Starved Rock in Illinois serves as model for Peoria area

Starved Rock in Illinois serves as model for Peoria area

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Climbers scale an ice wall during winter at Starved Rock State Park near Utica. The Ottawa area of LaSalle County has focused in recent years on ecotourism, with good results.

OTTAWA — The Illinois River in LaSalle County isn’t a source of restaurant-quality crawfish or shrimp. But the river provides Cajun Connection a reliable stream of customers.

That stream has been so strong it prompted Ron and Amy McFarlain to open a new, improved Cajun Connection two years ago at the north edge of North Utica. The village of about 1,300 is located just north of Starved Rock State Park, which hugs the south bank of the river.

More than 100 diners can fit in the new building, where they can feast on jambalaya, gumbo and other bayou-tinged specialties. The facility dwarfs the nearby location the McFarlains established in 1995 in a space the size of a bungalow.

“During the summer — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — we are busy. Just like in a big town,” said “Cajun Ron” McFarlain, who retains the etoufee-thick drawl of his native Louisiana.

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