The 19th century courthouse in Pontiac, Illinois is an architectural gem. Casting long shadows across the square is a towering monument to honor Civil War veterans of Livingston County. Mayor Rathbun and President Theodore Roosevelt officiated at the dedication ceremony on June 3, 1903.
Pontiac is a village steeped in history that is infused with an infectious vibrancy. Colorful murals, an eclectic array of museums and shops in the historic business district, and pride in its association with Route 66 are manifestations of the dynamic enthusiasm that has transformed Pontiac into one of the states leading destination cities.
Learning Something New
Officially the population of Pontiac nestled along Route 66 in Illinois is 11,359 people. But not all of the residents enjoy the diverse array of restaurants. And many of them never skip the special events at the museums or in the parks on the Vermillion River that are connected by three historic picturesque foot bridges. Some of the residents counted in the census are guests of the state of Illinois at the nearby Pontiac Correctional Center.
That was one of the tidbits that I learned during the fascinating conversation with Liz Vincent, Pontiac’s passionate tourism director, on the May 21, 2023 episode of Coffee With Jim.
There are so many exciting things taking place, and that are being planned as we draw closer to the Route 66 centennial, in Pontiac that it almost makes the head spin. No wonder Pontiac was selected to host the official National Road Trip Day celebration this year!
Vision and Leadership
Leadership with vision and leadership with the ability to inspire diverse groups to work toward a common goal will transform a community. The speed of that transformation is directly linked to the leaders understanding about the role of tourism in economic development.
Walking the streets in Pontiac it is hard to imagine that until just a few years ago this was a fast fading midwestern farming community. The historic heart of Pontiac with dozens of empty storefronts had a ghost town feel.
That was then. Today at every turn the visitor finds evidence of a strong sense of community. Visitors are welcomed so warmly thoughts of relocation sonn dance in your head.
And there is also a plethora of innovative promotional and marketing ideas on display. As an example, consider the VIP (Visitor In Pontiac) program that was discussed with Liz on the Coffee With Jim podcast. Promotional material sums up the program simply.
If you are a community organizer or elected representative with a hunger to see your community transformed I can highly recommend a field trip to Pontiac. And if possible, schedule some time to visit with Liz.
At Jim Hinckley’s America we tell people where to go and we share America’s story. We also inspire road trips, and through programs such as Coffee With Jim, lend a hand to folks that want to transform their community into a destination.