The people of the Harrisburg area enjoy a great many cultural activities that are homegrown. Concerts by high school band and choral ensembles are always popular and audiences fill the seats in the Harrisburg High School auditorium. Festivals and special events, too, bring Harrisburg families together for the good times.
The week-long Stars and Stripes Festival is the city's celebration of the Fourth of July and culminates with a big fireworks display. However, the most joyous event on the Harrisburg calendar is the Past to Present Festival that's held at the Saline County Fairgrounds. The festival turns back the hands of time, honoring the area's heritage through demonstrations of weaving, spinning, carpentry, lye soap making, apple cider making, broom making, pottery making, and quilting. The two-day event offers carnival rides, games for youngsters, food booths, a flea market and antique sales, live entertainment, and competitions like washer pitching and pie baking.
The annual Saline County Fair is another highlight on the Harrisburg calendar. Held in July, it features carnival rides, food booths, livestock and homemaking exhibits, and a series of shows in the grandstand area, including rodeos, motorcycle races, and other special events. Southeastern Illinois Community College's annual two-day Heritage Festival is yet another happy occasion for Harrisburg families.
SIC's new $4,000,000, 412-seat Visual and Performing Arts Center provides Harrisburg area audiences with a wide range of entertainment from symphony orchestras to dinner theater. The college's Cultural Arts Series brings to its stage such groups as the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, the National Shakespeare Company, dinner theater by the Repertory Theater of America, and entertainers who appeal especially to children. Civic Centers in Marion and Herrin also draw Harrisburg area residents to a variety of entertainment attractions throughout the year.
Events in nearby communities also draw Harrisburg area families. Among these are the Octoberfest in Marion, 23 miles to the west; the summer-long outdoor entertainment at Benton's outdoor amphitheater at Rand Lake Visitor's Center, 33 miles northwest of the community; and Benton's Taste of Freedom Festival observance of July 4.
The Mitchell-Carnegie Public Library in Harrisburg is a cultural focal point in the community. Soon to move from a classic Carnegie building to more spacious quarters, the library currently has more than 35,000 books, 500 videos and films, and 800 audio recordings on its shelves. The library also subscribes to some 85 periodicals and newspapers. It provides computers for patrons' use and has more than 75 CD ROM disks and other computer readable materials. The library's total annual circulation is nearly 32,000.
The library's services include homebound delivery of books, the services of tutors, and conducts story hours during fall, winter, and spring for youngsters. It also offers a summer reading program for young people.
A night on the town in the Harrisburg area often begins with dinner at any of several fine dining establishments. The area has nearly 100 restaurants serving everything from fast food to economic family meals to steaks, chops, seafood, and ethnic cuisine.
Harrisburg is the shopping center for Saline County and beyond. U.S. Highway 45 is a nearly continuous strip of retail outlets from the city's northern border to its border on the south. Three major shopping centers are located along the route.
Highway 45 passes a few blocks to the east of Harrisburg's downtown business district. The downtown area is in transition from a retail center to a professional services area, with offices of lawyers, accountants, banks, investment counselors, and physicians present. However, the transition is not complete. Downtown still has a modern four-screen cinema, jewelers, clothing stores, drug stores, furniture dealers, gift shops, and several excellent restaurants.
The northern area Route 45 contains the newest retail centers. Arrowhead Point Shopping Center is anchored by a large discount department store chain and an impressive food store. In addition, there are 10 smaller stores and shops.
Shawnee Square Shopping Center, adjacent to Arrowhead Point, also has a large national food chain, six smaller stores, and space for a large department store. Outbuildings at both centers contain fast food restaurants.
The areas around these shopping centers contain free standing stores offering everything from building and garden supplies to designer shoes, from records and books to women's clothing, and from video rentals to hair styling. A number of national fast food services are also located in the area, as are several family dining restaurants.
Parker Plaza, at the south end of Highway 45's course through the city, contains 16 distinct stores, including a large food store. Its vicinity, as well, is full of restaurants, including many national chains. Harrisburg is at the heart of a large antique and craft area. Many of the small towns surrounding the community, like Eldorado, are growing famous among browsers for their antique and handicraft stores. Five banks provide a solid financial foundation for the community and encourage continuing economic growth.
Business is on the rise in Harrisburg and Saline County. A diverse industrial base has filled one industrial park in the county and has begun filling a second.
Coal mining, which began in the area in 1854, continues to be an important element in the economy of Harrisburg and Saline County. Kerr McGee and Arclar are currently producing coal as an energy resource. Kerr McGee employs about 580 workers, while Arclar employs 175 persons.
Nationwide Glove is the largest manufacturer in the area, with 225 employees. American Needle is second largest with 125 workers. It manufactures caps. Southern Truss produces building components with 50 workers. Harrisburg Truss, which produces truss and roof structures, also has 50 employees.
A wide range of products originates in Saline County. They include automobile parts, cabinets and wood product, confectionery supplies, clothing, concrete products, electrical product, agricultural feed and seed, furniture, hardwood lumber, hats, machine tools, mining equipment, and pharmaceuticals.
Harrisburg officials encourage business and industry to expand or relocate to the city. A Tax Increment Finance district covers the northeast corner of the community, an area that has seen many new retail centers spring up. To stimulate new business in the area, the city provides infrastructure needs, assures access to utilities, and helps with land acquisition at a competitive price.
The Saline County Industrial Development Co. was established in 1974 to encourage economic development within the county. It developed the area's two industrial parks, one located in Harrisburg, and the other situated near the Harrisburg-Raleigh Airport, to the northeast of Harrisburg. It has the advantage of a rail spur. The city also has developed a small section for business and industry. It is located at the northern edge of the community, off Highway 45. Nearby is the new Harrisburg Professional Park, an office park off Highway 45 on Eye Center Dr. It has 10 half-acre sites.
The Industrial Development Company is also responsible for achieving an Enterprise Zone designation covering 10.72 square miles of the county's business areas. The Zone provides additional economic incentives to attract new industry to Saline County and promote expansion of existing industry. State and local tax of 6.25 percent is abated on building materials. For each new job created (above five), a company can take a $500 state income tax credit. In addition, property taxes can be abated for five years if improvements are made on industrial or commercial property in the zone. Both the city's industrial park and the Harrisburg Professional Park are within the Enterprise Zone.
The presence of Southeastern Illinois Community College in the area is a major asset to business and industry located in Saline County. The college's Economic Development Service Center provides custom-tailored employee training programs, conducting them on-site or at the campus. It offers short-term technical training seminars and provides business consultant services. And, it helps companies obtain special funding through grants and economic development funding from governmental agencies. In addition, it aids entrepreneurs through its Small Business Development Center, and it provides counseling, information, and technical assistance to firms seeking to gain government contracts.
The area receives electricity from Central Illinois Public Service Co. Natural gas is furnished by United Cities Gas Company. General Telephone provides telephone services. Water supplies are provided by the city, from Saline Valley Conservancy District deep wells. Waste water treatment is also provided by the city.
Agriculture, too, continues to play an important role in the economy of Saline County. There are more than 400 farms in the county, encompassing 141,700 acres of land. Corn for grain and seed is the principal crop, with 46,651 acres harvested annually. In addition, the county's farms harvest 45,358 acres of soybeans. More than 23,500 hogs and pigs are sold yearly in the county, as well. Total farm production in Saline County pumps nearly $10,000,000 into the local economy annually.
The value of education in the continuing progress and prosperity of a community has been appreciated by Harrisburg residents since the settlement built its first school house. Today, Harrisburg Community Unit School District 3 serves the city's student population with two K-6 elementary schools, a junior high school, and a senior high school. More than 2,300 students are enrolled in the district's schools.
More than 1,300 students attend East Side and West Side Elementary schools. The two schools focus on the basic of mathematics, language arts, and social studies, augmented by music, art, and physical education. Fourth grade students at East Side Elementary do a daily newscast via Channel 7 on the local cable television service. They research their international, national, local news and sports stories, often drawing information from the Internet and wire services, then write their scripts using computer word processing programs. At West Side school, a special program encourages positive behavior through a system of awards and recognitions. The program helps students understand the importance of living by the rules. Peer mediation is used to resolve conflicts arising between students.
At Malan Junior High the 330-plus students are helped through the transition from the structured environment of elementary school to the atmosphere of freedom and personal responsibility of high school. The school places heavy emphasis on reading across the curriculum in an effort to assure reading skills required for success in high school and beyond.
Harrisburg High School has more than 600 students enrolled. Students choose from nearly 225 different courses, including both academic and career oriented courses. The school offers advanced placement courses in English, calculus, biology, and U.S. history, for which college credit can be earned while still in high school. It also offers English and mathematics courses designed to benefit students in a Tech Prep curriculum or undecided on what they will do after high school. Career oriented courses include a group in agriculture, reflecting Harrisburg's location in the heart of a sizeable agricultural area.
High school students are encouraged to participate in more than 30 different co-curricular special interest clubs and organizations. Among these are the Academic Club, Art Club, Computer Club, F.A.A., Forensics, Photography Club, Sign Language, and the White Hats Club, devoted to giving something back to the community. The school fields a full roster of sports teams for boys and girls.
The Harrisburg area has seven preschools and daycare centers that aid working parents and provide a stimulating and educational environment for youngsters.
Harrisburg students have only a short distance to go to continue their education past high school. The 148-acre campus of Southeastern Illinois Community College (SIC) is only five miles west of Harrisburg. It serves the 60,000 residents of Saline, Gallatin, Hardin, and Pope Counties and portions of four other counties.
The two-year college enrolls more than 2,000 students each semester in college transfer and career education programs. It awards associate in arts and associate in science degrees in more than 50 career fields to students who generally transfer to a four-year college or university to complete work toward a bachelor's degree. A dozen pre-professional degrees are among them. These include pre-law, pre-medicine, pre-veterinary, and pre-engineering.
Another 36 associate in applied arts and certificate programs are offered in such subjects as auto technology, business management, nurse aid, forestry technology, industrial maintenance, and surgical technology.
Founded in 1960, SIC has recently completed a $10 million expansion that developed a new 400-seat Visual and Performing Arts Complex, a Child Study Center, and an Administration/Humanities Building. A new student residence hall accommodating 80 students is planned by a private contractor for a site adjacent to the campus.
Transfer students earning an associate degree at Southeastern Illinois Community College often enroll at the Southern Illinois University campus at Carbondale, about 40 miles to the west of Harrisburg via mostly four-lane divided highway. Other colleges in the area include Rend Lake College, at Ina; Eastern Illinois University, at Charleston, and the University of Evansville, at Evansville, Indiana.
Harrisburg is fortunate to have one of the largest health care facilities in southeastern Illinois. Harrisburg Medical Center is a state of the art hospital with 78 beds and 34 physicians on staff. It also has an 18-bed psychiatric area.
The doctors represent most major medical specialties, including family practice, pediatrics, urology, podiatry, ophthalmology, psychiatry, radiology, pathology, surgery, internal medicine, and orthopedics. In 1995, the hospital completed a multimillion dollar expansion and renovation program.
The program developed a new emergency area, rehabilitation services, ambulatory care services, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, private two-room mammography suite, and expanded surgery suites. Other new services established include osteoporosis testing, inpatient kidney dialysis, scintimammography, and cataract surgery. In subsequent years, the hospital expanded outpatient psychiatric services under the name Bradford House, and established Bradford West in Carbondale. Bradford House is a partial hospitalization program designed to reduce the length of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization or divert individuals from inpatient hospitalization completely. As a result of this expansion, the hospital has increased the number of psychiatrists on staff from one to seven.
The Harrisburg Medical Center's Home Health Care Service provides a variety of services to patients in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of their homes. Home Health serves citizens in nine counties within a 50-mile radius of Harrisburg. The hospital conducts outreach programs to community businesses through Brown Bag Luncheons. It also provides wellness activities for schools and other community organizations. Several clinics and numerous physicians serve the people of the Harrisburg area. There are 25 nursing homes in the Harrisburg and southeastern Illinois area. Three are located in Harrisburg, itself.
Harrisburg, the seat of government for Saline County, is itself governed by a mayor/council form of government, with four council members. City government is housed in a historic structure built in 1926-27. In addition to governmental offices, the building has a 600-seat auditorium. Historic photographs and memorabilia decorate the walls of the first floor.
Harrisburg residents dial 911 for emergency services. The Harrisburg Police Department shares a Public Safety building with the Saline County Sheriff's department. It has 13 sworn officers and a civilian secretary. Police officers offer several public service programs, among them Neighborhood Watch; D.A.R.E., the national anti-drug program; and V.E.G.A, which stands for Violence Education and Gang Awareness.
The department loans out Officer McGruff and Vince & Larry (the seatbelt dummies) costumes. Officers provide talks on law enforcement and safety and they participate in an annual Christmas Shop with a Cop program. In addition, they participate in Therapeutic Riding (in which disabled youngsters go horseback riding), bicycle safety, Career Days at SIC, and Teen Leadership conferences. They also lend financial support to local sports leagues and other worthwhile community efforts.
The Harrisburg Fire Department has seven full-time firefighters, plus 15 who are paid on call. One of their members is a trained Emergency Medical Technician.
The department operates out of a central fire station. It has three fire trucks, a 65-foot snorkle, a rescue truck, a 4x4 brush truck, and a 2,000-gallon tanker truck. School classes who tour the fire station received coloring books that relate facts about fire safety and the department. During Fire Prevention Week, firefighters go to the city's schools to talk about fire prevention and safety.
The City of Harrisburg operates its own water distribution system. It has a storage capacity of 6,000,000 gallons in elevated tanks. The water processing plant has a capacity of 4,000,000 per day, while average daily consumption is about 2,500,000 gallons.
The city's water treatment plant has a design capacity of 3,125,000 gallons per day. It's average load id 1,200,000 gallons per day.
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