Prestonsburg Tourism Director Samantha West speaks during a Nov. 25 meeting. Chairman Jim Ousley is also pictured. Prestonsburg Tourism earned several awards this year from the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, including one which honors West as the 2019 “Emerging Leader” in tourism.

Prestonsburg Tourism earned several honors during the Kentucky Travel Industry Association conference this month.

Director Samantha West shared the awards with members of the tourism commission during a special meeting on Monday.

The agency won the “Gold” and “Most Innovative” KTIA Traverse Awards for an ad campaign that asked visitors “What Would We do Without our Phones?” It also earned the Silver Traverse Award for the commission’s website and the 2019 Emerging Leader Award, which was presented to West at the conference.

“We came away with some really great awards,” West said.

She said she was “very proud” that the Most Innovative award was presented to an Eastern Kentucky tourism agency.

“Lexington and Louisville, they have great marketing campaigns and they went away with just about every award. But that one — and Pike County, also, we’ll brag on them. Pike County Tourism came away with some really great awards, especially for their print marketing, So there was really some great representation this year from Eastern Kentucky,” West said.

Commission members praised West for winning the Emerging Leader of the Year honor.

“That’s a huge, huge thing for her to win that,” Administrative Assistant Brooke Lemonds said. “It means we’re doing things that make people look at Prestonsburg. If they weren’t looking before, they’re looking even more now.”

West told commissioners that the agency is currently in “full blown Christmas mode,” and she and other members encouraged participation in the Early Black Friday and Small Business Saturday promotions hosted by Prestonsburg Merchants.

She reported that Prestonsburg Tourism is advertising “One Million Lights” at Archer Park in London and Ashland, attempting to bring in more tourism.

West also reported that the state cut its matching funds grants for advertising from about $16,000 to $14,000 this year, and she mentioned plans about branching out to other areas to coordinate tours.

She explained that tour groups like to have a “hub” where they can stay and visit several locations, and she feels Prestonsburg can provide that service. She and Administrative Assistant Lemonds are scheduled to tour Savage Farms in Louisa to learn more about its maple syrup business and winery. The farm sold its merchandise at the Jenny Wiley Festival this year.

Mayor Les Stapleton reported that the city now has a permanent Christmas tree, located near the city stage. The city will host its Christmas parade at 6 p.m. on Dec. 7 and the tree lighting ceremony will take place in that location after the parade. Stapleton reported that the food truck, Hillbilly Hibatchi, will be selling food at the event and donating a portion of proceeds to a local baseball team.

Commission Member Jennifer Kopecky, owner of City Perk, reported that Prestonsburg Merchants will be decorating birdhouses that will be displayed at Ritchie’s Hallmark on the day of the parade. She said the birdhouses will be placed in Star City Park at a later date.

During the meeting, the commission also:

• Approved paying $118,000 in restaurant and hotel taxes to the Mountain Arts Center, Prestonsburg Parks, Prestonsburg Tourism and Stone Crest Golf Court.

• Approved paying $29,000 in bills.

 •Officials discussed how the closure of the Quality Inn on U.S. 23 will impact hotel taxes in the city. The hotel closed in late September. Officials announced that Brookshire Inn, located near the Mountain Arts Center, will become the new Quality Inn on Dec. 30. Commission Member Jim Ousley reported that the change will mean a loss of 80 hotel beds in the city.

• Received a report from Stapleton who said he hired Prestonsburg Tourism Commission Member Cliff Latta as the project manager of the Prestonsburg Rail Trail project. Stapleton reported that the project is going well, and announced that the trail is expected to open next spring. Paving won’t be available, he explained, until that time because pavement plants have shut down for the season.

•Received a report from Mountain Arts Center Director Joe Campbell, who reported sells for the Billie Jean Osborne Kentucky Opry Christmas show, which begins Saturday, Nov. 30, are going well, and he also promoted The Nutcracker performance on Dec. 4-6, the “Jamurary” concert, which will raise funds on Jan. 25 to buy musical instruments for local students, a Tyler Booth concert on Feb. 8 and the nationally-known band, Tedeschi Trucks Band on Feb. 25. Campbell reported that the MAC has already sold more than 460 tickets for that concert, and 163 tickets were bought by people who live in 18 other states, including Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina and New York. The band regularly sells out in other states, Campbell said, reporting he received calls from people in Texas wanting to know how they landed the band for a concert at the MAC.

“It’s a huge get, and it’s putting this building on the map in a whole other level,” Campbell said.

•Received a report from East Kentucky Science Center Director Steve Russo, who announced the center’s annual Season of Light and Laser Holiday shows. The center will host its “Christmas Double Deal,” featuring two shows for $5 on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. These shows will be available Dec. 3-19 at the center, with Season of Light opening at 2 p.m. and Laser Holidays opening at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Commission Member Tim Branham was not present for the meeting.

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