hill Winery is located at 1110 Stone Hill Highway; admission is free. A similar event takes place 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 14 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Hermannhof Festhalle, 237 E. First St. The Festhalle event includes an open-air Hofgarten, a full menu at the Mill and live entertainment.
  • In the Lake of the Ozarks area, holiday activities abound in a variety of cities. Linn Creek, for example, hosts the Holiday Market at the Camden County Museum from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 22-23. The market includes vendors selling a variety of holiday-themed goods (get your Christmas shopping done!); the museum is located at 206 S. Locust St.
  • Elsewhere near the Lake, popular drive-through light parks are found in Laurie and Versailles. In Laurie, St. Patrick’s Festival of Lights is billed as the area’s oldest light park, dating to 1981. The festival includes 4,000 strings of lights and focuses on Jesus and his mother, Mary. The Shrine is located at 176 Marian Drive; there is no admission charge. In Versailles, the Unity Circle of Lights runs from Nov. 28-Jan. 1, 2014, in Versailles City Park. The park features up to 40 lighted displays, including several animated holiday scenes. The park is open from sunset until midnight daily; there is no admission charge. The park is located at the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 52.
  • In Springfield, enjoy the opportunity to shop and hear live music at the 19th annual WinterFest Visual and Performing Arts Festival. Held at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts (525 S. John Q. Hammons Parkway) this event features live music, local and regional artists whose works are on display and for sale, and a Broadway touring company’s production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Tickets for that show should be purchased in advance. Activities are 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Carthage is home to Mt. Moriah Lights at Mt. Moriah Park. Enjoy more than 50,000 lights programmed to six different Christmas songs. The park is located at 15506 Nutmeg Road; hours are 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday from Nov. 29-Dec. 8. From Dec. 13-Dec. 29, park hours are 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. daily (except for Dec. 22).
  • Silver Dollar City in Branson hosts one of the largest holiday celebrations in the country, “An Old Time Christmas,” running through Dec. 30. This annual celebration features more than 5 million lights, 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, a holiday light parade, two live shows and a five-story-tall special effects Christmas tree. Regular rides and attractions are open, weather permitting. Food and shopping add to the experience. Hours are 1 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday, noon-9:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
  • The Holiday Christmas Festival in Ste. Genevieve features a Christmas parade, carriage rides, more than 30 free music programs, carolers strolling the streets of the historic city and shopping specials in retailers and art galleries downtown. Activities are Dec. 7-8.
  • In Salem, a unique holiday experience awaits at the Trains and Trees exhibit from Nov. 26-Dec. 24 at the Ozark Natural and Cultural Resource Center (202 S. Main St.). The exhibit features an array of colorful, lighted trees decorated by individuals, businesses and organizations. The exhibit is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Hours are 1 p.m.-5 p.m. on Dec. 22 and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
  • You don’t have to wait for Black Friday to find great gift ideas at the Christmas Arts and Crafts Extravaganza in Cape Girardeau, Nov. 22-23. In its 43rd year, the event features artisans and crafters from across the Midwest; their wares will fill nearly 300 booths. An event so large, it takes two venues: the Osage Centre (1625 N. Kingshighway) and Show-Me Center (1333 N. Sprigg St.). The Extravaganza is one of three arts and crafts festivals happening in Cape Girardeau over this weekend. For more details, check out

There you have it, a look at some of the events found in Missouri during the holiday season. Again, to find a more complete list, please visit the Missouri Division of Tourism’s blog site.

About the Missouri Division of Tourism
The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the state of Missouri dedicated to marketing Missouri as a premier travel destination. Established in 1967, the Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop the tourism industry in Missouri to what it is today, an $11 billion industry supporting more than 281,000 jobs. For more information on Missouri tourism, go to

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