Published on Thursday, May 25, 2017

Size doesn't matter

Graham McKenzie discovers that 'locally-made' can mean big or small as he continues his tour of Illinois.

Drive from Alton in the south to Galena in the North and you will hit some of the Illinois hot spots as far as local, distinctive and unique are concerned. Some big but mostly small businesses add a distinction to the region that is difficult not to like and admire.

In Peoria, you can go from the small, artistic glass production at J Draper, to the global enormity of Caterpillar. The company produces some enormous pieces of kit that help in the construction and mining industries but are almost as well known today for their distinctive CAT boots. Machines that have 40 x 4 ft. tyres and 4000 BHP engines are not uncommon and the factory/museum visit brings out all the technology needed to manufacture and drive these beasts. Less than a hundred miles away in Moline, Illinois resides another global truck/machinery company John Deere.

After the trucks, you can get a true taste of Americana culture, including hot dogs, beer and a seventh innings stretch, by taking in a minor-league baseball game at Peoria Chiefs in a stadium so fabulous it's a wonder Kevin Costner didn't build it.

From here the area abounds with businesses such as Edelshams pottery in Elizabeth and, a little further north, Blaum Brothers Distillery, both of which are part of the state tourist boards Illinois Made programme that highlights entrepreneurs who go that extra step. At Blaum you can witness how high quality bourbon is produced, then taste it and, if you like it, buy it.

The distillery is just outside the jewel in the crown of hometown Illinois - Galena. The main street is an exact image of what anybody would think an American town should look and indeed sound like. Community chit chat is only disturbed by the distinctive sound of a passing freight train and the Casey Jones train horn that serves as an audible warning for all those that come near. Such is the peace and tranquillity of Galena it also serves to remind you that there is a world away from the restaurants, hostelries and antiquity shops that border the main drag.

Galena also has a new star in tourism in the form of the former Jail House, which has been converted into a truly unique and luxurious bed and breakfast. Each room has been designed individually with a theme that retains an acknowledgement of the past and retention of original features where possible. Highly recommended, truly local and Illinois Made.

For more on Enjoy Illinois programme Illinois Made

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