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Diplomats stop in Mokena, Frankfort on tour

Abraham Mary Todd Lincoln impersonators chwith visitors Saturday Pickwick TeRoom Frankfort.  |  Susan DeMar Lafferty/Sun Times Media

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln impersonators chat with visitors Saturday at the Pickwick Tea Room in Frankfort. | Susan DeMar Lafferty/Sun Times Media

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Updated: May 8, 2014 10:06AM



Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln welcomed foreign visitors to downtown Frankfort on Saturday afternoon, giving them a taste of small-town Americana and putting Lincoln Highway towns on the global traveler’s map.

A busload of 40 foreign commercial service officers — diplomats who work with tour operators specializing in travel to the United States — made stops in Mokena and Frankfort on Saturday afternoon after visiting the Joliet Area Historical Museum and were greeted by local officials eager to show off their towns.

“Any time you can market your community, it’s a big deal,” Mokena Mayor Frank Fleischer said as he showed off the Lincoln Highway mural on Front Street — one of 35 murals along Lincoln Highway in Illinois.

The tourists were in the Chicago area for the IPW (formerly the International Pow Wow), an international travel industry trade show at McCormick Place through Wednesday that attracts thousands from around the world and generates more than $4.7 billion in future travel to the United States, said Scott Bort, of the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The visitors — who hailed from New Zealand, Italy, Denmark, England, Ireland and Italy — were impressed.

“The people are fantastic. I am run away with the fact that they took time out of their day to meet us,” said Finola Cunningham, of Ireland “It’s a beautiful place. I would love to spend more time here.”

Others said they were impressed by how neat and clean the area was.

“It’s so lovely. You really get a sense of what an American town is like,” said Lidia Sosa, of El Salvador, as she snapped photos.

The local tour was arranged in collaboration with the National Scenic Byway Foundation, Great River Creative, Tri-State Travel and the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau to showcase the murals, attractions and communities along the Illinois Lincoln Highway.

“International travelers like to see authentic Americana,” said Anaise Berry, of the National Scenic Byway Foundation.

After Mokena, the group visited the Trolley Barn in downtown Frankfort, then walked down Kansas Street with Frankfort Mayor Jim Holland to the Pickwick Tea Room, where owner Cindy Vassell served English breakfast and vanilla cream teas with orange cupcakes and dark chocolate mousse, while the Lincolns chatted with visitors and posed for pictures.

“This is pretty sweet,” Vassell said of this opportunity to showcase her business and Frankfort. “We’re hoping to get the tour buses to come back here.”

Stewart Gough, of Robertsbridge, England, found Vassell’s tea “exceptional.”

“It’s the best tea this side of the pond. It makes me feel right at home,” he said.



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