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2014 Visit Lake County Year in Review

Wow, where has the year gone? It is hard to believe that 2014 has come to an end. I first want to take this moment and thank each and every one of you for reading our blogs the past year. Without you reading, sharing, visiting our website, VisitLakeCounty.org, exploring and vacationing in Lake County, none of this would be possible. I want to take this time to sit back and reflect on just a few of the many things that we accomplished in 2014. When I start to reflect on everything that we accomplished, it amazes me at how much we actually did. It’s pretty remarkable. Now let’s look back on: 2014 Visit Lake County Year in Review.

Little Lake County
littlelakecountyIn January 2014, we kicked off a partnership with Little Lake County. I have known their editor-in-chief, Melissa Haak, for sometime and instead of just promoting each others stories, I thought why don’t we take it a step further and guest blog on the Little Lake County website each week about family friendly events, traveling with kids and other tourism related stories that would be of interest for moms. Melissa and I built a good relationship and understanding of what each of our missions were. For us this was a great start to the New Year, a way for us to connect further with the local mom bloggers in the area and reach out locally to residents who may not know who we are and what we do. Our main goal is to attract visitors from 50 miles outside Lake County, so being able to talk to local residents on a weekly basis was ideal for us. We definitely look forward to a continued partnership with Little Lake County in 2015. If you haven’t already, I recommend you also checking out Little Lake County.

Boating Lake County
We launched a website specific to boating in 2013, BoatingLakeCounty.com. I felt 2014 was our coming out party. In 2013, we talked with the boating community about who we were, what we are doing and gathering as much information as possible. In January 2014, we attended the Chicago Boat Show with our partner the Waukegan Harbor. We were able to meet with a lot of people walking the show floor from the Chicago area who had previously boated in Lake County. We were also able to meet with several of the boating businesses that are located in Lake County, such as Gordy’s, Munson Marine, Skipper Bud’s, and Fox Lake Harbor among others. This definitely made us appear as a serious potential partner in the boating community. We then continued that momentum a few months later with visits to the Lake County Boat Show at the Lake County Fairgrounds. We continued to see more visits to our website and bigger website numbers in the spring and summer months. We also were able to launch a new Boating Lake County newsletter, which we are looking forward to doing more frequently in 2015. Speaking of 2015, we will once again be at the Chicago Boat Show, but this time we will have a bigger sponsorship as the boat show will be sending out an eblast about us, we will have an ad in their program and doing a promotion to giveaway a GoPro Hero 4. I am very excited to see what 2015 brings for Boating Lake County.

Best Day of Life in Lake County Music Video
DSC_5641This is probably one of my proudest achievements in 2014. What started out as a dream, quickly turned into a reality. You can read the story about this music video in our previous blog post. We picked the song, ‘Best Day of My Life’ by American Authors, found a local Lake County musician, Justin Yates, to sing and create his version of the hit song. Through Justin, we then found Chicago YouTube Star, Rob Scallon to film the video. This video did so much more than reaching thousands of views on YouTube. We further built our relationship with Little Lake County, we connected with residents who participated in several scenes, found an Instagram famous dog named Nugget the French Bulldog, built a stronger relationship with the county, and created a relationship with the Chicago Bears as Jordan Mills and Kyle Long (Follow him on Twitter, he is awesome!), and received some great press. I will let the video speak for itself, but it did a fantastic job of showcasing the county.

Mini Abe tours Lake County
mini-abe-puppyEnjoy Illinois, the state Tourism office, has been using the little guy, Mini Abe in it’s TV commercials and is a popular hit around Illinois. He made an appearance at Six Flags Great America’s Media Day for their new coaster Goliath. He did not meet the height requirement to take the plunge but was a huge hit around the park. As his “Secret Service”, people were coming up and asking if they could take pictures with him, walking past and talking about him and snapping photos, etc. The buzz around him was nothing like I experienced before. I totally did not expect it. He was only in town for that one day but then made an appearance for one week a few weeks later in July. He toured the whole county in that short period of time. He visited Waukegan, stopped by the 102.3 XLC studios, Miller’s Dog N Suds, went boating on the Chain O’ Lakes, Richardson Corn Maze, Wildlife Discovery Center, Viper Alley, Embassy Suites Deerfield, Hotel Indigo, Viper Alley, Waukegan Park District, the Genesee Theatre, Libertyville Sports Complex, Bill’s Pub North and many more places. It was a great week showing Mini Abe around the county and having a mini celebrity in our area.

Goliath finally makes its debut!
The long anticipated wait for Goliath was finally over. This coaster was announced last fall with much hype. It would break 3 world records, Tallest, Fastest and steepest. Plus, it is a wooden roller coaster that goes upside down. The lines for this coaster were long all summer. We couldn’t wait to ride this coaster with everyone else, the anticipation was like nothing we have seen for a new attraction in awhile. You could feel the energy in the air every day since it was announced, and the ride did not disappoint. It was simply…..AWESOME!! You can view our video below and relive our reaction to our first time riding the coaster. By the way, the video was one of Six Flags top fan reactions of the new coaster.

Goliath Six Flags Fright Fest Video hits 15,000 views!
With Six Flags Great America’s new coaster Goliath, receiving rave reviews and riding it several times during the summer, it was a no brainer to ride the new coaster with a Ghoul. Fall is a great time in Lake County and Fright Fest is one of the biggest events in the area. I really did not think this video would hit 10k views on YouTube. Truly surprising for me. I am very pleased with how the video turned out.

The Shanty Wins an Enjoy Illinois Delicious Destination Award
TheShantyThe Illinois Office of Tourism and Visit Lake County announced The Shanty, located in Wadsworth, Illinois, as a recipient of an “Enjoy Illinois: Delicious Destination” award, which honors local food establishments around the state that are beloved destinations for visitors and locals alike. The Shanty is among a select group of Illinois establishments to receive the unique designation from the tourism bureau. Award winners receive a certificate from the state and a window cling to inform diners of the state designation. For decades The Shanty has been a popular gathering place for neighborhood locals to eat, drink, and socialize. In the 1960s there were actually more horses than people living in Wadsworth. As the community slowly grew through the years, so has The Shanty. In late 2010, with the help of local residents and businesses, The Shanty was reconstructed using locally reclaimed barn wood restored from neighborhood farms. Along with the restaurant’s ever changing building, comes The Shanty’s evolving menus. The eleventh menu edition was recently introduced. It was inspired by The Shanty’s creative chefs and loyal patrons, and offers farm to table dining experiences. You can see Dimitri and I cooking something up in their kitchen in this video:

Bar Rescue Comes to Antioch
Lake County has been home to several Hollywood features as of late, the movie Contagion being filmed in Waukegan, the NBC hit show, Chicago Fire, The Shanty airing on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and several others. The Village of Antioch got in on the Hollywood action, when Bar Rescue come to the area this September to make over the Dirty Rooster. The Bar Rescue crew was in the area for a week, and revealed the new Dirty Rooster, Lake Marie Lodge, on Friday, September 26. In the past, when you visited the Dirty Rooster, there were a few things that you could expect to find including live music, boating, a party atmosphere, and always – a fun time. While these things will definitely still be at their new establishment, we can expect to see some serious upgrades as far as decor. Bar Rescue creates unique and amazing changes to establishments that have what it takes to succeed… they just need a little tough love to get there.

Social Media Facebook posts reach new heights
holidaytrainpostI cannot thank our fans enough. We make daily posts on Facebook, and we recently had two posts on Facebook that did so well, we were thoroughly impressed. Bulldogs was listed on Thrillst about Best Burgers in Illinois. They tell you that you are getting: The Big Lebowski. They’ve got mac & cheese burgers. They’ve got burgers topped with Fritos. But for the ultimate in gluttony, they’ve got the Big Lebowski: a 9oz beef patty in an unholy alliance with Italian beef, bacon, and horseradish cheddar that you damn sure better abide. Definitely worth a visit when you are in the area.

Later on that week we had great success with our posting about the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train that was arriving in Gurnee. Every year the train arrived on Wednesday at like 3:30 p.m. or something but this year, the train arrived on a Sunday. Plus the weather was not too cold. So it made for a perfect storm, as thousands of people attended the event and our post reached thousands, more than we have ever see organically. This event is truly a family friendly holiday event. I would definitely mark it down in the calendar for next year. The train arrives at the beginning of December. Thank you again to all of our fans who follow us on Social Media, please continue to like, comment are share our information.

2014 marks an end of an era for the Vernon Hills Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show
2014 marked the end of era as the Vernon Hills Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show comes to an end after 19 or so years. It has been a remarkable run for the event and it was a family tradition for many families. Like most families, we would go out to eat beforehand and then go through the light show. It became a yearly tradition for us. Kids and parents would count the snowmen as the went through and on the weekends, Santa would even make an appearance. The Cuneo Mansion has been around for a long time and to be able to drive on the grounds of the mansion and see thousands of lights, you felt you were far away from everything else. It was a great way to enjoy the holidays and escape the hustle and bustle of the season. The light show closes for the final time on January 3 so be sure to stop by.

Thank you again for reading our blog the past year and we look forward to publishing even more blogs for you to read in 2015. Without you, our blog and Social Media would not be successful, so thank you. I hope everyone had a great 2014 and we look forward to seeing you around Lake County in 2015!

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