Buckhannon event center sees growth
BUCKHANNON — The Event Center at Brushy Fork has hosted meetings, wedding receptions, proms and even a pop culture convention over the last year.
It’s growing usage has allowed the center to cover its expenses for the second year in a row, according to Upshur County Convention and Visitors Center executive director Laura Meadows. In fact, this year the center exceeded its rental revenue goal by $3,000.
The revenue is now just over $30,000 — up from $20,000 in fiscal year 2015-2016.
“For us, that was a huge deal,” she said. “Going into the event center, we knew it was never going to be a money maker but whenever we know we can at least cover our expenses, it’s a really great year.
“It’s growing every single year,” she said.
September and October already has every weekend booked.
“We’ve had a lot of people we have had to turn away because it’s already booked,” she said.
One event returning to Buckhannon is the Upshur County Shriners Dinner.
“We are going to fit 400 people in our building,” she said.
Meadows said that event center manager Sean Harris had worked with the Shrine Club to make that possible.
Meadows presented the annual report for fiscal year 2018-2019 and highlighted some of what the CVB has been focusing on with its mission of promoting and supporting tourism in the area.
“Buckhannon is really more than just our Main Street,” she said. “If people hear Buckhannon, they immediately associate Main Street with Buckhannon, which is great but there is so much more outside of our Main Street.”
That includes outdoor activities and places from Audra State Park, the West Virginia Wildlife Center, community groups working on river access and trail access and more.
“I think in five to 10 years, the outdoor recreation is going to be much bigger than it is now,” she said. “I think we are going to see a lot of things happen in the next few years.”
Meadows spent the past year soliciting new photography images of Upshur County to freshen up advertising campaign materials and the CVB’s social media and website.
“If you have a really great photo and you think we can use it, then just shoot it over to us and we will see what we can fit it into,” she said.
A big shift in the tourism agency is paid articles that are human interest stories versus display ads and the CVB has commissioned several of those.
Meadows continues to use social media and shared some statistics on Facebook impressions (186,932), Facebook engagements (4,133) and saw a 33 percent increase on Instagram.
“Our Facebook demographic is typically an older market which is more of a Buckhannon target market for us,” she said. “Instagram is a much younger demographic but there is still a following there, so it has been successful.”
The e-newsletter was a success this year as new sign-ups are added almost daily.
Meadows said the newsletter goes out twice a month and saw a 65 percent increase in use.
With all the website, e-newsletter and social marketing, the CVB still publishes a print travel guide each year and 4,515 were distributed. There were also 4,100 materials from partners such as the wildlife center, West Virginia Strawberry festival and more.
Over the next fiscal year, Meadows said the CVB will continue the use of its Small Town Getaway Big Time Charm tagline, perfect its social media game, solicit more photos and partner with the state on some tourism initiatives.