Quality of Life
Founded in 1839, Williamson County now blends the charm and hospitality of small-town life in the rural heartland of our country with the ambition and progressive attitudes of those in the urban and suburban centers of America. The county combines job opportunities and business growth with a populace that displays a strong sense of community and reflects the values of family life in a simpler time.
Cultural Opportunities in Williamson County
Both Herrin and Marion boast community-based civic centers. The Herrin Civic Center is a multi-use facility in downtown Herrin that includes meeting rooms and a performing stage, while the new $8 million Marion Cultural and Civic Center is the premier performance venue in all of southern Illinois. Known for its excellent acoustics, the facility seats over 1000 in a state-of-the-art theatre in the downtown Tower Square Plaza. The Marion Cultural and Civic Center is the annual host to the Miss Illinois Pageant, attracting many visitors from outside the area. John A. Logan College in Carterville and SIUC in Carbondale also have outstanding facilities for the dramatic and performing arts. The Williamson County Pavilion offers flexible space for conferences, trade shows, regional meetings and private catered events such as wedding receptions, birthday parties and anniversary celebrations.
All of the cultural facilities sponsor a Fine Arts Series so numerous music and drama options are open to the people of southern Illinois. In addition, the high school music, art and drama departments present several programs annually in all communities of the area. Private dance, music and art studios offer lessons and recital opportunities for young and old alike. Long established community drama groups perform in Herrin, Marion, Carterville, Carbondale, the community colleges and at SIUC.
Williamson County is steeped in history and has a number of buildings on the National Register of Historic Sites. Marion, IL is register as a historic mural district, with the its center located at Tower Square Plaza. Some buildings date back as far as the 1800’s. The former jail is now the home of the Williamson county Historical Society Museum and is filled with interesting memorabilia of the county’s long history. For more information on these and other cultural opportunities in the area, click on Williamson County Tourism Bureau.
Elementary and Secondary Education in Williamson County
Johnston City Community Unit # 1, Marion Community Unit # 2, Crab Orchard Community Unit # 3, Herrin Community Unit # 4 and Carterville Community Unit # 5 are the five school districts in Williamson County.
All five districts are unit districts, encompassing Pre-K to 12th grades. Although varying in size, each offers a comprehensive educational experience for children including academic, athletic and activity programs for all ability levels in some twenty individual buildings. There is also a Williamson County Special Education District that provides classes and other educational experiences for children with exceptional needs from throughout the county and other areas of Southern Illinois.
The state of Illinois annually publishes an online version of the Illinois School Report Card for each district. For comparative information about the academic performance of individual schools and districts, go to illinoisreportcard.com.
Entertainment Opportunities in Williamson County
There are several local festivals and community events throughout the region that attract visitors from the immediate areas and for miles beyond. Carterville annually hosts the Southern Illinois Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show and, in conjunction with John A. Logan College, sponsors the National Hunting and Fishing Days Celebration. On each Memorial Day weekend, Herrin swells to three times its population during the five days of Herrinfesta Italiana. Marion annually hosts the Williamson County Fair, the longest continually running county fair in the state. Carbondale is the brightest place in the area when the Lights Fantastic Parade is held each December.
Shopping can be a full-time occupation in Williamson County and Southern Illinois. The downtown areas in Carterville, Herrin, Johnston City and Marion, although not what they were a generation ago, retain viable retail establishments that appeal to niche shoppers. University Mall in Carbondale is a regional shopping destination and home to dozens of national and regional retailers as well as scores of specialty shops and eateries.
Marion Stadium in Marion, IL is the home of the Southern Illinois Thrillbillies, a professional baseball team in the Prospect League. It is also the annual host for the Colt World Series, attracting visitors form all over the world.
Restaurants and lodging facilities abound in the area and range from fine dining to fast food options. Many national chains are located at or near the intersections of major highways in the county and in the shopping malls. Local favorites can be found in every community, no matter what the size of the town. Click on one of the Williamson County communities listed below for restaurants, lodging facilities and other information about attractions located within that community.
For information about other entertainment opportunities in the area, click on Williamson County Tourism Bureau.
Health Care Facilities in Williamson County
Williamson County is home to two comprehensive hospital facilities, Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion and Herrin Hospital in Herrin (a division of Southern Illinois Hospital, Inc.) plus a regional Veterans Affairs Medical Center. In addition, the Memorial Hospital of Carbondale is only 15 minutes away from Williamson County.
Heartland Regional Medical Center opened in 2003 as the first new hospital to be constructed in southern Illinois in 40 years. Built to replace the Marion Memorial Hospital, it is licensed for 92 beds and has over 600 employees and 124 physicians providing service in 33 areas of specialization. A full-service medical center, the facility offers a 24-hour fully staffed emergency room, obstetric and geriatric services, comprehensive surgical services and an acclaimed cardiology unit complete with cardiovascular surgery and post-operative rehabilitation programs. An active auxiliary unit enhances the hospital’s services and allows hundreds of volunteers to offer their assistance to others in need. Click on Heartland Regional Medical Center for more information.
Herrin Hospital, an 89 bed acute care facility, has served the area proudly for nearly 100 years and is currently involved in a nearly $20 million expansion program. Over 135 physicians practice in 39 areas of specialization in this modern, high-tech facility. The internationally acclaimed Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has a strategic alliance with the hospital to provide high quality rehabilitation services on-site, allowing southern Illinoisans to remain close to home yet receive world-class care. Click on Herrin Hospital for more information.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion provides both inpatient and outpatient services to veterans from 25 counties of southern Illinois, 8 counties in southwestern Indiana and 17 counties in northwestern Kentucky. It has 55 hospital beds and a separate 60-bed facility for a Nursing Home Care Unit. The facility is affiliated with both SIU School of Medicine and St. Louis University School of Medicine. Click on Veterans Affairs Medical Center for more information.
Memorial Hospital of Carbondale is the largest public health care facility in southern Illinois with 132 beds. It provides medical services to the entire region and its cardiac unit is affiliated with Prairie Heart Institute in Springfield, Illinois, the state’s largest provider of cardiac services. Click on Memorial Hospital of Carbondale for more information.
Post-Secondary Education in Williamson County
Williamson County residents can continue their formal education or enroll in numerous adult education pursuits at John A. Logan College, a nationally ranked post-secondary community college located in Carterville. With an average total enrollment in excess of 14,500 and nearly 400 full time employees it is one of the largest community colleges in Illinois.
Since 1992, John A. Logan College has been home to the Center for Business and Industry,a program designed to help area businesses and industries with training, organizational and grant-writing needs. Last year the center trained more than double the number of individuals trained by any other community college in the state—even those in the more densely populated northeastern counties near Chicago. The center provides both standardized and customized training, either in their new state-of-the-art Business and Industry Center facility, elsewhere on the expansive campus of the college, at the individual worksite of the business or industry, or in some other off-campus training venue appropriate to meet the needs of the client.
In addition to John A. Logan College, there are three other community colleges within a 40-mile radius of the county, including Rend Lake College to the north, Southeastern Illinois College to the east and Shawnee Community College to the south. Fifteen miles to the west is the main campus of Southern Illinois University, the state’s second largest university and one of the top 100 research institutions in the world. Annually some 23,000 students from Williamson County, Illinois and nearly all the other states converge on the Carbondale campus to pursue their dreams. They join representatives from a host of foreign nations, since SIUC is one of the premier destinations for both undergraduate and graduate international students.
Both the Association of American Colleges and U. S. News and World Report rank the SIU School of Medicine among the nation’s elite in training primary care physicians. The university also enjoys the highest classification offered by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, something that less than 4% of the nation’s 4-year colleges and universities
can claim. Click on Southern Illinois University for more information.
Recreational Opportunities in Williamson County
For outdoors enthusiasts, Williamson County offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Located in the heart of an outdoor paradise, ample streams provide multiple streams and lakes for fishing. Four large lakes can be found in the southwest quadrant of the county, three located in the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, and one that serves as a cooling source for the Southern Illinois Power Cooperatives electric generating facility south of Marion. There are also several smaller lakes and municipal water impoundments located throughout the county.
Much of the acreage of the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge is included within the county and the areas adjacent to the refuge offer exceptional waterfowl hunting areas and attract hunters from several states. Nearby counties to the south include much of the acreage in the Shawnee National Forest and also provide numerous and varied hunting opportunities within an hour’s drive. Several state parks in southern Illinois provide camping sites, as do areas within the national forest boundaries. Click on either Williamson County Tourism Bureau or the Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office for more information about hunting, fishing and camping facilities.
High school athletic programs include almost every major sport in all but the smallest schools. Regional rivalries are intense and the student athletes treat the many spectators at these competitions to outstanding efforts on a consistent basis. Community colleges continue this tradition of excellent athletic competition and attract a considerable following. Big time intercollegiate athletics are provided by Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where both men’s and women’s teams compete in more than a dozen NCAA Division I sports. The SIUC football team competes at the NCAA Division I-AA level and has been nationally ranked for two consecutive seasons and has enjoyed recent national rankings. Each May the Southern Illinois Thrillbillies, a Prospect League baseball team organized in 2023 begins a full schedule of games at Marion Stadium in Marion, IL. The quality of the facility rivals that of stadiums in much larger communities. Every summer the PONY Baseball Colt World Series is hosted at Marion Stadium attracting people from across the world.
Other sports venues include:
- Numerous gyms, running tracks and personal fitness facilities are located throughout Williamson County and southern Illinois.
- Several area towns have community swimming pools, SIUC has an indoor recreation center and there are private swimming facilities available throughout the area.
- More than a score of golf courses dot the area, providing challenging opportunities for everyone from the occasional weekend golfer to the low-handicap aficionado. There are five courses in Williamson County, one of which, Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion, has been recognized by Sports Illustrated Travel and Leisure and Golf Week magazines as an exceptional value golf course.
The Southern Illinois Wine Trail offers an affordable and unique wine-tasting experience, attracting visitors from across the nation and world. It’s a popular location for destination weddings due to its scenic views, and visitors can enjoy nearby outdoor activities. Overall, it’s a perfect destination for a relaxing weekend getaway.