The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
I've been doing some travelling in the last month and what I've seen heightens my frustration with local tourism efforts. Let me explain.
The objective of a tourism effort is to get people to come to your location and spend money. To get people to come, a town is a like a fisherman - it needs a "hook" and the sense of when to "set" it. The "bait" on the hook can range from events & festivals to attractions to surrounding shops.
For example, Greensburg KS (pop. 1500) has the Worlds Largest Hand Dug Well. They promote it with highway signs starting well out from the town, listings on the state website and even a banner strung across US-54. This is a pay attraction, and it also has an associated museum & shop.
Roswell NM (pop. 45,000) has the International UFO museum. It's free and it's right downtown in an old theater. It doesn't need aggressive promotion because anyone interested in the subject has heard of Roswell. About a dozen shops near the museum do a good business selling t-shirts and UFO souvenirs.
Lincoln NM (unincorporated) has a mixture of state and private efforts exploiting the Billy the Kid legend. Visitors pay to see the state-run museum buildings and find food and lodging at the private ones.
Closer to us, Clinton (pop. 8700) has a 4-day 4th of July festival called Olde Glory Days. It's filled with activities and events and booths and creates a sense of excitement downtown.
The Warrensburg area has a hook, but we're just letting it dangle, unbaited. I'm talking about Old Drum. People are interested in the story and the speech; my website's Old Drum pages get 5-10 visitors a day in addition to whatever traffic is generated by similar pages at University and Chamber websites. Downtown regulars can see how many people stop at the statue to take pictures. That's about it - a great story, a photo-op and nobody making any money off of it. Visitors are not going to easily find a place to buy Old Drum souvenirs, t-shirts, mugs or bobble-heads. They're not going to find any reason to come back.
Could Warrensburg have an International Dog Museum? Or maybe just an Old Drum Museum - with souvenir shop? Old Drum dinner theater? An Old Drum mini-park? An Old Drum festival that really draws people in? Once we have something that would generate money, couldn't we advertise ourselves the way Greensburg KS does?
I really don't care whether or not Old Drum killed sheep - outlaw stories bring tourists, too - we need use him (as immortalized by Sen. Vest) to build our own tourism and bring dollars to our community.
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