Name of town should be changed

by Dave
(Depue IL. 61322)

Visitor Question: The name of our town, Depue, Illinois, needs to be changed. This town is a beautiful place and has a beautiful lake that is named after the town. This name ruins the whole place. Nobody wants to come here because the name says it all to the public. (It Stinks).

The town has a wild past to it with some wild people. Look up the business GRBAC Dairy. There are still bottles from that dairy being sold from way back (1900's). This town also has a boat racing weekend in the summer.

I think if the name was changed, this town would be booming. It is only a two-hour drive from downtown Chicago. It is basically a diamond in the rough.

Editors Reply:> Changing the name of a town is often worthy of discussion. In fact, on this website we answered a question about changing the name of a town; although that questioner's situation was different from yours, in that a name change was actively under consideration, our answer might provide you a preview of what might happen if such a proposal became serious. You can see this question and answer at this page. We will not repeat the advice we gave there, except to say that a name change has to begin with a consultation with your city's attorney about how state law addresses this process.

At the risk of making too much of a guess, we are suspecting that what is behind your question is a bit of frustration, or a lot, that your town is not "booming" and that in fact its interesting history, pretty scenery, and locational and other assets are being ignored by most of the world.

If so, you would share that frustration with the more astute citizens of many towns such as yours that are not doing quite as well as you would hope.

We have a few suggestions for you.

1. Since you have a boat racing weekend, why not talk with some people about trying to have boat races every weekend in the summer? That may not be feasible, but even some conversation around that would be a positive step in helping people think about what might be possible. Yes, special events are a lot of work for the sponsors, but in mid-Illinois, you should be within driving distance of many, many people who would be interested.

2. We hate to say this, but our quick searches on the internet did not turn up any interesting, let alone "wild", history. Either you will need to get some people together to write down and organize this history if that has not been done, or if that has been done, there probably is not enough current publicity. We are finding that many towns had a history compiled some years ago, often in connection with an anniversary, but if that history was written before the age of the internet, it does not have a very wide viewership right now. If there is an older history, talk with your local librarians about how you could get it digitized, revised, re-published, or otherwise brought into a format where people on the web would be able to find it.

In a pinch, your town should put the history on its own website. (If its website is not up to date and furnished with fresh material pretty often, that is a problem in itself. Maybe your local high school could take on a project of updating the website and keeping it supplied with fresh interesting photographs, videos, or other material.)

Sometimes we have found that in the smaller towns, it takes a community effort to pull together its history from sources such as already-completed histories of schools, churches, or even businesses or cemetery associations.

We did see plenty of bottles from the GRBAC Dairy for sale, so someone is interested. If that business itself had an intriguing background, or is part of the "wild" history you speak of, maybe you can connect that to the bottle collecting community.

3. It is not clear to us whether you think it is the business community, resident population, or tourism business that is not booming in the way you would like. Business growth tends to feed from population growth, so you may want to think about how to grow your population. Are the young people leaving, as is the case with many small towns? If so, what can you do about it? How can you build greater loyalty from the children? Can you figure out how to provide jobs that will fit the educational and preference profile of the youth coming out of your high school?

Since you say that your town is beautiful and the lake is beautiful, can you create a small campaign to attract new retirees from Chicago? Strategize a bit about how you would reach that audience; if you do not know, ask for help from your extension agent and experts from nearby universities. Ask your own seniors what they like about your town over and above the fact that many may have lived there most of their lives. If they could be persuaded to relocate to your town, you would find that younger retirees often spend money fairly freely and could help support new coffee shops, restaurants, and the like.

If you want more tourism, the one attraction you have mentioned is the lake. Build on that in every way possible, but also do not allow your tourism activities to be pigeonholed completely into that bucket. Invent or uncover some other claims to fame. Cultivate what supports tourism, which is lodging first and foremost, and secondly a choice of restaurants and a bit of interesting shopping. Even two or three interesting stores help a lot when first trying to build a weekend tourism business. You probably cannot support a bookstore, but you can support a gift shop that has some books. If Depue is small enough, the gift shop/bookstore may have to also be the coffee shop. You may not be able to support multiple antique stores, but you can support an antique mall with several dealers having booths. A bottle collector booth would be a natural.

4. Network for success. Be sure you are in contact with other towns in your county and region so that you can combine efforts at positive promotion for your area. Reach out to your state's tourism promotion agency and let them know of your efforts to beef up your tourism profile. They may have good suggestions and even resources to offer you. It won't hurt for them to be aware that your town is open to visitors.

Lastly, this brings up the good point of making sure that your town really is open to visitors. Examine typical attitudes of the townspeople to see whether suspicion or welcome is the dominant attitude when someone you have never seen before is walking down your main street. Sometimes the coziness of small towns, which is their chief asset, can be offputting to people who are not part of the club. A little campaign to make sure that residents recognize the importance of their seeming to enjoy tourists can be important.

Well, we may have answered a question you were not intending to ask. Do pay attention to our article on renaming a town, but also think about, and talk to everyone you meet about, our other points to the extent that they reflect your hopes and concerns.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask a Question.

Join GOOD COMMUNITY PLUS, which provides you monthly with short features or tips about timely topics for neighborhoods, towns and cities, community organizations, and rural or small town environments. Unsubscribe any time. Give it a try.