Prominent travel writers visit central Kentucky

December 10, 2004|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

Boyle County might just be the next great travel destination in Kentucky. A group of travel writers who were here this week could make it that way.

The publications and organizations for which they work are prestigious and diverse: Southern Living, Readers Digest, Scripps Howard, Knight Ridder News Services, AAA, The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News.

They spent Tuesday and Wednesday taking in the sights and "sites," including the William Whitley House State Historic Site, Logan House and the Historic Stanford Depot, all in Lincoln County; Renfro Valley in Rockcastle County; Constitution Square State Historic Site; Penn's Store; Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site and Elmwood Inn; Burke's Bakery; Old Crow Inn, where a reception was held the first evening; McDowell House; and the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College. They checked out a glassblowing demonstration at Centre, and stayed two nights in local bed and breakfast establishments.


Wanda McKinney of Southern Living liked the B&B abundance. "It's so nice - there are so many B&Bs in town," she said. "It's a calling card."

McKinney also liked the architecture and history of this central Kentucky area.

"It's just a lovely part of Kentucky," she said, looking around Constitution Square, which she and several other writers and photographers were touring Wednesday morning. "I've been through Danville before, but never stayed here. Now I can stay and get a historical view.

"We took an architecture tour (Tuesday) that was really interesting. A group of ladies talked about a book they had done (about Danville's architecture). And this Constitution Square is in the center of town. This is such a nice way to get a feeling of the history of the area."

Jackie Sheckler Finch of the Herald-Times in Bloomington agreed. "I love the history of this area and how the people have preserved it," Finch said. "And you're proud of it. It's catching - you're so proud of it."

Finch added she really enjoyed the tour of the William Whitley House, and called the Danville post office a "great facility."

Rogers provided funding

Geiger & Associates Public Relations organized the tour for the Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association, of which Boyle County became a part in May. Congressman Hal Rogers provided funding for the endeavor. Debbie Geiger, president, emphasized the eminence of the writers touring the area.

"On any given day, these people could be in 50 different places," Geiger explained. "The attentions of these journalists are so sought after. That they chose to come here shows how much interest there is in this area as a tourism product."

Geiger said SEKTDA sponsors a number of group press tours over the course of a year that brings prominent national and regional journalists into the area, who then write about it for their publications.

"And hopefully influence potential visitors to come here," she added.

SEKTDA has been sponsoring such tours for the past three years. In the past year alone, Geiger noted, hundreds of articles have been written about the sights and sounds of southern and eastern Kentucky, and a couple-dozen national television programs have focused on the area.

The press tours, Geiger explained, are designed so that journalists can choose from a variety of activities so they can customize their editorial research to their readerships.

"On this particular trip, there is a heavy emphasis on arts and crafts, and heritage tourism," Geiger added. She explained "heritage tourism" as "visitation related to the appreciation of historic sites." "This area is very rich in interesting historic sites," she noted.

Boyle County "exquisite"

The local Convention and Visitors Bureau helped a lot in introducing the visitors to the tourism industry here, Geiger said, as well as making recommendations on sites to see and setting up the tour. She said Boyle County was "exquisite."

"It's very marketable," she added.

Geiger said the Community Arts Center on Main Street, formerly known as the Federal Building, was a "wonderful example of adaptive re-use of a historic structure." "It's a really responsible example of government spending."

Ultimately, many of the writers will create multiple stories about this area. Many will be "overview stories" with subsequent or "sidebar" articles about specific aspects.

"Some will write about food. ... Some will write about the undiscovered parts of the Bluegrass," Geiger said. "Virtually all will take an undiscovered destination angle."

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