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Local Legends, others honored at annual Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Summit

Three entities were introduced as “Local Legends,” and eight other area attractions, events and businesses were honored by the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau during its annual Tourism Summit held Thursday, Jan. 16 at SIUE.

From the new Grafton SkyTour at Aerie’s Resort to Willoughby Farm in Collinsville, to Worden’s redneck “Wordi Gras” event, the bureau highlighted trendsetters in tourism.

“We celebrate the champions and top achievers in tourism for 2019,” Brett Stawar, president and CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau said. “This is our chance to show the people, organizations and businesses that we recognize how hard they work throughout the year.”

The Local Legends were the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, the Brooks Catsup Bottle water tower in Collinsville and the Ariston Cafe in Edwardsville.


Local leaders were recognized Thursday for entities they work with that were officially listed as “Local Legends” by the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau. Top photo, Will Law is flanked by Brett Stawar, president, and John Hopkins, chairman, of the bureau. Law operates the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, the oldest restaurant located on Historic Route 66. Bottom right is a trio recognized for their involvement in the Wildey Theatre, a vaudeville era theater restored and reopened as a public events venue in Edwardsville. From left are Al Canal, the manager, Rich Walker, with the Friends of the Wildey, and Scott Evers (accepting on behalf of Wildey historian Joan Evers). Bottom left are Mike Gasmann and Judy DeMoisy, honored for their work advocating and successfully preserving the Brooks Catsup Bottle, deemed the World’s Largest, in Collinsville.

Recognized for 2019 were:

Best Attraction: TreeHouse Wildlife Center, Dow, (Adele Moore and Kelly Vandersand)

Best Group Tour Experience: Willoughby Farm, Collinsville, (Carol Freker with Brett Stawar)

Tourism Enhancement Award: Eastgate Center, East Alton (Todd and Julie Kennedy and East Alton Mayor Joe Silkwood)

Tourism Trendsetter: Grafton SkyTour, Grafton (JD Lorton)

Sports Marvel: Alton Catfish Classic (Jason Jackson and Todd Adamitis)

Best Community Involvement: Brighton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration (John Bramley and Christy Jones)

Best Festival: Edwardsville Art Fair (Melissa McDonough-Borden)

Extraordinary Excellence: Wordi Gras (Worden City Clerk Ann Loemker and Walker Gusewelle)


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