A city of 22,484 located along the Illinois River, East Peoria is an exceptional place to work, live and play — an essential part of what makes Greater Peoria “greater.” From small companies to global manufacturers like Caterpillar, East Peoria’s business community is thriving, while its central location means convenient access to jobs all over the region, no matter where they are.
As Executive Director of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, Rick Swan is a lifelong resident who’s made a huge impact on the city and region. According to Swan, East Peoria’s evolution from a small coal mining community to an “industry-driven” city speaks to its commitment to pushing further. “You always want to look forward,” he explains.
First incorporated in 1884, East Peoria is home to generations of families who have enjoyed its amenities for decades. “Great grandparents, grandparents and parents have remained here,” Swan notes. With affordable living, short commute times, excellent educational opportunities, state-of-the-art medical facilities and proximity to major cities, what more could you ask for?
Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, there’s a lot to do in East Peoria. Retail options, both large and small, are abundant, from Bass Pro Shops to retailers throughout the city’s Levee District, including Target and Costco. The Levee District is also home to Levee Park and Civic Plaza, which houses City Hall and Fondulac Library. From April through October, Riverfront Park and Bass Pro host classic car cruise-ins on the first Saturday morning and third Friday night of each month.
Dining experiences and nightlife are booming in East Peoria, from family-owned establishments to fast food staples. Jonah’s Seafood House and Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse are among the finest restaurants in the region, while the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino is a popular destination for a night of fun, with a wide array of games, food and activities onsite.
Outdoor adventures make East Peoria a perfect destination for families. From the picturesque views at Riverfront Park to the sprawling EastSide Centre sports complex, kids and adults alike have endless options to play! Fondulac Park District maintains numerous parks and golf courses while hosting recreational programs for all ages. And if you enjoy getting out on the water, make the most of EastPort Marina, dock your boat and stay for a day… or the whole season.
The Festival of Lights is East Peoria’s most renowned attraction, a staple of the holiday season for nearly 40 years. The award-winning, drive-through display features LED light sculptures of the Batmobile and the Starship Enterprise, among dozens of popular favorites. The annual Festival Parade, featuring more than 30 floats, lights the city’s streets on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
For six weeks every winter, the city becomes a frenzy of festivity as visitors from near and far make their way leisurely through nearly a mile of lights. The larger-than-life display has captivated generation after generation — particularly its youngest members. “When you hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ and see the little faces stuck to the windows,” Swan explains, “that’s why we do it.”
Working Better Together
Collaboration is key in East Peoria as community leaders come together like a well-oiled machine to keep the city growing. As head of the Chamber of Commerce, Swan works directly with the Mayor, City Council and City staff, as well as leaders from the schools and park district. “We all work together,” he confirms. “Everyone is looking at what’s best for the community.” Their unofficial motto, he adds, is “It’s not can you do it, it’s how you do it” — and that can-do attitude really says it all.
From workforce development to talent attraction and beyond, collaboration is critical to the success of broader regional initiatives as well. With its main campus in East Peoria, Illinois Central College is a nationally recognized leader in workforce development, collaborating with area employers to provide skills training and post-secondary credentials to the local workforce.
East Peoria is also a key player in Choose Greater Peoria’s talent attraction efforts, alongside leaders from Morton, Peoria, Pekin and elsewhere. “When you combine all the forces together, it makes a very strong team,” Swan explains, noting the initiative’s cross-community success. “What’s good for us here is good for them.” When one city wins, it’s a win for the entire region.
A Piece of the Puzzle
Situated across the river from downtown Peoria and attractions like the Peoria Riverfront Museum, the Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center and Peoria Civic Center, East Peoria lies at the heart of the region. But it’s more than a pass-through between Peoria and other neighboring cities; it’s a destination in itself. “We’re an important piece of the puzzle,” Swan declares. East Peoria’s unique amenities make it a great place to call home — or home away from home. When you’re in East Peoria, you’re never too far from adventure. Learn more at welcometoeastpeoria.com.