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Finding the Taylor Hicks of Illinois Attractions

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 8, 2007 10:04PM

The media elite and tenured intelligentsia are making you feel like an unwashed plebian if you aren’t fawning over Fermilab or Millennium Park. And you’re sick of your relatives braying on about thrilling tourist traps like Medieval Times and Six Flags.

You know better, don’t you?

7wonders.gifFor the rest of the month, the Illinois Tourism Bureau gives you the chance to make your alternative views heard… and then promptly drowned out by the voters who love overpriced amusement parks. They’re fielding nominations for the best, most fascinating, favorite statewide attractions. The most popular suggestions will compete in seven regional mano-a-mano playoff brackets, with each winner deemed one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois.

We think we know where this is going. Big, folksy attractions like Superman’s Hometown will outrank the naturally gorgeous gorges. The next morning, professional critics and armchair commentators will smack down popular taste for being too safe, simple, or misguided. Just the other day, the Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamen laid into an American Institute of Architects poll of Americans’ favorite buildings as “ridiculously superficial, riddled with questionable choices, but still worth a good hard look.” Our fair town isn’t represented in the top 10, or even 20. Nothing in the city outranks the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas and the most popular Chicago building, Wrigley Field, outranked the Tribune Tower and the Hancock (Big John didn’t even make the list). Americans apparently don’t like Mies and would rather go elsewhere to see a Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Trib online invites readers to vote for their favorite piece of Chicago architecture from a field which, suspiciously perhaps, the Tribune Tower is currently leading. The question left unanswered is why art and architecture should be subjected to American Idol-style contests when time proves first impressions (like the revulsion once inspired by the Trib Tower) so very wrong.