Well, October has just flown by, I guess, in part, to us being so busy at the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce. While tourist numbers are slowing down now, as of the end of October we had seen almost 16,000 people come through our doors looking for information, use our free Wi-Fi, get directions, ask about local services, places to eat, places to stay and things to do (and of course use the public washroom). Top on the list of requests include:
1. Where to get fresh and u-pick fruit;
2. Where the corn mazes, pumpkin patches, farm tours (agritourism opportunity) are;
3. Horseback riding (another business opportunity);
4. Hiking/biking trails;
5. Wildlife centre;
6. Farm market; and
7. Art galleries.
Overall, our tourism numbers are up almost 11 per cent from 2011.
Lots of other things are going on, too.
We had a great presentation by Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) BC president Barry O’Neill on the Ten Percent Shift, a shop local strategy. The big thing about the Shift is that it is not intended to guilt you into anything or require anything from you. It is not saying buy local and that you should buy local at any cost to you, or that you’re letting down “the team” if you don’t. What it is saying is that you should think local first: “I need X product — can I purchase it from a local producer or retailer?”
There was an excellent turnout for the first event planners meeting on Oct. 17. Over 25 different groups/organizations and events were represented. The focus was on working together planning community activities and using crestonevents.ca to avoid scheduling conflicts. We discussed sharing information with the chamber to get event messages on the free electronic message board and get information packages out to tourists and press releases to media. The group discussed creating festival packages so we could jointly market our events, saving each of us time, money and reaching a bigger potential audience than we could individually. The next event co-ordinators meeting will be held in January.
Speaking of community special events, the chamber is very pleased to be involved with the new Creston Valley Bird Fest being organized for May 10 and 11. The festival is in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day. The group is very excited about the possibilities of this event and our ability to capitalize on the enormous tourism and economic potential of bird watching and related ecotourism. Birding is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the world. According to information from a US Fish and Wildlife Service survey, 90 million people (38 per cent of all Americans 16 years and older) participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011 and spent $145 billion dollars, with nearby Montana having the highest participation rates in the country (source: Garner News, “National survey of outdoor sports surprising”). That is a lot of potential!
Other projects the chamber is working on include: finishing touches on our new marketing strategy, Creston Valley: Growing Together, including a brand new Creston Valley website for tourism and economic development, an agriculture sector development project with Columbia Basin Trust, a banner art project, a new ecotourism map, and the 2013 Home and Garden Show featuring the annual quilters guild show and sale on April 12 and 13.
Next up is the annual Santa Claus Parade of Lights and Festival on Dec. 1. Parade entry forms are now available at the chamber office. The parade will take place from 6-7 p.m. along Canyon Street from (16th to 10th avenues). New this year, we will be having a special holiday decorating event on Nov. 17 with local artists Sandy Kunze and Cory Cannon creating decorations for the Spirit of Creston Square. Call the chamber at 250-428-4342 to learn more.
Remember to take the shop local pledge at www.tenpercentshift.ca.
Jim Jacobsen is the executive director of the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce.