Pekin, Illinois

Pekin, Illinois

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country = United States
state = Illinois
region = Tazewell
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map_caption = Location of Pekin within Illinois
map_background = Illinois - background map.png map_locator = Illinois2
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Pekin is a city in Tazewell County, Illinois. The population was 33,857 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Tazewell County.GR|6 As of 2006, it has a population of approximately 35,000 people.fact|date=November 2007 Pekin, a suburb of Peoria, Illinois, is a key part of the Peoria metropolitan area, but retains a distinct and independent community of its own. David Tebben is the mayor.

Pekin has a large park with a lagoon, Mineral Springs Park, which is located near Pekin Hospital and a senior center. Pekin is home to a high-rise residential facility of the United Auto Workers. It is the home of the minimum-security Pekin Federal Correctional Institution.


In January 1680, Robert de LaSalle and 33 fellow explorers landed their canoes on the eastern bank of the Illinois River. They built a winter refuge in what is now the southeast quarter of section 1 of Pekin Township.

Pekin, historically, has a rich American Indian heritage. It was the site of Lebourse Sulky's Village in 1812. “At Little Makina, a river on the south side of Illinois, five leagues below Peoria, is a band, consisting of Kickapoos, Chippeways, Ottaways and Pottowottamies. They are called warriors, and their head man is Lebourse of Sulky. Their number is sixty men, all desperate fellows and great plunderers.”-(Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois, from 1778 to 1833 and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards. p. 315.) Sulky oversaw a mixed village of the Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Ojibwa people. He fought with Tecumseh in the War of 1812, as did most of chiefs of the Illinois Valley area. Later, this area was the site of Chief Shabbona's village during the Black Hawk War.

Farmer Jonathan Tharp was the first non-Indian resident, building a log cabin in 1824. For some time after the arrival of white settlers, there continued to be a quite large Indian village, populated primarily by Potawatomi, along the ridge of what is today Pekin Lake.

After a county surveyor laid out a "town site," an auction of this town plat and site was held in Springfield, Illinois. The village site was awarded to Major Isaac Perkins, Gideon Hawley, William Haines and Major Nathan Cromwell, the last of whose wife named the City of Pekin after Beijing, China, which was at that time spelled "Peking" or "Pekin," spellings still common in German and French.cite web
url =
title = Pekin, Illinois: History
date = 2007-05-18
accessdate = 2007-11-04

A group of 11 men gathered on June 25, 1862, in Pekin to establish the first council of the Union League of America, to promote patriotism and loyalty to the Union. Its members hoped to counter Northern disillusionment with President Abraham Lincoln's military policies after early Union defeats in the American Civil War. Although closely allied with the Republican Party, the League sought to enroll all Union supporters, regardless of party. By December 1863, it claimed 140,000 members in Illinois and almost one million nationwide. The Union League movement focused on providing medical supplies, training nurses, and advocating equality for slaves. As the War gradually turned in favor of the North, the Union Leagues shifted to political endorsements, favoring radical Republicans who advocated full equality and voting rights for African-Americans. The Union League played a prominent role in Lincoln’s closely contested re-election in 1864. By the end of the Civil War, the Union League of America movement grew to two million members. The clubs still continue today, for example, The Union League Club of Chicago has been credited with establishing many of the city's major cultural organizations, including: The Art Institute of Chicago, Orchestra Hall, the Auditorium Theater and the Field Museum.

Pekin Marigold Festival

The Marigold Festival began in 1972 as a way to honor one of Pekin's favorite sons, Senator Everett Dirksen. While in the United States Congress, Senator Dirksen tried to make the marigold the national flower. In support of Dirksen, the community began growing marigolds. Although Dirksen was unsuccessful in his efforts to make the marigold the national flower, his hometown of Pekin soon became known as the Marigold Capital of the World. ["Pekin Marigold Festival." Pekin Area Chamber of Congress. 13 Feb. 2008] The Marigold Festival is a celebration held the first weekend after Labor Day in September. Its activities and entertainment include features such as the annual Marigold Parade, the crowning of Miss Marigold, live music, and an arts and crafts fair that attracts exhibitors from five surrounding states.The Pekin Chamber of Commerce annually appoints an executive committee to coordinate the Festival, and over 1,000 volunteers work every year to present the events and concessions to the public. All financial proceeds outside the administrative and promotional costs of the Festival go to charity and not-for-profit organizations in the Pekin area. [ Dukes, Kim. "Marigold Festival." Historic Peoria. 1 Oct. 2000. 13 Feb. 2008]

Events and guests

In the early years of the festival, volunteers and residents planted more than two million marigolds throughout the city, creating displays which were judged by the garden club. Today the purpose of the festival has been modified to encourage community pride, displayed through marigold plantings and such events as the Miss Marigold pageant, the annual Marigold Parade, a Medallion Hunt, 5 kilometer Run/Walk, Carnival, Art in the Park, Friday Night Family Fest, and live music. [Dukes, Kim. "Marigold Festival." Historic Peoria. 1 Oct. 2000. 13 Feb. 2008] These events not only bring the people of Pekin together, but also give area businesses the opportunity to give back to the community. For example, the Miss Marigold Pageant is sponsored by Pekin Insurance. Pepsi is responsible for the Medallion Hunt which begins a week before the festival and has clues that help participants find the medallion. The Marigold parade features many local businesses and organizations.Recent celebrity guests have included: William “The Refrigerator” Perry, James Best (better known as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, of the television show The Dukes of Hazzard), and local celebrity comedian Royce Elliott. . ["Pekin Marigold Festival." Pekin Area Chamber of Congress. 13 Feb. 2008]

Involved organizations

The Marigold Festival takes great pride in offering the food concessions to non-profit organizations. Most of the Festive Food booths are located in Mineral Springs Park. For many of these groups, this is their biggest fund raising event of the year, and they include but are not limited to: local churches and Boy Scout Troops, Kiwanis Club of Pekin, PCHS JROTC Boosters, local firefighters, Pekin Lions Club, the Salvation Army, and United Way of Pekin. . ["Pekin Marigold Festival." Pekin Area Chamber of Congress. 13 Feb. 2008] Over the years the Marigold Festival has grown from a small event around the courthouse in downtown Pekin to a community-wide festival that attracts over 100,000 people annually. Other festivals in the local area include the Washington Cherry Festival, Morton Pumpkin Festival, Tremont Turkey Festival, and East Peoria Festival of Lights.

Pekin Community High School

Pekin Community High School teams were officially known as the Pekin Chinks until 1980 when the school administration changed the mascot to the Pekin Dragons. An earlier attempt was made by a visit of the Chinese-American groups to change the name from Chinks during the 1974–1975 school year, this was voted down by the student body; the event received national attention. In the 1980's the campus was split into two buildings with the freshman and sophomores at one campus and the juniors and seniors at another.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.8 square miles (35.6 km²), of which, 13.1 square miles (34.1 km²) of it is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km²) of it (4.36%) is water.

Pekin lies on the Illinois River, and its John T. McNaughton Bridge connects the city to a small area of land the city has annexed in Peoria County.

Nearby towns include North Pekin, Marquette Heights, Creve Coeur, Groveland, Tremont, Morton, Washington, Lincoln, East Peoria, Peoria, Bartonville, Mapleton, Manito, Delavan, Dillon, Green Valley, Hopedale, Schaeferville, Midway, and South Pekin.


As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 33,857 people, 13,380 households, and 8,804 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,574.8 people per square mile (994.1/km²). There were 14,038 housing units at an average density of 1,067.6/sq mi (412.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.80% White, 2.55% African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.41% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.18% from other races, and 0.68% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.31% of the population.

There were 13,380 households out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.7% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.2% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 21.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,972, and the median income for a family was $46,346. Males had a median income of $35,906 versus $21,705 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,616. About 6.8% of families and 9.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.6% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people born or raised in Pekin

*Scott D. Altman (1959–), astronaut
*Mark Staff Brandl (1955–), artist
*Sol Bloom (1870–1949), entertainment and popular music entrepreneur who billed himself as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man" and served for many years in the United States House of Representatives
*Wyllis Cooper (1899–1955), writer for radio
*Susan Dey (1952–), actress
*Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896–1969), congressman and senator
*Ethyl Eichelberger (1945–1990), influential figure in experimental theater
*Th. Emil Homerin (1955–), scholar of religion and mysticism
*The Jets, 1970s rock band (not the 1980s pop band)
*Larry Kenney (1947–), voice actor and radio host
*John T. McNaughton (1921–1967), Harvard Law School professor and Vietnam War planner; namesake of the Pekin Bridge
*D. A. Points (1976–), professional golfer

ee also

* Pekin Lettes
* [ Relative Strangers (on] - A comedy which centers around a successful Chicagoan who learns that he is adopted. His birth parents are from Pekin.


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