In October, Governor Quinn recognized 28 outstanding volunteer groups from throughout Illinois with Governor’s Home Town Awards (GHTA). The GHTA recognizes volunteers for their work to improve their communities.
The 28 projects recognized represent the work of more than 4,300 volunteers who devoted nearly 78,000 hours of their time, which equates to more than $1.7 million in value. Nearly $1.3 million in private funds and materials were raised for these projects.
One of the winners was the Touchstone Energy Balloon Fest City of Shelbyville. A slow economy often has a trickle-down effect. In Shelbyville, it led to the closure of a tourism resort which also left a modest Balloon Event without a location. If the event could be revitalized and moved to a more visible location it could in turn increase traffic and encourage economic impact.
A committee was formed from five different community outreach organizations with a goal of creating a sustainable event that would impact the community and the lake economically.
Volunteers began work in earnest, securing donations, contacting pilots and scheduling activities. By May, the group had secured the sponsorship of Shelby Electric Cooperative, which partnered with nine other co-ops to underwrite the general event and bring in the Touchstone Energy balloon. Additional balloon sponsors were found to cover the expenses of the individual pilots and balloons.
All the work was worth it. Increased retail sales at local businesses resulted in one of their best Octobers in years. Visitation to campgrounds and other accommodations were up, too.