By Josette Keelor
This vacation season, see local sights, save some money and let the kids do the work.
At Go Blue Ridge Travel's interactive online Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail, children can take the helm of a family vacation-planning guide that promotes regional tourism and keeps money in the valley.
The mobile sites, ShenandoahValleyKidsTrail.com and GoBlueRidgeTravel.com/KidsTrail, offer what founder and Go Blue Ridge Travel President Nancy Craun said are "things that kids could literally experience in the valley ... things that don't necessarily cost money."
With photos, downloadable maps and links to venue websites, the Kids Trail also will feature videos local teens made for a recent contest.
At last week's viewing of top submissions at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Kernstown, Stephen French of Edinburg won best in show, and a team from Sherando High School in Stephens City won most popular film.
The film by students Hayden Williams, Tyler Anderson and Joe Mayer included jazzy music and asked the audience "Are you tired of watching TV? ... Then get outside," according to Sherando's Principles of Business and Marketing teacher Cherise Woodward.
Joe, 15 of Stephens City, said he and his classmates chose "places that would appeal to children," like Dinosaur Land, The Alamo, The Discovery Museum, the Family Drive-In Theater and Sherando's pool and park, all in Frederick County or Winchester.
"We took a couple fieldtrips during that class from the different place," he said.
Woodward said the film project increased Joe's interest in business lessons she had been trying to get across in class.
"For the first time he just really seemed excited and motivated," she said.
In his video, Central High School freshman Stephen, 14, described the Shenandoah Valley as "a four seasons resort," while featuring the song "Shenandoah" and highlighting destinations between Winchester and Harrisonburg.
"I took two days off from school," he said. "Basically those three days made up the three-minute video."
His prize included two tickets to stay at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg and enjoy an equestrian package, tickets to the Family Drive-in Theater in Stephens City and the Alamo, a new tripod and a jib for holding his video camera, all of which he estimated at a $3,000 value.
"It's really, really awesome," he said.
Contest judges were Alamo Creative Manager Steve Nerangis, Jim Kopp of the Family Drive-in Theater, TV and film music supervisor Paul DiFranco, Zom-Bee TV partner Dale Jackson, founder of Skyline Indie Film Fest Brian Patrick and founder of the Film Club 3.0 Andy Gyurisin.
All films included in the viewing will be featured on the Kids Trail and are posted at YouTube under the search words "Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail."
Craun said she came up with the idea for the Kids Trail after noticing a shared weakness area businesses and families feel.
Excluding amusement parks two or three hours away, it's "very, very hard to find what there is out there for young people in the state of Virginia.
Along the Kids Trail, she said, "You are only going to find things related to kids experiences and events."
"It's kids talking to kids."
Visit the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail at www.goblueridgetravel.com/. View Stephen French's Kids Trail video at youtube.com/watch?v=pKJak_K0R1c and the Sherando team's video at youtube.com/watch?v=Ky014jJ0Z-A.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org