On April 9th and 10th, April Burgett, President and Kim Anderson, Secretary of the Havana Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a group of graduate level students who made the trip to Havana from Chicago and enjoyed two days of tours, learning and making connections in Havana.
Reed Williams, Ishan Maunder, and Michael Lachenmeyer, University of Chicago graduate-level students, in public history practicum were working on a specific project that included gathering information, doing research, conducting interviews and visiting locations in an effort to produce an audio profile of Havana as one of the rural communities in America that will host Spark! Places of Innovation. The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street will spend five weeks in Havana next January and February at the Havana City Center. The theme of the proposed project included science, health, and environment.
The Havana Chamber threw its hat in the ring amongst many other communities that will also host Spark! in this competitive opportunity to work with the students with Havana as the focus of their graduate audio profile project.
"We submitted our application to be selected early last December, and learned in February we had been chosen, and then we began planning for the students to visit. We set up some interviews and tours, and gave them the full downtown walking tour pointing out areas of restoration and revitalization and explaining the story of where we came from and where we are now" said April Burgett, Chamber President. Burgett continued "The premise of our application was based on the highly innovative and ground breaking science that is conducted here in Havana at our two University of Illinois biological field stations, the Illinois River Biological Station and the Forbes Biological Station. It is truly amazing and very significant that our small rural community has not only one, but two highly functioning research stations, and the work they do is not only important for long term data sets but also new ground breaking technology and research in many areas."
The group arrived on Easter Sunday and enjoyed beautiful weather for the downtown portion of their visit and walking tour. On Monday, they toured the Illinois River Biological Station, traveled north up the Illinois River to the Emiquon water control structure by boat and learned about cutting edge Whooshh steeppass fish ladder that will be deployed this year to test innovative new technology used for invasive species management. The group also had an opportunity to learn about other sampling and research being conducted at IRBS and were able to try their hand at electrofishing and hands on fish identification.
Next, the group traveled to the Forbes Biological Station, Frank C. Bellrose Waterfowl Research Center for a tour and were able to interview waterfowl biologist, Andy Gilbert, and get a tour of the Forbes Station. The group recorded the tours for use in the development of the audio profile / podcast project that will pair as marketing materials for the upcoming Spark! Places of Innovation exhibition.
The Farmers Market Has Rebranded and Relocated to Downtown Havana.
A planning committee has been meeting regularly to rebrand and revamp the Havana Farmers Market into the new Havana Street Market. The name is the brainchild of longtime market vendor Cammy Smith and uniquely fits the new location in the lot at 308 W. Main Street in downtown Havana. “I came up with the name after attending street markets in Florida and in the Chicago area. I wanted something new to attract more vendors. When I was approached about getting a committee together to put the idea into action it felt like the ideal time to move forward,” Smith explained.
The use of the lot is being gifted in-kind by property owner Jennifer Larson. Larson, who owns Blue Butterfly Consignment Shop, and 311 1/2 Lodging on Main sees the value of hosting the market in her space. “In addition to bringing fresh local produce and other market items directly to our residents, it will become another destination for visitors. Another reason to check out Havana and all the businesses in our revitalized downtown. It’s a win win and I’m happy to support the Market,” Larson shared.
Committee Chair Kim Anderson believes rebranding and relocating are keys to a successful robust long-term market. "We have been really intentional about how we approach this new concept. From our logo to our social media presence and our operating guidelines, everything has been looked at from a long term perspective. We plan to apply for grants to help with infrastructure, marketing and outreach and having policies and procedures in place is essential when applying for funding,” she explained. “We know it will take time to grow and feel like we are planting the seeds for a really vibrant space downtown that will benefit locals and visitors alike.”
The market is a producer only market meaning each vendor will sell items they themselves have grown, raised, baked or created locally or regionally. “I think that’s a really important aspect because it will increase the availability of fresh items and foster a deeper connection to our food and those who grow it. We’re so used to going to the grocery store and getting most any fruit or vegetable whenever we want it and the reality is fruits and vegetables have unique planting times and maturity rates for our region which determine when they are available here in central Illinois. For example tomatoes take 60 - 100 days to harvest and are typically ready in July in our area. And the taste of a locally grown tomato is beyond compare to something that has been shipped a thousand miles to a grocery store,” Anderson explains.
In addition to vendors, the market hopes to partner with organizations like University of Illinois Extension office to provide information on growing food and native plants, nutrition and food preparation methods.
The Market will be open every Saturday from 8am - 12pm and First Fridays from 5pm - 8pm from May 5th - October 7th, 2023 at 308 W. Main Street in downtown Havana.
Vendor applications are open for local and regional growers, producers and makers of items such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, meat, cheese, plants, flowers, baked goods, and original works of art. For more information or to apply please email: email@example.com
Article By: Kim Anderson
Havana Street Market
SURPRISE! Company is Coming!
Illinois Arts Council Agency staff recently left their Chicago base to embark on a five-day, event-filled road trip. Billed as the “Local Arts Agency (LAA) Listening Tour,” the cadre of arts professionals visited arts groups from northern IL to as far south as Carbondale, with many stops in between. One of those stops was in Havana, Illinois on Monday afternoon, February 27th.
June Russell of Lewistown, Two Rivers Arts Council (TRAC) President, received notification that the IACA team wanted to hear from cultural leaders, artists, business leaders and local officials about art in their communities. IACA Executive Director Joshua Davis-Ruperto envisioned an open dialogue and an opportunity to experience each community. Board Chair Nora Daley, new to statewide leadership, wanted to get to know individual communities. The Illinois Arts Council Agency is entering a new age, and a goal by staff was to understand the needs of arts communities throughout the state.
“I immediately thought of Havana. I knew the IACA group would enjoy a visit to a small, picturesque river town that is truly experiencing an arts renaissance! Havana is unique because a lot of its economic growth is fueled by the arts,” Russell explained. Two Rivers Arts Council, in its 51st year, serves a 13-county region of more than 6,600 square miles that includes Mason County. TRAC’s volunteer board brings the IACA’s Community Arts Access Program to very rural areas and does not maintain a gallery or meeting location.
One phone call later to Havana Chamber of Commerce President April Burgett, and TRAC Board member and President of the Mason County Arts Council Rick Noble, turned the vision into reality. The Cove Gallery and Stella Mae’s Coffee Shop welcomed approximately 20 local musicians, songwriters, theater professionals, visual artists, students, educators, business owners, and arts advocates from Havana and beyond. April Burgett, Chamber President and local Havana business owner, and Steve Larimer of TRAC offered welcoming messages, along with Havana's Economic Development Coordinator Brenda Davenport-Fornoff. Steve spoke of the 51 year history of Two Rivers Arts Council and how their mission helped promote art in rural communities, and Brenda noted how Havana leadership is very supportive of the arts. April stated in her message, “Havana has long been known as a creative hub, a place filled with very talented and creative people and artists, and it's just recently that we have been able to collaborate to really showcase that. Havana is experiencing an arts renaissance and we are still moving in an upward trajectory!”
More than an hour was spent talking about the wide variety of art projects that occur in Mason, Fulton and McDonough counties and beyond, with discussion of both obstacles and successes. The IACA team heard first-hand about how the Community Arts Access program has helped launch or support projects such as the Riverfront Concert Series, First Fridays, youth programs at Macomb Arts Center and Canton’s Art on Main Festival. In turn, participants listened to encouragement by Board Chair Nora Daley, Executive Director Joshua Davis-Ruperto, Deputy Director Encarnacion Teruel, and Program Director Teresa Davis to apply for more grant funding, offering their personal assistance.
The event included a walking tour through downtown Havana, to visit arts-based businesses, murals, Lawford Theater, The Paintbox Studio and downtown revitalization projects. A music-filled networking reception at LuLu’s Craft Beverage Co. allowed more exchanges of ideas before the IACA hit the road for their next stop.
April Burgett explained, "We are just on the cusp of the cultural and creative explosion happening in Havana! The City has recently launched an amazing mural program, we have some really innovative new things planned to elevate First Fridays this year, and the talent coming in for the Riverfront Concerts and the Havana Songwriter Festival, thanks to Ed and Kim Anderson, is second to none! I would encourage everyone, especially local residents to get out this year and enjoy what our beautiful town has to offer and see it with new eyes! You will be amazed!"
Chicago, April 27, 2022 – Illinois Humanities is excited to announce that the Havana Area Chamber of Commerce is one of seven small community cultural organizations in Illinois selected to host Spark! Places of Innovation, a new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. Spark! will be at the Havana City Center from January 13, 2024 to February 17, 2024, and will feature a schedule of hours that visitors may explore the exhibit.
Spark! will highlight innovation in rural America from the perspectives of people who have lived it. Spark! features stories from communities throughout the United States – including several small towns in Illinois – that have enhanced their vitality through advances in fields such as the arts, education, technology, agriculture, and economic development.
The 2023-24 tour is part of Illinois Humanities’ Museum on Main Street, a program conducted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution specifically to support cultural organizations in small communities. Each host organization produces a companion exhibit with a unique programming that connects local history and culture to the exhibit themes.
The Havana Area Chamber of Commerce will work together in partnership with the City of Havana, utilizing their Havana City Center, Havana Public Library, the Mason County Historical and Genealogical Society, Havana Community Unit 126 School District, Spoon River College and other local organizations and volunteers to create the Havana Exhibit to be displayed alongside the Smithsonian Exhibition. During the five-week timeframe that Havana will host the exhibit, there will be regular hours for viewing the exhibitions and field trips and group trips are also encouraged. Havana Chamber President April Burgett said “It was my great pleasure to throw this idea out to our community and upon receiving feedback that folks were interested in volunteering and serving on a committee to pull it off if we were selected as a host city, the Chamber Board decided to go for it. This is a very competitive process with two rounds of applications and a vetting process. We are overjoyed that we were selected as a host city!”
Representatives from the Havana Area Chamber of Commerce will attend a kick off workshop in July and then will work with representatives from the Illinois Humanities and the Smithsonian to develop the companion Havana Exhibition over a one year time period that will be displayed in tandem with the Spark! Places of Innovation exhibition. Burgett also noted: “We have been very creative and innovative in our approach to re-invigorating and revitalizing our small town and its pretty fabulous that we will get to showcase that. We also have a rich and unique history here in Havana and a great story to tell. The full Havana exhibition will take shape during the next year and a half and it will be an exciting process! It will garner a lot of media attention and draw in large numbers of visitors and will be a great honor to feature a Smithsonian Exhibit in Havana, Illinois!”
Five of the organizations that will host Spark! Places of Innovation are based in communities that will be featured in the exhibition: Equality, Hillsboro, Rushville, Marshall and Chatsworth, which will be collaborating with organizations in nearby Fairbury, another featured community.
“We received an outstanding pool of applications, and the communities chosen to host Spark! should be very proud. We’re excited to amplify the work of our partners, and we are eager to see how they bring this exhibit to life through their own communities’ stories of innovation,” said Illinois Humanities Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon.
If you have driven through Havana recently and noticed dumpsters, contractor trucks and trailers or thought to yourself, "There's a lot going on here, Havana is doing things" then you would be right! It is all happening because of the passion and hard work of our Mayor, City Council, staff and officials and a partnership with local businesses and entrepreneurs! Things are changing and we sit squarely in the midst of a full on reinvention.
Creative minds have been at work for the last four years planning, budgeting and implementing a "re-launch" for our little river town, and although these things take time, Havana has been on the fast track to improvement. We are no different from many small communities across the county that have suffered from population loss, business closures and a has-been downtown business district that has all but closed due to struggles with aging buildings, big box stores, online shopping and roads and businesses moving to the outskirts of town.
Fortunately for Havana, Illinois, we have a growing group of businesses, individuals, artists, entrepreneurs, city government and many more folks who are passionately committed to making a huge change here. A change that involves not building new to overshadow the old, but a change that embraces the beauty, history and legacy that we have, dusts it off, shines it up, and presents it to the world in the glowing vision that we already see in our minds eye.
We have something that many suffering small communities do not, we have a huge amount of pride, passion and work ethic that is allowing us all to move forward at a rapid pace to reveal the vision we have for all the world to see. We are also fortunate to have some very special things that many small communities do not including our historic downtown with so much unique architecture, a beautiful Main Street that leads directly to the Illinois River and our gorgeous Riverfront Park with it's walking paths, boat ramps and the Havana Nature Center, a marina that is fun to visit whether you are a boater or not, and the vast array of natural resources and outdoor recreation right outside our back door!
To see the vision, you must understand that today's environment has shifted. Folks no longer want to travel 60 miles one way to visit a Super Wal-mart and a Costco, we want to stroll leisurely down historic brick streets and sidewalks, take in the atmosphere, wave and smile at others we pass on the street, shop and talk to our merchants about why they are doing what they are doing and what they love most about their business and community. We want to experience it all, and on our own terms. We want to take in all of the sights and sounds and truly enjoy discovering a place, our place... Havana. There is a new found value in re-circulating our hard earned dollars into our own community, and not simply ordering our goods online where all of our sales tax is returned to Chicago, Illinois. We want to reinvest in the community and the hard working people that we know and love.
It is vitally important that we share this news and the joy of what is happening now and what is yet to come for our little gem. Many times as human beings, it is easy for us to jump on a negative thread, especially when it comes to our government and our State, however, I would challenge you to spread the good. If you see something positive from a local business or community organization, share that on your social media, give them a kind comment and help them grow. Like their business pages, shop in their stores, utilize their services, write a glowing review and recommend them, and let the world know that something is going on here. We are changing, and we want everyone to see how amazing we are now, and that we just keep getting better here in Havana.
As quickly as our small town revolution is moving, it's probably best to keep your eyes peeled, because big things will be happening again in 2019, and we plan to spread the word and share the excitement with all!