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Southwest Illinois News is a weekly news publication spotlighting attractions, events, entertainment, tourism, jobs and business developments in Southwestern Illinois
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IN THE NEWS -
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Ameren Smart Thermostat
(l - r) Dave Bend, Nest; Jackie Asch, ecobee; Kristol Simms, Ameren Illinois; Richard J. Mark, Ameren Illinois; Brien Sheahan, Illinois Commerce Commission; Rob Kelter, Environmental Law & Policy. (PRNewsFoto/Ameren Illinois)
Ameren Illinois Announces Commitment to put 300,000 Smart Thermostats in Customer Homes and Businesses
EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (SWI-News.com), May 20, 2018 - Ameren Illinois has announced an initiative to put 300,000 smart thermostats in customer homes and businesses.

Ameren Illinois customers can purchase a qualified ENERGY STAR® smart thermostat and apply online to receive a $100 discount in the mail. An instant smart thermostat rebate and an online marketplace will be available in the next few weeks to make the process even easier for customers to save. Rebates are being provided to customers through energy efficiency program funding approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission under the landmark Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).

The initiative also seeks to get smart thermostats into the residences of income-eligible customers. Those qualified can now have one of the devices installed for free as part of the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program.

"When the Future Energy Jobs Act was passed, we made a bold commitment to ensure that benefits of energy efficiency would be available to all of our customers, especially those with limited financial means," said Ameren Illinois Chairman and President Richard J. Mark. "With today's announcement, we're living up to that promise. Putting 300,000 smart thermostats in customer homes and businesses is an ambitious goal, but we're confident that with the collaboration of our partners we can make that vision a reality."

The initiative is bolstered by the active involvement from leading smart thermostat brands, including Nest and ecobee. Since 2011, Nest thermostats around the world have helped customers save more than 22 billion kilowatt-hours of energy and their work with Ameren is in service of this mission to bring energy efficiency to more homes across the U.S.

ecobee introduced the world's first smart wi-fi thermostat to help homeowners save money, conserve energy and live more comfortably. "We applaud the commitment that Ameren Illinois is making here today and are thrilled to offer the Ameren Illinois customers a better way to save on their energy bill and reduce their carbon footprint," said Stuart Lombard, president and CEO of ecobee.

Ameren Illinois' energy efficiency program is recognized as one of the best in the country rated #12 by ACEEE, an independent energy efficiency organization. Over the past nine years, Ameren Illinois has helped its customers reduce their energy usage by nearly 12 million megawatt-hours, saving them approximately $781 million. This improved energy efficiency has enabled Ameren Illinois customers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8.3 million metric tons the equivalent of taking nearly 1.8 million cars off the road for a year.


Free Summer Concerts at Eckert's Belleville Farm
BELLEVILLE, IL (SWI-News.com), May 15, 2018 - Each year as summer rolls around, Eckert's Belleville Farm gears up for another exciting Summer Concert Series.

The family-owned and operated business is located at 951 South Green Mount Road, less than 30 minutes from St. Louis. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, families can enjoy live music at the farm every Friday and Saturday, from 7 pm - 9 pm, and there's no cover charge.

The talented musical artists who perform at our concerts represent a spectrum of music genres. Musical styles featured at our concerts include Americana, bluegrass, country, blues, folk, funk, jazz and rock. Some groups stick to one style of music while others play two or more styles. Whatever the musical genre, these musicians always put on a great show.

The outdoor concerts are for music lovers of all ages. There's a bunch of engaging kid-friendly activities for them to enjoy at a unique playground that includes climbing and sliding activities.

It's okay to bring dogs to the show, just make sure dogs are on a leash.

Eckert's has plenty of food and beverages on hand during every concert. Visitors can go to the biergarten to purchase drinks and food, find treats at their country store or enjoy a nice sit-down meal at the restaurant. Eckert's strictly enforces the no outside food and drink rule, so please abide by it to avoid awkward moments and misunderstandings. For more information on the concert schedule, call 618-233-0513 or 800-745-0513.


A&E Expands Katherine Dunham Fellowship
EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (SWI-News.com), May 3, 2018 - The Arts and Education Council (A&E) announced today the expansion of the Katherine Dunham Fellowship, a program that aims to develop a pipeline of African-American leaders in the arts, to support a second fellowship beginning in fall 2018. Applications for the fall semester are now open and due May 31.

The Katherine Dunham Fellowship is a 16-week learning opportunity designed to prepare African-American individuals who have been historically under-represented in the field of arts administration for careers in the nonprofit arts and culture sector. It provides experience in arts administration, a $3,000 stipend and additional personal and professional enrichment opportunities. Fellows are immersed in fundraising, corporate relations, database management, fiscal and board management and marketing, all critical skills needed to manage an arts organization in the 21st century.

"We have seen incredible support from the St. Louis community since welcoming the Katherine Dunham Fellowship to A&E last fall," said Cynthia A. Prost, Aamp;&E president and CEO. "Now, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to expand the program and further its impact in diversifying arts leadership, shaping a more vibrant community for all."

Named in honor of the dancer, choreographer and activist, the Katherine Dunham Fellowship was created and initially funded by Sara and Jack Burke to give African-Americans an opportunity to explore, gain experience in and be mentored in the field of arts administration and to subsequently find employment and achieve success working at local arts and cultural institutions. The expansion of the program to support a second paid fellowship in fall 2018 is made possible by the generous support of Carol Corey and William Holcomb.

Applicants to the Katherine Dunham Fellowship must meet the following qualifications:

  • Applicants must be African-American undergraduate juniors or seniors, recent graduates (1-3 years), or graduate level individuals.
  • Applicants may come from any academic discipline, not just the arts (ex: liberal arts, business, social work, marketing and communications, etc.).
  • Those with a genuine interest to lead and work for an arts organization or cultural institution (dance organizations, museums, theaters, symphonies, performing arts centers, etc.).
  • Must be able to work at least two full days per week (approximately 16 hours) between September and December during normal A&E business hours, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. A&E is located in its Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103 in the Grand Center Arts District.
  • Be able to spend approximately 2-5 hours per week on extracurricular activities outside of work (may include attending complimentary arts and culture events, social networking events, A&E special events, Katherine Dunham related events/classes, etc.).
For more information about the Katherine Dunham Fellowship and to apply, visit KeepArtHappening.org/KatherineDunham.

"From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama" Exhibition
SPRINGFIELD, IL (SWI-News.com) - The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will help celebrate the state's 200th birthday with a major new exhibit about the four presidents who have called Illinois their home, said ALPLM Executive Director Alan Lowe.

The exhibit, entitled "From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama," will explore their connections to the Prairie State, their political battles, the first ladies who helped them succeed and much more.

Visitors will see amazing documents and artifacts, including Ronald Reagan's yearbook from his high school days in Dixon, the table where Ulysses S. Grant's accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender during the Civil War, an original draft of Barack Obama's speech at the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights march, and the briefcase Abraham Lincoln used as president.

"From Illinois to the White House" opened March 23 and runs through the end of 2018.

"Illinois helped shape these leaders, and they in turn helped shape Illinois and the entire country. As we celebrate the state's bicentennial, it seems appropriate to take a close look at their lives and legacies," Lowe said.

"We're bringing together artifacts from more than a dozen institutions and private collectors for what will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit," Lowe added.

Items in the exhibit come from, among others, the U. S. Grant State Historic Site, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Barack Obama Presidential Library, National Portrait Gallery, Chicago History Museum and Wayne Whalen, chair emeritus of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. The John Ullrich Foundation of Decatur has provided generous support.

The exhibit will be housed in the ALPLM's Illinois Gallery, a space dedicated to rotating exhibits on state history. There will be no extra fee to see "From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama." It is provided as part of regular admission to the Lincoln museum (212 N. 6th Street, Springfield).

For more information, visit www.PresidentLincoln@illinois.gov


New, Improved 'Getting Around Illinois' Website
SPRINGFIELD, IL (SWI-News.com) - The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has introduced a redesigned GettingAroundIllinois.com that provides continually updated information in a mobile-friendly format that's more convenient for the motoring public in Illinois.

"We are very excited to provide this new-and-improved resource for travelers," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. "GettingAroundIllinois.com is a great place to get important information - from winter road conditions to construction site locations to road or bridge closures - for any trip, any time of the year. The new mobile-friendly format will get travelers the information they need quickly and conveniently."

In keeping with the demands of today's users, the new website includes the ability to identify and zoom in to your location, travel route or destination, whereas the former site offered a static map that provided a broad view of a user's overall location. Additionally, the new website is operated by a cloud-based system, creating a better opportunity to provide real-time information and reducing potential system downtime.

As construction season gets underway, work zone information throughout the state is accessible by selecting the map's "road construction zone" layer to see where a work zone is located, how long it will be in place and what type of work is being done.

One of the more popular features of GettingAroundIllinois.com is the winter road conditions map, which averages more than 2 million visitors during snow-and-ice season and is regularly used by news media and shared widely on social media. The new map features an enhanced color scheme that better aligns with current map technology used by surrounding states, creating a more seamless travel experience for truckers and tourists, and is easier for color-blind individuals to discern.


Drury Inn & Suites Completes Renovation of Hotel in O'Fallon, Illinois
O'FALLON, IL (SWI-News.com) - The Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis O'Fallon, Illinois, has completed a full renovation to the property's 180 guest rooms and suites, public areas and more than 2,800 square feet of meeting and event space.

Renovations to the hotel's guest rooms include new mattresses and headboards, carpet, paint, window treatments, lighting and artwork. All of the guest bathrooms also received new showerheads, hair dryers and soft goods. The public and meeting areas of the hotel received upgraded lighting, new furniture complete with USB plug and play charging ports and artwork inspired and reflective of the St. Louis landscape.

"This is a great, fresh look for our property," said Ashley Timmons, general manager, Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis O'Fallon, Illinois. "Our upgrades were influenced by guest feedback and were made with their satisfaction in mind. We're excited for our guests to experience our new look and feel."

The hotel is 20 minutes east of downtown St. Louis off I-64. Conveniently located near Scott Air Force Base, the hotel is also near a wide variety of local attractions. Because of its central location and numerous amenities, Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis O'Fallon, Illinois, is an ideal location for business and leisure travelers. Call 1-800-325-0481 for more information or reservations.


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