You to have to look hard to find the Quad Cities in a sweeping, splashy new $30-million Illinois tourism campaign, launched Monday by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.

The new multimedia program, “Middle of Everything,” stars Illinois native, Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress, and New York Times best-selling author, Jane Lynch — who is making her directorial debut with the campaign’s new TV ads.

TV star and Illinois native Jane Lynch is heading TV ads for the new state tourism campaign.

The ads will run in 20 markets across Illinois and seven neighboring states and will be seen on cable nationwide. A Spanish-language ad will also air in the Chicago market.

“Middle of Everything” highlights Illinois as the center of culture, food, history, architecture, nightlife, and natural wonders — full of experiences for visitors to discover, according to a Monday release. An alum of Chicago’s famed Second City and Steppenwolf Theatre, Lynch brings her comedic zest and energy to the ads along with a deep-rooted passion for promoting her home state, the release says. Production of the TV ads was a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) project featuring a diverse cast of Illinois actors.

“We are thrilled to partner with Illinois’ own Jane Lynch, the perfect ambassador to promote our state, in this new tourism campaign,” Gov. Pritzker said. “This campaign is a significant next step to aid our state’s tourism recovery and positions Illinois for future growth and success that our entire state can rally around – helping our economy, boosting tax revenues, and putting people back to work. As tourists gear up for a busy summer travel season, we welcome visitors near and far to find themselves in the middle of everything that Illinois has to offer.”

In the “Middle of Everything,” Lynch stars as Illinois’ official tour guide showcasing iconic attractions in Chicago, Springfield, Historic Route 66, and the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

The home page for the new “Middle of Everything” website at enjoyillinois.com.

The new TV ads feature authentic Illinois experiences and destinations to discover all around the state. Locations include the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, Cozy Dog Drive In, located in Springfield, and the Grafton Sky Tour, as well as experiences unique to Chicago such as exploring the Art Institute, enjoying the Shedd Aquarium, and setting sail on a Tall Ship Windy boat.

“I loved every minute of working on this project promoting tourism in my home state and I’m so proud to finally see it come to life,” Lynch said in the release. “I am grateful for Gov. Pritzker’s enthusiasm and support for this new Illinois Tourism marketing campaign. We share the same passion for Illinois, its people, its culture, and the wonderful attractions across the state.

The $30.3 million campaign is a critical next step in the state’s efforts to accelerate the recovery of Illinois’ tourism and hospitality industry —a major contributor to the state’s economy, employing more than 600,000 people statewide prior to the pandemic.

“Illinois is full of amazing attractions and unique destinations – from top cultural institutions and world-class architecture to outdoor adventures and historic sites.  We can’t wait to share the wonders of Illinois with visitors from across the country and around the globe,” said DCEO Director Sylvia I. Garcia. “Tourism is a key economic driver in Illinois and the ‘Middle of Everything’ campaign will help us welcome even more visitors to Illinois who will help support our distinctive small businesses, inviting hotels and world class restaurants around the state.”

“We have a beautiful state, with some of the best restaurants, hotels, and attractions in the State. I’m glad that Governor Pritzker is kicking off this campaign to tell that story,” said Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). “I look forward to welcoming tourists from around the country to Wrigley Field and Lincoln Park this summer, and I know they’ll love it.”

What’s the QC got to do with it?

“The launch of the Illinois Middle of Everything tourism campaign will spark a renewed enthusiasm to attract visitors to all four corners of Illinois while helping to sustain and restore jobs in the state’s hospitality, travel, and tourism industries,” Dave Herrell, chair of the Illinois Council of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (ICCVB) and president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities, said in Monday’s release. “We are grateful to Governor Pritzker for his unwavering leadership and commitment to tourism and destinations throughout the state.”

Visit Quad Cities CEO Dave Herrell testified Wednesday, March 9, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, before the Senate Tourism and Hospitality Committee.

The QC area does not get much exposure in the Road Trips section of the “Middle of Everything” site.

Look under “Small Batch Favorites” to find Moline and Rock Island featured — specifically Dot’s Pots and John Deere Pavilion in Moline and Wild Cherry Spoon Co. and QC Coffee and Pancake House in Rock Island. The itinerary — that celebrates “handcrafted delights in charming small towns” — incorrectly notes Wild Cherry Spoon (804 20th St., Rock Island) as “just down the street” from Dot’s Pots (2822 16th St., Moline).

“Illinois is home to world-class attractions, outdoor experiences, big-city adventure and small-town charm,”  House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Westchester) said in the release. “We’re thrilled to share all Illinois has to offer with visitors from near and far, which will help boost the tourism and hospitality industry while bringing revenue to Illinois businesses.”

Wild Cherry Spoon Co. of Rock Island makes hand-carved spoons, kitchenware, and other unique pieces, from local, urban lumber. 

“Illinois has so many gems, and that’s why the General Assembly has made it a priority in our budgeting to tell that story,” said Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “I want to thank Governor Pritzker for his leadership in putting forward a tourism campaign that is sure to catch eyeballs around the country. Whether it is one of my favorites, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home, or Lake of Egypt, where my family enjoyed a wonderful spring break, the whole family is bound to make lasting memories.”

“So many people don’t know about the beautiful scenery we have in Illinois, and this campaign is a great step forward in changing that,” said Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg). “Between all of our beautiful state parks, the vast Shawnee National Forest, and our amazing lakes and rivers, I look forward to welcoming adventurers from across the country to Southern Illinois.”\

TV ads in 8 states

Starting this week, the new ads will run in eight states, targeting travelers in Midwestern markets on broadcast and connected TV in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Kentucky. The ads will also appear nationally on cable TV starting April 25.

Jane Lynch hits the road on Illinois’ Route 66, in one of the new “Middle of Everything” TV spots.

The campaign featuring Lynch will also appear in local, regional, and national digital and print media, as well as highway billboards, bus signage, and wallscapes. This includes regional transportation hub takeovers in Atlanta and San Francisco, a digital billboard in Times Square, and other promotional activities amplifying the campaign during events such as the Chicago Pride Parade, the Enjoy Illinois 300 NASCAR Cup Series race at the World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., and more.

Born in Evergreen Park and raised in Dolton, Lynch graduated from Illinois State University in Bloomington, and spent 15 years in Chicago acting in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and later The Second City comedy club.

Lynch is a five-time Emmy, two-time SAG Award and Golden Globe winner. She has starred in popular films and TV shows including “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Glee” and is currently co-starring in the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” in New York City. Lynch joined STORY production company in Chicago as director for advertising projects in 2019.

For more information on trip ideas and itineraries and to download a guide of Jane Lynch’s “Favorite Places in Illinois,” visit Enjoyillinois.com/Middleofeverything.