Springfield Balances Big-City Amenities, Small-Town Charm

By Amy Stumpfl on May 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Michael W. Bunch

As Illinois’ state capital and adopted home of Abraham Lincoln‚ Springfield has long been known for its historical and political connections. But young families and singles are increasingly attracted to the area’s charming neighborhoods‚ thriving downtown and rich cultural scene. And as local leaders will attest‚ once you hang your hat here‚ you’re apt to stay.

As executive vice president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce‚ Bradley J. Warren frequently hears from area residents about the community’s many advantages.

“Springfield has so much to offer‚” Warren says‚ citing “housing affordability and diversity‚ low cost of living‚ excellent choices in health care and education‚ beautiful parks‚ and abundant shopping. We also have a remarkably active central business district.”

Warren‚ who has lived in Springfield for 17 years‚ also points to the area’s strong sense of community spirit as a plus. “A home is what you make of it‚ and many in Springfield are serious about building the long-lasting relationships that define and shape the quality of life within and among our community’s families.”

Springfield native Mike Aiello agrees‚ calling Springfield “a large small town.”

“The people are wonderful – honest and hardworking‚” says Aiello‚ who is president of R.W. Troxell & Co.‚ one of the state’s largest independent insurance agencies. “I’ve been to a lot of cities. People here are just more friendly. Whether it’s the guy dropping off your mail or the mayor‚ people take time to say hello. In larger cities it’s hard to get involved‚ but Springfield offers many activities and opportunities to meet people.”

From the Illinois State Museum to the Washington Park Botanical Garden‚ Springfield certainly offers plenty of cultural and recreational outlets. History buffs flock to the many Lincoln-related sites and will soon be able to visit the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.

Henson Robinson Zoo and Knight’s Action Park & Caribbean Water Adventure are hits with young families‚ and the University of Illinois’ Sangamon Auditorium attracts big-name entertainment throughout the year.

Yet despite so many big-city amenities‚ local residents still enjoy Springfield’s decidedly small-town feel.

Aiello went away for college but says he never really considered making his home anywhere else. “It’s funny‚ but I had a lot of friends growing up who couldn’t wait to get out. I couldn’t wait to get home. My family played a big part in that. I’m one of six kids‚ and we all came back to Springfield to live. It’s a great place to raise a family.”

Family ties were also important to local radio professional Adam Stark‚ who grew up in the area but moved to St. Louis to attend broadcasting school.

“I came back to Springfield for a few reasons‚” he says. “First of all‚ my family is here‚ and I am very familiar with the area. I also needed a job and some more experience in the field I wanted to pursue. I started on at WTAX as a board operator and part-time news anchor. I also helped out in the sports department as much as possible.”

Today‚ Stark enjoys a successful career as a marketing consultant for Capitol Radio Group Stations and sports director for News Radio 1240 WTAX. “I love my job‚” he says. “Covering local sports is a blast.”

Even when he’s not attending sports events‚ Stark says it’s easy to keep busy. “You have live music‚ the Center for the Arts‚ the Sangamon Auditorium‚ fine restaurants and the Illinois State Fairgrounds – all in our own backyard‚” he says. “I think people who live here sometimes take the sites and sounds of Springfield for granted‚ but there are all kinds of things to do. This is just a great community to start a career and a family.”

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