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Under review

Tourism consultant to review
Oldham County as tourist spot

Seattle’s Brooks will visit,
assess the county in April

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (April 2010) – When you live and work in a town daily, it’s hard to see it through the eyes of a tourist. Oldham County is looking for a way to establish sites that are unique to the county and area regionally.

Brooks

Brooks

Tourism consultant Roger Brooks will visit the cities of Crestwood, Pewee Valley, Buckner, Goshen, Westport and La Grange as a sort of “secret shopper” to determine “Things that can be done to make the area a stronger destination for business, residents and visitors,” said Becky Durkin, executive assistant to Brooks and Client Relations Manager.
Brooks will spend four days in the county conducting a Community Assessment to see what each town has to offer, individually, and then collectively as an entire county. He will conduct a Findings and Suggestions workshop from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday, April 16, at the Oldham County Schools Arts Center for the community, business leaders and business owners.
Durkin said Brooks would consider things such as directional signage, overall appeal, things to see and do, places to eat, customer service, nightlife, retail shops and lodging. Brooks heads Destination Development International Inc., a Seattle-based tourism consulting firm.
DDI has worked with more than 850 communities in 41 states and throughout North America. “We know what works and what doesn’t,” said Durkin. “We also offer suggestions – things you can do today, to make a difference tomorrow.”
This is Brooks’ first visit to Oldham County. “It’s important that we look at the community through the eyes of a first-time visitor,” said Durkin. His goal is to determine if a special trip from two or three hours away is worth it for a tourist. He will “offer suggestions on how to make it (Oldham County) even better.”
Kim Buckler, executive director of the Oldham County Tourism Commis-sion, said, “We have followed Roger for the last three years.” She first met Brooks during his assessment of Madison, Ind.
The Oldham County Tourism Commission is investing in a copy of the Findings and Suggestions Report for each town visited. Buckler will meet with each town at the conclusion of the workshop to develop a plan for each one based on Brooks’ recommendations. Each town will attend a quarterly meeting in the future to report on progress and plans, and devise ways each individual town can be packaged as a tourist attraction.
“Like a lot of other more rural communities in Kentucky, Oldham County has a lot of activities that require three, four or five hours of a tourist’s time,” said Buckler. “But we have very little that would require them to spend the night.”
The primary goal of the Tourism Commission is to promote overnight stays in the county. “Overnight stays are the only source of funding for our Commission,” she said.
The Oldham County Tourism Commission has spent the last three years focusing on ways to develop attractions within the county. Buckler said, “We’re still working diligently to add to our list of attractions.”
She believes most people are familiar with the historic downtown La Grange area and the Discover Downtown La Grange program led by Barbara Edds. But Buckler pointed out several other attractions in Oldham County that she feels would appeal to visitors. Two new ones that are open for public tours are Bluebonnets and Bluegrass Alpaca Farm and Windy Meadows Horse Farm.
Buckler said Foxhollow Farm “is another great example of an attraction in the re-making.”
Known formerly as a spa and Bed & Breakfast, Foxhollow Farm now focuses on organic farming. It has also added a nonprofit Farm Store and a walking trail where every plant native to Oldham County is labeled.
Agri-tourism efforts such as those being implemented at Foxhollow Farm are becoming a big business, according to Shane Best, Chairman of the Tourism Commission. Oldham County is in “the process of doing incredible things,” he said.
Best believes more than one attraction is needed that will appeal to a variety of people. “We need a collage of things for people to do, revolving around entertainment.”
Brooks was hired “because we want to get input from someone not so attached to the county,” said Best. “We want an objective opinion.”
A nationally known attraction in the county is Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood. It is a botanical garden with more than 1,200 members and 250 volunteers. The gardens serve as a major center of gardening, research and education for the greater Louisville region, said Buckler. It is also a popular venue for weddings and receptions.
Another attraction already established in Crestwood is Open Range Sports, a state-of-the-art indoor pistol range and paintball facility. Buckler said she has seen a rapid increase in visitors seeking out Bluegrass Country Estate, a luxury Bed & Breakfast located in the equine community of L’Esprit.
Ginger Chapman, a member of the Tourism Commission, agrees with Buckler that “one of Oldham Counties’ biggest attractions is Main Street and the CSX train that has regularly scheduled runs through downtown La Grange.”
Chapman, who is also on the Board of Directors for the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce, said the Tourism Commission “has printed a tourist map that includes all the places to see and things to do in Oldham County. We use it for trade shows and fairs, and they are available on Main Street in La Grange.”
She said it is important for the county’s business owners to understand what the Tourism Commission is trying to do by having Brooks visit Oldham County. “We are such a diverse county that we, the Commission, were having a difficult time finding a brand to market ourselves with.”
The Commission is made up of different representatives from businesses and agencies that serve the county. “With the help of Roger Brooks, we hope to create a unity in our county marketing strategies,” said Chapman.
“We are always looking for those “hidden gems” within our county,” Buckler said, “those that may not know they are an attraction. Developing what we currently have is the key until we start attracting new, larger tourist attractions and hotels.”

• A continental breakfast will be served at the Findings & Suggestions Workshop. Contact Kim Buckler to make a reservation at (502) 817-6043.

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