More Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes
Jeff Stanley expected 300 people. Instead, he got a thousand.
As owner of Wahoo's Adventures, Stanley expects the unexpected, but last year's inaugural Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes tourism industry networking event made a surprising splash.
"And we're expecting to do even better this year," Stanley said of this year's May 11 event. "We're hoping to make a bigger, better festival and, again, it's going to be free for anyone who's in the tourism business."
The only admission cost is a pay stub as proof of one's employment. The backbone of the Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes, which features all of the above, is tourism's frontline employees - those who man the front desk, answer the phones, serve the drinks and food, give directions, offer suggestions.
"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."
As importantly, it's also a chance to network, to talk with other professionals and learn about their services, thus allowing folks to make informed recommendations.
Set at Wahoo's New River Outpost off Big Hill Road, the festival is lined with booths representing applicable businesses, including restaurants, which typically bring some of their more delectable specialties.
"You definitely get a full belly," Stanley said. "Get a taste of the restaurants, some door prize giveaways - everyone's going to give a taste of what their business is all about, trying to make memories with frontline people, so when they're approached, they can ... drive that business over to them."
But it's not all networking.
"Canoes, kayaks, inner-tubes and rafts are going to be provided for those who want to float the river, courtesy of Wahoo's," Stanley said. "And we're going to have bluegrass, blues - we're lining up the bands - and barbecue, of course."
And there's room for more. Stanley's still seeking bands, vendors and participants of all kinds.
"We're looking for musicians to volunteer to come and play, we're looking for merchants who want to promote their businesses, frontline employees, chambers (of commerce), TDAs ... anybody that's involved in tourism in the High Country," he said.
Booth space is limited, and those interested in participating should RSVP no later than May 10.
"We hoped to have close to 40 businesses attend (last year) ... but we lost count at 85," Stanley said. "Don't miss this opportunity. This is the biggest, best networking opportunity in the High Country.
Let's face it. What we're trying to do is make this festival one that everyone's going to talk about. We're just looking to light the place on fire and have a good time."
The fun - and networking - takes place Wednesday, May 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, or to RSVP, call Wahoo's Adventures at (828) 262-5774.
Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes is sponsored by The Mountain Times.