Area events rely on local tourism
Sharon Culpepper, of Shreveport, pushes Olivia Strickland, 4, in a stroller down the midway of the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport on Sunday afternoon. (Val Horvath/The Times)
By Bobbie J. Clark November 10, 2010
While tourism officials work diligently to draw folks from outside the 318 area code, the local population is the driving force behind the area's signature events like the Louisiana State Fair and Red River Revel.
For example, the State Fair of Louisiana just wrapped up one of its most successful seasons, and much of that success was due to the support of locals, according to Chris Giordano, the fair's president and general manager.
"We had a very good season," he said. "This is going to be one of our top two fairs ever."
The best fair in terms of attendance and revenue was in 2008 when slightly more than 430,000 people came through the gates and spent $1.2 million on rides alone.
This year's numbers weren't ready as of press time, but Giordano said they are going to be up there with 2008.
"We draw people from all over, but our general attendance is made up of folks from northwest Louisiana," he said. "They are our base."
Shreveport resident Will Elias and his family go to the fair every year.
Elias tries to attend as many events as possible, especially when the weather is nice.
"If we can catch a festival, we try," he said. "We do it more because of our daughter. She's an only child, so we want her to interact with other kids."
He said there are plenty events to keep people busy, but added there could be more, especially in the summer, when it's too hot to be outside.
"It's hard to find something to do with kids during the summer that doesn't get too expensive," he said. "There are so many hot days. The skating rink gets old. Movies get old after a while."
Shreveport native Jennifer Watson agreed that there should be more activities and events for kids.
When she was growing up, Hamels Amusement Park was a popular destination.
"I had a lot of fun times there," she said. "I'd like to have something like that for my nieces and nephews and future kids. There are casinos and a lot of different things for adults, but not many for kids, other than just walking around the Boardwalk."
The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau wants to change that perception. They have recently launched a campaign called "Fall in love with Shreveport-Bossier," where they are encouraging locals to take advantage of all the areas events, like the Revel, State Fair, Holiday Trail of Lights and Independence Bowl.
Jessica Herrington, marketing and community relations manager for the bureau, said they offer all kinds of resources to help people find events, like the Shreveport Bossier Fun Guide website and Facebook. They are even working on new ways people can access event information, she added.
According to the Fun Guide, there are 16 events this weekend, including the Highland Jazz & Blues Festival, the Zonta 63rd annual Antique Show and Sale and ALA National Gaming Day at the Hamilton South Caddo branch of Shreve Memorial Library.
"There are so many things going on," Herrington said. "People need to get out of the house and step out of their comfort zone to try new things."