Starved Rock State Park has won the "Fan Favorite Sweepstakes" sponsored by the Illinois Office of Tourism.
Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek, director of marketing at Starved Rock Lodge, confirmed today that she received an early-morning email announcing that Starved Rock had topped Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry as Illinois' top attraction.
"It's exciting news," she said. "It couldn't get any better."
Starved Rock steadily topped a long list of familiar tourist sites throughout the online contest, which recently narrowed the field to two. Among the list of also-rans was Brookfield Zoo, the city of Galena and Garden of the Gods.
This latest honor caps a run by Starved Rock, which last year welcomed nearly 2.2 million visitors, an all-time high, and broke 10 monthly attendance records since 2008.
Casstevens-Jasiek readily acknowledged that free admission and free parking have fueled the park's surging popularity, and she expressed her hope that the honor would lead to increased efforts to preserve the park.
"We need to care for this natural resource," she said. "Unlike the Museum of Science and Industry, we don't have unlimited resources to keep it intact."