PRESQUE ISLE – To promote tourism in northern Maine, local officials are implementing the idea that people have to know what’s out there before they can enjoy it.
That’s the focus for tourism officials as they prepare to host the 2004 County Colors Tourism and Business Trade Show this Friday through Sunday, Sept. 24-27, at the Forum in Presque Isle.
“We wanted to show our colors,” Shawn Manter, tourism development specialist at Northern Maine Development Commission, said Wednesday. “We wanted to show people what the tourism opportunities are in Aroostook County and let the businesses in Aroostook County strut their stuff – let people know what they do and some of the things they offer.”
Manter is overseeing the trade show event as part of NMDC’s marketing effort for Aroostook County Tourism, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing tourism opportunities in northern Maine.
The event, being sponsored this year by NMDC, ACT and several local businesses, is something Manter said officials have talked about doing for about five years.
“You see a lot of regions trying to do something similar,” he said. “There are a lot of shows out there.”
That was one reason organizers chose to hold their event in the fall, so as not to compete with many spring tourism trade shows. They also chose the season because, for many tourism-related businesses in Aroostook County, it is not a busy time of year.
About 45 vendors have signed on to participate in the show, which includes representatives from golf courses, ATV and snowmobile shops, lodging businesses and outdoor recreational sporting organizations.
Organizers are trying to include as many family-friendly activities throughout the trade show as possible. Attendants can try out the Army’s ROTC rock wall, enjoy the Humvee rides, take a seat in one of the soap box derby cars on display, get a balloon from a Shriner clown or test out the Maine Winter Sports Center’s Biathlon laser gun. Harry’s Motor Sports will raffle off an all-terrain vehicle during the show.
“We figured we’re probably 75 percent full,” Manter said. “We would like to see it fuller, but understand it’s the first year.”
ACT President C.P. Harris admits it has been a rocky road for organizers trying to convince people to participate. The goal, he said, is to showcase the ‘mom and pop’ businesses that are the backbone of the tourism industry in Aroostook County. Some of them, though, just weren’t sure how participating in a trade show would help them.
“So we figure if we get a good foundation and people see a need for it, it will spill over and continue on,” Harris said.
The trade show will be held at the Forum in Presque Isle from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information about the trade show, contact Shawn Manter at 498-8736.