When it comes to meetings and conventions—and increasingly medical meetings—it’s certainly “playing in Peoria.”

The famous vaudevillian metaphor about Main Street America applies to this central Illinois town, as Peoria offers many of the amenities of a larger city, but served up in an amiable, small-town wrapper.

“We have the big-city amenities with the small-town feel—without all of the astronomical fees,” says Lelonie Luft, marketing manager for the Peoria Area CVB.

Located between Chicago and St. Louis, Peoria features a 110,000-square-foot convention center and a theater that hosts Broadway productions. Numerous restaurants are within walking distance, as well as a vibrant waterfront area that is filled with quaint “mom-and-pop” stores and many locally owned restaurants.

One standout eatery is June Restaurant in Peoria Heights, a Top 10 Chef Magazine winner that specializes in farm-to-table organic cuisine.

Golf, cooking school team-building programs and CSR activities such as making quilts for the needy are also potential agenda items.

The big news is the opening of the Jump Center Training & Simulation Center, a medical education, simulation, research and conference center.

The facility, which joins a community that has three major hospitals and a prominent cancer research facility at the University of Illinois, is one of the first of its kind, and boasts a simulation center for first-responders and major surgeries.

“They’re going to offer space for the meetings community, and, in conjunction with the Peoria Riverfront Museum, can broadcast anything from the Internet on a ‘ginormous’ screen,” Luft says. mf