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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Asian carp will be star of Flying Fish Festival

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  • PEORIA — The Illinois River will be the scene for another summer event that celebrates an invasive species.
    The first annual Flying Fish Festival will be July 11-12.
    “There will be events on both sides of the river — in Peoria and East Peoria,” said Mike Everett at the Focus Forward Central Illinois board meeting Tuesday at the Caterpillar Visitors Center in Downtown Peoria.
    “We want this to be something that happens every year,” said Everett, referring to an event that will feature bow hunting of Asian carp as well as special carp recipes prepared by eight to 10 invited chefs. Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria will be heavily involved in the promotion, he said.
    Frank Knott, a consultant with ViTAL Economy, the Baltimore-based group that’s worked with FFCI since its formation in 2012, said the festival is a good example of what the economic development group wants to promote: using a local asset both to boost tourism and to be marketed as a food product.
    Knott credited John Hamann, Peoria County’s rural economic development director, for his work in trying to find a market solution to the river’s Asian carp problem.
    In other business, the first meeting of the year for the FFCI board included the approval of a new home — the same building that used to house the now-defunct Heartland Partnership that FFCI replaced, 100 Water St.
    Cal MacKay, president and CEO of the Greater Peoria Business Alliance, reported the newly reformed Economic Development Commission had agreed on renting three cubicles and an office at the Water Street facility that presently houses the Greater Peoria Chamber of Commerce and CEO Roundtable.
    The old EDC rented space in the building for $9,050 a month, while the new arrangement costs $7,796 a month, said MacKay, stressing that space was readily available. “Having shrunk to almost nothing, we have plenty of room there.”
    FFCI would have access to the EDC space at no extra charge, said MacKay.
    Board member Debbie Simon, CEO at UnityPoint Health-Methodist, raised the concern that the move might send the wrong message.
    “Heartland Partnership had all those pieces. It might look like the past is coming back instead of moving forward,” she said.
    Mason County Administrator Bill Blessman was elected EDC board chairman at a separate meeting on Tuesday while Michael Stephan, president of Heart of Illinois United Way, was elected vice chairman.
    Jim Baumgartner, who chaired the FFCI steering committee and will retire from his position as director of corporate public affairs at Caterpillar Inc. this spring, thanked members by phone for their efforts in rebuilding the area’s economic development program.
    Applauding the selection of Diana Hall as FFCI board chair, he said the group “is really on the right path.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The next FFCI board meeting is set for Feb. 11.
    Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter.      
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