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Tourism officials look forward to big year at retreat

It's shaping up to be more than just another year for the Thomson-McDuffie Tourism Board.

Instead, 2004 should be a year packed full of big events that will hopefully generate big money.

Between the Blind Willie Blues Festival, Festival Off Main Street, races at Pine Top Farm, various tournaments at Sweetwater Park, and a possible junior golf tournament at Belle Meade, McDuffie County could see a huge financial benefit from tourists this year.

The slate of events was mulled over by tourism officials at the board's retreat earlier this week held at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport. There, new and old board members discussed the year ahead with local and regional officials. Executive Director of Forward McDuffie and Tourism Board Member Don Powers thought the day-long discussion went smoothly.

"I thought it was wonderful. It was a good meeting. The events are as strong as they've ever been, and in my opinion, tourism is getting a lot of notice," he said.

Newly-named Chairman of the Tourism Board Hazel Mobley agreed, noting that the new crop of board members is coming onboard at just the right time.

"Things are going to start happening. We've got to involve that 'New blood.' We are going to have a great year. I think we started our signature event last year in the first week of December, but I think we'll have events coming up this year that will be equally as good," she said.

She also praised Mr. Powers for his leadership and his presence on the board.

"It's wonderful to have somebody like Don Powers there. ...I just love a challenge, especially when you've got somebody (like Mr. Powers) that's going to be measuring what you're doing," she said.

In fact, Mr. Powers called for a generous increase in hotel and motel tax revenue this year, a feat that won't be especially difficult, he said, considering that 35 out of the 52 weeks in 2004 will have an event held designed to bring in people from outside McDuffie County to come and subsequently spend.

Tax revenue, Mr. Powers said, has "essentially been flat for the last few years. We want it to be our barometer for how well we're doing. Are we raising the hotel and motel revenues? If we are, is the money we're spending making revenue improvements?"

Officials hope that whether it's a race out at Pine Top Farm, a fishing tournament at Mistletoe State Park, or a softball tournament at Sweetwater Park, more people will come and more dollars will be generated than in years past.

"The monies we spend through the Tourism Department are designed to bring back revenue," said Mr. Powers.

Other notes from the retreat:

Recreation Department Director Bob Howard is waiting on word from the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners regarding Special Local Option Sales Tax payments. Once he gets the details on when he's getting his $2.5 million, the planning of a new community center should begin.

"We hope to get started this year," he said of the facility, which he said will probably include two or three regulation sized basketball courts, among other things.

"There's a lot of different things we could do with it."

Preparation at the airport is already well underway for Masters Week. Airport Fixed Base Operator James Lyle said a heavy marketing campaign has been implemented to bring more planes into the area in April.

"We are projecting, hopefully, a 50 percent increase in traffic," said Mr. Lyle.



Web posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004


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