Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes
When one thinks “expo,” booths, fluorescent lighting and
complimentary pens often come to mind.
For Jeff Stanley, that’s not quite the case. He prefers blues, brews, barbecue and canoes – the four eponymous staples of his annual Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes tourism expo, returning to the High Country May 10.
Two years ago, Stanley, owner of Wahoo’s Adventures in Boone, started the unique outdoor expo to target “frontline” employees of tourism-related business, namely those who regularly interact with tourists and visitors.
The idea, he said, is to educate these employees about all the tourism opportunities in the High Country, so they can offer knowledgeable answers and recommendations for tourists’ inquiring minds. In the process, attendees get to enjoy live music, a variety of food and beer, and fun on the New River with canoes, kayaks and tubes. The event takes place at Wahoo’s New River Outpost on Big Hill Road off N.C. 194 North.
“The idea came because there was nothing going on to educate, entertain and show these frontline people they’re appreciated in the High Country,” Stanley said. “So, I started doing some brainstorming on what we could do to get the waiter, the housekeeper, the bartender – everyone who hears about all these great things we have to offer in the High Country but never gets to experience them – a chance to play.”
It’s a chance to network, he said, to talk with other professionals and learn about their services, thus allowing folks to make informed recommendations.
“And a tourism venue can be something as simple as a jewelry store in a mall,” Stanley said. “If you do any business with tourists, you’re a tourism venue.”
There’s no admission charge (just a pay stub as proof of employment), and any tourism-related businesses are welcome to register by May 8 for complimentary booth space.
“We usually have somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 to 90 different businesses attend,” Stanley said. “The businesses and restaurants that attend make it like a ‘taste of Boone,’ giving little tastes of what they offer. They’ll also have the opportunity to sponsor a band, beer or wine-tasting.”
At 2010’s inaugural event, Stanley expected attendance to the tune of 300 visitors. Instead, he got 900, and 2011’s expo went even higher.
“We have folks here who don’t miss it,” he said. “They say that the networking between the businesses in phenomenal, and the ability to set up partnerships is invaluable. But they also say it’s one of the best parties in the High Country.
“If you want to learn about tourism opportunities, have a tourism venue and want frontline people to refer guests to your business, this is invaluable. As the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development said, ‘There is nothing in the state that is like this.’”
The third annual Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes takes place Thursday, May 10, from noon to 6 p.m. at Wahoo’s New River Outpost on Big Hill Road, just outside of Boone. For more information, or to register for a booth, call Stanley at Wahoo’s Adventures at (828) 262-5774.