A new endeavor for Mortonite, program coordinator

Nick Stroman
Allison Vershaw - program coordinator with the Morton Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council

Up until a week ago, Allison Vershaw was enjoying a full-time gig from the comfort of her Peoria home as an independent senior beauty consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Now, Vershaw is overseeing a makeover of a different kind as the new program coordinator for the Morton Chamber of Commerce.

In December, the chamber announced a partnership with the Morton Economic Development Council that will allow both organizations to share staff members, facilities and resources.

The EDC has relocated to the chamber offices on Jefferson Street, which means Vershaw has had to wade through paint and remodeling while trying to map out a plan for 2009 events in the village.

Vershaw was born and raised in Morton and graduated from Morton High School, so she said she jumped at the chance when she saw the job posting for program coordinator.

“I’ve always had a passion for event planning, and it was fun to get back over here and get reacquainted with the area and businesses,” Vershaw said.

“I worked at many businesses when I was younger, so I had a vague familiarity, but there are some new ones I’ve had the opportunity to visit now, too,” Vershaw added.

Vershaw said there are many new events coming up this year, which she will work hard to promote and entice the community to come together and attend.

“I’m hoping to build upon what has been done in the past and encourage people to stay and spend their dollars in Morton,” Vershaw said.

Vershaw’s most daunting task will be Morton’s largest draw and its biggest community moneymaker — the annual Pumpkin Festival.

“I’ve always been an attendee, but I admit I’m both excited and nervous to take it on,” Vershaw said.

Vershaw was the coordinator for last year’s Pumpkin Princess pageant and said she has chaired events in the past, but nothing of the Pumpkin Festival’s caliber.

“It draws so many people over those four days. I have no patience for the kind of rain we got last year, though, and I am already planning my days to start praying for good weather,” Vershaw said.

Vershaw said she is looking forward to working with all levels of planning the festival.

“I’m involved in everything, from the volunteers all the way to rounding up the port-a-potties. I already got the port-a-potties’ call the other day, and I admit it was a little funny to be coordinating that part of it,” Vershaw said with a laugh.

The annual festival set for Sept. 16-19 is sporting an unusual theme for 2009 — “Christmas in the Pumpkin Patch.”

Vershaw said the idea to get into the holiday spirit three months early came from a group of volunteers who expressed interest in this fun theme last year.

“There are so many great decorations and things we can do to have a lot of fun with it,” Vershaw said.

Other upcoming events Vershaw noted include a chamber networking breakfast in March, a five-week business success seminar at Morton Community Bank in March, working women’s luncheon at Ashland House in April, a June golf outing and a delicious new event she is still hoping to give the green light.

“I’m hoping to get a ‘Taste of Morton’ on the books and make it a yearly thing. Obviously, it would be smaller scale than Peoria and Chicago, but I think we have lots of coffee shops or specialty eateries to offer that the surrounding area has never sampled,” Vershaw said.

Vershaw said she has still kept her Mary Kay career, but only part-time, as she is committed to drumming up excitement in her former hometown for 2009.

“I’m hoping to really dig in and have lots for Morton to offer up this year for the community to come out and support,” she added.

For more information and a schedule of Morton Chamber of Commerce and EDC events, visit www.pumpkincapital.com or www.mortonedc.org.