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Parkersburg [and Fenton] named 'Best of the Road'

August 7, 2005

 

By BRETT DUNLAP
Parkersburg News, Parkersburg, WV


PARKERSBURG - Attractions around the Mid-Ohio Valley are going to be featured in the newest edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas.

Rand McNally has selected the Greater Parkersburg Area as one of five featured "Best of the Road" driving tours for its newest atlas, which will be released in the next week or so, said Kari Thompson, communication manager for the Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We have always known that Greater Parkersburg holds some of the 'best of the road' attractions, shops, parks and restaurants," Thompson said. "This puts a national spotlight on them."

The "Climbing The Hills" driving tour, which features the Mid-Ohio Valley, begins in Columbus, Ohio, and stretches as far south as Beckley, W.Va.

Featured in each new atlas are Rand McNally's "Editor's Pick." Representatives of the publication poured over numerous locations and selected 29 must-see stops.

Thompson said two local businesses were selected for that list, Fenton Art Glass in Williamstown and The Country Trails Bike Shop in Cairo.

Also featured in the driving tour as "best known" sites are Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park and the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.


The atlas describes the tour as "some of the prettiest farmland and rolling hills anywhere" and is "loaded with outdoor recreational opportunities, natural attractions, museums and down-home dining."

The online version features the routes for the scenic driving tours. Local attractions and businesses featured on the local driving tour include the Julia-Ann Square Historic District, the Oil & Gas Museum, Blennerhassett Island Historic State Park & Regional Museum, Fenton Art Glass, DaVinci's Italian Restaurant, Holl's Swiss Chocolatier, North Bend State Park & Rail Trail and Country Trails Bike Shop.

One mistake in Rand McNally's online writeup lists Holl's Swiss Chocolatier as being in Williamstown. Thompson said they have contacted Rand McNally and that mistake is expected to be corrected within a few days with Holl's Vienna location.

The printed atlases are distributed in the 10s of millions to more than 50,000 retail outlets and are distributed to 98 percent of the schools across the United States, Rand McNally Editorial Director Laurie Borman said.

Promotion for the new atlases began last week with Borman doing television interviews on the major networks. Affiliates in Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Cincinnati are all within a few hours drive of the Greater Parkersburg Area.

During her time on air, Borman talked about the featured "Best of the Road" driving tour and displayed pieces of Fenton Art Glass and boxes of Holl's Swiss Chocolates as examples of what travelers can enjoy along the route.

"That is a tremendous benefit to promotion of our region," Thompson said.

Rand McNally is well respected by many people and has a good reputation, said Steve Nicely, CVB president.

"When they say something, people listen," he said. "With this national exposure, we are hoping this will drive more leisure travel for us."

Around 95 percent of visitors to this area come by car, said Matt Turner, national media manager with the West Virginia Division of Tourism.

"There could be many people just flipping through looking for a weekend trip they can take," he said. "With a general search, this area could come up from time to time."

With exposure in the atlas, Turner hopes more travel publications will become interested in doing stories on local attractions.

Tourism's impact on an area includes additional jobs and tax revenues, said Caryn Gresham, public information director for the West Virginia Division of Tourism.

Tourism is responsible for more new jobs in the state than industry, she said. Visitors have spent an estimated $89 million in Wood County, the CVB reported, adding there is $361,000 generated in local taxes and more than $6 million in state taxes. There are 1,170 jobs connected to tourism in the area with more than $20 million paid in wages, salaries and owners' earnings, officials said.

Since many visitors to this area come from the Columbus, Nicely hopes being featured in the atlas will inspire more people to take one-day and long-weekend trips to the area.

"With this, we are expecting thousands of people to be coming through this area," he said, adding they are expecting to be able to measure the effectiveness of the Rand McNally exposure within a few months.

Gresham said there are many people looking for weekend trips to take this fall and the Mid-Ohio Valley has some great attractions for the holiday season.

"We should be seeing the results rather quickly," Nicely said, adding many people will keep a single copy of the road atlas for many years.

"We still get inquiries from people who read an article that ran four or five years ago," he said.

As gas prices remain high, many people will be looking at shorter trips, one-three hours from home, Nicely said.

"People won't have to pay an arm and a leg here to stay at a nice hotel and eat at a good restaurant," he said. "It is a good value."

 

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Visitors to Fenton Art Glass will find a spacious Gift Shop and a pleasant museum. Free factory tours (M-F 8:15am to 4:00pm) take small groups of guests right out to the factory floor to see glassmaking "up close and personal." Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides explain all aspects of the operation. The Fenton tour has been ranked among the "top 10" factory tours nationwide by USA Today. In addition we have been named Rand McNally Best of the Road for 2006. For a factory tour schedule, click here. For a map, click here.

 

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