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By Jeff Moreland
Sandra Davis was browsing through a Louisville bookstore recently, searching for books about Kentucky and options for vacations around the commonwealth. She came across a book titled, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” As chair of Springfield’s newly formed tourism commission, Davis quickly started searching for any connection to Kentucky. What she found was even more surprising and exciting.
“A lot of other states often get attention, and Kentucky is sometimes put on the back burner,” Davis said. “When I picked up that book and saw the Lincoln Trail, I was excited. You always see Hodgenville and Louisville, but when I saw the picture, I was thrilled.”
The picture she saw, right there at the top of page 411, was of Lincoln Homestead Park, naming it among the top travel destinations for tourists.
Davis said other states often get attention over Kentucky, and ironically, it happened in the very listing of Lincoln Park. The information beneath the photo actually identifies the park as being a popular spot for residents of “nearby Decatur.” The mistake is an easy one to understand, since many people associate Lincoln with Illinois, and Decatur, Ill., is less than 40 miles from Springfield, Ill.
The book, even with its mistake, does tell the Lincoln story, and gives directions and contact information for Lincoln Homestead State Park to would-be visitors. That’s exactly what Davis and the tourism commission want to achieve.
“Because Kentucky has a wonderful name for being a beautiful place, and it’s thought of as God’s country with the bluegrass and fences, it’s natural that when people pick up this book, they’re going to wander down into our area,” Davis said. “Particularly now with our awesome new courthouse being built and the sculpture project coming, hopefully we can get people to visit downtown. This is where the Lincoln legacy began, and the theme of our tourism is to bring that forth. Lincoln’s parents were married here, and if not for them, there would be no Lincoln! I think we have such a unique spin on the Lincoln story, and people have to come here to see where it all began.”
Davis said the new tourism commission will be funded by a new tax placed on local restaurants. The 3 percent tax is collected within Springfield’s city limits, then distributed evenly between the tourism commission and the city. The money will be used by the commission for various tourism attractions and events, while the city can use its portion to enhance areas such as Idle Hour Park that can lead to other tourism opportunities.
The new tax has already generated $40,000 from the months of May and June, according to Springfield City Administrator Laurie Smith.