Wednesday’s 2013 Spring Community Showcase and Travel Show allowed local and regional communities to lobby soldiers, family members and Department of Defense civilians, providing them with information about leisure, recreation and educational opportunities available in their communities.
“This is an opportunity to showcase quality family activities in local communities as well as regional areas,” said Pat Young, public affairs office’s community-relations specialist. “Today, we have representatives from the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta’s Medieval Times, Valdosta’s Wild Adventures, Myrtle Beach’s Carolina Opry and Universal Studios in Orlando. They are all very generous with their time and information, and they’re supporting us with door prizes for everything from T-shirts to free family vacations.”
Atlanta’s Medieval Times was in fact the first vendor to greet guests as they entered the double doors at Club Stewart, where Bill Cooney, outdoor-recreation specialist with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, was involved in a conversation with a knight re-enactor, who leaned on his sword.
Nearby, Kelie Smit, director of sales for the Comfort Inn & Suites in Orlando, greeted military families with information about the hotel and its amenities, including shuttle services to theme parks like Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. On the opposite corner of the banquet room, a Universal Studios representative had a line forming at her table.
Josie Barnwell, 3, was fascinated with the sea shells and crab on the Tybee Island display table. Her mom, Keri, told her she could hear the ocean if she listened to the shell, but she had to be guided as to how to hold the shell like a telephone. She seemed a little startled when she heard the “roaring ocean” in the shell.
Bryan County’s Drug-Free Coalition manned a table with information about its program, which manager William Collins said strengthens the collaboration among the community alliance while implementing strategies to reduce substance abuse. He said their coalition conducts substance-abuse classes at local public schools in Bryan County and will do the same for surrounding counties if requested. Other education-related representatives included Columbia College, Point University and Armstrong Atlantic State University.
Local historic sites were represented with re-enactors in period attire for Fort King George Historic Site, Fort Morris Historic Site and Fort Pulaski National Monument. Teresa Walther and Vicki Wood took time to pose in their Civil War-era dresses, straw hats and white gloves while a “Yankee” soldier talked to guests about period weapons.
Myrtle Beach offered two tables featuring the Carolina Opry and Sands Resorts. Margaret Wallace, group sales director for Gilmore Entertainment, said the Carolina Opry “proudly honors our American heroes” with special military-reunion rates and a special military tribute during every show. Georgia Kenny, group sales manager for Sands Resorts, said her hotel offers special rates for the military. The hotel is located on the ocean, offering ocean front rooms as well as one- and two-bedroom suites. She said their dining room includes an area isolated from the rest of the restaurant with a single table for servicemen missing in action. Kenny said their resort also hosts military reunions and memorial services.
Splash in the Boro’s Ashley Trainor offered guests a chance to spin a wheel and win a prize. Master Sgt. Kevin Allies proudly accepted a sports water bottle while the next guest won a cloth carrying bag, which came in handy for the treasure chest of pens, pencils, magnets, candy, brochures and other trinkets given out at each table.
Other vendors included the Hinesville Area Arts Council, Coastal Botanical Gardens, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jacksonville Zoo, Pembroke, Vidalia, Charleston, Chattanooga, St. Augustine, Lady & Sons, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House and the Sonesta Resort in Hilton Head.
“We had 80 vendors and about 500 attendees at Stewart,” said Dina McKain, public affairs officer. “We had 60 vendors and about 250 attendees yesterday at Hunter. (It was) a very successful (showcase). All of the vendors were very pleased.”