The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

How to Trap Tourists


As a member of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I’m often involved in conversations about how to attract more visitors to our area.

Actually, as small towns go, I think Dayton and Waitsburg do a pretty good job. Both towns have attractive Main Streets, and both hold multiple events that attract visitors.

But the people who run businesses in those downtowns know very well that keeping the doors open is always a struggle, and anything we can do to bring more visitors to town will be a huge help.

We’re not alone, of course. America is dotted from coast to coast with small towns – thousands of them. And without exception, I’m sure, each of them would like to wrangle in more tourists.

Just for fun, I took a few minutes to look around the interweb and found some amazingly creative events that happen in small towns, in hopes of drawing visitors:

World Championship Punkin Chunkin – Bridgeville, Del. (pop. 2,200) – This event, held the week after Halloween (of course), features pumpkins taking flight via every means available: catapults, air cannons, human power, and more. The festival also includes a cooking competition, chili cook-off, and Punkin Chunkin pageant.

Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival – Prairie du Sac, Wisc. (pop. 1,000) – Here’s what the promo says: “Ready to get your hands dirty? Grab a handful of cow chips and see just how far you can toss them… Don’t forget to lick your hands for a better grip!” Rather be a spectator? Watch the competition and then enjoy some Wisconsin fare at the outdoor food court.

Scarecrow Fest – St. Charles, Ill. (pop. 33,000) – Okay, it’s a bigger town, but who wouldn’t want to miss more than 100 hand-crafted scarecrows on display, spanning all different sizes and themes. Other highlights include the petting zoo, arts and crafts show, and carnival.

Duck Tape Festival – Avon, Ohio (pop. 22,000) – The Duck Tape Festival features everything from a colorful duct tape-themed fashion show to an impressive parade of duct tape-covered floats. Be one of the first to arrive, and you’ll receive a free roll!

The Great Texas Mosquito Festival – Clute, Tex. (pop. 11,000) – The 25-foot inflatable mosquito, Willie-Man-Chew, has been hovering over The Great Texas Mosquito Festival every year since 1981. During the day, bring the kids along to check out Noah’s Ark Petting Zoo. Once the sun goes down, let loose with an evening of dancing.

Frozen Dead Guy Days – Nederland, Colo. (pop. 1,500) – Inspired by a late resident whose family was into cryonics (and is being stored in a shed just out of town), the event includes coffin races, frozen-T-shirt contests, ice-turkey bowling, brain-freeze contests and the frozen-salmon toss. There’s live music, lots of beer and, of course, tours of the infamous shed.

RoadKill Cook-Off – Marlinton, W.V. (pop 1,050) – This uniquely West Virginian festival features the likes of squirrel gravy, bear chili, deer sausage, and more on the menu. Not feeling adventurous? Stick to exploring the craft show where crafters from all over the state showcase their wares.

And if you’re ready to travel abroad, make your way to Japan to enjoy the…

Crying Baby Festival – This one’s held in Tokyo, but there’s no reason it couldn’t inspire a small town to try it. Sumo wrestlers are known to make babies cry. Babies born in the preceding year compete to cry first or, if there’s a tie, cry loudest. Two pairs of competitors, one sumo wrestler and one baby on each side, enter a sumo ring and go for victory. The wrestler’s job is to scare the baby by making faces and noises, and the baby’s job is to cry.


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