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Madison Trolley

Madison Trolley driver wins
tourism’s Hospitality Award


Brubaker discovered Madison
while on vacation in early ’90s

By Don Ward
Editor

(June, 2002) MADISON, Ind. – When Keith Brubaker retired in 1993 from the U.S. Army and moved to Madison, Ind., he never dreamed he would wound up as an ambassador for tourism.
But after 26 years as a communications specialist for Uncle Sam, leading narrated driving tours for visitors around this historic Ohio River town came natural to him. After four years of driving the open-air Madison Trolley, his skills as a tour guide were rewarded May 9 when the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau named Brubaker its second annual Hospitality Award winner.
Tom McKenna, a Madison native and director of the Indiana Department of Commerce, and Madison Mayor Al Huntington presented the award during a reception at the Hillside Inn.

From left: Indiana Department
of Commerce director Tom
McKenna, runner-up Scott
Koerner of Key West Shrimp
House, winner Keith Brubaker
and Mayor Al Huntington

McKenna also presented an award to Scott Koerner, the runner-up and owner of Key West Shrimp House. Other nominees included Lanier Mansion volunteers Mary Clapham, Betty Copeland, Lila Daniel and Judith Tompkins, and Madison Main Street Program director Dave Adams.
Margie Webb of Margie’s Country Store won last year’s inaugural award, which was conceived by tourism officials to mark National Tourism Week, celebrated this year from May 4-12.
“It’s an honor and a thrill for me,” said Brubaker, 58, a Maysville, Ky., native who has become known on the tour circuit for his southern accent and charm.
“Everyone he meets, he makes people fall in love with Madison,” Madison tourism executive director Linda Lytle said of Brubaker in reading comments from the nomination. “Keith is a very good spokesman for Madison… Keith can melt ice with his southern drawl.”
After high school, Brubaker attended Murray State University for two years, then dropped out to join the Army. He and his wife, Jan, and daughter, Natalie, were living in Fort Carson, Colo., when he retired as a 1st sergeant. “We were looking for a small town with Midwestern values to retire to, and we remembered how much we loved Madison after having visited here once on vacation,” Brubaker said.
The family moved to Madison in 1993 and bought an 18-acre farm just outside of town. Brubaker keeps horses there and spends winters in Bradenton, Fla. Jan, meanwhile, teaches at Ivy Tech State College, where their daughter attends part-time and works at the Jewel House assisted living facility.
On weekends from late April to October, Brubaker climbs into the Madison Trolley and heads down the hill to pick up tourists and ferry them from stop to stop around the historic district. All the while, he narrates the tour as the trolley passes by historic homes, attractions, shops, restaurants and important landmarks. “I tailor my talk to fit the occasion, if I have bus tours or groups interested in certain things. A lot of local residents have sent me stories about buildings and homes that I often use.”
Despite the fascinating stories and history he relates to his riders, Brubaker says the No. 1 question he gets is where to eat. For the answer, he provides riders with the official Madison tourism brochure, which lists most area restaurants.
The Madison Trolley is operated by the non-profit Madison Visitors Council. President Dave Daghir credits Brubaker for the success of the trolley, which has operated for six years. “We’re so fortunate to have Keith come on board with us. If he hadn’t, there’s no way we would have gotten this venture off the ground.”
Although Brubaker is paid to drive the trolley, he estimates he has racked up 200 volunteer hours over the past five years.
The trolley operates on weekends only from late April through June, then the schedule is extended to include Fridays and Mondays from July through September. Judy Duncan also drives some routes. The council seeks a third driver to help out with a new enclosed vehicle that is being converted into a second trolley. It is expected to be operational by mid-summer, Daghir said. The drivers must have a commercial driver’s license and the right personality for the job, Brubaker said. Vehicle maintenance and painting has been provided by Jimmy Stewart at Jim Hadley Chevrolet.
The trolley also is available for hire for private and corporate parties and weddings. But most riders are individual tourists who buy $5 tickets. Children 12 and under are free. Ticket holders can hop on and off the trolley all day.
In addition to ride tickets, the trolley receives its funding from $500 sponsorships of its trolley stops, $300 signs on the side of the vehicle and $1,000 from the Jefferson County Board of Tourism. Brubaker is currently working with local hotels to arrange visitor packages that include trolley transportation. The second enclosed trolley will enable the council to operate through early December during the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes.
Brubaker is now negotiating to buy the trolleys and operate them as a for-profit venture next year.
Runner-up Koerner, meanwhile, has been involved at the 100-seat Key West Shrimp House since his parents, Paul and Pat Koerner, took over management of the 34-year-old restaurant in 1974. Paul Koerner bought the restaurant in 1981 from C.B. Kendall, who built it in 1968. Scott bought it from his father last year. Scott was recognized at the reception for his excellent treatment of customers and his enthusiastic promotion of Madison to visitors.

• For information about the trolley or to inquire about the driver position, contact Daghir at (812) 273-4446.

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