Monday, October 29, 2012

Holiday Happenings

Cool weather has finally come after the long, hot dry summer.  The leaves have changed and are vacating their summer homes for us to rake up and if your a kid, jump into. 

Time to start thinking about your holiday plans.  We have been busy, calling or e-mailing to bring our list up to date.  If you have an event that you would like for us to publish, please e-mail it to and we will post on our special page  There are already plenty of activities posted and more to follow. 

Just to name a few, there is Christmas on Main in Moweaqua, Holiday in Herrick-both happening December 1st, The Shelbyville Festival of Lights-November 16th-December 30th, Free Movies every Saturday morning at ten at The Roxy Theatre and much more.   Shelbyville will also be hosting a spectacular shopping day on December 1st.  There's even more shopping opportunies with different craft shows, Toy auctions, a Christmas Store, and Holiday Open Houses throughout Shelby County.  There is also Christmas music concerts at schools, churches, and The Barn. 

Santa will be visiting several towns before his global trip on Christmas Eve.  His first stop in the area will be at Christmas in the Park in Strasburg on November 10th from Noon till 3 pm.  Check out the Hometown Holiday page for updates for further visits. 

We are also gathering dates for our 2013 Lake Shelbyville Visitor Guide.  These events/dates will  be placed on our website as well.  Qualifying events and businesses will also be placed on the EnjoyIllinois website.

Again if you know of an activitity or would like yours posted, please let us know at or give us a call at 217-774-2244. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall...Still a Busy Time in the Office

It's been a while since we posted last, Stephen has went back to school and we've been busy in the office.

This Friday and Saturday, September 14th and 15th, we are helping with a fundraiser for Balloon Fest by being grocery baggers at County Market from 4-8 Friday evening and 10a-2p on Saturday.  Come out and see who else is helping to make The Touchstone Energy Balloon Fest a success. 

September 14-16 is the Tower Hill Fall Festival.  Event listings are at Come and check out the Hypnotist on Friday and Saturday, the PRODUCE 500 on Saturday, a scavenger hunt, and much more along with the Demolition Derby that's Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, September 19th is another fundraiser for the Balloon Fest.  All day at Monical's Pizza, they will donate 20% of your meal to the Balloon Fest as long as you have the flyer.  Flyers can be picked up at Monical's Pizza, The Shelby County Office of Tourism, and they will be distributed in the Grocery bagging fundraiser.

September 20-22 is the Bassmaster Elite Series All-Star Week.  Pro Fishermen fish two days on Lake Shelbyville and two days on Lake Decatur.  You can visit for details.  We will be in Decatur showcasing the Lake Shelbyville/Shelby County area and everything we have to offer.

September 21-23 is the 1st Annual Kaskaskia River Pow Wow at the Dam East Recreational Area.  You can visit for the listing of events and times.  There will be vendors, dancing, a hand drum competition, an auction and more.  Come and learn about native American Indians with representatives from Cherokee, Lakota, Balckfoot, Sac-Fox, Oneida, and Haliwa-Saponi present.  This event is free and so is parking.  Please bring your lawnchairs. 

October 5-7 is the Touchstone Energy Balloon Fest.  Visit for a listing of events and to see what balloons are coming visit  Balloons will take to the sky Friday night from the soccer fields at Forest Park.  Saturday morning they will take flight from various areas to try to hit a target at the soccer fields and Saturday night the balloons will be at the Dam East Spillway to light up the night sky as well as food vendors, music, raffle sales, tethered balloon rides and much more.  Sunday morning they will take flight again and try to hit a target that will be at the Dam West Recreation Area.  As always with hot air balloons-weather permitting.  Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.

October 5-7 is also the weekend for Scarecrow Daze Festival with the theme of "Back to the Future".  New to event this year is Pumpkin Chucking on Friday night at the soccer fields from 4:30-7.  Events Friday night will take place in Forest Park except for the Quilt Show at the First United Methodist Church Basement.  The festival will still have vendors, art, kids games, entertainment and much more on Saturday.....all happening downtown.  There will even be special showings of the movie "Back to the Future" Friday and Saturday at 9pm.  If you would like to enter the Scarecrow contest, entry forms must be returned to the Chamber of Commerce by September 28th at 3pm and they will be judged on September 30th.  Sorry, but only scarecrows located within city limits will be judged.  For a listing of events go to or

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Mailman, He Cometh

Even the camera failed to keep up with my swift packing!
Actually, that title is a big, fat lie.  The mailman was nowhere to be seen.  I suspect he may have been hiding.  As a result, I had the opportunity -- nay, the honor -- of loading over 2,500 Lake Shelbyville Visitor Guides for bulk mailing.

I suppose the moral of the story would be "don't smile and agree to do something without actually understanding what the task entails."  With that said, I was glad to help.  It wasn't really all that horrible.

It was, however, very surprising.  I wasn't aware of the sheer amount of mailing that needed to be done.  And anyone who has ever needed to move any great distance knows one of the worst things to pack: books.  A magazine is just a really thin, glossy book, and let's be honest, a book is just thinly-sliced bits of tree.  Trees are heavy ... writing interns are wimpy.

Still, there's something to be said about this very practical, mundane task.  Thus far, most of the work I've done has been electronic. It's involved communication, social networking, or writing.  It's been communication, contacts, and e-mail.  This was a nice wake-up call, to be honest.  Sure, the point of the internship is to help develop professional communication skills, but it's easy to forget that the physical, mundane aspect of mailing is still just as important as its electronic component.  Tweeting, Facebooking, and e-mailing is well and good, but it doesn't help much when you have a couple thousand mini-tree slices to send all over the place.  And yes, while many publishers are opting for wholly electronic publication, there are still plenty of people (myself included) who prefer something to hold.  Until we develop molecular teleportation, that means bulk mailing.

I didn't actually fall asleep, but it was a fun photo to take
There's always going to be something surprising in any given job.  If the purpose of an internship is to prepare one for the professional world, I think it's equally important to learn to prepare for the unexpected.  Well, that and to develop a spontaneous case of the flu when mailing day rolls around.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lake Shelbyville Photo Contest

2011 Grand Prize Winner
I'm terrible with a camera.  I'm surprised most of the pictures I take don't cause the lens to shatter in protest.  Fortunately, there are a lot of people in the community who are capable of taking some pretty gorgeous photos.  And even if you're not, why not give it a try?  The Lake Shelbyville photo contest is rapidly coming to an end, and I always find it fascinating to see the kinds of surprising moments that people can capture.

Don't wait until it's too late!  The last day to submit your pictures is August 3, 2012.  Online voting will begin pretty shortly thereafter, so it's important that you get these to us as soon as possible. 

I know I'm looking forward to seeing all the entries, and I also know that many people tend to be too hard on themselves.  Don't be!  Perhaps I'm being a bit of a hypocrite, especially considering the first five words of this post, but that doesn't change the fact that I want to see your pictures.  Yes, you, John Aldridge.

(Okay, I admit, I don't know anyone named John Aldridge.  But it would have been really awesome if someone with that name had read this post.)

Even if you're not named John Aldridge, be sure to get your pictures in ASAP.  Don't make the new intern cry.  That would just be a shame.

To download the contest submission form, click here. 
To see previous winners (along with other great Lake Shelbyville pics) click here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

WCIA Swings By Shelbyville

Ah, television.  Now, I don't generally spend a lot of time in front of the tube (though I am guilty of the occasional Burn Notice or Castle marathon), but even a media caveman like myself can appreciate the excitement of being on the news.  It hearkens back to my younger years, when getting  my picture in the paper was automatically fridge-worthy, even if it was something relatively innocuous: Sixth-Graders Eat Cake.  Cat Found Living With Squirrel.  Man Walks Down Street.  Still, news is news, and televised news is a whole different monster from paper.

When I heard WCIA was going to feature Shelbyville in their upcoming "Our Town" segment, I was thrilled.  My inner seven-year old immediately began planning the best ways to sneak in a surprise "Hi, mom," complete with a frantic wave and overenthusiastic smile.  Thankfully, the adult part of my brain managed to distract it with shiny promises of candies and kittens.

The project was a massive undertaking, but what impressed me most had nothing to do with the final product (even though it was fantastic; check it out for yourself by clicking here).  I was most impressed by how such a varied crew -- composed of volunteers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees, camera crews -- was able to come together so swiftly to ensure the program ran without a hitch.  Though the heat was murderous, attitudes remained positive and participants did what was necessary.

Even handing out hot dogs and lemonade.

Alas, our Tourism display did not end up on television.
My prime-time breakthrough will just have to wait ...

I wouldn't have imagined that handing out snacks in the summer heat would have been enjoyable, but it truly was.  Don't underestimate the power of a cool glass of lemonade handed out with a smile, especially when the sun decides to crank it up into the triple digits.  The advantage of such a position is it allows you to meet people from all facets of the project.  It doesn't matter whether you're a cameraman, Corp worker, or visitor -- everyone needs a drink.  And while there were those who simply smiled and returned the "hello", content to grab a snack without conversing, many of them hovered by the table to talk, if only for a short while.  Local artist Dan Modzelewski stopped by while I was restocking.  Putting a face to the name I'd known since first encountering his paintings drove home the sense of small town community that I've grown to love.

Though I don't have time to go into all of what WCIA covered during their stint in Shelbyville (check the links!), I will say it involves snakes, bobby pins, and farmers.  Not all at once.  That would be awesome -- and would probably involve the folks from Guinness or Ripley's Believe it or Not.  Still, despite the disappointing lack of record-breaking, bobby-pin eating snake farmers, it's worth checking out.

Thanks to everyone who made it all possible!

Be sure to visit the official Lake Shelbyville Website @
Are you on Facebook?  Like us @ Lake Shelbyville Area CVB
Don't miss a moment: Follow our Twitter feed in the right-hand column!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Making Meetings Memorable

Darla and I speak with one of the Cooperative members.
A few asked if they could have the stuffed bear in the boat.
What is the first image that jumps to mind when you hear the word "meeting"? I always think of a bunch of stuffy guys in suits sitting around a polished mahogany desk, droning on about quarterly financials, share options, ROI expectations, and other equally invigorating topics that make growing grass seem lively and exciting by comparison. So it's no surprise that when I was asked to participate in the Shelby Electric Cooperative annual meeting, my blood ran cold. I immediately began calculating how much it would cost to steal an I.V. dispersal unit from the local hospital and fill it with Red Bull.

Fortunately for my heart and blood pressure, I quickly found out there was no need for caffeine-inducing shenanigans. Freddie informed me that we were going to be one of the pre-meeting vendors at the park. This is where I started scratching my head. Vendors? At a meeting? Were we going to practice sales pitches? I wasn't sure what to expect at this point, but Freddie made mention of free pork chops, which was more than incentive enough for me.

The meeting itself was scheduled to begin at 1:00, but people began arriving much earlier than that. By the time I arrived at 10:30, the park outside the Chautauqua building was covered with tents and displays. The smell of shredded BBQ and pork chops was wafting through the air, and a local band was playing old-fashined tunes. Honestly, it felt like equal parts science fair and cook-out. Various other vendors set up their tables around us, mostly to chat with the cooperative members and offer various tidbits, information, and samples. We were situated directly next to AirEvac, a company that offers to zip you through the air if you need airlifted to a distant hospital. To be honest, I'd be in it for the free mug they were offering. A lifesaving helicopter ride is nice and all, but free stuff is hard to beat -- like the free popcorn offered from the table on our other flank. In retrospect, I'm surprised I didn't come home covered in salt and mugs.

We spoke to the passing Shelby Cooperative members about the various spots to visit in Shelby County. It was very informal and conversational. We might have been called a vendor booth, but the majority of the people seemed interested in information. The most popular item on our table was the big fold-out map of the lake, but we provided fliers, business cards, Visitor Guides, and -- most important of all -- candy. Our little stuffed bear was pretty popular too. One member said to his wife, "Just take the bear and run, Ethel!"

The Cooperative also had several of their own displays set up. One must have been showing off some kind of sound-proof insulation, because every so often I would hear a shriek that would suddenly drop off as a Cooperative member lowered whatever was making the horrid noise into a box. Another was demonstrating how much energy was needed to create electricity. Their display was simple, yet amusing: a bicycle hooked up to a series of light bulbs. The harder you pedaled, the brighter the light.

It was a nice chance to get out into the community and speak with people. Frankly, I think it was a smart business move, giving folks a free lunch and setting up a nice mix of community, vendors, and Cooperative demonstrations. The pervasive, choking atmosphere that accompanies many such meetings (made even more oppressive by claustrophobic conference rooms) was nicely countered by the friendly faces, cool breeze, and delicious food.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

In 1949, after dealing with faulty equipment at the Wright Field Aircraft Lab, a frustrated Captain Edward Murphy exclaimed of the main technician, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he will."  Though it was far from the first time this sentiment had been expressed, he was supposedly the man who gave this phenomenon its namesake: Murphy's Law.  If it can go wrong, it will.

As easy as it is to use Murphy as a pedestal for pessimism, I prefer to embrace it as an opportunity to adapt.  If your plan survives first contact with the enemy, your foes aren't very smart.  Or you're Batman.  I realize the analogy's a bit of a stretch, but the point remains the same -- few things are as simple as we expect. Before coming to work here at the Lake Shelbyville Area CVB / Shelby County Tourism Office (henceforth referred to as "the office"), I assumed everything was pretty straightforward.  Smile.  Hand out brochures and maps.  Answer questions over the phone (including "How far is the dam from the lake?" -- not far, by the way).

It turns out, in fact, that quite a lot goes on behind closed doors.  The office cooperates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Lake Shelbyville and partners with several events throughout the community.  There are, of course, requisite niceties we show to those who come in looking for something to do, but the phrase "tourism office" is deceptively simplistic.  The people I work with have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to a variety of situations, even when they fall outside of what might considered strictly tourism related.  Much of the Visitor Guide is done in house, as is a majority of the work to get them to the public -- gathering, mailing, coordinating with the post office -- just to name one.  Just collecting the guides for distribution ends up being an adventure in itself, especially considering some of the unexpected locales.

Requests for Visitor's Guides have come in from Nigeria, Congo, Yemen, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, India, Guam, Mexico, the UK, Germany, Canada, Jamaica, France, the Philippines, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Czech Republic, Brazil, Italy, and Belgium.  Funding now forces us to file such requests electronically.

And speaking of the ever-evolving world of electronic communication, I have a new appreciation for those who monitor the Twitter feed(s), Facebook page(s), and website(s) of any given organization.  It's one thing to occasionally pop in and tell the world that my cat is chewing on my computer tower.  It's an entirely different monster to try and gather, monitor, and distribute relevant information on a social network.  Facebook as a means of friendly communication is nothing like Facebook as a networking tool.  It's nice in that it allows the office to quickly get information out to those looking for it.  Getting that information can be a pain.  It doesn't matter when I make Facebook posts about my cat, or a book, or the latest movie I've seen.  When it comes to time-sensitive information such as local events, meetings, or activities time becomes a crucial factor.  So to those of you who manage such information, kudos.  My hat goes off to you.  Well, first I would have to get a hat.  But mark my words, if I was wearing one right now, it would be off to you.

Of course, all this talk of complications and plans has a specific point.  We here at the office are working towards a free online newsletter for all who are interested in local events, attractions, and activities.  It's not quite ready yet, but you should keep an eye on the website for a link to our subscription.

Be sure to visit the official Lake Shelbyville Website @
Are you on Facebook?  Like us @ Lake Shelbyville Area CVB
Don't miss a moment: Follow our Twitter feed in the right-hand column!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Welcome Inside

Every good tourism district has a website, but how many of those offer an inside view of the tourism department itself?  So much goes on between the tourism office and the various local business and attractions, and it's crucial that the community not be left out.  Fliers, press releases, and brochures are all well and good, but we're here to connect with the most important people in the tourism community -- you.  My name is Stephen Jefferies, and as a summer intern here at the Shelby County Office of Tourism / Lake Shelbyville Area CVB, I'm here to do exactly that.

Well, that and drink all of their coffee.

To give you a quick glimpse of the lens you'll be looking through, allow me a few words about myself.  I've lived in Shelbyville since March of 2002 and recently entered the Master's program at Eastern Illinois University.  I've enjoyed writing even further back than I can remember.  According to my parents, I wrote my first story when I was four.  It was three pages of tape-bound brown construction paper titled with brightly colored, proportionality skewed crayon letters.  It was entitled Staples (though I’m sure it wasn’t spelled correctly).  Each page bore a single message scribbled at the top, complete with anatomically mutated stick figures and oversized etchings of the namesake office supply:

Page 1: “Staples are sharp.”   Page 2: "Staples can hurt.”   Page 3: “Staples can kill.”

In retrospect, I’m surprised my parents never took me in for psychiatric evaluation, but nonetheless, this creation marked the beginning of something that I’ve not yet grown out of -- a love of writing.  My other hobbies range all over the spectrum, from racquetball and skiing to computers and tabletop games.  I love cats, despise mushrooms, and find the inconsistencies and ambiguities in our language hilarious.  Just look at the comma in "let's eat, grandma."  It makes a big difference.

As the summer continues so will this blog, and I won't be the only one manning it.  Check back each week to see what's happening not just in the Shelby County Tourism office, but all around the lake itself.

Be sure to visit the official Lake Shelbyville Website @
Are you on Facebook?  Like us @ Lake Shelbyville Area CVB
Don't miss a moment: Follow our Twitter feed in the right-hand column!