With the leaf-lookers gone and the snowbirds flying south for the winter, The West Jefferson Tourism Development Authority mounted a strategy to promote the town’s attractions to travelers and locals alike.
In their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 25, West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price, TDA chair Josh Williams of Ashe County Cheese, and Earnest O’banion of Nation’s Inn were joined by Vivian Miller of Ashe High Country Realty by phone and consulted with Brent Pugh of 97.3 WKBC.
Early in the meeting, Price and board members worked out preparations for the town’s Hometown Christmas festivities.
Former mayor Dale Hudler will provide a 15 foot Christmas tree which will be the center of the celebration, and Scott Ballard will be donating wreaths for the event. Price had researched new lights for the tree, and the decision to purchase four strands of LED lights was unanimously agreed upon.
It was decided that a tree lighting ceremony at Backstreet Park will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, with caroling, hot chocolate served by elves, and a visit from Santa.
Decorations to transform the town into a winter wonderland were also discussed. The town has purchased several artificial wreaths measuring three feet in diameter complete with lights and bows that will be hung on lamp posts downtown.
The latter part of the meeting was spent appropriating money for advertising. A proposal for radio advertisements was presented and the board discussed cost and benefits of certain types of radio ads.
Pugh suggested that targeting a specific audience would be the best way to spend the town’s advertising dollars. “Finding the right demographic is the most important thing. Who will be walking into stores and spending money?” he asked. He then enlightened the board on the kind of music played on each station they were considering.
O’banion pointed out that the type of listener was only one factor in the effectiveness of radio advertising. He noted that the town should focus advertising on areas beyond a two-hour driving radius. “People coming from the Raleigh and Greensboro areas and beyond would have to spend the night, and we would get the occupancy tax. Winston Salem is almost too close; they may buy gas to get home, but the gas stations don’t pay occupancy tax so we don’t get the money to operate on,” said O’banion.
Taking these perspectives into consideration, the board decided to investigate the Raleigh demographic and obtain quotes from radio stations in that area.
With regard to current radio exposure, Williams motioned that the town continue advertising with Wilkesboro-based radio station, 97.3 WKBC through Dec. to reach people throughout the holiday season. “That way, we’re putting our name in their ear during that time,” said Williams.
This idea was met with a bit of resistance by Miller, who said, “I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and in my experience, the money is better spent waiting until summer, spring, and fall. We’re already going to have people coming for choose and cut.”
However, due to the relatively low cost of advertising, Miller agreed to “go along with” the motion made by Williams and seconded by O’banion.
The possibility of creating rack cards or brochures for West Jefferson to distribute to area welcome centers was also discussed. Price and Williams agreed that in their experiences, these are a useful tool for tourists, and are effective methods of advertising.
With leaf season behind us, the town of West Jefferson still has a few draws for tourism such as the choose-and-cut Christmas tree season and the Hometown Christmas celebration, said Williams.
Price said, “What we’re trying to do is to get the West Jefferson name out there. So far we’re doing a good job and getting compliments on our street scape and other improvements – we’re going to try to keep that up.”