Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

September 17, 2012

Corvette lovers come home

Matt Saxton
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM —     Corvette owner Brenda Murphy was spending time Friday in the parking lot of a place she knows well: 1310 W. Fayette St., Effingham.

    “When we come here, we come home,” said the Bentonville, Ark., resident, who was sitting with her husband, Jim, and friends outside the Comfort Suites hotel. “This hotel is home.”

    The Murphys are like thousands of car lovers who flood Effingham each year for the Corvette Funfest at Mid America Motorworks. They often stay in the same lodging place — in the same rooms, in fact — and eat at the local restaurants during the four-day event.

    “When we come in, we’re greeted by the people at this hotel who know us from last year,” said Murphy, who’s been coming to the Corvette festival for about 10 years. “We get to know them, they know us.”

    The festival, now in its 19th year, has been pumping millions of dollars per year into the Effingham economy since its inception. In 2009, Effingham city officials conducted an economic impact study to see how much revenue actually comes from the event.

    At that time, the study showed that at least $4.1 million in total revenue was generated as a result of more than 17,000 people eating, sleeping and buying merchandise while in town. Effingham Tourism Director Jodi Jackson said Friday that the 2009 figures were the most recent available. Several Effingham business owners contacted Friday for commentsdid not return calls to the Daily News.

    But those who travel here for the event every year said some of that money goes toward their stay, while some goes straight to Mid America Motorworks for Corvette merchandise. Its customers, such as Mike McGuirk, keep coming back to Effingham because of the experiences they’ve had here.

    “I’ve purchased a lot of stuff from Mid America,” said McGuirk, who is originally from Terre Haute, Ind., but now calls St. John, Ind., home. “We come here because of them.”

    McGuirk came to town Thursday with his son, also Mike, and two of the iconic Chevrolets: a rarer 1962  model and one exactly 40 years newer. The McGuirks were sitting near their cars Friday afternoon outside of the Country Inn & Suites hotel.

    “Effingham is a really nice play to come,” said the elder McGuirk, who also said he and several friends he’s met while coming here the past 10 years often eat out at the local restaurants, such as the Firefly Grill. “You say you’re going to Effingham, and people say, ‘Oh, I’ve been there.’”

    Murphy said she agrees. She refers to her Corvette friends who stay with them at the Comfort Suites as her “brothers and sisters” even though none of them are related. They also hail from different parts of the country. Some have come to town from Michigan, Alabama and Kentucky, while others are from Illinois but far enough away to justify lodging here. She said the event here in Effingham is a time for them to get together and have fun.

    “This is a family reunion,” said Murphy. “We’ve had weddings here in the parking lot, we had a wedding reception here in the parking lot with a cake.

    “We even had a divorce here once,” she said.