By SARA ARTHURS
The Hancock County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been working hard this past year to promote the county to out-of-towners.
But another of their goals is for you — yes, you — to have more fun in your community.
Director Alissa Preston said the bureau spent months recently rolling out the new pieces of their website. Along with blog posts about Findlay attractions, and a guide for visitors, it features a calendar of community events.
In 2018, they listed 1,300 events, including big ones like Oktoberfest and Cancer Patient Services’ Chili Cook-Off, but also speakers and classes at the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library.
This year, during the week of Feb. 3-9, the calendar listed 23 events, among them Fort Findlay Playhouse’s production of “Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?”; a kids’ cake decorating class at Jen’s Buggy Whip Cake Art Studio; and a lecture on the Battle of Gettysburg at the Hancock Historical Museum.
Preston’s goal is that people in Findlay no longer say on Monday morning, “I didn’t do anything all weekend,” but instead take advantage of what the community has to offer.
Sure, you might go to a bigger city for certain sporting or theater events, but there is much to do right here, she said.
Along with the calendar, the website features blog posts. A Jan. 25 post tells readers about the Crawford Street vintage store Thistle Exchange, while a December post covered the Children’s Museum of Findlay, complete with pictures showing it off.
A November post starts with, “How often have you asked yourself, ‘Where is the best place to get a pie, cookies, rolls, or other baked good?’ Well, we will do the heavy lifting for you!” It continues with a roundup of some places where you can seek out those treats.
Scroll through the archives and you can see other facets of Findlay.
In 2017-2018, a guest blogger who moved to Findlay in 1948 posted a series on the “good old days,” reminiscing about Findlay back in her youth.
Guest bloggers range from college students to young professionals to seniors. What they have in common is a passion for the community.
“We talk so much about downtown, but we do service all of Hancock County,” Preston said.
So the bureau has promoted events in Arlington and Mount Blanchard, too. And it offers grants that provide rural communities with money for marketing.
For example, the village of Rawson, which has about 400 residents, was able to draw 2,500 people to a village homecoming event by “just getting the word out,” Preston said.
Of course, the bureau wants to attract people from outside the area, as well. Preston said the biggest obstacle is Interstate 75. Someone just driving past Findlay, who only sees the highway, won’t notice what the town has to offer.
The bureau has been posting videos on social media, trying to promote the town to people who might be interested in local food, family events, or Hancock Park District offerings.
Preston’s hope is that when people do come to town for business, they stay and “play” a little.
“Dietsch’s is always a hot spot,” she said.
The Mazza Museum and Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation are also draws, she said.
And Findlay does attract people from the Toledo and Perrysburg area who come here to shop and dine, she said.
Preston said the bureau is marketing to a 90-minute radius, people who might live close enough to Findlay to take a day trip.
Recently, the bureau has also been putting energy into a Findlay First initiative.
If a company or agency is recruiting a new employee, the Convention and Visitors Bureau will take the employee, including spouse and children, on a 90-minute tour of the community.
The goal is “kind of taking Google out of the picture” and letting people who actually live here show off the community, Preston said.
A goal for 2019 is to attract more meetings and group gatherings. Preston said enticing meeting or conference organizers to Findlay requires different things than promoting to individual travelers — they need the right size meeting spaces, along with blocks of hotel rooms, available at the same time.
The bureau recently joined a state association to strengthen this recruiting.
The two-employee bureau is funded through the hotel/motel bed tax.
Average hotel bed occupancy in 2018 was 62 percent. Preston said January through March tends to be lower occupancy, with 70 to 80 percent of beds occupied in the fall.
Last year, the community added 99 hotel rooms in the Hancock Hotel, which opened in March, as well as 112 rooms in the new Holiday Inn Express, which opened in the fall.