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Governor announces tourism grants

By Sally Voth

More than $80,000 is being awarded to help fuel tourism in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Gov. Bob McDonnell's office announced this week that 37 local initiatives will get about $543,000 in matching funds through the Virginia Tourism Corp.'s Marketing Leverage Grant program.

"The grants help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging local marketing dollars," a release from the governor's office states. "The local organizations match the state grant funds by a minimum of 3:1 to create marketing projects such as Web sites, signage, social media, and advertisements."

Last year, tourism brought in more than $20 million in Virginia, generated $1.3 million in taxes and supported more than 200,000 jobs, the release states.

In this region, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was the big winner, with a $49,700 grant.

"We think it's wonderful," festival Executive Director John Rosenberger said Tuesday afternoon. "We do a lot of publicity and a lot of promotion and a lot of marketing, and this will greatly help us.

"I think it's obvious that what they would really like would be for people to come from other states and spend their money in the state of Virginia. We really target Maryland, West Virginia, and definitely Pennsylvania. Those are very strong areas for us. We draw real well in Pennsylvania and in southern New Jersey and eastern Ohio."

Rosenberger said festival officials plan to meet this week to discuss the grant award.

"This is all new and we're going to have to go back now and look at our budget for marketing and for publicity and for promotion, and see what we might want to do," he said. "This is a bonus. We're very happy. We're honored. We think that we do a pretty good job about getting the word out about good things happening in Virginia, and I think if Virginia Tourism [Corp.] agrees, I think that's a validation for our efforts."

The governor's release also states that the Luray and Page County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center received a $25,000 grant for its Luray and Page County: LOVE every Level, Advancing the Brand campaign.

Additionally, the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, of which Shenandoah County is a partner, received just shy of $8,000 for its Fields of Gold agritourism program.

That program connects agritourism sites throughout the valley, Shenandoah County Tourism and Marketing Director Natalie Wills said in a Tuesday email.

"It's always exciting when anyone in the Shenandoah Valley is awarded a tourism marketing leverage grant," she stated. "The grants require partners, so to see others working together within communities to obtain grants is encouraging and exciting. Any grant benefiting a valley partner benefits everyone by bringing more exposure, or a new program, to the valley."

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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