Handy resigning as County Tourism Chair

Nov. 16—Although he has served on the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission since its inception, Tom Handy is stepping down as chair of the board.

Handy made that announcement during Tuesday's board meeting.

"I'm resigning as chair, but I do still want to serve on the board," Handy said. "But with a new mayor coming in, having a Handy as chair on one board and a Handy as chair on the other board probably won't look good."

With that, board members Scott Smith and Rodney Hendrickson were chosen to be a nominating committee, with board member Jamie Harrison named as a potential nominee.

Handy passed around a page from Leisure Magazine which cited the "Best Fall Festivals" from state to state.

"The World Chicken Festival was picked as the highlight of Kentucky," he added. "That's a national magazine that lists festivals for all states."

Discussion on the future of the Laurel County Fairgrounds, now a part of the city's park systems, prompted some discussion on financial donations from the county tourism to assist in the future plans. Chris Robinson, executive director of the city tourism commission, said a public meeting last spring offered several proposals of the use of that property although no specific plan has yet been determined. Handy said a shelter house with open sides was one idea and that the county tourism commission could contribute to the structure when that was decided. Board members voted to support that proposal.

Promoting the area for more tourism by attending travel shows in various cities was another issue discussed. Handy said promoting events in the London area could have more response if incentives were offered to those who register with the tourism offices. Handy said the Redbud Ride, World Chicken Festival, 3D Archery tournament and Town Center concerts could be used to encourage participants to visit the area.

"We could offer two nights at a hotel and a dinner for two with their choice of events," Handy said. "That way they could see the different things offered here."

Travel shows were also a topic for co-executive director Kelly Burton. Burton said some travel shows are having representation for the tourism commissions, but suggested adding others. After some discussion, board members voted to send Burton to trade/travel shows in Atlanta, Columbus and St. Louis. Burton added that she was following up on attending a boating/fishing show in Columbus, Ohio this year.

With the 3D archery tournament being one of the largest tourist attractions in the county, tourism board members discussed the potential of extending the shooting lanes to better accommodate the participants. The lanes currently place archers facing the sun and shooting into a shaded area, which has received some unfavorable comments from participants. The archery commission has also extended the shooting distances in the competition, which must be re-evaluated to continue the event here. Board member Rodney Hendrickson suggested meeting with archery officials and outlining a new area that would better serve participants with the new shooting distance as well as the placement of archers.

A new coat of paint inside the Heritage Hills Theater will soon freshen up the facility. Mike Caffrey with OTG Events told board members last month that the theater needed painting. He offered to supply the labor to do the painting if the commission would purchase the paint. Co-executive director Kim Collier said the issue was discussed but did not receive a vote. Board members approved that action unanimously.

Chris Robinson, executive director of the London City Tourism Commission, gave updates on upcoming events. Robinson said the Town Center Tree Lighting ceremony would be held on Tuesday, Nov. 29 and that all lights along downtown London would be illuminated then. The Randy Smith Christmas on Main parade will take place three days later, on Dec. 2 and has received "strong participation."

The city tourism also approved the bids for the shelter house project on the lower loop of Levi Jackson Park, across from the museum. Robinson explained that the bids for wood shelters that blend in with the museum were felt to be too high and had re-bid the project for pre-fab structures.

"We felt the savings was not enough so we will have the wooden structures," he said. "There will be two shelter houses separated by bathrooms, and eventually a new playground."

Board members also approved a $500 sponsorship request from Keith Cottongim, who coordinates the Boondoggle ride. Collier and Burton said the gravel bike ride is one of the largest growing sports in the country today and the sponsorship request was for signage, giveaways and other promotional purposes. The Boondoggle has grown in participation over the past several years, bringing in cyclists from around the country.

Burton also outlined some recent events, including the Heritage Music Series which had a sold out audience on the first night.

Digital promotions were also a huge part of Burton's report, listing several activities to further promote tourism in the area. Updating the Kentucky State Tourism webpage for a webpage transition this spring and participating in Zoom training on the New Events Widget/Itinerary Widget was also discussed. Updating TripAdvisor, creating a video digital ad for Angler magazine and winter content for the digital newsletter is also in progress.

The London-Laurel County Tourist Commission is funded by a 1% transient tax collected from hotels and motels within the county. Its mission is to promote tourism in the area by offering events to attract guests from across the country to the area.