Conference aimed at promoting tourism in the department – La Tribune

An event at the Ro-Na Theater in Ironton on Thursday brought together regional leaders in an effort to boost tourism in Lawrence County.

A conference, hosted by the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, was held and strategies were discussed for marketing the county to visitors, as well as promoting it to those already residing here.

Marty Conley, director of the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke about the county’s strengths, one of which is its rich history.

He cited the Waterloo wonderland story as something that could attract visitors, comparing it to the movie ‘Hoosiers’ and suggesting a similar film could be made about the legendary local basketball team.

Conley said the history of the Underground Railroad in the county was not fully promoted and said he had strong ties to the area, pointing out that abolitionist John Rankin resided in Ironton and died in the house which is now the Lawrence County Museum.

Conley spoke about the Appalachian Heritage Tour Initiative, for which he said one site has already received a historical marker – the Burlington-Macedonia Church.

“It’s the oldest black church west of Pennsylvania,” he said. “And our goal is for the next three years to turn this marker into 27.”

Conley said they were considering not only having tour guides available for the county, but also creating a digital tour, where visitors could use an app to see and hear about local sites.

Conley also spoke about recreational opportunities in the county, such as Elkins Creek Horse Camp Lake Vesuvius, kayaking, hunting and fishing.

He said the county has seen an increase in the number of people participating in outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The topic of manufacturing was also broached, with Conley pointing to the Point Industrial Park, where he said a new spec building is planned, as well as new businesses to come. He said having recreation and tourism and giving people something to do is key to attracting business.

He said they were working closely with national and local leaders to collaborate in promoting tourism. He said the next legislative day at the Statehouse in Columbus would have a breakout session focused on the topic.

Conley said there are three events in the county that are particularly significant. Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day is now in its 154th year and is the longest running parade of its type. “It brings in thousands,” Conley said. “If you’ve never experienced it before, it’s wonderful to go see the street full of flags.”

A much more recent event draws around 6,000 people to the area, Conley said of Ironton Wizardfest, which has been held annually since 2018. “And they come from all over the country,” he said. “Our hotels are always full.”

And he said the Lawrence County Fair is also a strong attraction for the county.

“It’s a great draw and we have a great 4-H program,” Conley said.

He concluded by returning to the theme, “Relax, unwind and unplug.”

“Come here and calm down,” he said. “Relax and enjoy life and enjoy your time here.”

About Patricia Kilgore

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