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All-America City award 'truly, truly' a treasure

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It was a truly, truly warm sun beating down Wednesday during a news conference to celebrate Peoria's selection as an All-America City for 2013.

That helped boost the warmth of the reception given those who made it happen as a sizable crowd turned out on the riverfront to cheer the award that was bestowed Sunday at a National Civic League event in Denver.

The standing-room-only crowd (there were no chairs available) cheered loudest when Dr. Tim Cundiff, who chaired the All-America City competition committee for the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria, presented a sign to Mayor Jim Ardis.

The white-on-green road sign read "Welcome to Peoria, All-America City."

The cheers also were loud when the crowd was introduced to Ethan Mosher, declared by the National Civic League to be the National Youth of the Year. The 17 year-old senior at Peoria High School is one of the leaders of the ELITE Drumline that accompanied the delegation to Denver for the presentations by the 20 finalist cities.

"He's a good person, a good neighbor, a friend to all," was how Carl Cannon, founder of the ELITE Corps for Youth in Peoria, introduced Mosher.

Mosher then told the crowd he won't let the honor go to his head. "I'm going to stick with Peoria. I love my city," he said.

It was obvious that sentiment was shared by all the members of the delegation, the civic leaders in attendance and the rest of the crowd entertained by the Drumline and seemingly appreciative of the comments of the speakers.

J.D. Dalphonso informed the crowd that not only did the Peoria promotional video presented to the National Civic League win the YouTube video contest against 10 other cities, it received more than 22,000 views and was seen in 63 countries. He said delegates of other cities present in Denver were impressed. "They kept referring to us as the 'Forever Young Group,'" he said. That was in reference to that part of the video where a couple hundred people marched up Adams Street in Downtown Peoria singing "Forever Young."

Emily Weeks, president of the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria, and Peoria City Councilman Ryan Spain, a member of that group, talked of how the accomplished would not have happened without the support of the city and its citizens. "We couldn't have done it without you," Weeks said.

Spain listed the myriad of sponsors who helped financially and with professional services to get the presentation prepared and the delegation to Denver. They included the Peoria Area of Chamber Commerce, which is the parent of the Young Professionals group, local health care organizations UnityPoint Methodist and OSF Health Care, Caterpillar Inc., PNC Bank, Advanced Medical Transport, Federal Cos., PIP Printing, Simantel Group and AdCo Advertising Agency. He also cited Peoria Disposal Co., Illinois-American Water and the Peoria Rivermen for getting the Drumline to Denver.

"This effort would not have been possible without a coalition of committed groups and people. We've started a movement in our community and we're going to keep it going," Spain said.

Two of the Peoria delegation said they were further energized to keep the work going by the reaction of others in Denver to the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria. Tessa Bonello and Rachel Wadle said they were asked frequently about the group and about the ELITE program.

"People said there was an undeniable energy from our delegation," said Wadle. "In fact, we were the only delegation to receive a standing ovation and we actually received two."

Cundiff, who punctuated his comments using the words "truly, truly" often, praised the efforts of the Young Professionals who put so much into the effort, preparing for Denver and in the Colorado city. He said he was frequently reminded of advice his father would give him while growing up, which was to "always give it all you got, no matter what you're doing."

"We truly did that in Denver. I am proud of our organization and will always treasure this. We were confident going in; we knew we were an All-American city and now the whole world knows," Cundiff said.

The Peoria presentation focused on development, highlighting the Riverfront Museum block; on education, highlighting ELITE, Quest Charter Academy and Peoria Promise; and Healthcare, highlighting the industry growth here, the Bob Michel VA Clinic and the breakthrough research performed here.

Cundiff then read the announcement that was read by the National Civic League jury on Sunday night, after nine of the 10 winning cities had already been named.

"This community involved business, nonprofits and everyday people to dream big to revitalize its downtown.

"This community invested in its youth and veterans.

"This community is a healthcare innovator.

"The All-America City of Peoria, Illinois."

Mayor Ardis noted the All-America City award is not one a city can go out and buy; rather, it's earned by hard work. "On behalf of the city, our hats are off to the young professionals. We do have a lot to be proud of," he said.

He and Cundiff both talked of how the honor of the award can help the city market itself and give it a leg up on competing cities when it comes to attracting business, talented people and tourists.

Peoria was the only Illinois city to win the honor for 2013.

The other 2013 All-America Cities were Birmingham, Ala.; Downey, Calif.; Dubuque, Iowa; Dunn, N.C.; Garner, N.C.; Montrose, Colo.; Norfolk, Va.; Owensboro, Ky., and Thomasville, N.C.

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).