A full agenda for tourism week

Rick Wagner • May 11, 2007 at 9:12 AM

KINGSPORT - National Tourism Week will mean free chocolate candy bars and other goodies for airline travelers arriving at Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

The event also will be marked by the traditional "hijacking" of out-of-state visitors at Tennessee's busiest welcome center, in Bristol, with the new twist of free windshield washing at the center.

Those are among activities the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau is using to mark the week, known the past two years as See America Week but reverting back to the traditional name.

"We're doing some of the same things and some new things," said Heather Jones, director of marketing and communications for the KCVB.

The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association this past Wednesday sponsored the 10th Annual Pinnacle Awards, which recognize efforts to promote tourism in the region.

Claudia Moody, executive director of NETTA, said that was NETTA's major event of the year and that area convention and visitors bureaus and other groups hold more local tourism recognition and promotion events.

Commissioner Susan Whitaker of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development spoke at the Pinnacle Awards May 9 and Assistant Commissioner of Marketing Jennifer Spence was on a listening tour in the region May 10.

Moody said NETTA is launching a new Web site at www.netta.com that includes a list of geocache sites set up in some of the region's tourism attractions.

"It's a completely new site, more interactive," Moody said of the site, which will have podcasts of this year's Tellers In Residence at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough one week before they perform.

The site also includes podcasts and a blog focused on geocaching, a treasure hunt of sorts. Armed with a GPS receiver and a set of coordinates of the cache location, players go out and look for caches of goodies hidden by other geocachers. If one of the goodies in the cache strikes your fancy, you can take it, provided you leave another goodie in its place.

Caches in Sullivan County include one in Bays Mountain Park, Bristol Motor Speedway and Observation Knob Park. For more information and exact coordinates, go to the Web site.

Following is a rundown of Tourism Week and related activities in Kingsport and Sullivan County:

• The week will start Monday with the DJ drop-ins. Three teams of volunteers and staff of the KCVB in the early morning will visit radio stations in Kingsport, Church Hill, Bristol and Johnson City, providing breakfasts for their hosts and tidbits on tourism for the public.

Also Monday, a "Bring It to Kingsport" reception will be held at Allandale Mansion. Local meeting planners, business people and civic club members are invited to learn more about the importance of bringing their group's events to Kingsport.

• Tuesday, the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce After Hours, traditionally the largest after hours of the year, will go from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The event will officially open the new city visitor's center and Trackside Deli in the old train station building, 151 E. Main St.

Also at this event, the winner of the Darrell Rice Turtle on the Fence Post Award for 2007 will be announced.

• Wednesday, the KCVB staff will go to the Tennessee Welcome Center in Bristol, Tenn., just off Interstate 81, to provide a lunch to state employees who staff the center and work the desk so employees can eat together.

• Thursday, new to the week's activities is an event starting at 1:45 p.m. at the airport. Deplaning passengers will receive goody bags and chocolate bars with "Kingsport" wrappers promoting the city's tourism opportunities.

In addition. Thursday kicks off the U.S. 11 Antique Alley, from Alabama to Abingdon, with plans to promote outdoor selling and indoor antique stores downtown and elsewhere.

• Friday will bring the traditional hijacking of eight couples at the welcome center. Each couple, stopped from about 2 to 4:30 p.m. or so, will receive free overnight stays in Kingsport, a free dinner and free passes to Bays Mountain.

And new this year will be free windshield cleanings by the KCVB council members.

A Bristol, Tenn., event that draws tourists, the Seventh Annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, are May 18-20.

Other KCVB events throughout the week include sending "thank you" baskets to area media.

And throughout the week, the KCVB also will name up to 10 "Caught in the Act of Hospitality" award winners, in addition to up to three a month awarded during other times of the year.

To nominate someone for the hospitality award, go to www.visitkingsport.com, come by the KCVB at 151 E. Main St. or call the KCVB Director of Finance and Office Management Barbara Kite at (423) 392-8830.

After the week, on May 22, the KCVB is sponsoring its annual familiarization tour. Open to the public, the tour is targeted at people considered "ambassadors" for the city, including real estate agents, waiters, waitresses, hotel workers and others who deal with the visiting public and general public.

The day-long tour costs $10, including lunch. Participants are bused to Allandale, the Netherland Inn, Bays Mountain, Exchange Place and the Renaissance Center.

For more information, contact the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau at (423) 392-8830.

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