Be a tourist in your own community
Yearly event promotes tourism and economic development in Alcona County.
As far back as 20 years ago, ticket holders have had the opportunity to participate in a yearly event called the Alcona County Fall Color Tour. It consists of a day-long bus tour – same tour two days in a row – where participants do not know where they are going or even the theme of the day. What they do know is:
- The bus will leave promptly at 8:30 a.m.
- Lunch and two coffee breaks are included in the ticket price
- Guest speakers will come aboard the bus
- Participants will leave the bus to tour theme-related sites
- There will be a skit performed by the planners reinforcing the tour theme
- The bus will return by 4:30 p.m.
Even without knowing the destination or theme, tickets sell out quickly. In fact, a line to purchase tickets starts early, forming hours before the local Michigan State University Extension office opens, where tickets have traditionally been sold.
Organizers of this event begin planning early in the year, usually January, by exploring the county – looking for unusual locations, people and places. They meet regularly to review the most unique and unusual ideas and eventually a tour theme emerges.
Themes over the past several years have included – ‘A Drop of Water,’ ‘In Your Wildest Dreams,’ ‘A Higher Point of View,’ ‘The Passion of the People’ and the 2014 theme of “Horsing Around in Alcona County.”
While ‘Horsing Around in Alcona County,’ participants toured and visited with a local veterinarian – who arrived on her own horse, a feed store, a horse training facility, an animal crematorium, an animal communicator, a Clydesdale horse farm, 4-H youth dressage demonstrations and participants also experienced contra dancing with a local caller.
Every year, evaluations reveal that many of the participants have never visited some of the sites, as well as indicating that that if the site is open to the public they would likely return in the future. In fact, surveys have also stated that the annual tour provides them a host of new ideas to share with friends and visitors alike.
Additional participant comments about how the bus tour promotes economic development and tourism include: increases knowledge about local businesses, products and locales; promotes community interest; advertises why to be proud about the community; provides talking points about Alcona County; encourages the county as a potential retirement location and encourages us to go out into the community and investigate new places.
Can an organized tour of a community promote economic development and tourism? The Alcona Bus Tour participants think so!