C-U community plans for a busy weekend

Champaign-Urbana will play host to a massive influx of visitors this weekend from multiple large-scale events, chief among them the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon and the 13th annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival.

On Tuesday, a tweet from Roger Ebert’s account stated: “In our 13th year, the Illinois Marathon has big-footed Ebertfest by scheduling on the same Saturday. *Sigh*”

The festival attracts around 5,000 moviegoers, said Jayne DeLuce, President and CEO of the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There are more than 18,500 runners in the Illinois Marathon this year. The event brings in participants as well as the friends and families of the runners.

In addition to the Illinois Marathon and Ebertfest, the 2011 Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics State Finals will be held on campus on Saturday.

Kim Whittlesey, Math Finals site co-coordinator, said this event brings in about 3,000 students from around 200 schools in Illinois.

DeLuce said while this is a quieter event than the Illinois Marathon and Ebertfest, it still brings in a lot of overnight visitors to Champaign-Urbana.

Ebertfest began Wednesday at the Virginia Theater, 203 W. Park Ave., in Champaign. The Illinois Marathon route passes one block north of the theater as it veers west on Church Street.

Kim Lareau, front house coordinator at the Virginia Theatre, said Ebertfest participants are directed to park at the Hill Street Parking Deck, 123 W. Hill St., in Champaign, two blocks north and one block east of the theater. Therefore moviegoers will have to cross over the marathon route while going south from the parking deck to the theater.

Lareau said this will only be a problem on Saturday morning.

“We’ve coordinated with the marathon and city of Champaign, so it won’t be much of an issue,” Lareau said. “There will be police escorting people across the marathon route.”

Lareau is confident the intersection of the two events will be without incident.

“It’s a really busy weekend, but I think all parties involved have done a really nice job of staying in communication with each other to make it a great weekend for all our visitors and residents,” said Lareau.

DeLuce said each event most likely means a boom for the economy of Champaign-Urbana, Champaign County and central Illinois as a whole. She said hotels rooms were booked as far as Bloomington and Danville for guests attending events going on in Champaign-Urbana this weekend.

Last year, the Illinois Marathon brought in $7.8 million to Champaign County. With the increased number of runners and an additional day this year, the Bureau expects that figure to increase to over $10 million, DeLuce said.

DeLuce said Ebertfest brought in $2.1 million last year and is expected to do about the same or better this weekend.

Other events that will bring in visitors are the Illinois High School Association Journalism Sectionals, a performance of La Calisto at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Midwest Zine Fest at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.

DeLuce admitted having these major events on the same weekend is not ideal but praised the committees of each event for working together and with the city.

“We’re very fortunate that we can go around the country and have people recognize Champaign for the marathon and Ebertfest,” DeLuce said. “It puts Champaign County on the map.”