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Plenty to see and do this fall

November 30, 1999|By Tom Riford

There are a lot of wonderful things on the Event Calendar in Hagerstown-Washington County. BUT, first of all, hats off to the Alsatia Club, the participants, and to all the volunteers who helped make the 81st Mummers' Parade a big success. The East Coast's largest night-time Halloween parade, which attracts tens of thousands of people to Hagerstown, is wonderful for our community.

There are many more things coming up, of course! Fall festivals, an art show, and special exhibitions are on the calendar.

The annual Trains of Christmas at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum is anticipated to be bigger and better than ever, and it begins Nov. 25.

The Second Annual Festival of Trees in Hagerstown has truly grown into a significant community event, and this year features lots of entertainment (including groups from throughout Washington County and also the famous Maryland State Boy Choir). The Festival of Trees begins Nov. 30 and runs through Dec. 4.

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The Jonathan Hager House starts its annual German Christmas this month, and did you know that our Hagerstown treasure was featured in Maryland Life magazine this month (along with many other Washington County points of interest)?

There are so many wonderful things going on, be sure to look at the events calendar on the CVB's Web site, for a listing of activities throughout Washington County: www.marylandmemories.com, or stop in to the Downtown Visitors Center to pick up a calendar and to browse the gift shop.

I-81 Corridor Tourism Group



People like coming to our area, and our residents enjoy our many wonderful amenities. But how do we help increase the number of visitors to our area? At last month's Quad State Legislative Conference in Hagerstown, state legislators passed a resolution that created an Interstate 81 Corridor Tourism Group that would meet on a quarterly basis to discuss common concerns, and look at ways of marketing the region as a tourist destination. This year's annual conference was hosted by your CVB, and brought together the tourism officials from along the I-81 corridor in the Quad-State region.

During our presentation to the legislators, we pointed out that between 8 percent and 22 percent of all jobs in our region area tourism related, more than 60 museums are in the I-81 corridor, and well over 1,000 events are scheduled each year. Washington County has the largest number of people working in the tourism industry (5,700, which is almost 9 percent of the workforce), while Jefferson County, W.Va., has the highest percentage working in tourism (22 percent). The Leisure and Hospitality classification includes people who work at hotels, B&Bs, campgrounds, some restaurants, attractions, etc.

More than $176 million was spent by overnight visitors in our county last year, and hundreds of millions of more dollars spent in our neighboring counties. This translates to jobs, and an better standard of living and quality of life for our community.

The group will meet quarterly to explore ways to act cooperatively and to cross market our tourist resources. This new tourism group will include Washington County, the three counties in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, Franklin (Pa.) and Frederick (Va.) counties. We will explore additional ways to promote the I-81 corridor as a tourism destination.

Customer service and education



On another tourism note, I was very pleased to be invited to participate with other community and business leaders in a planning session held by Washington County Public Schools. With a focus on the growing number of local tourism jobs, our group discussed whether Washington County would benefit from having a new curriculum that would include customer service training. This discussion may eventually result in an academy-style program in Washington County.

Invited participants to this preliminary planning session included hotel managers, economic development officials, campground managers, and other business leaders. I look forward to the follow-up report from this planning session, and would welcome new educational opportunities in Washington County. Our public school system is doing a great job, as it continually impresses education experts around the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears monthly in The Daily Mail. The CVB's Web site is www.marylandmemories.com.

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