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Posted April 9, 2011 | comments Leave a comment

These walls can talk

Hotel photo gallery spotlights valley attractions

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The local Hampton Inn & Suites offers clean, comfortable rooms, a friendly staff and numerous amenities, including an indoor pool, fitness area, business center and an oversized lounge where you can start your day with a complimentary plate of Belgian waffles or curl up with a book by the fireplace in the evening.

But one of the award-winning hotel's most popular features has nothing to do with the Hampton Inn brand.

The main corridor off the lobby contains a photo gallery of framed and canvas works from a dozen artists showcasing some of the many places to visit in the Shenandoah Valley.

The "Stay and Play" exhibit is the result of a partnership between the hotel and local art agent Marcy McCann, of LtdPrints.com and King Street Art Works in Strasburg.

"I wanted it to be visually appealing," McCann says, "but I also wanted it to inspire guests to stay an extra night or two and sample some of what the area has to offer."

The gallery depicts hallmark attractions like Luray Caverns, Bryce Resort, the Shenandoah River and New Market Battlefield, along with hidden gems such as the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs, Meems Bottom Covered Bridge near Mt. Jackson, and Fort Valley Stable.

Each of the 46 numbered pieces captures a personal relationship with the location, along with a certain degree of drama, daring and depth of thought, McCann says.

The gallery, which opened last summer, is paired with a brochure at the front desk with contact information for the various destinations.

Laura Hadden, the hotel's assistant general manager, says the project has really resonated with guests, some of whom have ended up extending their stay to take in one or more of the attractions on display.

It also helped the hotel take home Hilton Corp.'s prestigious Lighthouse Award for 2010, given for outstanding service and accommodations. Only 26 Hampton Inn & Suites nationwide have earned the recognition.

"Working together with the local artists in our community in this way, accenting their work, and the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley, has been a rewarding project, and appreciated by our guests," says owner Allon Lefever.

For individuals and families on a budget, many of the featured sites can be enjoyed free of charge, McCann says. The view of the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River from the Woodstock Tower, for example, or an afternoon of hiking, biking and disc golf at the Shenandoah County Park near Toms Brook require only a time commitment and a sense of adventure.

For McCann, "Stay and Play" represents a pilot project. She says she would like to partner with other hotels in the area to market the Shenandoah Valley through the eyes of its talented artists.

"It's been a pleasure working with the staff of the Hampton to create a unique ambiance with such a grand purpose," she says.

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