Memorial Day 2011 features kindness and first feats
NEWS FROM MT WASHINGTON VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - May 31, 2011
CONTACT: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331 or firstname.lastname@example.org
MT WASHINGTON VALLEY CELEBRATES KINDNESS, FIRST-EVER FEATS ON MOUNT WASHINGTON AND GRAND OPENINGS IN A SUCCESSFUL MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
With so much going on, even the threat of rain didn't keep visitors from visiting the Valley this weekend
North Conway, NH - Despite a daunting forecast, visitors still flocked to Mt Washington Valley for Memorial Day weekend, according to an information survey of businesses conducted by the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Valley was alive with many attractions opening for the season, the First Annual Kindness Weekend and plenty of art shows, craft shows and events drawing people to the region. Consequently, the majority of the businesses reported a strong weekend, with revenues up over last year. A number of business owners shared that they noticed an increasing number of Canadian and international visitors coming from as far as Russia. "There was so much to see and do in Mt Washington Valley this weekend, nothing could keep visitors and families from enjoying a three-day holiday in the White Mountains," said Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. Jason Robinson of Mt Washington Valley Accommodations shared an email from a guest saying "We had a blast and loved our room at the Eastern Slope Inn Resort! I didn't know, it's like an Orlando of the Northeast where you are... there's so much to do!"
It was all smiles in North Conway as the first annual Kindness Weekend got underway with a parade of 500 smiley-faced balloons arriving in Shouler Park. According to organizer Michael Kline the event was a huge success, with hundreds of volunteers giving away thousands of gifts around the valley ranging from attraction tickets to the hugely popular free hugs. Visitors to the area may well have gone home thinking the Mount Washington Valley is the "Kindness Kapital" of New England! Tickets were generously donated by Mount Washington Auto Rd, Great Glen Trails, Conway Scenic Railroad and Storyland. Author and speaker Michael Chase of The Kindness Center gave a lecture Friday night, and was on hand Saturday at the rally and visited patients at Memorial Hospital with a group of flower-toting volunteers. According to Kline, "The event was created by the N. Conway Village Association as an added attraction for visitors to bring their families to the valley for Memorial Day weekend. Response was so enthusiastic the organizers expect the event to be larger and more widely promoted next year".
A number of lodging property owners responding to the survey explained that occupancy was up over Memorial Day, 2010. According to Cathi Belcher, co-owner of the Lodge at Jackson, the lodge was sold out and they had to refer guests to other area lodging. "We had a large increase in the number of walk-ins; people seem to be making more last minute decisions regarding their travel plans, possibly based on the weather," observed Belcher. Linda Trask at the Glen Oaks Inn credited a creative package with just the amenities and activities guests wanted for the increase her inn saw over last year's Memorial Day weekend. Mary Ann Mayer of the Mt Washington B&B enthusiastically reported a sell-out weekend, and the best the inn has seen in 12 years. Tom Spaulding, General Manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites reported mostly a sell-out weekend, which accounted for a 5% increase over last year. Spaulding noted a large increase in Canadian visitors and many families coming to enjoy the opening weekend for many attractions. Jason Robinson, Director of Marketing & Communications at Mt Washington Valley Accommodations noted a slight increase in revenue for the properties including Eastern Slope Resort, Attitash Mountain Village, Oxen Yoke Motel and Attitash Marketing, and also a significant increase in Canadian business.
Jonathan Spak, co-Owner/Chef of the Oxford House Inn in Fryeburg reported a weekend that was "gangbusters" for both the inn and the restaurant. He attributed the increase in business over last year to a menu featuring many bistro-plates and the Fryeburg Academy graduation. He noted that while in the past summer season seemed to get underway around July 4th, this year Memorial Day is clearly marking the beginning of the summer rush in Fryeburg. Howard Stanten, owner of The Met Coffeehouse reported a 14% increase in sales over last year for Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend with record numbers for Sunday, attributing strong sales to the Kindness Weekend activities in North Conway Village.
Every one of the attractions who weighed in on the survey offered positive feedback about business levels for the Memorial Day weekend. Bob at White Lake Speedway Inc. felt the weekend turned out better than he expected given the gloomy weather forecast going into the weekend. Despite being slightly down in revenues for Friday and Saturday, Sunday was even with last year at the Speedway. Kathy Bennett, Marketing Director at Cranmore Resort, reported a very strong grand opening weekend for the new Adventure Park. "Many of our lodging partners were successful in selling stay and play packages and word was that occupancy and business levels were good in the valley overall," commented Bennett.
May 28th became a history making day on Mt. Washington, as several intrepid adventurers each set a unique record on the Mt. Washington Auto Road as part of Alton Weagle Day. During his heyday in the 1950s, Weagle set many records on the Road, including climbing the eight mile path to the summit barefoot, then backwards and finally blindfolded. As part of the Auto Road's commemorative festivities, several first ascents were accomplished, including: Sue Wemyss, who made the first ever Roller Ski ascent; Jesse Lyman, who made the first Roller Blade ascent; Meg Skidmore, who made the first female Unicycle Ascent; Jon Pensak, who made the first male Roller Skier ascent, Ben Hvar, who brought a vintage phone booth to the summit and Steven Caming, who drove his vehicle backwards, from the base to the top of Mt. Washington.
Karen Tolin, owner of Raft NH and Muddy Paws Sled Dog Kennel reported they had a sold out Saturday, and that trips were well up over last year for both the rafting company and interest in the kennel. "I've found that people are traveling from further away this year including Georgia and Florida. This is a significant change from the "one tank" type trips we've seen in the past couple years", noted Tolin. "Guests are also taking advantage of "add-ons" more this year," finished Tolin. Tolin also credited the advertising campaign spearheaded by the NH Department of Travel and Tourism Development in New York with bringing in business and credibility for the state.
Thomas Prindle, Director of Marketing for Attitash and Wildcat shared that visitor traffic was steady and the weather was favorable for Memorial Day weekend at Attitash, which has not been open in the last couple of years for Memorial Day Weekend. Additionally, according to Prindle, "Wildcat Mountain also saw steady business with maximum capacities for riders per hour for the ZipRider being met on Sunday, the strongest day of the weekend". This spring, Wildcat Mountain increased the ZipRider capacity by installing an additional chair harness retrieval system to keep up with the summer's anticipated higher demand. Jack Mahaney, Assistant General Manager at Story Land reported that attendance was even at the attraction, but spending was up over last year for the Memorial Day Weekend, sharing that he's optimistic about a strong summer season. Susan Logan, Manager of Marketing and Events for the Conway Scenic RR also noted that "Our ticket agents reported lots of international visitors, including Russian and Pakistani families, also Germans and Canadians. As has been typical this spring, seats in our First Class cars sold faster than those in Coach, so our guests didn't appear to be economizing".
Matt Fusco, owner of The Rugged Mill store in North Conway Village concurred that the mix of visitors was clearly international. "We noticed a nice mix of visitors from all over including New England, Canada, England, Germany, Spain and Australia," observed Fusco. He also added, "Kindness Weekend and the craft shows seemed to attract a lot of visitors to North Conway Village, which certainly brought many people passing by our storefront". Deborah Jasien, Owner/Crafter at Fields of Ambrosia reported a 20-percent increase in business this year over last Memorial Day weekend, also crediting Kindness Weekend with bringing visitors who were making larger purchases to North Conway Village. Lynda Schuepp, owner of The Penguin observed that while the numbers of visitors to the store increased by 5-percent, sales were slightly down for the weekend, concluding that gas prices are affecting consumer spending. Soyfire Candle gave out 100 free candle gift cards at the Kindness Weekend, and many were redeemed at the store with about half the recipients making additional purchases. Sales for the weekend were up almost 20% over 2010. The Framed Art Superstore reported even sales with last year. As a retailer in the home-décor business, Kline says he's optimistic about a housing recovery, but it's a long slow cycle for anyone tied to housing. Ed MacDonald, Owner of New England Mountain Sports (better known as the Columbia Store) felt that the increase in business for his store was due in part to more Canadians buying clothing in his store.
Sentiment among Mt Washington Valley businesses for the summer is very optimistic. "I anticipate seeing continued growth in business for the Valley businesses this year given the popularity of the more affordable 'staycations', with more people staying closer to home," said Jason Robinson of Mt Washington Valley Accommodations. Tom Spaulding of Hampton Inn & Suites concurred noting "summer bookings are way up; we are looking for a record season".
For more information on visiting Mt Washington Valley, please visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org . To talk to a Valley concierge, please call 1-800-DO-SEE-NH or 800-367-3364. For more information about New Hampshire and additional digital images, visit the New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism website at http://www.visitnh.gov/.
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Kindness Weekend Photo: Michael Kline, Nancy Russo and Mary Ellen Holmes led the Parade of Smiles to kick off Kindness Weekend in North Conway Village. Cara Chase Photo.