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Old 02-02-2009, 07:57 PM
 
Location: St. Joseph Area
6,236 posts, read 8,809,136 times
Reputation: 3122

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Good evening everyone! Let me give you a little background.

I'm looking to leave my home state (MI) this spring for a teaching job, and I've found several openings in Central Illinois. (I-80 to I-70) I don't have a lot of experience except driving through on the way to Missouri or Iowa, but it always seemed like a pleasant place with a good mix of cities, towns and country.

So I've got to ask, how do you like living Downstate? Would you recommend it to someone? How would you describe it to someone outside the area? And if you could say what area you live in, that'd be great too.

Thanks for any responses!

Mackinac
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Old 02-02-2009, 10:28 PM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 27,453,566 times
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Well, the first thing I would do is deifine the area. Central Illinois border to border is in the heart of the beef and corn belts; we feed the word. Therefore you will see plenty of corn, beans, tractors, combines, cows, pigs and sheep with villages, small and medium size towns, and cities of various sizes from 3500 to the size of Chicago and St.Louis. And as the 5th largest state there is plenty of diveristy amongst the towns.

Then I would define cental Illinois which is comprised of five counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and Mason. All of these counties border on the Illinois River. The Illinois River Valley is in this area. Peoria Lake is the widest part of the river at one mile.

The City of Peoria is far different than any of the other cities its size in central Illinois for a couple of reasons. First, Peoria and Peoria county follow the course of the river for several miles. Thus from Havana to Chillecothe there is waterfront. The Peoria Park District manages one of the largest park districts outside of Chicago. Although Peoria is surrounded by farming towns the city iself is not flat or square. Rather than skyscrapers it sprawls like Chicago, and is marked with valleys and heavily forested bluffs. Peoria is progressive and has a religous community nearly as diverse as Chicago. Peoria is a very old town as is Chicago and has much to offer.

The Illinois River is a deep channel shipping lane. Many products exported from central Illinois and imported to central Illinois are delivered by boat. The river barges, 10 cars deep, are a common sight on the river

Seven bridges, 1-74, 1-474, US 150, US 136, US 24, IL 29, IL 116, IL 9, I-39 and IL 97 move traffic through the five counties and over the river. Regardless of where you live near Peoria, if there is a traffic jam on one bridge you can use another to get to work.

There are four metropolitan areas outside of Chicago: Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield and Champaign. Peoria is progressive, Bloomington is ultra conservatiive, Springfield is political and Canampaign is the tech center of the state as the UoI Champaign main campus is there.

Here's a tidbit of Illinois history. The two oldest zoological parks in the nation are in Illinos. Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and Miller Park zoo in Bloomington. Thee is a lot of history and mixt cultures in the Central part of the state from Amish to Indian to American Indian. Its been this way for as many years as I can remember - and that is a long time.

I live in Havana which is farm town approximately 50 miles from Peoria or Bloominton or Springfield. I think I have the best of both worlds. Our population is mixed in both age and ethnicity. We have a lot of services consering the dimuitive size of the community. And yes we have a riverfront park too plus we are surrounded by state parks. I do not lack for things to see or places to go.

If you are accustomed to a large mega-metro area like Chicago you will not be happy in the beef and grain belt. However if you live in a smaller town, or if you are not offended by farms and cows, you'll be qute comfortable in central Illinois and you should be able to make a decent living if you have a trade or an skill. But please be aware that Illinois is also experiencing a downturn in the economy. Even Caterpillar implemented a hiring freeze. Yet thee are jobs to be had.

Illnois is divided into distinct areas. I don't know much about northern Illinois - that is north of Lacon, or south of Springfield, or east of Bloomington, or west of Mt. Sterling. I know a little bit about Champaign. I drove once to the end of Illnois to the confluence of the rivers. Muleskinner knows that area. Steve-O knows a great deal about northern Illinois and has traveled much in the state. We do not have Trader Joe's or Costco - those stores are found in St. Louis and Chicago. But I think we offer almost everything else in terms of church, shopping, culture, history, and activities for families or singles.

If you would like to know more, I am sure we can answer you.

Last edited by linicx; 02-02-2009 at 10:43 PM.. Reason: edit add text
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:30 AM
 
Location: St. Joseph Area
6,236 posts, read 8,809,136 times
Reputation: 3122
Thanks linicx. I have to go to work, but I'll be back with more specifics.

mackinac
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Old 02-04-2009, 04:40 PM
 
Location: St. Joseph Area
6,236 posts, read 8,809,136 times
Reputation: 3122
Quote:
Originally posted by linicx
Then I would define cental Illinois which is comprised of five counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and Mason. All of these counties border on the Illinois River. The Illinois River Valley is in this area. Peoria Lake is the widest part of the river at one mile.
Oh. I always thought "Central Illinois" was everything between I-80 and I-70. So I guess I'm looking at living in a wider area than your definition.

I come from a small city (Kalamazoo/Portage) which, considering its size (100-250k) has a TON of culture. We have great performing arts, other art forms, two colleges, decent public schools and considerable diversity. We're also a mixture of conservative and liberal, just to make things interesting I would like to find a town much like Kalamazoo, or to be within 30 miles of living in such a place.

I don't mind the countryside or smaller towns either. I've liked most country people I've met, and I've always liked farms, so I don't mind driving through miles of soybeans and corn one bit Like I said though--I just want reasonable access to a good sized town. I'm not too keen on Chicagoland, but I'd be fine liiving within some distance of the outer fringes. In fact I'm applying for a job in Hinckley, just past Aurora in Grundy County.

So far, from doing my own research it seems like Bloomington and Champaign/Urbana are nice, and I should stay away from Decatur if I can help it. Haven't figured out Springfield yet, and Peoria seems pretty nice based on your post

And thanks for pointing out other people in the forum. I know of muleskinner from the Politics forum, but I'll continue poking around here too.

Thanks!

mackinac
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Old 02-05-2009, 01:02 AM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 27,453,566 times
Reputation: 6341
There's an old Chicago joke that goes like this: Everything south of State and Madison in Southern Illniois. The modern version is everything south of I-80 is yada, yada....

Bloomington is an ultra conservative, new money, Christian town. Springfield is political. Champaign is a techy college town. They all sprung up in the praire and are all mostly flat and surrounded by farms and ranches. Peoria is hte oldest; the first European building was erected in the 1700s.

Peoria is more like Kalamazoo than Chicago, by several million people. Peoria is more like Chicago than the other towns I mentioned. If you are a young professional, or you have a trade, you could no doubt find a job. Peoria has a very diverse culture and history. Its religious community is much like that of Chicago, only smaller. Peoria offers performing arts, and other art forms, private university, medical school, schools for gifted children, satellite college campus, one of the largest park districts outside of Chicago, observatory, museums, river front park, two semi-pro teams, jazz club, upscale dining and downtown BBQ, civic center, hand rolled cigars, glass blower, country clubs, private clubs. box club, sallng club, furrier, several golf courses, marina, regional state fair and more .

Peoria is progessive, and not particularly political. In the surrounding area are three colleges, Native American archaelogical dig and museum, casino, river cruise, two other riverfront parks, festivals, shopping, live theater, and one of the largest night time Xmas parades and displays in America. Also wineries, pottery, bakeries, fish hatchery, and 7000 reclaimed acres for fishing, boating, hunting, camping that was due to be expanded to 14.000 acres nefore the economy took a nose dive.

Peoria was built on the backs of blue collar workers. You'll find country and rock mixed with gospel and symphony. Peoria is very old money, but it's not urbane in the same sense Chicago is, and you probably won't find indy music or too many white collar snobs. You're more likely to rub elbows with an old farmer, or factor worker, or a native from a foreign land.

The entire central Illinois area is surrounded by state parks. You can sleep with the wolves, trail ride, BMX, hike, fly model airplanes, skate (ice or roller), swim, golf, hunt, camp or fish, take your kids to a Saturday night movie, fishin' derby, paddle boats, or mini golf at one of our many parks. There is more, but you will discover your favorites on your own. Peoria is not flat or square. It sprawls like chicago and it surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery god ever gave man. I have a hunch you will feel right at home and adapt very quickly.

I love Chicago, but to someone who is used to a smaller town, to me it is much like living inside a "find the pea in the shell" game most of the time. I may be the only one in the world hwo feels like that it, though.

If you want to experience Peoria nightlife, please do not come before Thurday. Sunday thru Wed nights are church and family nights. Thur - Sat is when Peorians play. If you decide to come to Peoria I will tell you where to find some things you will want to read.

In any case here is a link on Flicker to some professional pictures of Peoria. The guy is real talented. Be sure to view the Grandview Drive photo. I think it is te fifth one down on the right side. The mouseover describes the location. President Roosevelt called it the "World's Most Beatiful Drive". One other thing, Peoria is not normally as cold as Kalamazoo or Chicago, but it can be. Living in Chicago in the winter is akin to living in a commercal walk-in freezer most of the time Enjoy the tour. Peoria Skyline on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wyoming_1/48895013/ - broken link)

Last edited by linicx; 02-05-2009 at 01:34 AM.. Reason: edit, "t"
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Old 02-05-2009, 07:00 AM
 
Location: St. Joseph Area
6,236 posts, read 8,809,136 times
Reputation: 3122
Wow, I would never have pegged Peoria as having so much stuff. I always thought it was a bland midwestern town. I think I will check it out when I'm going through IL in April. Thanks linicx.
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Old 02-05-2009, 11:39 AM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 27,453,566 times
Reputation: 6341
Quote:
Originally Posted by mackinac81 View Post
Wow, I would never have pegged Peoria as having so much stuff. I always thought it was a bland midwestern town. I think I will check it out when I'm going through IL in April. Thanks linicx.
Goodness no. River towns are many things, but bland is not usually one of them - at least not in Illinois. In the 1800s, Peoria had more distilleries and breweries than any where in the world. In the 1900s it was meat packing plants. It is a blue colllar town with a lot of old money still here. Caterpillar was Holt Manufacturing in the 1930s and making tracks for Army tanks in WWII as Caterpillar. Rosie the riviter lived in Peoria, too.

Did you ever hear of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer? It was brewed in Peoria Heights. Capone put 30 casinos on the Illinois River and tried to make Havana, IL into a 'little Reno'. Twenty-seven cops closed down a whole lot of bootleg booze joints and "houses" that night. and put Capone out of business downstate.

In Peoria in the 1940s you could dance on the Rooftop Gardens. get your shoes shined and hat blocked on Jefferson Street and when your were done you could go a few blocks south and gamble in the back room at the Big 500 Chinese resaurant. In the next decade my dad brought home a one armed bandit from a local saloon to keep the cops from getting it.and shutting down his favorite watering hole Now it is legal and on the River across from Peoria.

The good ladies of Peoria needed something to combat the negative image of Peoria, and high society was born. We still have it. The membership fee for one club in Peoria is 5k and you need impecable references and two members to sponsor you to get in the door. The monthly dues would choke a horse. The gold course is exclusive to members. Reciprical use is rare. I do not know if they would make an exception for Donald Trump if he appeared at the door.

Money is why Peoria has the only furrier south of Chicago. Their wives are why Peoria is progressive, upscale and not a rubber stamp farm town. If it was left to the boys clubs we would still be driving wagons to town over 'Old Toothpick". It was the only bridge between Peoria and East Peoria. Now there are seven. Having Bob Michaels in the House didn't hurt us either as he lived in Peoria. And we just elected the third US President from IL.

Decide what it is you want to do, where you want to go, what you would like to eat, and I will provide directions. There ar specific places I want to send you too. I do not want you to miss some of the regional goodies that residents take for granted. Btw. Peoria is a very easy town to drive in despite the sprawl on the map. The secret is if you know where a half dozen streets are you can easily find everything you are looking for.

Do yourself a favor. Arrive to Peoria during daylight hours. When leaving Chicago go WEST on 1-80 to ILRt29. Turn SOUTH (left) and follow 29 into Peoria. You will be glad you did. And if you want to sleep with the wolves, you'll be on the right side of town. Chicago to Peoria is about four hours unless you are at O'Hara. Add an hour.



.
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Old 02-05-2009, 01:54 PM
 
219 posts, read 632,288 times
Reputation: 73
Peoria high society????

Lets not forget to mention that their schools are amongst the worst in the state...
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Old 02-05-2009, 02:26 PM
 
Location: Orlando
8,178 posts, read 17,178,318 times
Reputation: 49813
Linicx......
I've been gone from there for 25 years and I love to hear you describe my hometown.

If anyone wants to plug Lacon, I got a house for ya.........
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Old 02-06-2009, 12:13 AM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 27,453,566 times
Reputation: 6341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali's Grandma View Post
Linicx......
I've been gone from there for 25 years and I love to hear you describe my hometown.

If anyone wants to plug Lacon, I got a house for ya.........
Wanna trade? Actually I've been to Lacon a few times and I like it. The last time I was there was to get a duck. I wonder if the duck blinds are still there ?

I don't remember if it is Marshall or Stark County that is highly unusual as the county is divided by the river.

I always liked Peoria and after 25 years in the Ozarks I couldn't wait to come home. We ought to chat off post.
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