Mass. tourism officials coming out to see the sights
Water flows over the dam in Shelburne Falls after recent down pours swelling the Deerfield.
Customers walk through the Christmas shop during the open house at Jringles in Bernardston
Kacie Breault from the Seeds of Solidarity Farm creates a braid of garlic for sale during the Garlic Festival in Orange
The Legislature’s tourism committee is going on tour … in Franklin County.
The committee — actually the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development — will be getting out of Beantown and immersing itself in this region’s foliage-lush hills and valleys — with stops in Bernardston, Turners Falls, Charlemont and Wendell.
The panel, which includes area Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Denise Andrews, D-Orange, will even be taking in Wendell’s Deja Brew Cafe and the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival.
“One of the biggest things we can do, as legislators out here is bring these committees out locally,” said Mark. “It gives us a chance to have our voice heard, and lets those legislators get a chance to see what’s going on out here.”
The “voice heard” part will come at a forum planned for Friday at 10 a.m. at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. Area town officials will be involved along with representatives of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and the regional tourism councils, such as the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Ann Hamilton said that she hopes to make clear how important the state’s marketing funds are to the agency in promoting the region and marketing events like the summer’s Green River Festival in Greenfield.
“We want to make it clear that the tourism money supports cultural events and helps bring people to them,” said Hamilton. “My idea is to strengthen their understanding of how important the tourism funds are to local and regional development.”
Those funds, about $220,000 to the chamber, is part of roughly $8 million that’s used for marketing attractions to visitors who would be visiting from more than 50 miles away or staying overnight.
The pot for regional tourism councils, says Hamilton, “is a lot less than in the neighboring states, so we’re trying to make the case that it’s really competitive. We should at least hold our own.”
Since the marketing money is based on revenue from hotel room taxes, Hamilton argues, when the region does get more money for marketing, that room tax revenue goes up for the state.
Mary Vilbon, executive director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Business Association, said, “My emphasis will be on how important tourism is to our communities. That’s why we have to constantly remind our legislators, especially since Shelburne Falls is in the middle of two tourism councils, and they’re crucial to any marketing we do.”
This week’s committee tour, one of several planned by the legislative panel for this year and next, is also being hosted by the North Adams-based Mohawk Trail Association and the Leominster-based Johnny Appleseed Trail Association, both of which are focused along Route 2, west and east, respectively, and overlap with the Franklin County Chamber’s regional tourism council.
Friday’s whirlwind tour will include the Turners Falls visitor center, Kringle Candle in Bernardston, Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, Shelburne Falls, Old Deerfield, with an evening reception at the French King Restaurant in Erving and dinner at Deja Brew.
Saturday’s itinerary features breakfast in Petersham, the Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, and a tour of Orange and Athol including the Millers River Cafe, the Orange and Athol historical societies, Jumptown at the Orange Municipal Airport, Peak Expeditions, as well as the Athol Bird and Nature Center, Allen Rich Park and Athol Equestrian Center.
“I’m just tickled to have people come see us for something nice, not something tragic,” said Jay Deane, president of the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce. Anytime someone can come out from the part of the state that runs the state, it’s going to be great.”