Library updating capabilities, comfort to increase appeal

Stepping into a new role this March was Travis Frye who has been tasked as the tourism coordinator for both Dobson and Surry County Tourism Development Authorities. His goal is to ramp up the tourism efforts of the area, he says it is a challenge for which he is excited.

“I think we have a lot of potential for growth here in Dobson,” he told the town’s Board of Commissioners Thursday. While the titles on paper may be new, he has been hard at work promoting projects such as Autumn Leaves Festival for several years as the program and events director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce.

To aid in the creation of tourism growth Frye has developed a deep slate of activities featuring beats, eats, and meets.

It starts with Music at the Market, a collaboration between the Surry County TDA and Dobson TDA to be held at the farmers market at 601 E. Atkins St., Dobson.

“We are offering free events for folks who just want to listen to music or just get food,” Frye said. “We have a real cultural heritage of music in our area, so we want to feed on that as tourism destination on Friday nights.”

Steve Marshall and Highroad are going to kick off the series with a little bluegrass on August 26 from 7 – 9 pm He told the board that food trucks would be on hand too, something of a staple these days for such events. Having food options on the site will hopefully draw in a little more traffic to the event.

“Folks that are just passing by and want to get some food from a food truck they can listen to the music or just get the food. We’re making it free of charge and people just need to bring their lawn chairs.”

Music at the Market will have performances through November, “That’s six bands that will be performing. All local musicians and a good opportunity for them as well.” Promoting Dobson, local food trucks, and the farmers market are all great – Frye is taking it further by finding local musical acts as well. If any news is good news, then promotion of any type for the area is a winning formula.

The tourism coordinator can’t just lay out plans and just hope for the best; so, Frye came ready to show his work. He shared his marketing campaign across radio, print, and social media that will continue through the end of the Market series. Having ads in Our State magazine alone will get these sorts of events quickly publicized to a statewide audience, giving tourists another reason to visit.

The future of tourism is going to look different as how modes of travel change. Upgrades at the Mount Airy Surry County Airport are meant to increase the capabilities of the airport and make it a destination stop for travelers to tank up, fill up, and say hello to Surry County.

Similarly, Frye told the commissioners that at the recent Visit North Carolina 365 conference they were talking about the future of electric vehicles. “One of the main things the pointed out that is coming in the future is EV charging stations and the electric cars that are constantly being promoted on television.”

“To get ahead of that, they asked rural areas as well as areas that are on major byways or interstates to start becoming proactive. So, Dobson TDA met and discussed options on where we would like to place it — where is a good tourism destination — and they settled on Shelton Vineyards.”

At a cost of approximately $18,000 the plan is to install a Level-2 ChargePoint EV charging station that will accommodate charging two vehicles at a charge time of two to four hours, he said. “It may be top off to get to their next destination or they could stay and come into the town and discover Dobson.”

The tourists are here, and the car is charging, so now Frye wants to get the delicious food of the area to fresh palettes. The sonker trail and recent sonker sign dedication gave him an idea to hoist another area favorite into the pantheon of deliciousness: ground steak.

“It is Surry County delicacy, we discussed having a festival in late spring, early summer of 2023 around the courthouse square. Not only would it encompass ground steak, but we would be focusing on delicacies like the sonker and introduce people to that. People could have sonker, ground steak, and look at crafts. We’re thinking about doing a high skill craft show, kids’ area, and live music on the square,” he said of the new concept.

Surry County TDA is also going to partner with Dobson to create a ground steak trail. “That way we can have our own website dedicated to ground steak and we can promote our local restaurants in the community. All Surry County — anybody that’s in the county that does ground steak, we’re going to promote them to promote tourism.”

Frye has something cooking that he cannot yet share with the public, the Country Concert Series is coming but, “I can’t announce what bands we have – I just have to say we have really good bands. If you’re a fan of 90s and early 00s county music, we have two big bands that will be coming.” A contractual obligation is preventing the announcement, but he is excited.

That series is going to be located outside the Hampton Inn on I-77 he said. “It’s a big field, we measured it and it can hold around 28,000 people in that vicinity. This is going to have to be a collaborative effort with the town, county, EMS, and sheriff.”

“It’s going to be a big deal and hopefully something we can do every year as an annual event.” Such an undertaking will not be easy, and he will be creating subcommittees to help divide the work. Anyone interested in serving on one should contact Frye, “Please let me know, we’ll have specific tasks for everybody.”

Finally, an announcement was made many in the area will be happy to hear, “The Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, you may have seen that it was canceled earlier this spring, but we revived it. The TDAs have a big investment in this, and we want to keep the convention here if possible. It does bring in 500-800 people per day over the two-day span.”

The Square Dance will be held on Friday Sept. 23 with $5 admission fee, children younger than 12 are free. At 7 pm Lucas Pasley and The Stratford Stringband perform, and then at 8:30 pm the Slate Mountain Ramblers will take the stage. A move to the Surry County Service Center in Dobson was needed to facilitate the new date but those ready to rosin a bow will not be bothered by the change.

Then on Saturday, Sept. 24, registration opens at 10 am with youth contests between 11 am to 2 pm with youth dance and awards following youth competition. Then from 3 until 6:30 pm will be the adult individual contests and at 7 pm the adult band contest, the adult dance and awards following the band contest.

“Things are looking really good and we’re staying really busy,” Frye said in closing also apologizing for talking so much. The board did not seem to mind, this is exactly what he was brought on to do and he came Thursday evening prepared.

Getting the fiddlers convention squared away, Music at the Market, Country Concert Series, a ground steak trail, adding electric car charging stations – his appraisal of the potential to grow tourism seems attainable.

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