Friday, November 13, 2015

Changing Seasons by John Dersham

Now that Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and the leaves have fallen, tourism in DeKalb County begins to decline for the winter season.  We set some records from mid September through last week for fall season attendance. It started with a record turnout at Fort Payne’s Boom Days Heritage Celebration and Third Saturday Sunset on September 19 and Colorfest in Mentone the third weekend in October, which enjoyed its best attendance ever. DeSoto S.P. and Little River Canyon were full of foliage seekers from mid October until last week. There were several weekends in a row when the parking lots at Little River Falls and DeSoto Falls were so full, parking was pushed out to the streets. Lodging was sold out at the state park and cabin rentals and campgrounds were full. In fact, lodging as a whole had a great fall season. DeKalb Tourism is funded from a portion of the lodging taxes collected. The state revenue office tallies our lodging and we get reports about a month in arrears. We have received September’s numbers but not October. We had our best September on record. Even though fall foliage has not typically begun in September, it is still a time people like to come to our area on weekends. School is well underway and the summer vacation season ended when school began in early August, so by late in September people are ready to get away again and we make for a great place to go for the weekend.  We have 11 million people living within a 200 mile radius of us. This provides an extensive pool of potential visitors, this is one of the reasons we do so well in September thru November. Our visitors are coming from nearby cities and they want a scenic, relaxing place to get away from the rush of their weekday routines. We are especially attractive to locations south of us this time of year since they get less fall color and we provide a nearby destination with mountains full of deciduous hardwoods that garner outstanding fall color. Now as winter approaches our tourism slows down as people turn to family events like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and if they travel it is often for holiday occasions to visit family. We will have some cabins occupied by families who use them as a meeting point where family meets and they can cook and celebrate the holidays together. Our area has the only ski resort in Alabama at Cloudmont Golf and Ski resort. It draws good crowds from around the region as long as it stays 30 degrees or below so they can make snow, and of course, most winters we will have a few natural snows that help to keep the ski resort open more days at a time. Overall, winter is a slow season in tourism for us and for many other destinations that typically identify themselves as leisure vacation markets whose destinations are usually more attractive to them in the warmer season. In mid to late March we will slowly increase our number of visitors as the weather warms up and people want to spend their leisure vacation time in scenic locations with lots of outdoor venues. March through November are our strongest months with June, July, September, October and November as the leading months. August is slow due to school starting with December, January and February ranking as our lowest visitation months.