Archive for the ‘Tourism and recreation’ Category

With all apologies to the Stephen Colbert book title I just appropriated, that phrase could apply to the first step in the Surry tourism partnership’s branding campaign to figure out how to better market the area. Last month the partnership hired design firm Madcat Group to coordinate a brand the entire public can buy into, and the first step in that process begins next week with a brainstorming exercise for tourism officials in which participants imagine themselves as Surry County and then describe their pros and cons. MadCat’s partners have stressed the need for the general public to participate in the branding process and buy into whatever logos and taglines come out of it, so the invitation is now open for anyone to visualize just what kind of person the human embodiment of Surry County would be. Is it someone you’d invite home for dinner?

Another note for those concerned that Mayberry has taken up too much (or not enough) space in the Surry brand — next week’s tourism meeting to start formulating the campaign will take place not at the arts council or downtown but at a winery.

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It’s a sentimental spot for some, a slice of the Mayberry myth for others. But either way the old city jail on City Hall Street leaves visitors and former employees distraught at its current condition. And now’s not a time to pour much money into successful tourism attractions, let alone decaying ones.

Enter Hampton Inn, which runs a program that rejuvenates historical sites across the country. The jail has been nominated, but whether it’s selected depends on how many folks go to Hampton’s site and vote to have it saved. Seems simple enough, but the old city jail’s competition is … well … older. A 19th century plantation and a 18th century home both carry more historical cache than a 20th century lockup. The wild card, of course, is the King of Andy. The old city jail is a tourist attraction because of its connection, however contrived, to the jail seen frequently on The Andy Griffith Show (which in reality was no more than a set in California). We’ll see if that translates to votes this month, or if the jail’s potential saviors bestow landmark status elsewhere.

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Andy Griffith used to be Surry County’s only tourism presence online. Then that site got a makeover more egalitarian in promoting other attractions. Then the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce wanted to get in on the act and devised its own tourism site, complete with a logo and slogan chosen among entries in a contest. Then came a push from the county’s natural resources commission to highlight nature tourism online. County government didn’t want to get behind and threw in its hat in the online tourism promotion game. And when a tourism partnership between all the municipalities started running ads, it needed to have a site to steer visitors towards that didn’t favor any one town over the other.

So that’s how we’ve reached the current mass of websites to sort through. It seems to work at the moment, but once the tourism partnership goes through the branding process (which is coming up soon) with a design firm, I’m guessing a big recommendation will be to streamline the marketing with a single site and scheme to clear up confusion among visitors. Right now all five sites have totally different design schemes. If sooner or later they get folded into a single “brand,” which is the look to embrace?

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As written up in last Friday’s Messenger, the return of the annual Surry County Agricultural Fair is marked with a few changes, namely the inclusion of farm-themed events after a two year absence and an increase in the ticket price. Blog discussions on Mount Airy’s other two big fall events — Mayberry Days and Autumn Leaves — generated plenty of opinions on the quality and value of the festivities. Where does the county fair fit into the mix? As the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs documents here, it’s one of many North Carolina fairs of its type with decades of history. But it’s certainly gone through some changes over the years and it will be interesting to see how the latest version is received locally.

For those curious, the photo at right is from last year’s fair. The inside pig won easily.

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There are two ways to look at the news that Surry County’s tourist spending went up 6.9 percent to $83.3 million in 2007: A. It’s a great indicator of local growth in the tourism sector; B. Surry is just keeping pace with the rest of the state.

For those inclined to take more interest in B (or who just travel a lot and are curious in other counties’ tourist draws) it helps to look at this breakdown by county in order of percentage growth. Some odd things jump out, like how does Nash have the most robust growth while neighboring Edgecombe is ranked near the bottom? Or looking at the data in our region, how does Surry show growth while neighboring Yadkin is flat?

You can also go here to look at historical data. Surry’s data shows a couple of rough tourist years, but pretty steady growth long term. It’s at least a stronger growth pattern than Stokes, and a more consistent growth pattern than Wilkes.

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I got an update today about the prospects of having The Mountains to Sea Trail come through Surry County. As reported earlier this month, the state is trying to connect the scenic hiking route in the western and eastern parts of the state to make for a continuous 900-mile footpath.

The chances of it coming this way — through Elkin, Dobson and Pilot Mountain — look promising, but only if there’s universal support and a willingness among local officials to do the legwork securing easements and creating the trail.

The gap that needs connecting is between Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain state parks. As someone who likes to frequently drive the county’s backroads just to take in their scenic beauty, it got me thinking what corridors would make the best route(s). Based on current interest in hiking the trail, there could be enough use to impact nearby businesses, so you’d want to briefly pass through some commercial areas.

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So it looks like there will soon be serious consideration of proposals to revamp the rest area in downtown Mount Airy, with the goal of making it blend in better with the surrounding architecture. I always thought that gap in Main Street looked odd, but never gave it any serious thought. What would make the most sense for that property?
Keep in mind, the money that’s being earmarked for this project comes from an additional tax levied on downtown properties. It’s reserved for projects that will boost that business district. So doing nothing to the rest area won’t provide more money for public safety or other city departments.
But will fixing it up even improve downtown business?

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