Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is there to do 'round here?

Since we moved to Plymouth, NC a little over a year ago, I've been whining - just like I did in high school - that there's nothing to do 'round here.

Well, I have to admit, I've just been lazy. Eastern NC is rich in historical attractions, outdoor activities, and adventure opportunities. I realized it was time for some of the spring activities to kick into gear - things we attended last year like Mackeys CrabBash, the Civil War Reinactment, and various outdoor music events in downtown Plymouth. I started looking online for scheduling details and stumbled upon the new website for the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Before we moved to Plymouth, I took advantage of various networking groups. was a great tool for finding all kinds of groups, from business networking to bowling to book clubs. I've browsed meetup since we've been "back home," but there are just a handful of Greenville groups that remotely interest me, and I'm looking for actvities closer to Plymouth.

I don't know why I didn't think about the Chamber earlier, but just as I checked out the membership application and made up my mind to join, I noticed an event on the calender - "Hospitality Training". The description read, "Be a tourist for a day in your home county. Learn about hospitality and how it affects your business and your area."

Now, I've been saying for ages that I'm going to start writing more travel articles focused on eastern NC, so how perfect was this? And it was free!

I hustled to the chamber office to turn in my membership application, pay the dues, and to register for the training. Jennifer Arnold, Director, explained that the morning would include classroom-type sessions, and the afternoon would consist of visits to the downtown museums (how many small towns have THREE museums on a beautiful downtown waterfront?), a boat tour on the Roanoke River, and an optional airplane tour. Did I mention this was free?

The event is co-sponsored by the Chamber, the Washinton County NC Cooperative Extension, Washington County Travel & Tourism, and the Plymouth Downtown Development Assocation (search "Plymouth DDA" on facebook). Washington County Extension Director Rebecca Liverman and Hyde County Extension director Mac Gibbs co-hosted the morning sessions with a mission to "Foster economic development by improving customer service, enhancing North Carolina Pride and strengthing communities."

I wasn't surprised to learn that NC is the 6th most visited state of the US. I was surprised, however, to learn that toursim in Washington County generated $12.01 million in 2009. Thanks to our struggling economy in general, this number was actually down by almost 10% from 2008.

After the morning training sessions and lunch, Jennifer escorted us to the downtown Plymouth museums. We started at the Maritime Museum, and then crossed the street to climb to the top of the Roanoke River Lighthouse. Next stop was God's Creation Wildlife Museum, and we finished up at the Port O'Plymouth Museum. Jennifer gave us a nice introduction to each museum but left plenty for us to explore on our own at a later date.

Next we enjoyed a boat ride provided by Tom Harrison, Director of Washington County Travel & Tourism. Not only was our tour guide informative, he turned out to be a hero. Our tour was interrupted when the boat's motor sputtered to a stop. With the wind fortunately in the right direction, Tom guided us gently back to the dock. While the tour might have been shortened a bit, we finished the day with a little excitement!

Speaking of the wind, it turned out to be a bit too rough for our plane ride, but the day was a success. We finished up with ice cream at Norm's and shared suggestions with Rebecca for the next event. I'm still shaking my head that this training experience is available, right here in Plymouth, and at no charge! The event that I attended was the second hosted, and at least two more are planned. I hope more local businesses take advantage of this valuable resource. As for me, I have confirmed a long list of writing topics about something to do 'round here.

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