Grand Prairie View – January 2014

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by Jeff McSweeney

Created as a vehicle to explore the people, places and events of Central Illinois that will provide the foundation of a novel, Grand Prairie View evolves. The elements featured in this column may or may not make the final novel, this is a vehicle for exploration and discovery. 

If you have an idea for people, place or event that should be considered for Grand Prairie View kindly e-mail:

2013 People
The featured people include a physical therapist with broad community ties, the executive director of a very well connected non-profit, a visionary artist and finally a business leader who is largely responsible for the Peoria skyline.

Looking towards 2014 the people portion of the novel will need to introduce politicians, families, industry leaders, educators, children and leaders of all kinds. A hero nor antagonist has yet risen to the top while strong supporting characters are definitely apparent. Some view this as Peoria’s greatest challenge, let alone in the development of this novel.

Who is missing? Who should be included?
2013 People:
Ray Becker – construction leader noteworthy for the Peoria skyline.
Suzette Boulais – artist and visionary for arts in Peoria
Paul Kubica – physical therapist from Chicago well connected.
LeaAnne Schmidgall – non-profit leader with relationships beyond Peoria

2013 Places
Too often us Central Illinoisans do not appreciate the beautiful locations in our community. While we may readily agree that we do not have the vistas of Alaska we have areas of great beauty and visual interest. Places should provide a great visual and relationship interest in the development of this novel. While the immediate beauty may not be apparent, how the characters interact with the space will help establish the place – think of a neighborhood bar.

Featured 2013 places included:
Sheridan Road Artists – an enclave of diverse artists creating a destination.
Warehouse District – the embodiment for the future of Peoria.
Springdale Cemetery – great historic site tying together the generations.
Peoria Riverfront Museum – an evolution from Lakeview, not a revolution.

Places 2014? Where? What?
Playgrounds, trails, running trails, the Rock Island Trail, the river, the riverfront, the Levee district, Jimmy’s Bar. Something missing? Let me know.

2013 Events
Central Illinois is a very dynamic place offering events for all people and ages. Grand Prairie View 2013 featured:
Tornado – while one big event, it summarizes the role played by weather.
High School Football – the social rock of many communities.
Harvest – even if you live in the city, farming is part of everyone.
Gentlemen’s Cigar Society – one of dozens of social organizations.

In the end there may not be a lot of events in this novel. One key event can set the tone for the whole story with a couple of smaller events to support interest. Featured activities in 2014 must include fireworks, planting, graduations, running races, garden planting, concerts and community sports leagues.

Welcome 2014 – Happy New Year!

I am thrilled with the direction and success of this exploration and welcome your input to more fully round out this novel. Please e-mail me with any story suggestions or comments:

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