• John McGary, Woodford Sun Editor

‘FAM’ tour a hit with industry reps

The Woodford Tourist Commission’s first “FAM” (familiarization) tour Jan. 23 featured a bus trip to several local attractions for six representatives of two of Woodford County’s largest industrial employers and several local officials. According to two of those industry “tourists,” the trip, which featured comfortable accommodations in a Stone Fences Tours bus, was a success. “I really enjoyed knowing what’s all in the area,” said Wisconsin native Brian Tabaska, pressroom management operator at Quad/Graphics. “I’ve been down here for six years, so even though I’ve worked in Woodford, I’ve lived in Jessamine County, so knowing a little bit more about what’s all around there, and what the community’s doing, opened my eyes up …” “Oh my gosh, I was very impressed,” said Stephanie Allen, the human resources manager for Lakeshore Learning Materials. “We learned a lot and discovered things that we had no idea were right at our front door, so it was great.” Tabaska said he enjoyed the lunchtime stop at Spark Community Café for a couple of reasons. Good story behind them, helping the community. I thought that was pretty impressive. Plus really good food, he said. Afternoon visits to Woodford Reserve and Ashford Stud, where they met a daily double of Triple Crown winners, hit home, too. “Obviously, seeing Justify and American Pharoah was pretty awesome, and then they paraded them out in front of us, so that was pretty cool. And I’d (previously taken) the Woodford (Reserve) tour, so that’s never disappointing,” Tabaska said. Ellen Gregory, Midway University’s vice president of marketing and communications, also took part in the tour. Tabaska said he was reminded of what the school can offer in terms of online education, which his company has helped employees pay for in the past. The tour began with breakfast sandwiches (provided by Sweet Lilu’s) at The Galerie and remarks by Maria Bohanan, chair of the Tourist Commission, and Emily Downey, the commission’s executive director. Downey told attendees, which included both mayors, Judge-Executive James Kay, state Rep. Joe Graviss and Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper, about the importance of tourism to the local economy. Downey said according to statistics provided by the state Department of Tourism, in 2019, more than 164 people in Woodford County had tourism-related jobs and tourism brought in a little more than $2 million annually in state and local taxes. “We have over 400 people who are coming in every day. … Their eyes are on Woodford County, they’re telling our story, and they can help be proponents for your brands and your stories as well,” Downey said. A morning stop at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites was narrated by owner Lee Howard, a member of the Tourist Commission. (Occupancy taxes from the Holiday Inn provide most of the funding for the Tourist Commission, the members of which are nominated by Kay and the two mayors. Commission members are not paid.) The next stop was at Wildside Winery, owned and operated by commission members Neil Vasilakes and Elisha Holt. (Holt is a non-voting member.) Before the trip to Ashford Stud and Woodford Reserve, the bus stopped at the Life Adventure Center, which was particularly impressive to the Lakeshore Learning Materials participants, who hold training and team-building events in the fall and spring. “What they (Life Adventure Center officials) were talking about there would be absolutely perfect for our leadership team, so yes, we’re definitely … going to contact them and do something,” Allen said. Downey said the FAM tour cost the Tourist Commission about $1,200. The tour bus agency was a partner and didn’t charge a fee, but Downey said the driver, who spent the entire day in Woodford County, was given a tip.


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