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Tourism officials eye luring visitors

January 1, 2013
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

Tourism officials in Fulton, Montgomery and southern Hamilton counties have an optimistic outlook for local tourism this year.

"By participating in the I Love New York program [this year], it will improve our tourism outlook for 2013 because advertising funds will be doubled," said Montgomery County Economic Development Specialist Jacki Meola. "We are looking at promoting more broad attractions throughout the county like music at the different riverfronts, several bed and breakfasts in the county, the St. Johnsville Marina and Canajoharie."

All three counties are planning events this year that, officials say, should attract tourists from outside the area.

Article Photos

People ski one of the slopes at Royal Mountain Ski Area in Caroga Lake on Christmas Eve.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Officials in the three counties emphasized their many outdoor activities, including fairs, sporting tournaments and scenic trails.

While many tourists head to the local area in the summer, others also visit when the temperatures drop. In the winter, Oak Mountain in Speculator and Royal Mountain in Caroga attract skiers from around the region.

"We offer a variety of big events that people come from all over to attend," said Ann Melious, executive director of Economic Development and Tourism for Hamilton County. "We are an outdoor recreation destination, so the yearly turnout is very dependent on the weather we have during that season."

Fulton County Tourism Director Gina Dabiere-Gibbs said the success of Fulton County's tourism also depends on the weather.

A lot of people who visit Fulton County partake in outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, boating and camping, she said.

Both tourism directors said tourism last summer was busy because the weather was nice for much of the season, but winter tourism suffered a little because of the lack of snowfall for snowmobile and skiing trails.

"I think the [visitor] numbers were the same or higher than [2011], but the summer tourism started earlier because we started seeing people on the lakes in early May," Dabiere-Gibbs said.

Montgomery County is looking forward to participating in the I Love New York program, under which the state matches local dollars the county spends on advertising for tourism, Meola said.

Dolores Jacksland, president of the Canajoharie-Palatine Chamber of Commerce, said Canajoharie recently put in new plants and lamps at its waterfront location to attract boaters traveling down the river.

The counties are planning numerous events to draw tourists this year. Among them:

The Walleye Challenge will take place Jan. 26 on the Great Sacandaga Lake. The event already is sold out to 1,500 local and out-of-state participants. The event will feature cash prizes, raffles and door prizes.

Dabiere-Gibbs said the event always brings fishing enthusiasts to the area from all over New York state and surrounding states.

"They also bring friends and family with them that aren't participants but still will be in the region spending money, which is beneficial to our county," Dabiere-Gibbs said. "A good part about it is even if there isn't ice on the lake yet, it still will happen and the prizes will still be raffled off."

Montgomery County is expecting people from outside the county to come to the annual Fonda Fair, which starts the week before Labor Day, Meola said.

There will be a street fair in the fall that will conclude with a silent auction in Canajoharie. In addition, the Erie Canal Bicycle Tour, which starts in Buffalo and ends in Albany, will be making a stop in the area July 13, said Jacksland.

The Speculator-Lake Pleasant-Piseco Fish & Game Club's 11th annual Lake Pleasant Ice Fishing Contest will be Feb. 23 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $25 in advance and $30 day of the event. There will be $2,000 in awards.

The counties also offer museums and historic sites that attract visitors every season. One of the biggest attractions in Fulton County is Johnson Hall in Johnstown. In Montgomery County, Schoharie Crossing is a popular attraction.

Traveler spending in Fulton County has increased almost 3 percent since 2010, according to the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

The chamber also is working on a new regional initiative to put tourism signs of local interest on the Thruway.



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