Celebrating the Eccentric: Establishing a Niche in a Competitive Market

Learning Approach: Best Practices

| Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon C | Posted: Monday, 9:45-11:00 a.m.

Who doesn’t want to make their community stand out? Highwood, Ill., figured out a way to get attention—with its first-ever Pumpkinfest held in October 2011. A display of more than 31,000 candle-lit Jack-o-Lanterns landed the community in the Guinness Book of World Records and attracted more than 60,000 people to the four-day festival. Members of the city council, the chamber of commerce and the town’s communications consultant will describe the multi-year process of developing an exciting calendar of events. Listen to their successes and disappointments and discover the impact of the festival on Highwood's residents and businesses. Highwood’s experience can help you lay the groundwork to find and leverage your city's niche.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn to think outside the box on how to establish their community's image.
  2. Understand the importance of public/private cooperation.
  3. Discover how to leverage community pride and volunteerism.
  4. Find out how a multi-year approach to program development can help to build community support and financial stability for the program.


For more information contact:

William Tippens, Related Midwest
Will Tippens, Vice President Related Midwest. Will is and architect with a Master in Historic Preservation from Columbia University and works for the real estate development firm Related Midwest. Will has been an active volunteer in Highwood for 15 years, beginning when his company was a partner firm in the redevelopment of the National Landmark Fort Sheridan and he and his family made the fort their home. He was appointed by Mayor Pecaro to the city's Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee. Will is on the board of Landmarks Illinois and the Chairman of Preservation Action, the national grass roots preservation lobby.

Charlie Pecaro, City of Highwood
Charlie Pecaro, Mayor, City of Highwood. Mayor Pecaro was elected in 2009 after 5 years as an alderman. He was elected on a platform of unifying and celebrating Highwood's diverse cultural background and increasing its reputation as a place ideal for raising families. Importantly, he also understood the need to plan for the long term and position Highwood to compete with its wealthier neighbors. After his election he embarked on an update of the city's comprehensive plan to secure Highwood's long term vision and he embraced the immediacy of leveraging Highwood's reputation as a town of excellent restaurants and bars to stage a unique evening market and festivals. These events would draw people from neighboring communities and give them an opportunity to learn more about Highwood simply as an entertainment destination, but a town brimming with community spirit and family pride.

Eric Falberg, City of Highwood
Eric Falberg, Alderman and Chairman of the Special Events Committee. Alderman Falberg was elected with Mayor Pecaro in 2009. He is a successful entrepreneur, who has lived in multiple regions of the country and started a diverse set of businesses. He has brought that energy, vision and sense of risk to his approach as alderman. The mastermind behind Highwood's festivals he, along with the mayor, have strived to elevate Highwood's image and to place it among Chicago's destination communities.

Ilyse Strongin Bombicino, Ripple Public Relations
Ilyse has worked in the public information arena for over 20 years and has been instrumental in creating greater name recognition and awareness for the City of Highwood through traditional print, television and radio outlets and the, the ever evolving world of online and viral marketing. Ilyse received her undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois, and her Masters of Arts in Print Journalism from Columbia College. She also serves as an adjunct professor of Public Relations at Carthage College in Wisconsin.

Kenn Nelson, Highwood Chamber of Commerce
Kenn Nelson, President of the Highwood Chamber of Commerce. Kenn opened his first retail business in Highwood in 2001 followed by second shop in 2007. He has been active in the chamber since coming to the community.