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MAKANDA — Matt and Corene Mavigliano thought the 75 acres of land bordering the Shawnee National Forest in rural Union County would make the perfect spot for a vacation home.

And, they thought, when they weren’t staying there maybe they could rent it out to tourists visiting the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

Too bad for the Carterville couple, almost a year after they purchased the property, they have yet to enjoy the breathtaking views from their fully renovated lodge.

“Worst-case scenario we thought we would use it and rent it out as we could. It got booked up so quickly, we still haven’t had the opportunity to stay there,” Matt Mavigliano said with a laugh. “We had no idea how successful it would become.”

First, the couple renovated an old house that sat on the property and made infrastructure improvements.

“The house hadn’t been lived in for a long time so we completely redid the inside from top to bottom. We also worked on the exterior and added an enormous deck,” he said.

The four-bedroom lodge has an open concept and was renovated with the latest in fixtures and appliances, Corene Mavigliano said.

“We wanted it to look warm and appealing,” she said. “I think the best part of the lodge is the view, and the deck was a great addition. You can feel at home while on vacation enjoying the beauty of Southern Illinois.”

They named their new venture, Firefly Valley, after witnessing fireflies flitting in the valley that leads down to Lick Creek, Matt Mavigliano said.

“This is such an amazing place. There is such peace and quiet. When you go out on the deck and look down in the valley, it’s special. You can watch deer and wildlife roaming just 20 acres away,” he said.

The property’s proximity to the forest, “You can hike into the Shawnee from the property,” he said, and to the wine trail were important, “We are very big fans of the wine trail.”

In fact, the couple recently added an event and concert venue to help bring people to the trail. Several weddings have been booked and a summer concert series added. Monthly concerts are booked through October. Admission to the concerts is free, and beer, wine and food vendors will be onsite.

“Our goal is to bring in acts new to the area and great local acts as well,” he said.

The future is filled with potential, he said.

“We want to continue growing the concert venue and may add an additional lodge down the road,” he said. “We want to become a destination on the wine trail.”

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