AL-MS-TN Rural Tourism Conference

October 23-25

Cleveland, MS

  Investing in Local - Transforming Rural Communities into Destinations      


Monday - October 23, 2023

1:30 – 3:00 pm          Pre-Conference Grant Writing Workshop – Bolivar County Extension Office, Mississippi State University Extension and Delta State University Delta Center for Culture and Learning

4:00 – 6:00                  Pre-Conference Walking Tour - (Investing in Public Art) and Opening Reception  

The Tour will take place in lovely downtown Cleveland. Unlike the traditionally imagined Southern small towns, many Delta towns, including Cleveland, were built along a rail line rather than around a square. When the rail line was abandoned some twenty years ago, the city set about transforming it into a shaded, landscaped walking path through the center of downtown. Meticulously maintained and constantly updated by our local Master Gardener's group (with lots of help from City workers), the shaded pathway is a showplace for the city and makes a wonderful setting for the many markets and festivals that take place throughout the year. A piece of art itself, the greenway is also home to a number of the over 54 pieces of public sculpture throughout town.

The greenway will be the setting for Opening Reception for the AL-MS-TN Rural Tourism Conference! The event will begin with a welcome and short discussion about the art you'll see along the greenway and how it got there (you'll learn more about this during the conference), and then segue into some directions on how to navigate our downtown shops (don't worry, they're all pretty much on the same street). When you're refreshed and ready (we'll have drinks and hors d'oeuvres on site), you'll be outfitted with a map of the shops, some downtown dollars to spend, and turned loose on the town! Or you can just hang out at the pavilion and enjoy the fellowship, music, and cool fall evening.

WHERE: We will all meet downtown at 301 Grill

WHEN: Begins at 4pm. Welcome at 4:30. Distribution of downtown dollars and welcome bags at 4:45. Music begins at 6pm, come and go for shopping (we'll also have a makers market set up outside) and dining downtown. Beer, wine and alcoholic punch available, gratis., heavy hors devours, live music. We can wrap it all up by 9pm.

Tuesday - October 24, 2023

8:45 – 9:00 am          Welcome         

                                     Delta Rice Queen and Rice Ambassadors              

9:00 – 10:00                A Lot with a Little Showcasing Success Stories From Small Grants-Dr. Rolando Herts (MS Delta National Heritage Area) and grant recipients. Learn how the steps of identifying a project, securing funding, and creating successful initiatives in your community.

10:00 – 10:30             Break   

                                      Introduction of and visit with Vendors

10:30 – 11:30             "Get more mileage out of community & tourism events through Marketing 3-4-5™"Brian Ostrovsky, Locable

11:30                      Lunch   

1:00 – 1:30 pm            Legislative Update and Improving Communication With Your Elected Officials-Senator Derrick Simmons

1:30 -2:30                    Cleveland’s Local Investment Strategies:

                                      Using  Music to Support Restaurants and Strengthen Experience-Tricia Walker (Big Front Porch)

                                        Investing in the Holidays - Cleveland's 50 Nights of Lights and Local Impact-Becky Nowell

                                      Bringing Art Downtown-Nan Sanders (Matthews Sanders Sculpture Garden)

2:30 – 2:45                  Break   

2:45 – 3:15                  Outdoor Adventures - Creating Unforgettable Outdoor Experiences-Matthew Burdine (Mississippi River Expeditions)

3:15 – 3:40                  Investing in and Managing Agricultural Events-Laura Jane Giaccaglia, Angie Abrams, and Gina Wills Mississippi State University Extension

3:40 – 4:30                  Promoting a Unique Region-Scott Coopwood (Coopwood Communications)

4:30 – 9:30      Evening Reception   

Free admission to the Grammy Museum for attendees from 4:30 until 6:30. Evening reception on the grounds of the Lyric from 7pm until. Music begins at 7. Beer, wine and alcoholic punch available, gratis. Delta dish samplings, live music.                      

Wednesday - October 25, 2023        

9:00 – 9:45 am          Investing in Your Community-Steve Azar (award winning hit singer songwriter & producer, Music & Culture Ambassador of Mississippi & author of the official state song of Mississippi speaks about Festival Development, developing the next generation of Mississippi musical artists, and the positive economic impact made by celebrating our culture and history.                   

9:45 – 10:45                Strengthening  the Customer Service Experience in Your Town: Flawless Delivery-Craig Johnston, Alabama Mountain Lakes

10:45 – 11:00             Break   

11:00 – 11:30             Pitch Contest-Marty Marbry, Tennessee Department of Tourism

11:30 – 12:00 pm     Announcements and Prizes

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