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Zoar, Yankee Candle win state tourism awards

CHARLEMONT — Tropical Storm Irene took out Zoar Outdoor’s whitewater rafting storage shed, scoured the Deerfield River banks and even altered some of the eddies in the stream.

Yet the whitewater rafting and canopy zip line center made a comeback — and won a state tourism award in the process.

Zoar Outdoor and Yankee Candle Inc. of Deerfield were among 23 statewide attractions that were recognized as a Massachusetts Premier Tourism Attraction at the annual Governor’s Conference at the Big E in Springfield.

“After the flood, we deliberately turned to local contractors to rebuild, because we wanted to support Franklin County,” said Meghan Ecclesine of Zoar Outdoor. “Overall, we were down for 10 days. We worked to get back and running on the river as quickly as possible, not only for our customers, but also for our staff in providing the work that they count on.”

“We thought that the zip course was going to be the hardest hit from what we had heard of the winds that were supposed to come and had started to prepare for that,” she said, referring to the winds of Hurricane Irene, before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

“But, as it turned out, the course wasn’t affected and the zip line helped bring us through financially, at that time last year,” she said.

Ecclesine said the storm has changed the river in many places, even in the Zoar Gap, but that the river is recovering. “People have still had a great time on the river,” she said.

Although this summer was very dry, recreational water releases from the dams have helped the fishermen, the rafting and kayaking businesses on the Deerfield River, she said.

“Because of the foliage and the weather, this time of year is a great time to come zipping, and the fall continues to attract folks to the area,” she said.

At Yankee Candle, spokeswoman Karen Woods said winning the award was exciting, and that this is the first time Yankee Candle has won this award.

“It’s great to be recognized as a pillar of tourism in the Pioneer Valley and in Franklin County,” she said. “We have over 2.5 million tourists a year that come into our flagship store.”

Besides producing at least 200 million candles per year, with about 200 fragrances available at the flagship store, Yankee Candle hosts special events and carries much more besides candles.

“We don’t compare ourselves to other companies,” said Woods, when asked if Kringle Candle Co. has cut into Yankee’s business. “We continue to do the things we do to attract people to our store.”

In 2003, Yankee Candle won the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. At the time, Gov. Mitt Romney had said that, next to the Freedom Trail in Boston, the Yankee Candle store was the largest tourism destination in the state.

Other tourism destinations to win this Premier Tourism Attraction award this year included Fenway Park, MassMOCA, Tanglewood, and the Cape Cod National Seashore.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or (413) 772-0261, ext. 277

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