National Tourism Week and Barefoot in the Park

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By Caryn McGarity, CDME

The tourism industry is one where last minute details and imminent deadlines are standard operating procedure, yet the numerous events of the past months – National Tourism Week and the 2nd Annual Barefoot in the Park – have set the bar even higher.

National Tourism Week is designed to raise awareness of the entire hospitality industry and the overall economic impact of tourism. The GCVB spearheaded a new dining promotion – Gwinnett Restaurant Week – designed to promote our restaurant community to both locals and visitors. Twelve restaurants (Aqua Terra Bistro, Sperata, Vreny's, Kurt”s, Little Gardens, Park Cafe, Dominick”s, Hi-Life Kitchen, the Grayson House, Pappadeaux and Carrabba”s Sugarloaf) participated.

The restaurants offered three-course meals for $18.18 from May 15-18. Our hope was to not only attract more diners, but to bring in the all-important first-time customer. By all accounts, Gwinnett Restaurant Week was a tremendous success! The positive media coverage we received was phenomenal – three of our chefs even graced the cover of Gwinnett Magazine”s May/June issue.

Many of the restaurants were sold out all four evenings with $18.18 customers, and we”re already planning for the 2nd Annual 2007 Gwinnett Restaurant Week!

Other NTW activities included a successful meeting planner reception at Pappadeaux; "Gwinnett Day" at the Lavonia Welcome Center; and a Gwinnett familiarization tour for Georgia State Welcome Center employees.

After tying up Tourism Week, the 2nd Annual "Barefoot in the Park" fine arts festival was just around the corner. The three-day event kicked off with a fund-raising gala featuring food, wine, a live performance by the Aurora Theatre, as well as a silent and live auction – all for a great cause. The festival revenues will go back to support Gwinnett”s non-profit arts and cultural organizations.

We couldn”t hold such a great gala without the help of our food and beverage partners: Kurt”s Restaurant; the Payne-Corley House; Pappadeaux; Spiced Right Barbeque; Proof of the Pudding, Park Cafe, La Cazuela Catering, Red Hook Brewery and Empire Distributing.

More than 60 juried artists exhibited their wares – from mixed media to sculpture to glass and watercolor, while the Duluth Town Green stage was crowded with a full day of performances.

One of the festival”s biggest successes was the Scientific Atlanta Children”s Art Park, full of free hands-on and interactive arts education projects. We salute Jayne Madigan of Discover Mills for an amazing job coordinating the Art Park, and thank our Art Park partners – Nancy Hammond/B.B. Harris Elementary; the Pinckneyville Community Center, Binders Art, Abrakadoodle and the Hudgens Art Center.

We want to thank everyone who supported the event, whether by attending, volunteering or donating goods and services. The Gwinnett Ballet Theatre, the Aurora Theatre Guild and the Safeco Corporation are just of few of the companies that donated volunteer time.

And most importantly – our major sponsors and committee members are the folks who make it happen. A big thank you to Red Hook Brewery/Eagle Rock Distributing; Gwinnett Medical Center; Scientific Atlanta; Discovery Point and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Organizing committee members gave hundreds of hours of time and organizational support to bring this event to Gwinnett. Thanks go to Mayor Shirley Lassiter, Alisa Williams and numerous members of the Duluth police and public works departments. Kudos to my staff at the GCVB, Cindy and Randy Sutt at Rock Paper Scissors, arts consultant Holley Calmes; Carol Hoemeke of the Gwinnett/North Fulton Junior League; Ann-Carol Pence, Tony Rodriguez, Al Stilo and Patrick Hutchison of the Aurora Theatre, Proof of the Pudding”s Larry Larsen, Proof”s dedicated staff, Spohntown Development”s

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