Oxford Visitor’s Bureau says more going on in city as pandemic slows

Even in the face of the pandemic, people have been able to Enjoy Oxford, even if on a smaller scale, City Council was told recently.

Large-group activities were put on hold but there were things for residents and visitors to do in spite of the shutdown and slow return to community events. Council members heard a year-end report from Executive Director Kim Daggy, of the visitor’s bureau, Enjoy Oxford, who called 2021 a “Recovery Year” coming after the shutdown of 2020.

While she said they are still recovering in 2022, the visitor’s bureau was able to do more last year than originally expected and pointed to a number of areas where a return to normal can be expected this year.

Enjoy Oxford is partially funded by the city’s lodging tax and since that fell off in 2020, Daggy said the visitor’s bureau entered 2021 with a budget plan for $150,000. She said they had to furlough staff, although one position was vacated by a person leaving.

“We had a little money left from the Porsche car show and planned five concerts and somewhat of a car show. We exceeded our budget. We started with cicadas at the first concert. Five concerts became 10 with additional community help. I don’t know how we did that, honestly. It just came together,” she said. “There were a lot of things going on in town, not just music.”

The car show took place and set a record for participation.

“The Porsche car show had 174 registrations, the largest we have ever had. The sunshine helped being people out,” she said.

She cited the Epic soccer tournament, a huge success for Welcome Week as Miami students returned and the Winter Passport program which drew people Uptown and into the businesses. The Winter Passport program was expanded to include credit for event attendance to involve more people.

Another promotional step taken last year which she hopes to continue was an event sign, usually used as a summer music series schedule.

“The sign was changed to a full-event calendar not just for concerts,” she said. “We are planning an event sign, year-round.”

Daggy said they are also updating the community map to include dog areas and other local amenities.

Despite the gradual return of community events, she said there was a lot of interest in things to see and places to visit last year with numbers of online contacts as evidence. She said their web site had between 6,000 and 10,000 visitors per month last year and 4,700 contacts on the newsletter.

The have created a picture page to show off the flower displays and other beautiful views of Uptown, which has drawn nearly 21,000 hits, she said, referring to the “Uptown living room beauty” of the community.

Daggy told Council the annual Welcome Guide will return in print this year after only appearing as a .pdf online a year ago.

“In 2022, we are still recovering. We will print the Welcome guide this year. It was online only last year. We have hired intern and summer event help,” she said, adding she had conducted a tour of the city that afternoon for Imagine, a marketing company out of Washington DC. “It was for an outsider’s point of view. I was proud to show off the town.”

Also in the planning is a reprinting of the Black History Tour booklet with added content. Another successful 2021 change that looks to continue was the move of the Shakespeare in the Park program from the Uptown pavilion to the back lawn of the Oxford Community Arts Center. Calling the change of location “quaint,” she said there has often been noise from trucks and farm equipment through Uptown creating distraction.

Council member David Prytherch asked if she was planning on getting back up to full staffing in the future.

She responded, “We will. Baby steps.”

Mayor Bill Snavely thanked Daggy for her report to Council and praised the work of the visitor’s bureau.

“Kim, you do a great job. We are proud of you,” Snavely said.

She invited anyone to contact her or Operations Manager Rebecca Lockhart for information about the work of Enjoy Oxford.

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