7th annual Arts and Eats Tour best yet
Fall colors and unseasonably warm weather combine to make the 7th annual Arts and Eats Tour the best yet.
The seventh annual Arts and Eats tour took place on October 21 and 22 across Allegan, Barry and small pieces of the surrounding counties. This year’s tour included amazing fall colors, sunny weather in the 70’s both days and increased sales and visitors compared to the previous year’s tour.
Arts and Eats is a backroads food, farm and art tour which provides an opportunity for visitors to southwest Michigan to visit local eateries, artists’ studios/galleries and local farms. It began seven years ago as a collaboration of several community organizations in Barry County, including Michigan State University Extension, and has since expanded to cover Allegan County and portions of Kalamazoo and Van Buren. The tour has a specific focus on rural and regional tourism promotion and has been viewed by participating sites as an economic development tool for their county and region.
While specific visitor counts and sales numbers for sites are still being compiled, initial feedback from planning committee members who made stops during the tour showed increases in overall visitation and sales throughout the weekend. One site reported more than doubling their visitation from the previous year and tripling sales. While weather can play a big role in the tour’s success, much work has been done to increase the tour’s promotion and participation, specifically from Allegan County.
For the last two years, the Arts and Eats tour has been supported through a community grant from the Allegan County Community Foundation. These grant funds have allowed the tour to bring on a part-time coordinator position and increase participation from potential farm, food and art sites in Allegan County. MSU Extension and other Arts and Eats planning partners are looking to build upon the success of this regional tour effort by expanding the brand and marketing materials to other areas of the state and help regions organize their own Arts and Eats tours. This has the potential to raise awareness of the Arts and Eats brand to new areas of the state and elevate visitation and participation as a result.
If you are looking to develop similar regional tourism initiatives in your area of the state, please visit the Michigan State University Extension Tourism Team webpage.