AAG looks to tourism season

GRAFTON—After taking a short break for the holidays, the members of All Aboard Grafton (AAG) came together on Tuesday evening to begin brainstorming for the upcoming tourist season.

While COVID-19 continues to impact the small town, keeping typical events such as First Fridays from being held, AAG Chairman Tom Hart asked fellow members to look to the upcoming months and start thinking about how the organization can help promote the area during peak tourism season.

“Right now the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. However, we must remain vigilant with our efforts in moving forward, so when we come out on the other side of this thing, we are stronger than ever,” he expressed.

Hart noted the influx of people that visited the area last spring and summer, taking advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities that Taylor County has to offer.

“Tourism here was at an all-time high during those months, with folk staying at the lodge, boating on Tygart Lake, fishing and kayaking down the river. Now, we have to ask ourselves how we can capitalize on that again as the season approaches,” he stated.

Some of ideas of how to do just that were discussed among the group and included the possibility of another round of commercials, highlighting the area’s attractions, as the commercials AAG sponsored for small businesses during the Christmas season proved to be quite beneficial.

There was also mention of possible billboard advertising and the hopes of involvement from the county’s Adventure Club to draw visitors into the area as the weather turns warm and individuals search for some outdoor fun.

Additionally, Hart shared that be believes bringing quality short-term lodging and living space to the area would be something that would put Taylor County on the map, in conjunction with offering a remote work space and virtual schooling location.

“Those of course are dependent on access to high speed internet, which is not yet available in all areas of the county. But hopefully we can work toward that, as well,” he commented.

Hart requested that the members of AAG, as well as those in the community, continue brainstorming for ideas that will boost tourism in the upcoming months, and that he would be happy to listen to any suggestions.

And while the group searches for ways to keep their small town a float, and be in the best position possible for the upcoming season, Hart reported that he is proud and grateful for where the town stands economically despite all the challenges small business owners have faced through this pandemic.

“Main Street is holding strong. Our town is holding strong. Unfortunately, we are losing Somethin’ Country, but I’m hearing that a new business will be opening in that location in the spring, which is great and mean we won’t be left with another empty building with lost potential,”  Hart remarked.

On the subject of new business in the area, former mayor and AAG member Peggy Barney recognized that the county has had several new businesses open in the county over the last several months, and she feels as if they have not been given the recognition they deserve.

“These establishments have opened without much ceremony at all. I am not sure where to start, but I think All Aboard Grafton seems like a good place,” she said.

Barney recommended that AAG should perhaps form a welcoming committee of sorts, with a few individuals visiting these new shops, welcoming them to the area, presenting them with a flag and conducting a small scale ribbon cutting.

“These people have spent their time and money and have worked hard to open a business and they have chosen to do it here, in our town. We need to let them know how grateful we are for them being here,” she asserted.

All of the present members agreed with Barney’s suggestion, and belief this is a project the organization could take on.

“It is so refreshing to see you guys in Grafton banning together and pushing through these difficult times,” boasted AAG member and Visit Mountaineer Country representative, Andrea Antion. “It’s people like you, in  small towns like this that make a huge difference. All Aboard Grafton is defiantly taking the necessary steps to get Taylor County on the map!”


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