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Federal shutdown hits Springfield tourism

In this Monday Oct. 7 2013 phoGreysJones reads front placard about Underground Railroad as he tours Lincoln Home National Historic

In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 photo Greyson Jones reads, front, a placard about the Underground Railroad as he tours the Lincoln Home National Historic Site with his parents Naomi, rear, and Jeremy, in Springfiled, Ill. The Jones family traveled from Menominee, Mich. to visit the Lincoln home, which is closed due to the government shutdown. (AP Photo/The State Journal-Register, Ted Schurter)

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Updated: October 8, 2013 6:16PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Springfield officials are closely watching whether the federal government’s partial shutdown could cut into the community’s tourism business.

Abraham Lincoln’s home — one of the city’s top tourist attractions — is closed since it’s operated by the National Parks Service. The popular site drew more than 295,000 visitors last year, according to a report ( ) in The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.

“I guess you look on the bright side. We’re seeing it without the crowds,” said Fred Pleva, who was visiting from Connecticut, but couldn’t actually go inside the property.

The closure comes after peak tourism season and the shutdown hasn’t cut into the city’s convention and meeting business, said Fred Puglia, executive director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Still, the shutdown — now in its eighth day — is slowing business elsewhere.

“It’s had a tremendous effect on traffic,” said Karen Conn, the co-owner of Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery near the Lincoln Home. “People know it’s not open (the Lincoln Home), so they’re not coming down this way.”

Meanwhile, about 5,200 people visited the state-run Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, last week — down about 14 percent from the same period last year.

But Illinois Historic Preservation Agency spokesman Chris Wills said it’s hard to link the decrease with the shutdown since there are often fluctuations in the numbers.

“Our people who interact with guests say they’re hearing a lot of grumbling and disappointment about the home being closed,” he said.

But what’s a bust for some sites is a boon for others.

Wills said more than 2,300 people visited the Old State Capitol last week and several unannounced tour busses visited the Lincoln Tomb after being turned away from the Lincoln Home.

“People are scrambling to rearrange plans,” Wills added. “It’s possible some just aren’t coming.”

Minneapolis resident Mary Strube considered scrapping the plans she made weeks ago to visit the Lincoln Home, but she traveled to Illinois anyway.

“At least I can get a photo,” she said while standing outside the property. “It’ll give me a reason to come back.”

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