GENESEO — Even though a majority of events have been canceled this summer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a popular part of the annual Trains, Planes & Automobiles celebration in Geneseo will still take place.
According the Zack Sullivan, executive director of the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has approved the Chamber’s “Cruise the Canal” events, for three dates — Saturday, Aug. 8; Friday, Sept. 11; and Friday, Oct 16 (fall foliage tour).
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for the Chamber to responsibly host the TPA event,” Sullivan said. “The Maple City Cruisers, Geneseo Model Railroaders, and representatives from Gen-Air Park decided to cancel their aspects of the event, which is wise given the fluid nature of the pandemic.”
“Cruise the Canal” tours are offered three times on each of the three dates, Aug. 8, Sept. 11 and Oct. 16 – fall foliage tour, with tour times at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Cost is $20 per person.
“We also work with assisted living facilities to provide rides for seniors with no cost for the caregiver to drive,” Sullivan said.
The popular golf cart tours are led by Bob Thompson of the Geneseo Campground.
Sullivan said, “Thompson delights guests on the tours by telling the story of the canal — including the construction, history and ecosystem of the canal.”
“The Hennepin Canal State Parkway has never been more popular than it has been in 2020 with the pandemic limiting travel and people looking for something to do closer to home,” he added. “Our 2019 tours were very popular and we are happy to expand our tour offerings in 2020 to accommodate more tourists.”
He explained that a major component of obtaining approval for the events from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources amid the COVID-19 pandemic was detailing how many people are on each tour and that the event maintains a safe environment for guests.
A total of two people will be allowed in each golf cart — the driver and one guest.
Sullivan said, “The carts will be cleaned and sanitized between tours, no food will be offered, so eat your breakfast or lunch before you arrive, and how each tour can have a maximum of 34 people including volunteers — well below the 50-person threshold outlined in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan. Guests will be encouraged to wear face masks.”
Cart sponsorships also are available for the “Cruise the Canal” events, and Sullivan said the sponsorships not only “are a great way to get your message and brand in front of visitors of Geneseo, as well as residents looking for something to do in their own backyard. A cart sponsorship also helps the Chamber continue to provide high quality event programming like ‘Cruise the Canal’ events going in our community.”
Cart sponsorships are available at $55 for one tour; $95 for two tours; and $135 for all three tour dates.
For more information and to make a reservation for “Cruise the Canal,” call the Chamber at 309-944-2686; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sullivan noted that if Gov. J.B. Pritzker changes the current status of Reopening Illinois, there is a possibility the tours would be cancelled.
“We hope that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The Canal tours are the largest revenue generator of the three day celebration which would have been Sept. 10-12.”
The tours generally generate substantial income for the Chamber as a part of Trains, Planes and Automobile event, which includes tours, food vendors and sponsors. Sullivan explained, “That makes up about 3% of our annual budget. The tours are usually held on one day of the three-day event, but this year we expanded the tours to three dates and we hope to generate even more than we did from last year’s entire event.”
“We have a big need as there has not been any assistance available for 501(c)6 organizations, and Chamber groups are not eligible for assistance from government programs, despite the fact that we work to carry the message of assistance programs to our member businesses and we are happy to do that, but we are in a position where we need assistance as well.”
The revenue from the event is used for the annual Christmas Walk, for the next year's event and other community events, Sullivan said.
“The revenue is added to our general fund. Half of the Chamber’s annual budget is dependent on income through our community events.”
He said the annual Geneseo Trains, Planes & Automobiles event is one of the largest and greatest car shows in Illinois, with the 2019 event attracting 360 automobiles and over 4,000 people to downtown Geneseo.
The TPA is scheduled to take place Sept. 9-11, 2021.
The Geneseo Annual 50/50 drawing also was scheduled to take place during the car show. “Because the raffle has been slowed by the pandemic, the committee decided to push back the drawing to the 2021 festival to allow the pot to continue to grow," Sullivan said. "We’ll be drawing for big money next year at the 2021 TPA event. All proceeds from the raffle will benefit community events like the TPA and the Christmas Walk.”
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