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Illinois Economy

Big Ideas In The Small Town Of Casey


The eastern Illinois community of Casey has followed the lead of roadside novelties promising tourists a chance to see the world's largest (fill in the blank).

Items like a pitchfork, golf tee, mailbox and rocking chair are some of the more than 6 attractions in the town that hold the distinction, while 2 others have since been surpassed.  Another 10 might not be record  holders, but are plenty large in their own right. 

And Casey leaders aren't resting on their laurels.  6 new attractions, including a barber pole, teeter-totter and golf club are among those being measured and could give residents more to brag about.  A ceremony is planned for September 28 when certification will be final.

Deb Bohannon helps market tourism in Casey.  She said the Big Things In A Small Town initiative has rejuvenated the community of around 3,000 residents with just one stop light and one four way stop on the main thoroughfare.   

"We have seen in excess of 1500 people in a given weekend," Bohannon said.  Tourist traffic is solid during warmer weather and when special events are scheduled. 

Located off Interstate 70, between Effingham and Terre Haute, Indiana, the town of Casey was like many others its size.  Just a few years ago, it was dying.  Businessman Jim Bolin and his family wanted to open a tea shop.  However, there just weren't enough visitors stopping off the highway. 

In 2012, he came up with a plan to get them to do just that.   He built the world's largest wind chimes, recalling the days he spent listening to his grandmother's on her porch.  Being in the pipeline construction business, he had parts on hand.  

Bohannon said the town took the idea of oversized attractions and ran with it.  The unique items have brought national attention to what might otherwise be another overlooked spot on the map. 

But she has advice for other communities looking for similar success.

"If you can get the community leaders together and say OK this is where we are at today and this is where we want to be tomorrow. Now how do we get there?"

Bohannon said residents travel to other towns and see what's working there, then bring those ideas back to Casey.  "We're taking the best ideas from other places and trying to make them our own."

"It didn't happen overnight," she said. "It took one initiative and one person to start it.  It took the whole community to back it."

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