Kids trail will use recent grant to expand

By Katie Demeria

The Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail will use a recent grant to show families just what the valley has to offer.

The trail, which is a subsidiary of Go Blue Ridge Travel, received its second Virginia Tourism Corporation Marketing Leverage Program grant in two years. President and Founder of Go Blue Ridge Travel Nancy Craun said they will use the funds to increase marketing.

In 2013 the trail project received $25,000. This year it received $50,000.

Go Blue Ridge Travel partnered with nine businesses in order to raise funds for the matching grant, including Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Harpers Ferry Adventure Center, Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, the Family Drive in Theater in Stephens City, Shenandoah Caverns Family Attractions, Bryce Resort, Massanutten Resort, Shenandoah County Tourism and Harrisonburg Visitors and Tourism Center.

Together, the 10 partners raised $150,000 in matching funds for the project.

Craun said Blue Ridge Travel is planning to increase marketing and advertising, drawing in tourists not just from out-of-state areas like central Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland, but also from other areas in Virginia like Richmond, coastal Virginia and Roanoke.

The trail consists of a group of family friendly businesses that got together two years ago before applying for the first grant in April of 2013. They are located along the Interstate 81 corridor.

“Basically, we had a group of businesses that are for families, and they came together and decided that, individually, they only had so much strength,” Craun said. “But if they formed an alliance, a marketing tourism alliance, then their strength would increase tenfold.”

The funds from the first grant allowed the partners to develop the trail’s infrastructure, including a website and mascot, a snail named Bucket. They also created a mobile site, allowing families to plug in where they are and what they are interested in to find local attractions.

Craun pointed out that the Virginia Tourism Corporation had researched tourism in Virginia several years ago, revealing that families were having a difficult time finding family friendly activities. The grant was a response to that need.

The program includes Bucket, the mascot, who encourages kids to complete a “bucket list challenge” of things to do in the valley before they turn 18.

“This is an absolutely beautiful area and extremely kid friendly, if we just make it easier for them,” Craun said. “It’s full of history, it’s full of natural wonders.”

In addition to making more videos for advertising, the new grant may also be used toward developing a game app for kids. By finding answers to questions about certain places in the valley, kids will earn points. With enough points, they could get free admission to certain attractions.

The trail is always looking for more businesses to include, Craun pointed out. She stressed that businesses are not limited to the nine that partnered with Blue Ridge Travel for the grant — all are welcome.

The program is also hosting a free event at the Family Drive in Theater in Stephens City at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 21. Representatives from Virginia Tourism will be present and kids will be able to watch a movie.

Visit http://www.shenandoahvalleykidstrail.com to learn more.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com