© 2023 Peoria Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Turning ‘Forgottonia’ into ‘Unforgettable’

 The city of Colchester, seven miles outside Macomb
Macomb Area Convention & Visitor's Bureau
The city of Colchester, seven miles outside Macomb

After some 35 years in Chicago where he worked in radio and television, Jock Hedblade returned to his roots—in western Illinois.

As executive director of the Macomb Convention & Visitors Bureau, Hedblade wants to alert the public about the attractions and advantages of a section of the state that, in the past, felt neglected.

Business and civic leaders led a campaign in the 1960s and 1970s to focus attention on the lack of state and federal funds for the 16-county area in west-central Illinois, an area that adopted the “Forgottonia” label.

“It was a tongue-and-cheek idea for the 16-county area to secede from the state and create our own state and surrender immediately in order to get foreign aid,” said Hedblade.

Years later with much-needed roads in place, Hedblade said the Macomb visitors bureau opted to change its long-standing slogan, “Make It Macomb,” to go with “Unforgettable Forgottonia,” taking advantage of the area’s past notoriety.

The campaign seeks to bring attention to the many events and festivals across the 16-county region as well as the area’s rich history, he said.

“Our Macomb courthouse square is on the National Historical Register and we’re a Lincoln Heritage Area,” said Hedblade referring to Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in the area.

The Macomb bureau’s website seeks to share some of that history with information about past area residents such as civil rights leader C.T. Vivian who went to school in Macomb and cartoonist Charles Kuhn from Prairie City.

Some of the many events listed on the “Unforgettable” site include May Play Days in Bushnell (May 11-14), Sodbuster Days in Good Hope (June 2-4) and Macomb Heritage Days (June 22-25).

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.