By Bonnie Culverhouse
It’s no secret that HGTV is in town and on a crusade to “kick start” Minden.
With that in mind, planning sessions are taking place to ensure the community can handle the load when tourists begin showing up.
“We don’t want to see local businesses run out of merchandise and have to close,” Mayor Terry Gardner said. “We want community leaders like at the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism, the museum, places like that to have spin off meetings with downtown merchants.”
One of those meetings is already in the works and will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, February 24 in Council Chambers at Minden City Hall. The group hopes for retail business owners and people in the hospitality industry will be present.
Gardner said he spoke with the mayor of Wetumpka, Ala., where HGTV had a similar project last year.
“He said they were not ready for what would happen after the series aired,” Gardner said. “Tourism increased 600 percent and sales taxes were up 300 percent.
Several items discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included volunteers to give tours and how to direct telephone calls from visitors and tourists.
Two possible guidebooks are in the planning stages. One by Tourism and the Chamber, which will include places to eat and stay, as well as other places of interest.
Schelley Brown Francis, director of Dorcheat Historical Museum is also working on a book that will be more directed toward the historical aspect of the community.
“The museum is working on a guidebook that will be for sale,” Francis said. “The museum will be open on Saturday by appointment and scheduling, if we are included in the agenda of tours. We have walking tour/guided tour/cell phone scripts and more for all of Webster Parish. We have many books that are useful guides.”
“We just need to make sure we are not overlapping on any of this,” Chamber President Jana Morgan said. “I envision a tourism map coming out of our office, where it has stops of interest that won’t be the same as the museum.”
Part of the “be prepared” motto that will ensure Minden experiences the positive side from an influx of tourists includes public restrooms and charging stations for cell phones and other devices.
Although HGTV has not given the city an “air date,” for the series, the group agreed May 1 as a deadline to be ready.
“They told us Spring,” said Sara McDaniel, one of the residents who influenced HGTV to consider Minden as a kick start project. “Don’t expect tourists right away when it airs. Give them a couple of weeks – May 1 is a good date.”
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