Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pretty Parks, Antique Cars, music, food and Smiling Faces by John Dersham

Last Saturday was our second Third Saturday Sunset event. This event is hosted each month by the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce and assisted by the Fort Payne Area Merchants Association with great support from a host of city organizations, the police department, fire department, city council, the mayor’s office and parks and recreation.
My wife and I were talking about how good it feels walking through downtown and witnessing so many people talking, laughing, milling around listening to music, eating and shopping, playing in the parks, dancing and having such a great time in this close knit supportive community where people are eager to volunteer their time and effort to bring us together more often. Carol Beddingfield, Executive Director of the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce, her staff and board has done a fantastic job along with support groups to really make our Third Saturday event special. The crowd was fantastic. I think even more people attended this time than last. The weather was great and our downtown area was squeaky clean and our beautiful parks were all a show place. My wife and I felt very proud of our town. It looked good and felt even better. We saw lots of friends and had a chance to talk and enjoy this community event together.
 In a time when many cities are having major financial problems and elected officials struggle with the community and with each other to find a way to manage their towns, Fort Payne clicks right along with tax revenue continuing to come in at a rate that supports the services that we all use and enjoy. We really have a beautiful town to be proud of. If you travel around you won’t have to go far to be reminded that Fort Payne is a one of a kind city in Alabama. Our beautiful Boom Days architecture and our lovely view of Lookout Mountain to the east and Sand Mountain to the west gives this small city nestled in Wills Valley a very photogenic appeal.
I think our Third Saturday is good for our community spirit and makes a solid contribution to our tax revenues with open stores and restaurants. It provides an opportunity for food vendors and is a great showcase for the antique auto owners to show their vehicles. It also provides an opportunity for musicians and dance organizations to perform.
Thanks to all of you who have helped make Third Saturday Sunset a successful event.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adding income to our local communities and county by John Dersham

Many people may not think much about the financial attributes of an event like the ARPA District II regional swim meet we had here last Thursday through Saturday. If you did not have a family member or friend in the competition perhaps the event did not come to mind at all. The truth is whenever we have an event that brings in people from outside of our area they are bringing dollars they earned in a different economy and spending it in ours. The swim meet had a couple thousand people here for this three day event. Many of them stayed overnight which helped keep our hotels, campgrounds and other lodging facilities busy. These visitors went to restaurants, attractions and they shopped and bought gas for their cars.
Greg Conkle, Executive Director of Fort Payne Parks and Recreation and his staff along with help of the city of Fort Payne Police and Fire Departments did a great job at hosting a well planned and very well executed event. All of our public properties downtown, at the public swimming pool and all Parks and Recreation properties where neat, clean, mowed, trimmed and presented to our visitors in a first class fashion. I know our visitors had a great time here. Events like this and other tourism related functions like festivals, summer camps, attractions, B&B’s, campgrounds, cabins, N.E Agri Business Center and parks bring a constant flow of tourists throughout our county. The fact that tourism has stayed up during our down economy has helped our cities, and county keep our tax revenue high enough that our area has not seen the financial crisis that many areas have. This is especially true since our unemployment has been higher than the national average most of the time during this downturn. Our success at using tourism as an economic development tool has worked very well. I am fortunate here at DeKalb Tourism that we have public officials at all levels in our cities and county that understand tourism and its great economic benefits. There are some other benefits to tourism that you may have not thought about. Tourism cannot be outsourced to another state or another country, tourists rarely are involved in crimes and tourists do not require city or county money for city and county services like schooling, trash pickup or other maintenance related costs incurred to local governments by residents.
Thanks again to everyone involved in planning and implementing functions like the swim meet that bring people to our area that helps support our local economy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Big Summer in DeKalb by John Dersham

According to the National Travel Agency July 4th this year had the largest number of people on the road for this holiday since 2005. Some of this is due to the sudden drop in gas prices earlier in the summer and much is due to the gradual overall economic recovery. With that said it is still noted that our economy is fragile and the slightest downward trend could put the economy in recession again. None the less people are traveling this summer. Thus far here in DeKalb County our summer has been very strong. The numbers we have seen at our information center and are witnessed at hotels, campgrounds, B&B’s, parks and restaurants, all are indicating a really good season. Last weekend was Julyfest in Mentone. Julyfest is the re-establishment of a festival held years ago in Mentone. Many of you are already familiar with the Rhododendron festival in May and Colorfest in October which have been Mentone’s two annual festivals in recent years. I was very pleased with the combination of people and organizations promoting Julyfest in cooperation with each other. The Mentone Area Arts Council put forth a great venue of artists, entertainment and food at Julyfest which was held as a two day event in Mason Park in Mentone but that was only the focal point.  The festival had many sponsors and events were all over town. The Mentone Inn and Mentone Springs Hotel and all the local merchants and restaurants participated with special events and incentives and advertising to attract visitors. My family and I spent a number of hours at the festival on Saturday and I was very pleased to see how well people scattered all over town. I also talked to some people to find out where they were from. It appears we had an exceptional out of town response to this. Tourists are known to be the ones who buy art when they travel. They like to have some pieces that represent the area they visit. Tourists plan their trips to have extra money to spend on shopping, food and entertainment. The average tourist saves money so they won’t have to scrimp while on vacation.
Julyfest was well promoted via rack cards, websites, Facebook, press releases and newspaper articles. Social media has become a major advertising format for the travel industry. It is an easy way to get information distributed to a lot of people at low or no cost. This festival is a great example of how working together leads to a much better result than going at it alone. It delighted me to see so many people involved in developing and promoting this event. If you were there this weekend you know what I am talking about…and what about all that great art. We have hundreds of high quality artists of varying mediums living and working in our area. They are incredibly talented.
Other well attended and supported events this summer have been the Sand Mountain Potato festival and the first Fort Payne Third Saturday. Thanks everybody for the wonderful fellowship and team efforts that have gone into all of these events. It is hard work but has a big payoff to the communities and patrons involved.