Tourism group seeks volunteers

Special to the Rappahannock News
The newly appointed Rappahannock County Tourism Advisory Group (TAG) is working to get the county’s new Visitors Center ready to receive visitors early in the 2010 summer tourism season, possibly as soon as Memorial Day weekend, said county tourism coordinator Laura Overstreet last week.

Demolition has begun at the Avondale farmhouse near the county library, as the county prepares to open an interim, volunteer-staffed, donation-funded Visitor Center there, possibly as soon as Memorial Day. Photo by Roger Piantadosi

The volunteer members of TAG have formed working committees under the direction of chair Sherri Fickel, co-owner of Hopkins Ordinary B&B in Sperryville. TAG members have divided the many tasks that will lead to the refurbishment and transformation of Avondale farmhouse, off U.S. 211 near the Rappahannock County Library, into a welcome center that is filled with helpful information and trained volunteer staff to assist visitors.

Earlier this year, the Tourism Partners — an ad hoc committee whose work led to the appointment of TAG members by the Board of Supervisors in February — told the the board it believes that private donations, up to perhaps $10,000, could be raised to pay for the initial visitor center operation.

County Administrator John W. McCarthy said at the time: “I have made it clear to the Tourism Partners, and we should do so to potential TAG members, that the revenue cupboards are bare and that any effort to operate a visitor center . . . will have to be funded by donations for all costs of operation and staffing.”

McCarthy has said the county would use jail trustee labor and normal building-and-grounds fund allocations to make the improvements required to get Avondale’s first floor space open for visitors this coming year. That work began last week.

The Visitor Center’s amenities required for operation, Overstreet said, are TAG’s responsibility; fundraising events are being planned and donations of specific items for Avondale are being sought. (Email info@visitrappahannockva.com if you think you can help.)

Overstreet said last week that at least 12 volunteer “tourism ambassadors” will be needed to share staffing duties at the Visitor Center, which will be open initially 9 to 5, Fridays through Sundays.

Overstreet said the volunteer time commitment will be a minimum of two four-hour shifts per month. Volunteers will receive professional training to prepare them for their duties that will include the history of the county, information on accommodations, dining, shopping, events and activities for visitors, customer service instruction and more.

Proposed benefits include familiarization tours, an annual recognition event and discounts to some visitor experiences.
A paid part-time manager is also being sought, Overstreet said, the funding for which also will be raised by TAG.

Those interested in applying for the manager job or as volunteers should contact the Rappahannock County Office of Tourism, PO Box 519, 290 Gay Street, Washington, VA 22747. Deadline for applications is April 16.

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