EDITORIAL July 28, 2015
By Shae Birkey, Co-Chair of the Greater Peoria EDC Water Resources Team and Trianna Stark, Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Seems to me that the Peoria area sits at a precipice in time. If we use our water resources sustainably and responsibly, it can act as not only a benefit but also as a catalyst to grow our local economy by way of new business, new recreation, and new citizens. So, what specifically might I be talking about? For example, a linked system of green spaces, be they parks or canoe and boat docks leading to riverfront restaurants and businesses could be established. I’m not talking about no development here—I’m talking about development that INCORPORATES the River into the design and promotes its use. I’m talking about starting new industries that can help restore our river and provide new economic opportunity. For far too long we’ve failed to use the River for what it could be—a source of strength for our quality of life and economy. It’s what sets us apart from so many other places in the world. Why not connect with it?
In its first year, the Flying Fish Festival and Bowfishing Tournament had 34 registered teams and served over 280 pounds of carp to the public at the festival. It is no surprise that organizers look forward to its second year and continued success.
2015 festivities will be held August 22nd at Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria, IL. The bowfishing tournament will begin at 5am, with final public weigh-in and awards ceremony at 2pm. Team registration is now open with a tournament fee of $120 per team up to 4. The tournament will be run in a “Big 20 Format”, which means that teams with the twenty heaviest fish win. The top 5 teams could win $7,500 in cash prizes. Tournament directors thank the following organizations for their generosity for sponsoring the cash prizes: Goldberg Weisman Cairo (GWC Law Firm), Unity Point Methodist, Sierra Club of Illinois, and Labor Council of West Central Illinois.
But you don’t have to fish to have fun! The festival portion of the event, running from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., has a lineup that both kids and adults alike won’t want to miss. Some festivities include Illinois Department of Natural Resources displays and activities, animals from Wildlife Prairie Park, Peoria Park District’s Gus and Goldie Mascots, electronic games, raffles and much more. Once again, attendees will have the choice to sample the carp, cooked in a number of ways.
One of the most important factors of this event is bringing exposure to the Asian Carp population through harvesting opportunities in the Illinois River and other waterways. Thus, to further spread awareness and market-based solutions for Asian Carp in the area, local leaders will also be hosting a conference centered on supply, demand and market based solutions of Asian Carp August 21 on Peoria’s Riverfront.
“We have had in depth meetings with over 35 prospects over the last couple of years. Our regional team realized the value in bringing together all components of the process,” said Leigh Ann Brown, Economic Development/Tourism Coordinator for the City of Pekin and 2015 Chairperson of the Asian Carp Task Team and Festival Committee. “Expected attendees include commercial fisherman, processors, scientists, business prospects, food distributors, Departments of Natural Resources throughout the Midwest, Great Lakes program specialists, community, regional and state leaders, investors and water quality and recreational representatives. The focus of the conference will be on the Illinois River Ecosystem and the supply, demand and innovation on harvesting Asian Carp to build the network to support sustainable market solutions in reducing the population through producing products.”
According to Brown, this fish creates a number economic opportunities that many people do not know about. “Asian Carp is a great aspect of Economic Development. It impacts several industries and the recreation of our Illinois River. I look forward to enhancing the business climate for Asian Carp as a resource that can be harvested for valuable products. (This fish) will grow our commercial fishing industry, generate jobs and enhance connections to the Illinois River with positive perceptions.”
Visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peoria-Flying-Fish/403370746473075 or https://www.greaterpeoriaedc.org/asian-carp for more information on the event and Asian Carp efforts in Peoria.
Please note: The International Asian Carp Conference was originally set for July 10th, and the Flying Fish Festival and Bowfishing Tournament was set for July 11. However, due to high waters on the Illinois River, the conference was postponed to August 21, and the festival/tournament to August 22nd.
The International Asian Carp Conference and Flying Fish Festival would not be possible without the hard work of the following committee members:
Clint Carter, Carter’s Fish Market, Springfield, IL
Dave Buchanan, Commercial Fishermen
Doug McCarty, Director of Eastside Centre and Tourism
Jim Goff, Bass Pro Shops
Kevin Irons, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Leigh Ann Brown, City of Pekin
Mike Everett, Former West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council Rep.
Phil Caplis, Greater Peoria Entrepreneur/TWO25 owner
Rick Swan, City of East Peoria/East Peoria Chamber of Commerce
Shae Birkey, Greater Peoria EDC Water Resources Team
Sharon Williams, The Labor Paper, Peoria County Board
Tony Rolando, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Trianna Stark, Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Ty Livingston, City of East Peoria