Life plays well in Peoria. Peoria ranks among U.S. News & World Report's "10 Hottest Cities," a judgment based not on average summertime temperatures, but on Peoria's astounding economic growth. The city is booming; existing businesses are expanding and new high tech firms are increas ing in number There are job opportunities galore!
All this makes Peoria a "Hot City." To the more than 343,000 pcople who live in the three-county Peoria area, it also makes it a cool place to live and raise a family. Everything you'd want is here: affordable homes, excellent schools and colleges, fine health care facilities, great shopping, a high cultural environment, and loads of recreation.
Despite its spectacular growth, Peoria maintains its traditional Midwestern warmth and friendliness. It's a genuinely fun place to be. For example, the quaint stands of food vendors, charcoal grills hot by 11:30 a.m., serve up delicious sandwiches to shoppers and folks who work in the numerous down town business and professional offices and retail stores.
Area residents hold in high regard their public and parochial school systems. Peoria Public Schools is in the top five percent in the nation in "graduate outcomes," a combination of graduation rates and college board scores. Peoria is one of only 35 districts, out of 600 nationwide, which scored over 140!
There's a home here for every lifestyle. They range from the comfortable homes lining the tree-shaded streets of Peoria's neighborhoods to the elegant, executive-style homes in forested rural subdivisions.
Culture is a key factor in the lives of Peorians, thus the existence and populari ty of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Peoria Area Civic Chorale, the Peoria Civic Opera, the Peoria Ballet Company, plus museums and galleries.
The Peoria Park District recently won the highest honor attainable - the coveted National Gold Mcdal Award for park and recreation management a reflection of the recreational joys available to Peoria's youthful and vigorous population.
Yes, everything about this city demonstrates that life plays well in Peoria.
It's easy to get to and from Peoria. Situated midway between Chicago and St. Louis, the city boasts the full range of transportation assets, from interstate highways to air, rail, and river barge.
The Greater Peoria Regional Airport is served by four major airlines with 28 departures each day. Five air freight systems also operate out of the airport. The airport has a free trade zone and on-site U.S. Customs.
Interstate 74 passes through the heart of Peoria, while I-474 serves as a bypass. I-74 links with I-55 and I-39 at Bloomington, about 30 miles east. Three U.S. highways and four state highways crisscross the community providing easy access to neighboring cities and towns.
Ten national and regional railroads serve the freight hauling needs of Peoria area business and industry, as do more than 70 interstate and local trucking companies, many with terminals in the area. More than 35 million tons of cargo is shipped by Illinois River barge annually.
The Greater Peoria Mass Transit District provides bus transportation at reasonable cost throughout the area. There's also a special transportation service for the disabled.
Peoria is named for the Peoria Indians who had long lived on this land where the Illinois River widens greatly to form lakes. Historians regard the city as the oldest civilized settlement in Illinois, dating it back to the late 1600s, when French explorers canoed down the Illinois River and established Fort Pimeteoui on the western shore of Peoria
The British next ruled the area, but only for a brief period from 1765 to 1778, when the flag of the United States was raised over Peoria. Successively, the community was governed under the laws of Virginia, the Northwest Territory, Indiana, and finally, in 1818, as part of the State of Illinois.
Peorias first pioneer residents included Abner Eads and Josiah Fulton who arrived in 1819, journeying from the southern part of the state. Fulton lived out the remainder of his life in the community.
Early in its history, Peoria was a major brewing center, thanks to grains grown on the rich farm land that surrounded the community, low cost shipping via the river, and pure water from natural springs. Numerous family fortunes were made in the production of spirits and beer. Another significant industry in these early years was livestock sales and slaughter.
The Benjamin Holt Company came to Peoria in 1909, forever changing the character of the city. Holt produced crawler tractors. In 1925, the company bought East Peoria's Colean Steam Tractor Works, then merged with C.L. Best Company to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company. Caterpillar soon became the world's largest maker of earthmoving machines. By 1930, with the addition of LeTourneau, established by a former Caterpillar employee, Peoria had become a major manufacturing center.
Several historic sites are preserved in the community and open to the public. Among them is Judge Jacob Gale House, built about 1839, home of the Peoria Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the John C. Flanagan House, built in 1837 and considered the oldest structure in the community. Older still is the Peoria Mineral Springs, which has been pouring out pure water for some 14,000 years.
Today, heavy manufacturing remains strong, but the character of Peoria industry is changing with increasing numbers of high tech firms establishing facilities in the city. As a result, employment is at record levels and the future looks bright.
Peorians love the fun of the great out doors. Nothing illustrates this more than the beautiful parks and exciting recreation programs of the Peoria Park District, which is beginning its second century of service to the community. The district recently won the highly coveted National Gold Medal Award, the highest and most prestigious honor attainable by a park and recreation agency. The district owns more than 8,300 acres of richly equipped parklands.
There's something fun for everyone in the programs of the Peoria Park District that cover the gamut from swimming to baseball and softball, from tennis to golf, from family camping to music and drama, from fitness classes to out-of-town tours, and from ice skating for beginners to activities designed for seniors.
Golfers are surely not left wanting. The district owns and operates five golf courses in l'eoria. Four of the five are 18-hole courses and one 18-hole course also features a 9-hole execu tive course and a lighted driving range. The area has four other public golf courses, plus six private country clubs.
Owens Ice Skating and Recreation Center, another park district facility, has two rinks. The hockey rink remains open year around while, in summer, the second rink becomes a 17,000-square-foot hall for exhibitions and other events.
W. H. Sommer Park is unique among the several parks maintained by the district. It's a "use-by-reservation" facility, making it ideal for group picnics by assuring privacy. The district will design a picnic to suit the group, and even cater it with an inexpensive buffet meal.
Annually, nearly 180,000 baseball fans flock to Pete Vonachen Stadium to see the Peoria Chiefs, a Class A minor league team, play rivals in the Midwest League. Fans of hockey enjoy the games of the city's own professional hockey team, the Peoria Rivermen. Bowling, too, is a popular Peoria pastime and the city is regularly on the Professional Bowlers Association tour schedule.
Peoria has numerous other opportunities for family recreation and fun. The city's YMCA and YWCA each offer a full program of sports and recreation for family members. The annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament draws the young and the old as participants and fans. Peoria Lake provides opportunities for all forms of water sports.
Truly, the Peoria area has something fun for everyone.
Peoria has and continues to influence the arts in America, via the careers of a host of nationally and internationally known performers who were born and raised in the city. Comedians Royce Elliott, Richard Pryor, television actress Susan Dey, NBC s Bob Jamieson are all Peoria natives. Even old time radios Fibber McGee and Molly and the men who created the Arnos and Andy characters were all born in Peoria.
The Peoria Civic Center, in the citys downtown business district, is a focal point of culture in the Peoria area. This splendid facility hosts Broadway shows, touring ice shows, bas ketball tournaments, a fishing tournament and boat show, and other popular events. More than a million people are drawn to the Civic Center's presentations annually.
Literally dozens of festivals and entertainment events take place in the Peoria area each year. One of the most popular is the East Peoria Festival of Lights, a nighttime display of dramatically lighted floats that attract some 600,000 viewers. Beginning with a parade on the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving, the floats are displayed for motor tours through Dec. 31. Other crowd-pleasing spectacles include the Fourth of July fireworks at the river, the Central Illinois auto show, the Heart of Illinois Fair, the Santa Claus Parade in downtown Peoria, Steamboat Days (complete with a competitive run and riverwalk), and the Taste of Peoria.
The Heart of Illinois Fair is approaching its 50th year. Held at Peoria's Exposition Gardens, the week-long fair has something doing every minute of the afternoon and evening. There is live entertainment, rides, exhibitions, even a petting zoo. The fair is a fun event for the whole family.
For those who enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment, the Peoria area's riverboat casino and its off-track betting facility are prime attractions. The Par-A-Dice Riverboat offers the full range of casino gambling, while its riverside pavilion features a lounge and two restaurants.
Music lovers relax and enjoy the concerts of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Peoria Area Civic Chorale, the Peoria Civic Opera, the Peoria Ballet Company, and those of the Central Illinois Youth Symphony and the Peoria Municipal Band. The Peoria Area Arts and Science Council promotes the visual arts in the area.
The Peoria Art Guild's gallery offers art classes and exhibitions throughout the year. A visit to the Peoria Area Arts and Science Council's Lakeview Museum never ceases to please. The largest museum in central Illinois, it offers collections of fine and decorative art and Illinois folk art, plus opportunities to explore science in the Childrens Discovery CenteL The museum's planetarium invites a visit to the stars.
Another intriguing museum is the African/American Hall of Fame/Museum which details black history and the accomplishments of African Americans. The Wheels O' Time Museum has a little something for everyone, with vintage cars, airplanes, tractors, musical instruments, toys, clocks, real steam engines, and toy trains.
The Peoria Public Library is another cultural focal point in the community. It has a circulation of more than 1,000,000 books and other materials.
Residents of the Peoria area say that no visit to their community is complete without seeing the Glen Oak Zoo, owned by the Peoria Park District. The zoo has more than 250 animals, many of which are endangered species and are kept at the zoo as part of the International Species Survival Programs.
The 90-acre Jubilee College State Historic Site also has great appeal to those who love history. Jubilee College was found ed in 1840 and survived only until 18G2. One of the original buildings still stands and has been restored.
Youthful, active, and community-minded, the people of the Peoria area participate in and support more than 100 service clubs and organizations.
Wildlife Prairie Park
Peorians also boast their wild side. Wildlife Prairie Park is one of the nation's premier wildlife parks. This unique 2,000 square acre zoological park is home to wolves, bison, waterfowl, black bear, elk, cougar, otter and other animals that called the Illinois prairie home during pioneer days. The park includes a Pioneer Farmstead complete with farm animals, a one-room schoolhouse, a log cabin, and a miniature train for riding. Overnight accommodations include renovated cabooses and a Cabin on the Hill.
Speedy access to quality health care when needed is an important ingredient in family peace of mind. The Peoria area satisfies this concern to the fullest extent in the three major hospitals in the city and two others in the area.
St. Francis Medical Center is the largest hospital in the Peoria area, with 583 beds, and the sixth largest Catholic hospital in the United States. In addition to the comprehensive services of the medical center, St. Francis is also the setting for the Childrens Hospital of Illinois, the busiest hospital for children in downstate Illinois.
St. Francis Medical Center has 600 physicians on staff and more than 3,500 employees. The hospital is a teaching affiliate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and other schools throughout the state. It houses a college of nursing, dietetic internships, physician residency programs, and schools of histotechnology, medical technology, radiological technology, and diagnostic medical sonography.
St. Francis' services include cardiology, nephrology/urology, oncology, pediatrics, perintology, and radiology. Its emergency service is a state designated Level 1 trauma center and operates a Life Flight helicopter. Its radiology department employs sophisticated diagnostic equipment, including CT scanner, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ultra sound, bone densitometer, and nuclear medicine.
Children's Hospital of Illinois at St. Francis Medical Center is a 148-bed facility devoted to caring for children's nceds, including neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care, pediatric intermediate care, two general pediatric floors, and a newborn nursery.
Methodist Medical Center is a 374-bed hospital offering comprehensive services and innovative technology. The medical center provided the area's first radiation therapy program and the state's first mobile mammography unit. It operates central Illinois' only accredited sleep disorders center and the area's largest acute adolescent psychiatric unit.
Methodist Medical Center offers a family-centered birth unit called The Wonder Center. In addition, it provides wellness classes, a weight loss program called "Middle Management," stop smoking program, stress management classes, and health screenings.
Proctor Hospital has 289 beds, making it the city's third largest medical center. It has 450 physicians on staff, representing more than 35 medical specialties. The hospital offers 24-hour emergency service staffed by experienced emergency physicians and trauma nurse specialists. A dedicated area of emergency services is the Emergency Chest Pain Center, designed the treat patients experience early warnings of a heart attack.
State-of-the-art diagnostic equipment is used to determine the severity of the symptoms and if admission to coronary intensive care is required.
Proctor Hospital s other services include conventional and laser surgery. the Haag Heart Center for diagnostic and treatment of cardiac patients, a fully-equipped radiologv department, a sleep disorders lab, The Family Maternity Center, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. In addition, the hospital offers treatment for chemical dependency and gambling addiction.
Other medical facilities in the area are the George A. Zeller Mental Health Center in Peoria, the Pekin Hospital, Pekin, and Eureka Community Hospital, Eureka. In addition, the area has a variety of clinics and hundreds of physicians and dentists have offices serving area residents.
Utilizing both St. Francis and Methodist, the St. Jude Midwest Affiliate has treated more than 400 patients, most of whom have survived their battle with childhood catastrophic disease. Founded by Peoria Mayor Jim Maloof in 1972, the Affiliate offers an oasis of treatment for families who would otherwise struggle to make long weekly treks to the St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. St. Jude has become one of Peorias favorite charities, and several area fund raising efforts have become synonymous with the Affiliate, including the St Jude Telethon, the Memphis-Peoria Run, the Teen March, and Golf and Tennis Classics.
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