On Sunday, May 20th, from noon until 5:00 p.m., the public will be touring the beautiful properties and homes that have been chosen for this year’s 29th annual Grand Tour. The architectural offerings for the Grand Tour 2012 are: 1419 W. Moss Avenue, 1635 W. Moss Avenue, 1114 N. University Street, Courtyard Estates on 117 N. Western Avenue, The Cornerstone Building on 321 NE Madison Avenue, and lastly, the Amvets Post 64 on 237 NE Monroe Street.
The Grand Tour of Peoria’s mission is to educate people on the architectural features of homes of the Peoria area in the West Bluff has a fantastic following each year. Their greatest achievement is contributing money back into the Peoria community to help areas such as West Peoria, Moss Bradley, and others. The money helps improve these communities and maintains them through efforts as a cyclical achievement towards Peoria revitalization. Without projects like The Grand Tour, people would not be able view the quality of older architecture practices and share them for generations to come.
The ticket prices are reasonable for people of all walks of life to come and enjoy fantastic buildings with historic value. This year’s group includes: Connie Wright, Publicity Coordinator, and Charles and LaDonna Bobbitt, who are the main creators of the project as well as owners of the Bobbitt’s Historic Quarters, along with many others have focused their efforts on these three homes and three commercial buildings.
Bobbitt states, “The beauty of it is, we give up our vacations. One day a year we put the ladders away, we put the lawnmowers away, we put the paintbrushes away, and invite people in. People don’t realize we have some outstanding smaller homes in the West Bluff. We bring people into the neighborhoods to see the houses that the average joe has redone and has done them nicely.” He also points out that these residents work exceedingly hard to make this a great tour and they enjoy all the questions that they receive from tour patrons.
Some of the other wonderful people involved in the Grand Tour committee are Mary Ruth Ginn, who creates the artwork for promotion as well as tickets, Gary Morris, Lynne Binkele, Sue Nowlan, Andy Speck, Rita Speck, and Chris Stalker. This non-for-profit group with an outstanding committee works hard each year to make each tour successful, no matter how much effort is involved. Bobbitt mentions that they are looking for new volunteers who are willing to work hard for the Grand Tour efforts.
When speaking with Connie Wright, her positive focus for volunteering on this community home-showing project speaks volumes about the group even in first meeting her. Wright remarks, “The Grand Tour used to be called something else and some committee people split years and years ago. We stayed (as a group) and the other part stopped doing it…It’s a very spirited group of people.” She is truly intertwined with The Grand Tour, having helped with it for several years, and enjoys giving of her time to make this project a reality.
Bobbitt also mentions that this tour is the only tour unique to the West Bluff, rather than skipping around to different places in Peoria. He believes that their tour is the oldest tour in Peoria. Bobbitt states, “We’re using commercial buildings for the first time this year. We have had commercial buildings, we’ve had churches before. But, this time we are breaking from our tradition because there are so many worthy building downtown that we do not in our opinion believe get their due attention.”
In creating the Tour, the challenge for the committee is to find homes or commercial properties that have older architectural elements and people that would be willing to showcase their homes fully in the area. Wright states, “This year is a little different, we usually try to shoot for seven houses or seven physical buildings. Sometimes we have six houses (along with) a church, or five houses, an apartment and a church. This year, we only have three houses which is unusual. In 2009, we didn’t have tour (due to not having enough houses available that year). 2010 and 2011, we did put on tours.”
These great buildings, owned by gracious property owners willing to showcase the entirety of their homes and commercial properties, allow attendees to see all aspects of great architecture in Peoria. Bobbitt mentions that there’s concern that older commercial properties won’t survive and that the biggest fear is of the wrecking ball. The promotion for the Tour is all about word of mouth and getting the community involved in seeing these buildings. The money that goes back into the community does help over time.
Bobbitt explains, “All the money we retain is seed money for next year’s tour. It files back into the community because we fill the gap between memberships in these organizations…We drive all over the West Bluff, we see things that we know we donated to this sign, to these shrubs, and to these plants…we see the results of our work and it’s well worth it.”
For more information on The Grand Tour of Homes, contact LaDonna Bobbitt (309)-672-1831 or Connie Wright (309)-674-2330. Tickets are $12.00 in advance and $15.00 the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased from the following businesses as well: Floral Expressions, Sterling Flower Shop, Marilyn’s Bow-K, Bartonville Haddad’s, The Old Hair Shoppe in West Peoria, Fred’s Shoe Repair in Peoria, Relic’s on Adams Street, and Rhythm Kitchen in downtown Peoria.