• Making summer a success
    By Sara Widness | April 23,2013
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    Competitions, heifers, and the performing arts are just a few of the features in an ambitious season-long and state-wide slate of events in the Green Mountain State this summer.

    While some programs have been intact for several years, what’s new for 2013 is a marketing push of approximately $500,000 to promote this summer sizzle to potential visitors from south of New York City, specifically from the greater Washington, D.C. region.

    The concept: people coming from such a distance will spend more than three or four nights here to enjoy spectator and cultural fun. The Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing is working with marketing partners Cabot Creamery, Long Trail Brewing Company, and Orbitz Travel on this effort.

    This expenditure is a stretch for an always-limited promotional budget that normally just addresses the drive markets of greater New York City; Boston, MA; Albany, NY and Montreal. In fact, some 10 years have passed since the state’s warm-weather marketing efforts extended south of New York, said Steve Cook, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing.

    The impetus for this effort stems from the greater Manchester, VT region’s 2012 Hills Are Alive Festival of the Arts. New last year and only spanning one week with four presenters, in 2013 this southern Vermont festival plans to encompass five weekends and many days between from June 28 through August 3. In this down-country marketing outreach, it will join the roster of activities in other Vermont communities for a full-blown celebration of a Green Mountain summer.

    Another summer event is the second year of Century Ride, which in 2012 drew close to 300 bikers who took on bicycle challenges of 20, 50 and 100 miles. This event — benefitting Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, a program that provides recreational opportunities for handicapped individuals — is a program of the Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater. Through the partnership with the state, the beer company plans to enhance its awareness via the down-country marketing mix.

    “To work with the mid-Atlantic region is exciting,” said Ryan Chaffin, state manager of Long Trail. “This is a market that is on the newer side for us.”

    By sharing outreach expenses with its marketing partners, said Cook, the state will be able to track how many people purchase airline tickets, lodging packages, and rental cars through this promotion. In addition, some event venues will be able to monitor where people are coming from via ticket sales.

    The planned outreach will include digital advertising and is designed to encompass cable television, broadcast television, and on-site events and promotions, Cook said.

    Other events to be promoted include Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival; the three-day Wanderlust yoga retreat in southern Vermont; Vermont Challenge, a biking event spanning southern and parts of central Vermont; the sixth annual Vermont Life Wine & Harvest Festival in Dover; Vermont Festival in Stowe; Mad Marathon in the Mad River Valley; Strolling of the Heifers in Brattleboro, and Grace Potter’s Grand Point North Festival on the Lake Champlain waterfront.

    The first-year effort of the Hills Are Alive Festival of the Arts became a model that captured the state’s attention, said Alex Aldrich of the Vermont Arts Council.

    “To my way of thinking, it’s a brilliant coup for the state to have someone at the helm of the tourism department who really understands that the arts are the fourth wheel after outdoor recreation, artisanal foods, and spirits.”

    By broadening programming and lengthening the festival’s time frame, this can be a successful event for the southern Vermont region, said Megan Smith, state tourism commissioner. Because of this thinking, the state’s sponsorship followed, as did opportunities for lodges in the region to come on board with festival packages.

    “Our hope is that by getting into a longer-distance market, people will come and stay longer and take advantage of all that will be offered in the performing arts in that region,” Smith said, adding event ticket sales will be tracked.

    “We can’t spend the money without tracking it very closely. This is a very important advertising project to us this summer.”

    The region could attract culture mavens in the way that the Charleston, SC Spoleto Festival and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario do, said Berta Maginniss, executive director of Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce.

    “We felt this was a great concept last year, [but] it was too short. The fact that it is broadening beyond the initial four arts organizations to now 12 performing arts organizations through Bennington County and into Windham County is a terrific thing,” said Maginniss.

    Participants in the region’s festival are the Bennington Center for the Arts, Dorset Theatre Festival, Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning, Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce, Manchester Music Festival, Northshire Bookstore, Northshire Performing Arts, Oldcastle Theatre Company, Southern Vermont Arts Center, Stratton Mountain, Vermont Symphony Orchestra and Weston Playhouse Theatre Company.
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