CHICAGO -- Three Illinois motorcoach tours -- Secrets and Songs on the Road to Freedom; Immigrants and Ingenuity in Illinois' Northwest Passage, and Passport to the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor -- were recently picked with more than 70 other U.S. tours to be a part of the American Pathways 2000 program.

The program is part of the White House Millennium Program, which was created to encourage the development of American cultural heritage tourism.

Secrets and Songs on the Road to Freedom traces the steps of more than 8 million African-Americans who were brought to this country as slaves.

Their journey to freedom is chronicled through their music, their trips along the Underground Railroad and their fight to be free.

The tour departs from St. Louis and in five days and four nights travels to Memphis; Sikestown Mo., and Cairo, Marion, Alton and Springfield, Ill. Springfield was home to President Abraham Lincoln. For more information on this tour, call (800) 264-8884.

Immigrants and Ingenuity in Illinois' Northwest Passage celebrates the immigrant heritage of northwest Illinois.

The tour begins at Apple River and travels throughout Illinois to Belvidere, Cedarville, Dixon, Freeport, Fulton, Galena, Grand Detour, Hanover, Lena, Oregon, Poplar Grove, Prophetstown, Rockford, Savanna, Sterling-Rock Falls, Tampico and Warren in four days and three nights. For more information on this tour, call (815) 489-1666.

The Passport to the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor tour introduces participants to the heritage of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the impact the area had on the growth of America.

The tour begins in Chicago at Navy Pier, which marks the mouth of the Chicago River, the gateway to the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.

The tour then follows the canal trail from Chicago through Joliet and Lockport. For more information on this tour, call (800) 926-2262.

Ill. events make ABA's Top 100

Meanwhile, samples of the American Bus Association's Top 100 Events in North America include two in Illinois: the Morton Pumpkin Festival and the St. Charles Scarecrow Festival.

The Top 100 program annually recognizes events in the U.S. and Canada which appeal to groups traveling by motorcoach as well as to the general public. The Morton Pumpkin Festival Sept. 13 to 16, celebrates the coming of fall.

The St. Charles Scarecrow Festival is slated for Oct. 13 to 15 and has an annual display of more than 100 hand-crafted scarecrows, a crafts fair and the popular Autumn on the Fox Arts and Crafts Show.

For more information on the Morton Pumpkin Festival, call (800) 747-0302. For more information on the St. Charles Scarecrow Festival, call (800) 777-4373.

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