by Bill Monson
Out at 2163 East Main Street, on the north side just beyond the gas station, is a real treasure trove. The Galesburg Welcome Center is a cornucopia of maps, guides, magazines and brochures -- and all of it is free!
This coming week -- December 10 to 14 -- would be a good time to visit as the Center is holding an open house so they can show the whole Galesburg area what a variety of tourist information they have.
On my recent visit, I came away with several items of value, beginning with the latest ''Illinois Travel Guide'' -- as beautiful a publication as a tourist guide can be. You can use it (as I will) during the long winter nights ahead to plan next year's weekend or vacation travels around the Land of Lincoln. Then, depending on your taste, you can find a motel, campground, or bed-and breakfast from one of their other guides on display. And don't forget an Official Illinois Highway Map for 2001-2 to show the way to get there.
Another of my ''grab-quicks'' was a brochure of Eight Self-Guided Walking Tours to Galesburg, which is purse- and pocket-convenient and comes with pictures of the famous houses and buildings of the Burg.
I also picked up a copy of ''Illinois History Teacher: Abraham Lincoln and Illinois History,'' which I read and passed on to my son who teaches American History at Nordhoff High School in Ojai, California. It contains an article on the Lincoln-Douglas Debates by Douglas L. Wilson of Knox College's Lincoln Center. Any teacher of history would find this publication alone worth a trip out East Main.
The Open House will also give local residents an opportunity to see the growing number of displays on the Galesburg area -- from bricks and information about Purington Pavers to a poster sized display of Log City. Railroad Museum volunteers recently donated a handsome railroad timetable rack once located in the Burlington Depot, which now serves well as a brochure-holder.
The Welcome Center is located in a former bank building, which once stood near HyVee on the south side of Main but which was relocated to the north side. Its spacious interior includes space enough for local groups to hold meetings.
The city plans to build a new sign outside to display service club logos and fly special event banners; and new signs are also being developed for I-74.
Three charming women run the Center on behalf of the Galesburg Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Diane Breuning is Director of Tourism (her husband loves to bake pies, I learned!) and Mindy Harpman is Tourism Sales Manager. (She says I remind her of Max Bickford on TV -- and I plead guilty!) Jerry Wood, their associate, was my guide on my visit and showed me where to find what I needed. (Actually, I added pounds to my airline carry-on luggage by the time she got through with me!)
But why should tourists have all the fun of browsing and selecting? The Center is intended for travelers both to and from Galesburg.
I heartily recommend you visit the Welcome Center during Open House next week. Meet these lovely ladies and see what a lode of Illinois lore they're offering out there on East Main by I-74. Details at 343-2485.
Tell them Max sent you.