Rated PG: Pride in Peoria is loud and clear

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From my vantage point at the top of the Niagara park deck downtown, it was evident people who participated Thursday in the video shoot for the All-American City competition were having fun.

What struck me, though, was the pride that showed through the faces and the actions and the way everybody strutted while singing "Forever Young" as they made their way down Adams Street behind a pickup truck-borne camera and operator.

The sign carried at the front of the 200 or so gathered for the event — on only a couple days notice, mind you — boldly said "Proud of Peoria." The jury who will decide the All-American City winners next month in Denver will have no trouble believing that when they watch this video.

I felt pride in our fair city and its people while watching and shooting the grainy and badly pixilated photos you see here.

"I am thoroughly pleased with the turnout, especially considering the short notice we gave everybody," said Tim Cundiff, president of the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria group that has spearheaded the All-American City campaign.

"The chills I felt while walking with them, the awesome energy this group was putting out, was just great. Awesome, awesome energy. And hearing that crowd singing and the drumline... they were all here for one purpose, to promote Peoria," Cundiff said.

Those of you who know Dr. Cundiff know how boisterous a man he is and how one cannot help but feel energized and inspired after spending a few minutes with him. He is the perfect person to lead this charge and that was evident in the minutes before the video shoot began. He got on the bullhorn (as if he needed one) and whipped the crowd into a frenzy, cheering and yelling and ready to jump when he said jump.

Jake Beyhl, who directed the video from the back of the pickup truck, kept the energy going with his encouraging rants over the bullhorn.

Peoria's Rod Stewart lookalike, resplendent in a pink sportcoat, was among the crowd, many of whom were in attire that said something unique about Peoria, whether it was Bradley University shirts or Chiefs and Rivermen jerseys, Caterpillar shirts, different hats and costumes.

The Elite Drum Corps provided a proper amount of crescendo to the song and the march down Adams Street, after it also got the crowd going before the shoot began with its beat and choreography. A few local politicians participated, as they should have done.

The city itself participated, closing off Adams Street for more than an hour to allow for the shoot and bringing up the rear of the crowd with one of the best fire trucks and two of their newest police squad cars, the new black-and-whites set off by the stripe of blue across each side.

It was as if the city's public servants were saying "We've got your back."

My guess is that many in the crowd were not even born yet the last time Peoria was named an All-American City, 24 years ago. But with the Young Professionals leading the way most now understand how important a designation it can be, especially for recruiting companies and people to the region.

"It brings pride to a community, there's no question about it," said Renee Charles of the Heartland Partnership and Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. "What we did today shows our people have a lot of pride in Peoria. Winning this award would really top it off."

Whether Peoria wins the award this year or not, there is already much pride in this community and people like Tim Cundiff and his group are bringing it to the forefront. They should be congratulated and thanked for their efforts.

They are the future of our city and I, for one, am feeling pretty good about that.


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).