The main campus of Illinois' oldest public university, Illinois State University, a fully accredited four-year institution, is located in Normal, as is Heartland Community College, a fully accredited two-year institution. There is also a satellite campus of Lincoln College, which offers associate degrees as well as four-year programs.
The town was laid out with the name North Bloomington on June 7, 1854 by Joseph Parkinson. From its founding, it was generally recognized that Jesse W. Fell was the force behind the creation of the town. Fell had arranged for the new railroad, which would soon become the Chicago and Alton Railroad, to pass west of Bloomington and then curve to cross the Illinois Central Railroad at a point where he owned or controlled land. Most of the original town lies south of the tracks, with Beaufort Street as its northern limit, and some blocks west of the Illinois Central and north of the tracks. Fell, his brothers, and associates quickly laid out many additions to the original town.
The name "Normal" is an English corruption of the original name. Like many cities in the region, it was originally settled by the French. The earliest expedition to the location termed it "Noire Mal" in their journal, an appellation that denotes "dark and evil". As the journal was later discovered, and no survivors returned from the expedition, the reason for this daunting entry is unknown.
The town was renamed as Normal in February 1865 and officially incorporated on February 25, 1867. The name was taken from Illinois State Normal University, a normal school (teacher-training institution) located there. The school has since been renamed Illinois State University after becoming a general four-year university. Normal is adjacent to Bloomington, Illinois, and when mentioned together they are known as the "Twin Cities", "Bloomington-Normal", "B-N", or "Blo-No".
In 2007, the town council voted to name the downtown area "uptown Normal", and, as of 2011, Uptown Normal is home to the Children's Discovery Museum, Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, restaurants, and a variety of stores. The district is also home to the historic and non-profit Normal Theater, a restored Art Deco theater owned by the Town of Normal that runs classic and independent films.
There were 15,157 households out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.4% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the town the population was spread out with 17.5% under the age of 18, 38.1% from 18 to 24, 23.1% from 25 to 44, 13.7% from 45 to 64, and 7.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.5 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $40,379, and the median income for a family was $60,644. Males had a median income of $41,323 versus $27,486 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,775. About 5.6% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.4% of those under age 18 and 3.9% of those age 65 or over.
Interstate 55 wraps around the north and northwest edge of the town. Interstate 74 shares the I-55 roadway on the western edge of Normal before splitting off toward the northwest. Normal is the southern terminus of Interstate 39
The Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System has 11 color-coded fixed routes in the area; a lift-assisted paratransit service called NiteRide, which operates when Illinois State University is in session; and a campus shuttle for ISU called Redbird Express.
The Bloomington-Normal Amtrak station is located in Normal at 100 E. Parkinson St. The station serves five trains in each direction between St. Louis and Chicago each day. The station also serves connecting bus service to Peoria and Amtrak stations in Galesburg and Champaign/Urbana. It is the second busiest Amtrak station in the state of Illinois after Chicago, servicing nearly a quarter million passengers in fiscal year 2011. Traveling to Bloomington-Normal via Amtrak is a two and a half hour ride from both St. Louis and Chicago.
Recreation and entertainment
Children's Discovery Museum, 2008
The Children's Discovery Museum in uptown Normal provides hands-on exhibits, classes and programs for children. The museum has three floors of exhibits including a two-story mesh climber for children to climb to the third floor and a 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) agriculture exhibit called AgMazing. The museum also offers education programs and houses the Discover More! Store. In 2010, the Children's Discovery Museum was deemed the best creative children's experience in Illinois by Media World USA's "Best of" Series. The Children's Discovery Museum was subsequently featured on a Best of Illinois television program on CBS 2 WBBM Chicago and on the Travel Channel.
The Illinois State University Planetarium offers a variety of science and astronomy programs for children from preschool to high-school. The planetarium is located in Felmley Hall of Science on ISU's campus. Public programs are usually offered on weekends and during special events.
The Challenger Learning Center relocated to Heartland Community College in 2010 where it continues a mission of engaging students in science, math and technology and fostering in them an interest to pursue careers in those fields. The Challenger Learning Center promotes leadership, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking skills while offering an interactive, simulated space and science experience through scheduled team missions for students, public and corporate groups.
Nature and wildlife
Normal offers many parks and facilities. As of February 2011, there are 24 parks, facilities and trails operated by the Town of Normal: Carden Park, Children and Elders Forest, Children's Discovery Museum, Connie Link Amphitheater, Constitution Trail, David S. Anderson Park, East Detention Basin, Fairview Park, Fell Park, Fransen Park, Hidden Creek Nature Sanctuary, Ironwood Golf Course, Ironwood Park, Kelly Detention Basin, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Maxwell Park, Normal Theater, Oak Street Ball Diamond, One Normal Plaza & Community Activity Center, Rosa Park Commons, Savannah Park, Shepard Park, Underwood Park, and the West Detention Basin. Fairview and David S. Anderson parks include swimming pools; Fairview Park includes a skate park for in-line skating and skateboarding; Carden Park includes "Safety Town", a place for pre-school aged children to "drive" tricycles complete with traffic signs; and Maxwell Park has a fenced-in dog park and Champion Fields.
The Bloomington-Normal Constitution Trail is one of Central Illinois’ most notable parks. This 24-mile (39 km) jogging, walking, cycling, and rollerblading trail has become a hit with the community. The north-south segment of the trail follows the abandoned Illinois Central Gulf (ICG) railroad from Kerrick Road in Normal to Bell Street in Bloomington. The east-west segment intersects the north segment at Normal City Hall Annex and continues east to Towanda-Barnes Road. The Liberty Branch begins at Commerce Drive and ends at Old Farm Lakes Subdivision. The Freedom Branch begins at Lincoln Street and ends at Route 9 West. Parking is available at adjoining lots throughout the area. The trail is open to walkers, runners, in-line skaters, skateboarders, cyclists, wheelchair users, and other non-motorized forms of transportation. During winter months, it is not cleared of snow, and is available to skiers; weather permitting.
The Ecology Action Center is a walk-in information and environmental education center for individuals, classes, workshops, and meetings. Opened in 1995, it provides the community with practical workshops on recycling, composting and energy saving, nature walks and educational field trips for schools and groups. Various publications and materials are available.
In 2005, Golf Digest ranked Bloomington-Normal as the Fifth Best American City for Golf in their "Best in America" Metro Golf Rankings. Golf Digest ranked America's largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas on four different criteria: access to golf, weather, value of golf, and quality of golf.
Ironwood Golf Course: 6,960 yards, Par 72, 18 holes. Ironwood Golf Course, owned and operated by the Town of Normal Parks and Recreation Department, is a championship course that includes four water hazards and four sets of tees that range from 5,580 to 6,960 yards. Ironwood's attributes, which include a grass tee driving range, large practice putting greens, a practice bunker, banquet room, pro shop, carts and individual or group lessons, offer a challenging test to players of all abilities. The 18-hole course, which opened in 1990, has hosted high school regional, sectional and conference championship tournaments and numerous collegiate tournaments; as well as state amateur qualification tournaments. Ironwood also hosts the COUNTRY Youth Classic each summer.
Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University: 6,730 yards, Par 71, 18 holes. Weibring Golf Club, formerly known as University Golf Course, is located near the northwest corner of the Illinois State University campus. The course was designed by golf course architect Robert Bruce Harris and opened for play in 1964. Re-designed in 2000, the course features bent grass greens, tees and fairways, continuous cart paths from tee to green, strategically placed bunkers and a variety of tees for every skill level. Weibring Golf Course has hosted IHSA Regional, Sectional and State Championships, NCAA Regional Championships and Intercollegiate Tournaments as well as annually hosting the COUNTRY Youth Classic.
Golf Learning Center: Located at All Seasons, the Golf Learning Center is a synthetic turf facility, named one of the top 100 American golf ranges by Golf Range Magazine.
Arts and theatre
Braden Auditorium, located inside Illinois State University's Bone Student Center, serves as the hub of student life at ISU and a landmark resource to the Bloomington-Normal community. The Auditorium seats about 3,500. Eight to ten annual shows feature a variety of Broadway musicals, pop and country stars, touring variety shows, comedians and big name performers.
The Town of Normal Parks and Recreation Department's Normal Summer Music Theatre program celebrates its 40th season in 2011. This program invites students grades 8-12 to perform in two different productions each summer at the Connie Link Amphitheater.
Heartland Theatre Company performs a number of dynamic and provocative plays every season. Heartland's Annual 10-Minute Play Festival attracts playwrights from all over the country and their "New Plays from the Heartland" Midwest One-Act Play Competition allows winning playwrights from eight Midwest states to share their original works with audiences.
The Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts provides the ISU campus and greater Central Illinois community with a wide variety of cultural activities. More than 20,000 people attend annual performances produced by the Illinois State University Schools of Music and Theatre in the center and all performances are open to the public.
The Prairie Fire Theatre is a not-for-profit organization, incorporated in 1998. The mission of the theatre is to bring a high-quality, intimate musical theatre, chamber opera and educational resource to the Bloomington-Normal community. All events are performed and directed by local talent, drawing from a largely untapped but highly skilled pool of professional artists.
The Sugar Creek Arts Festival is held each July in Uptown Normal. The combination of high-quality art, live music and food has kept the streets of Normal full of color and activity for over 22 years. The festival has a unique trait- only original pieces of artwork are shown; not copies of prints or items purchased overseas. The Sugar Creek Arts Festival, hosted by the McLean Country Arts Center, is one of the largest art festivals in Central Illinois and continues to grow.
The Sweet Corn Blues Festival is held each August in Uptown Normal and features over 50,000 ears of fresh sweet corn, sidewalk sales, arts, crafts and flea market vendors. The festival also serves as a welcome back for students at Illinois State University.
Beginning in 1978 with twenty-one performances on the tennis courts of Ewing Manor, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival has grown to become an internationally recognized company; now putting on thirty-six performances each season in a state-of-the-art, Elizabethan-style theater. In 2009, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival was named one of the ten best theatre festivals anywhere by author Susan Magsamen in her book, "The 10 Best of Everything Families: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers," published by National Geographic.
Normal Theater, 2006
The three attractions detailed here are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Normal Theater opened in 1937 and was the first theater in Bloomington-Normal built specifically for sound films. The strong art-deco design was then very avant-garde for a small Illinois town. The Normal Theater has been completely restored to its original condition. In addition to showing classic movies and independent films, the theater is used for a variety of activities including group outings, meetings and other events where assembly seating is required.
In December 2010, a Route 66 Wayside Exhibit was installed at the historic Sprague's Super Service building in Normal. The exhibit tells the story of Route 66's great significance and impact on the community. Visitors are welcome anytime during daylight hours.
The Constitution Trail Center on the corner of N. Main Street and Raab Road contains a variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues including Schnucks, Starplex Cinemas, Famous Labels and Dollar Tree.
Redbird Arena is a 10,200-seat sports arena at Illinois State University. The arena is the home to the Illinois State Redbirds men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams. In addition, the arena also hosts the Illinois High School Association Girls Volleyball State Finals, Illinois High School Association Girls Basketball State Finals, Gamma Phi Circus, concerts, tournaments, conferences, job fairs, and other events.
Champion Fields at Maxwell Park has a seating capacity of 2,300 and 10 lighted softball fields. The fields are divided into three areas; each equipped with a concessions stand, restrooms and seating for spectators. Champion Fields has played host to state, national and world softball events since 1996 including the NJCAA Division II Softball National Championship, Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Girls’ 18-Under Fastpitch National Tournament, and the State Farm Illinois Collegiate Softball Championship.
The Corn Crib is a multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 7,000 patrons. The Corn Crib features 11 luxury suites, four concession stands, a state-of-the-art sound system, LED board, a SprinTurf artificial playing surface, and is the newest sports facility in Normal. The Corn Crib is home to the Normal CornBelters baseball team of the Frontier League and has been selected to host the Illinois High School Association Class 1A Boys Soccer State Finals through 2015.
Hancock Stadium is a 13,391-seat multi-purpose stadium at Illinois State University. The stadium is home to the Illinois State Redbirds football team, while also playing host to several annual events such as the State of Illinois Invitational High School Marching Band Championship and the Special Olympics State Summer Games. The newly renovated stadium includes 7 luxury boxes and 500 club seats, all of which provide access to the 5,500 square foot Hancock Stadium Club, which plays host to a variety of events outside of football games, including receptions, banquets, weddings, and private events. The stadium is also highlighted by the addition of a 26 ft x 47 ft Daktronics 15HD LED Video Display in the north endzone.
Epiphany Catholic School, a Roman Catholic primary and middle school, is in Normal.
Calvary Christian Academy, a Christian pre-K through 12th grade school in Normal.
Colleges and universities
Normal is also home to three centers of higher learning.
Illinois State University, founded in 1857, was the first public university in the state, and is one of the Midwest's oldest institutions of higher education. It is a co-educational, residential university with an emphasis on the undergraduate program, offering more than 160 fields of undergraduate study. The Graduate School coordinates 38 masters, two specialist and seven doctoral programs. The 350-acre (1.4 km2) campus includes over 60 major buildings with state-of-the-art technology. Watterson Towers is one of the tallest dorm buildings in the world. From meeting facilities to cultural opportunities through the arts and excitement of numerous sporting events each year, ISU is a vital part of the Bloomington-Normal community.
Watterson Towers, 2004
Heartland Community College has more than 4,800 students, and is the youngest community college in Illinois. Heartland Community College offers training in more than 40 career fields in innovative and technologically progressive leaning facilities. Classrooms and labs combine the latest advances in technology with the type of personal, hands-on instruction students need to reach their academic goals. The HCC Campus features a library, community meeting spaces, a pond, bookstore, café and numerous locations for students to study or work on school projects. Recently, Heartland completed a new Corporate Education Center and founded an athletic program that includes baseball, softball and men's and women's soccer teams.
Lincoln College, Illinois, a private residential college, offers academic, vocational, and accelerated degree programs to nearly 600 students. Accredited by the North Central Association, Lincoln offers Bachelor's degrees in Business Management, Liberal Arts, Criminal Justice and Tourism, Sports and Hospitality Management, as well as Associate Degrees. Courses are offered at convenient and flexible times in a small classroom environment with a student/faculty ratio of 14 to 1. A student activity center and fully furnished apartment suite housing is available on campus.
Paul Mitchell The School was designed to teach students skills they will need, inspire them to explore their passion and creativity, and help them learn the business that will make their career in the beauty industry fun and rewarding.
Midwest College of Cosmetology provides professional training courses in cosmetology, nails, massage therapy, instructor training, skin care and hair removal. The program also includes professional rules and regulations, anatomy and physiology, salon business management, customer relations, and marketing.
Bloomington-Normal School of Radiography
The Normal Police Department currently consists of approximately 78 sworn officers and 26 civilian staff. The current Chief of Police is Rick Bleichner. The department is also nationally accredited by the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The department provides 24-hour town wide coverage. In addition to deploying officers in patrol cars, the department also deploys officers on bike patrols and has been doing so since the 1980s. The department also has a full-time Criminal Investigation Division and two full service canines.