For being a relatively small town, Jacksonville is becoming kind of a big deal.
On the heels of winning national competitions for such things as a summer music series and a dog park, the new year is bringing attention, too.
A lot of the credit is pinned to social media boosterism as a way to bring statewide and even national attention to the city.
One of the latest is a competition pitting dozens of communities as having the best shopping on Main Street. Dozens of towns have been nominated, including Jacksonville, for the chance to be featured on the program “Small Town Big Deal.” The show has been on RFD-TV since 2012 and is being syndicated on ABC.
Its hosts, Rodney Miller and Jann Carl, share stories about what makes communities unique and are planning an episode on the best small-town shopping in America.
People can vote for Jacksonville online at wshe.es/y3tStiNH.
Some of the honors have been the result of polling. Others are unsolicited, such as the naming of Buena Vista Farms as one of onlyinyourstate.com’s top unique spots to get married in Illinois.
“We are honored and pleasantly surprised that we made this wedding location list,” said Teri Gutierrez, weddingplanner and owner of Buena Vista Farms, which is about 3 miles northwest of Jacksonville. “I give all the credit to the couples we’ve served and our staff.”
Buena Vista Farms, established in 2006, hosts a variety of events besides weddings, including anniversary, retirement and birthday parties, and also offers camping sites and furnished cabins.
But it’s the weddings that are building Buena Vista Farms’ reputation.
“I think a sophisticated bride understands the savings in budget and, more importantly, stress to utilize all the services we provide,” Gutierrez said.
Buena Vista Farms’ vacation wedding weekend packages include lodging, a rehearsal dinner, camp fire, elaborate decorations and a Sunday brunch, among with other amenities.
“We work very hard so that the bridal party and family can simply come and enjoy their guests for a weekend of memories,” Gutierrez said.
Buena Vista Farms began hosting weddings in 2007 and since then has been the setting for about 150, most of which have been for couples from outside of Morgan County.
“My husband, Nestor, is a visionary and thinks outside the box,” Gutierrez said. “It was his knowledge of farmland that led to the development of the two lakes, the campgrounds and the setting at Buena Vista Farms, which is unique.”
The original goal was to host business and team-building meetings, not weddings.
“But the scenery is so beautiful and rustic, outdoor weddings are very popular these days,” Gutierrez said. “The weddings we’ve hosted have given us a good reputation. Couples have written positive reviews of the Buena Vista Farms staff on social media, and I believe that’s why we made this top 10 wedding location list in Illinois.”
Brittany Henry, executive director of the Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said communities always appreciate being the talk of other towns.
“All this brings money into the Jacksonville community and makes us a more thriving locale,” she said. “By having attracted such events and venues, the quality of life in Jacksonville is improved and they bring tourists to the Jacksonville area who will visit our local shops, stay in our hotels and dine in our restaurants.”
Jacksonville is compiling a growing list of competition victories and recognition for some of its unique businesses.
In 2011, the city was named one of 100 U.S. cities to win cash in Reader’s Digest “We Hear You, America” contest; in July, the city won the $100,000 prize in the PetSafe Bark for Your Park contest; in November, Soap Co. Coffee House was listed in “These 10 Coffee Shops in Illinois are Perfect to Wake You Up” by onlyinyourstate.com; and in September, Lonzerotti’s Italia Restaurant was named one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in Illinois by the site.
Jacksonville has also been named one of the top 50 small towns in America under 20,000 population by discountmyflights.com; Blessings on State Bed and Breakfast has been recognized several times by the travel industry; and the city just this month won $25,000 from Levitt AMP for a summer outdoor concert series.
Greg Olson can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1224, or on Twitter @JCNews_Greg.