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McDuffie's Masters: Airport, hotels and restaurants reap

Just call it Christmas in April.


Lee Anne Cowart finishes a floral arrangement in the lobby of the airport.
Jason B. Smith
Masters Week is known throughout the CSRA for bringing tidings in the form of sales and hotel tax dollars, and McDuffie County is no exception.

"This is our biggest tourism event of the year in terms of economic impact; there's no doubt about it," said Thomson-McDuffie Tourism Director Gerald Baygents.

Thomson-area hotels and motels were sold out for most of last week, and restaurants along Interstate 20 were slammed with Masters patrons stopping by for a quick bite to eat.

"It's a long week and a lot of overtime. It's a challenge for everybody to still be smiling on Friday and Saturday night when they're already working twice as many hours as they're accustomed to," said White Columns owner Epp Wilson. "Everybody pulled together really well, and it was the best Masters we ever had in the restaurant and in the motel side."


The planes of Masters visitors are lined up at the airport.
Jason B. Smith
Mr. Wilson said that much of his Masters Week business comes from customers that return year after year. And he said this year, there were more reservations made for the 2005 Masters week by Monday morning than on any previous year.

Mr. Baygents estimated that around $300,000 of revenue was generated just from the hotel rooms alone, and that's not even counting sales tax dollars from Wal-Mart and restaurants.

One of the best things about Masters Week, Mr. Baygents said, is that the county doesn't need to advertise, which in turn maximizes the amount of money that comes in.

"We don't have to advertise for this event. It's here; we don't have to put up money for it," he said. "It's just here for the taking for us. We want our name just as a presence for them to take a look at us while we're here, and that's great to have."

Things were just as busy out at the Thomson-McDuffie Airport, where there were private and corporate jets flying in and out all week.

"We've had a busy week," said Airport Fixed Base Operator James Lyle. "Monday and Tuesday were quite a bit busier than last year. Wednesday we had a very busy day with traffic. Overall this week has been slightly better than last year, especially because of the weather we had last year."

The largest plane that landed at the Thomson-McDuffie Airport was a Gulfstream IV that was brought in by the Coca-Cola Company. Also several celebrities flew out from Thomson. Former Masters champ Fuzzy Zoeller left from the airport on Sunday.


Richard Murphy of North Augusta stopped in Thomson to get fuel on his way to Arkansas with his family.
Jason B. Smith
Improvements made to the airport also contributed to the pickup in visitors.

"This year with our expanded ramp area, we were able to park many more aircraft," said Mr. Lyle. "We've had aircraft from Texas, Oklahoma and Washington, so we've had them come in from all over the country."

Mr. Lyle said that there were fewer large aircraft and more small planes than last year, but for the entire week the traffic was similar to last year.

"The first of the week was busier...than last year because of the weather," Mr. Lyle said. "But Saturday and Sunday were a little bit slower than last year. It possibly had an impact because it was Easter weekend."

Web posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004

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Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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