Travis Frye, who has been appointed tourism co-ordinator for Dobson and Surry County Tourism Development Authorities, entered a new role in March. His goal is to ramp up tourism efforts in the region, he says that’s a challenge he’s excited for.
“I think we have a lot of growth potential here in Dobson,” he told the town’s board of commissioners on Thursday. Although print titles are new, he has worked hard to promote projects such as Autumn Leaves Festival for several years as Director of Program and Events for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce.
To help create the growth of tourism, Frye has developed a wide range of activities offering rhythms, meals and meetings.
It starts with Music at the Market, a collaboration between the Surry County TDA and the Dobson TDA to be held at the Farmers Market at 601 E. Atkins St., Dobson.
“We have free events for people who just want to listen to music or just want to eat,” Frye said. “We have a real musical cultural heritage in our region, so we want to nurture that as a tourist destination on Friday nights.”
Steve Marshall and Highroad will kick off the series with some bluegrass on August 26 from 7-9 p.m. He told the board that food trucks would also be on hand, something essential these days for such events. Having catering options on site will hopefully attract a little more traffic to the event.
“People who are just passing through and want to get food from a food truck can listen to music or just get food. We make it free and people just have to bring their lawn chairs.
Music at the Market will have performances until November, “It’s six groups that will perform. All local musicians and a good opportunity for them too. The promotion of Dobson, local food trucks and the Farmers Market is excellent – Frye goes further by also finding local musical artists. If news is good news, promoting any type for the region is a winning formula.
The tourism coordinator cannot just make plans and hope for the best; so, Frye came ready to show his work. He shared his radio, print and social media marketing campaign that will continue until the end of the Market series. Just having ads in Our State magazine will quickly bring these types of events to a statewide audience, giving tourists another reason to visit.
The future of tourism is going to be different as the way travel patterns change. The upgrades to Mount Airy Surry County Airport are intended to increase the airport’s capabilities and make it an ideal destination for travelers who want to fuel up, refuel and say hello to Surry County.
Similarly, Frye told commissioners that at the recent Visit North Carolina 365 conference, they were talking about the future of electric vehicles. “One of the big things to come in the future are electric vehicle charging stations and electric cars that are constantly being promoted on TV.”
“Moving forward, they asked rural areas as well as areas on major secondary roads or highways to start being proactive. So Dobson TDA met and discussed options on where we would like to place it – where is a good tourist destination – and they settled on Shelton Vineyards.
Costing around $18,000, the plan is to install a Level 2 ChargePoint EV charging station that will charge two vehicles with a charge time of two to four hours, he said. “It may be best to go to their next destination or they could stay and come to town and check out Dobson.”
The tourists are here and the car is loading up, so now Frye wants to bring the region’s delicious food to fresh pallets. The sonker trail and the recent dedication of the sonker sign gave him the idea to elevate another local favorite into the pantheon of delicacies: ground beef.
“It’s the Surry County delicacy, we’ve been discussing having a festival in late spring, early summer 2023 around the courthouse square. Not only would that encompass burger, but we would focus on delicacies like sonker and introduce people to that. People could have sonker, burger and watch crafts. We plan to do a high-level craft show, a children’s area and live music in the square,” he said of the new concept.
Surry County TDA will also partner with Dobson to create a burger trail. “That way we can have our own dedicated burger website and we can promote our local restaurants in the community. All of Surry County – everyone in the county who makes burgers, we’re going to promote them to promote tourism.
Frye has something simmering that he can’t share with the public yet, the Country Concert Series is coming but, “I can’t announce what bands we have – I just have to say we have some really good bands. If you’re a fan of 90s and early 2000s country music, we have two great bands coming. A contractual obligation prevents the announcement, but he is excited.
This series will be located outside the Hampton Inn on I-77, he said. “It’s a big field, we’ve measured it and it can hold about 28,000 people in that vicinity. This is going to have to be a collaborative effort with the city, county, EMS, and sheriff.
“It will 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 create sub-committees to help distribute the work. Anyone interested in participating in one should contact Frye: “Please let me know, we will have specific tasks for everyone.”
Finally, an announcement was made that many locals will be glad to hear: “The Surry Old Fiddler Convention, you may have seen it was canceled earlier this spring, but we relaunched. The TDAs have a big investment in this, and we want to keep the convention here if possible. This brings 500 to 800 people a day over a two day period.
The square dance will take place on Friday, September 23 with an admission fee of $5, children under 12 are free. At 7 p.m., Lucas Pasley and The Stratford Stringband will perform, then at 8:30 p.m., the Slate Mountain Ramblers will take the stage. A move to the Surry County Service Center in Dobson was necessary to facilitate the new date, but those willing to bow out won’t be bothered by the change.
Then on Saturday, September 24, registration opens at 10 a.m. with youth competitions between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. with youth dance and prize giving following the youth competition. Then from 3 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. there will be the adult individual competitions and at 7 p.m. the adult fanfare competition, the adult dance and the award ceremonies following the fanfare competition.
“Things are looking really good and we’re staying really busy,” Frye said in closing, also apologizing for talking so much. The board didn’t seem to care, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do and he came Thursday night prepared.
Squaring up the fiddler convention, Music at the Market, Country Concert Series, a ground beef trail, adding electric car charging stations — his assessment of the potential for tourism growth seems achievable.