Adventure tourism is the newest mantra that is being chanted from the fine folks down in Frankfort. What it really amounts to is that we have some wonderful resources here that we take for granted, that the rest of the world might find interesting.
About once a month when I am driving around Eastern Kentucky I play a little game with myself and as I pass through an area I pretend that this isn’t home. Would I stop? Is the town somewhere I would find interesting? What stories does it hold? Every day, I drive down Third Street in Paintsville and don’t notice the beautiful tree lined street, or the majestic John C.C. Mayo house, or the amazing Mayo Methodist Church. To me, these are just constant background noise in my day to day commute.
The drive (or run, as it is one of my favorite loops) down Town Branch Road into Prestonsburg across the Woodrow Burchett memorial bridge is just that, until you really stop and take in the view after a fresh coat of snow. Nowhere will you find a more storybook picture of a small town in America.
We will never be a “Gatlinburg,” and even if we could, I am pretty sure we wouldn’t want it. Too busy, too hectic. We want a simpler brand of “tourism” here. A place where people can come, enjoy the simple beauty we all take for granted and have a good time in the process. Somewhere, they can learn our stories, walk, bike or ride our trails, and fish and canoe our waterways and feel like they have “come home.”
No group of people in the world can we make you feel more welcome and appreciated, if we know you mean well. I always joked about if you are really hungry during the summer and can’t find a good place to eat, follow a family reunion sign and pretend to be the cousins from Ohio that everybody knew when they were little.
So, how do we get them to stop in our towns and listen to our stories?
This leads me to the point of this note. Over the weekend I engaged in the second annual Camp Caleb Mud Run. I had the honor of being one of the initial event consultants when they were putting together their first event, I had never run a mud run before. Had no clue how to do it or really even how I could help them. So I did what any good Rotarian does and offered to grill some form of sausage for them.
The event the first year was a success. This year it doubled in size (and, correspondingly, revenue). It pulled runners from all over Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina.
I direct the Christmas on the Country Music Highway Half Marathon in December for Rotary and Kiwanis. We have run for three years now, and each year we have doubled our runners (and revenue). We pulled runners from California and Florida this year.
In April of this year, I directed the first-ever event on the newly opened Dawkins Trail, the Honeysuckle and Horse Patty Half Marathons. For a first-year event, your goal is to not go into the red. We made money. We hope to double next year.
Show me any other money making endeavour in Eastern Kentucky that can double every year, and get people to come here to do it. I am not suggesting that we all go into the event management business, but these type of events are filling the void in fundraising for non-profits that the lack of easy sponsorship money has left. At one point it was nothing or a coal company to cut a $500 check to sponsor a school or an event. Now those are hard to come by.
Adventure tourism, specifically as it relates to events tailored around raising money using our natural resources, is something every non-profit should look at. While they can be a little tricky, running a good event isn’t that hard. A little 10K that raises $3,000 for your group in a morning’s work can make a huge difference in your budget for the year.
If you or any group would like help, please don’t heistate to reach out to me. I might have no clue how to do what you want, but I may be able to talk someone into grilling some sort of sausage.