Population: 130,000

Location: At the heart of the Bloomington- Normal corridor is Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University, both of which “are very active in working with our CVB to accommodate meetings, conferences and sporting events within their facilities,” says Director Crystal Howard. The central location is two and a half hours from St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis and easily accessible by air, rail and car with Interstates 39, 55 and 74 at its door.

Key Contact: Crystal Howard, director of Bloomington-Normal Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Phone Number: 1.800.433.8226

The Must-Sees:
Entertainment is key to Bloomington-Normal, from the six golf courses to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. The area was also recently rated one of the top 10 most exciting places in Illinois by movoto.com, thanks in part to its thriving hub of nightlife options that stretch along Main Street. 

For larger attractions, there’s the newer Corn Crib Stadium, home to the CornBelters baseball team that can host up to 4,200 people and the 8,000-person U.S. Cellular Coliseum, which Howard says is, in a word, versatile: “It’s our largest facility with multi-use purposes that can host meetings, Kenny Chesney or the circus.”

Bloomington-Normal also pays homage to its unique history, says Howard, noting that a combined new Route 66 and Lincoln Visitors Center will debut soon. (Honest Abe used to practice law in the area and his mentor was the local citizen David Davis, whose eponymous mansion is also open for tours.)

The Conference Centers & Hotels:
There are 32 hotels in Bloomington-Normal, the largest being the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center with 23,000 square feet of meeting space, followed by the DoubleTree Hotel & Conference Center with 15,000 square feet of space. A unique third option is The Chateau, a French-style hotel with unique guest rooms, as well as 10,000 square feet of space. For even more special lodging, check out The Burr House and Vrooman Mansion bed-and-breakfasts.

“The newest options for us focus on farm-to-table programs,” says Howard, referencing Epiphany Farms, Station Two Twenty and Anju Above as fine-dining examples. DESTIHL gastro brewpub is another new popular option that goes beyond the college pub scene.

How The CVB Helps:
“We are completely full-service, which provides a sense of personal attention from the beginning of the planning stages to the event facilitation,” Howard says. Some examples include creating name badges and bags, setting up visitor guides and brochures, providing registration personnel, even creating press releases and billboard space to welcome groups.

For Your Calendar:
Aug. 23-24: Sweet Corn Blues Festival
Sept. 6, 13, 20, 27: Concerts in the Vineyard at Mackinaw Valley Vineyard & Winery
Oct. 24-26: FlatCon’s Annual Gaming Event
Nov. 15: Under the Dome Knit-In


Population: 113,698


Population: 140,352


Twenty-five years ago, Tom Corcoran started what is now one of the largest independent trade show organizations in the U.S., simply called Corcoran Expositions. In the last quarter century the business has blossomed to assist hundreds of trade associations and organizations plan their expositions. But, there are a few things you might not realize about the company and the founder, who we got to know a little better on the eve of the special anniversary.