Right now we are putting the final touches on a new case study to be posted within a couple of weeks. I think that the readers of this blog who work in tourism marketing, or marketing in general, will find it interesting. We'll share some research and conclusions and even the ad campaign that emerged. First, though, I would just like to take a moment to tell you about the place — not from the perspective of a researcher or an advertising guy but from the point of view of a visitor.
The destination is Hardy County, West Virginia. It's a quiet place in the eastern part of the state along the border with Virginia. As you would expect of the Mountaineer State, Hardy County has beautiful mountain scenery and much of the outdoor recreation that mountains tend to offer. The back roads are very popular with road cyclists. Several rivers and ponds offer great fishing and paddling, including the South Branch of the Potomac River, which winds through a six-mile long gorge known locally as "the Trough." Camping, hiking and horseback riding are all available at Lost River State Park on the eastern side of the county.
There are two incorporated towns and a handful of tiny unincorporated ones. Moorefield is the county seat and the larger of the two incorporated towns. The first time I visited Hardy County, I drove north along Route 220 all the way from the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia. It's not the most efficient route from Roanoke, but it is a beautiful drive. Upon entering Moorefield you immediately discover its current claim to fame. Two large poultry plants are visible from Main Street, giving the impression of a blue collar industrial town. While the plants are not exactly scenic, they are part of the town's personality and they employ a lot of people. Just past the plants is a nice downtown area with tree-lined streets, shops and historic buildings including the McCoy Grand Theatre. A 20-minute drive, which by the way happens to include some amazing mountain views, will take you into Wardensville, the county's other incorporated town. Wardensville is in the midst of a renaissance. Entrepreneurial energy is in the air, thanks in part to cool businesses like the Lost River Trading Post and the Lost River Brewing Company.
Speaking of the Lost River, Wardensville serves as a gateway community to an area of Hardy County known as the Lost River Valley. While the Lost River Valley is an unofficial name that does not appear on state maps, it is indeed a popular destination for visitors. Almost the entire length of the valley includes family farms, some of which have been in operation for generations. The fields, barns and farmhouses add charm to the scenic nature of the valley. There are several award-winning inns with hospitality so extraordinary that visitors return every year. Just driving through the Lost River Valley is like stepping back in time. George Washington surveyed the land on behalf of Lord Fairfax. He didn't have the benefit of cruising along Rt. 259 with the windows down enjoying an espresso from the Lost River Trading Post, but I imagine Washington enjoyed his time in the Lost River Valley just as much as I have.