Peoria, Illinois is the largest city on the Illinois River with an estimated population of 113,107 (2006). The area was founded around 1680, when Fort Crevecoeur was constructed by French explorers Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and Henri de Tonti. When the County of Peoria was organized in 1825, Fort Clark was officially named Peoria.
The city has become famous as a representation of the average American city because of its perceived mainstream Midwestern culture. On the Vaudeville circuit, it was said that if an act would succeed in Peoria, it would work anywhere. The question "Will it play in Peoria?" became a metaphor for whether something appeals to the American mainstream public, and Peoria is often used as a test market for new products, services, and public policy polling.
Peoria is home to a United States courthouse, the Peoria Civic Center (which includes Carver Arena), and the world headquarters for Caterpillar Inc. Medicine has become a major part of Peoria's economy. The USDA's National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, formerly called the USDA Northern Regional Research Lab, is where mass production of penicillin was developed. Peoria's downtown area includes corporate, governmental, convention, educational, and medical facilities. It also boasts the Peoria Civic Center, Apollo Theatre, O'Brien Field and an arts, dining, and entertainment area near the riverfront. Downtown now also maintains a permanent population living in high rise condominiums, riverfront lofts, and converted office/warehouse condominiums and apartments.
The city has many beautiful boulevards, parks and neighborhoods. Teddy Roosevelt called Grandview Drive the "world's most beautiful drive" during 1910. In addition to Grandview Drive, the Peoria Park District boasts 9,000 acres of parks, including Glen Oak Zoo and five public golf courses. There are also several private and semi-private golf courses. The Peoria Park District was the 2001 Winner of the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation for Class II Parks. Other points of interest in the city include the George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden, the Civil War Monument - County Courthouse Plaza, Peoria Riverfront, St. Mary's Cathedral, and the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
Museums in Peoria include the Lakeview Museum for the Arts and Sciences and the Wheels o' Time Museum. A new Museum Square, under construction downtown, will house a new regional museum, a planetarium, and the Caterpillar World Visitors Center. Music and the performing arts are celebrated with The Peoria Symphony Orchestra, which is the 10th oldest in the nation. Peoria is also home to Opera Illinois, the Peoria Municipal Band, the Peoria Area Civic Chorale, the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, the Peoria Ballet and Illinois Ballet. Several community and professional theaters have their home in and around Peoria, including the Peoria Players, which is the fourth-oldest community theater in the nation and the oldest in Illinois.
Peoria also hosts several notable events and festivals each year. The Steamboat Classic, held every summer is the world's largest four-mile running race and draws international runners. The Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, and the Peoria Art Guild and Galleries, host of the Annual Art Fair that is rated as one of the best professional art fairs in the nation. Pick any night in the city and you can find comedy clubs, and several venues for a variety of traveling shows and concerts including Broadway touring companies.