Tourism Makes a Splash

Article Published: May. 5, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 19, 2011
Tourism Makes a Splash

Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes, scheduled for May 11, offers a decidedly unique take on business networking.

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Call it a field day for the local tourism industry.

Jeff Stanley calls it Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes, a networking event on the banks of the New River that delivers everything in its title - and then some.

Set for Wednesday, May 11, the annual event is geared toward those who work the frontlines of the area's tourism trade - restaurants, hotels, retail, attractions, chambers of commerce, tourism development authorities and everything in between.

Stanley, owner of Wahoo's Adventures, devised the idea last year and was so impressed by its success that a follow-up seemed only natural.

"Last year, we made some excellent contacts, some great new friends," he said. "It was just invaluable, and the business that we saw from it was wonderful."

The idea's simple. For no charge, tourism-based businesses set up informational booths to inform and educate their peers.

"What that allows employees to do is deliver excellent customer service," Stanley said. "When someone's approached by a guest ... that employee's going to be able to say with enthusiasm and knowledge the things that are fun to do in the area."

But the way Stanley sees it, why should fun be limited to visitors? Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes features live music from area blues masters the King Bees and bluegrass from both Creekside Grass and The Drawlstrings - all performing on a solar-powered stage with the help of Boone Green Drinks organizer Quint David.

Throw in barbecue from Sledgehammer Charlie's, food samples from beaucoups of area restaurants like The Gamekeeper and Casa Rustica, beer by the kegs (including Toe River Lodge's own creation) and floating trips on the New (rafting, canoeing, kayaking), and you've got what Stanley calls a "don't-miss opportunity," right in the middle of National Tourism Week. And best of all, it's free.

"I've got people saying they're going to close their business that day so the whole staff can come out and play," Stanley said. "Other folks are scheduling half the staff in the morning, half in the evening, so they can at least get out there for a couple hours."

There are, however, a couple things that participants should bring, namely swimwear and a change of clothes. Dogs are also welcome, provided they're leashed. Though the event is free, participants are asked to bring a paystub as proof they work in the tourism industry.

Stanley's already booked 50 booth spaces, and participating business and sponsors include Dutch Creek Trails, Horn in the West, Casa Rustica, French-Swiss Ski College, Canyons, Appalachian Ski Mountain, Sledgehammer Charlie's, Mellow Mushroom of Boone and Blowing Rock, Crippen's Country Inn, Honeybear Campground, Go North Carolina High Country, The Gamekeeper, Blowing Rock Resort Rentals and Sales, Rock Dimensions, Toe River Lodge, Peabody's Wine and Beer Merchants and more to come.

"Everything's coming together phenomenally," Stanley said.

Blues, Brews, BBQ & Canoes takes place Wednesday, May 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Wahoo's outpost on the New River. Simply take N.C. 194 north for 5 miles, turn right onto Big Hill Road, and travel approximately 3 miles to find the outpost on the right.

For more information, or to reserve a space, call (828) 262-5774 by May 10.

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