The Great River Road National Scenic Byway follows the Mississippi River through ten states, from Minnesota to the Louisiana delta. Along the way, it moves through four Kentucky counties that make up the westernmost portion of the state: Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton. In this portion of the road, travelers might see the Wickliffe Mounds, Ft. Jefferson, Columbus-Belmont Park, Dorena Hickman Ferry and other sites. Norma Pruitt is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Great River Region Organization and joins Todd Hatton on Sounds Good to share how this marketing organization came to be and hopes for future tourism.
In 2008, a group of local leaders in the four river counties came together with a thought that the Mississippi River was something special to the region. They also felt that the region contains resources of significant value: historically, culturally, scenic, etc. They created a strategic meeting involving the American Scenic Byway Association and put together a management plan, with the help of government assistance provided by Governor Steve Beshear. Ultimately, the region was included in the Great River Road corridor.
In Kentucky, the road picks up in Wickliffe and meanders through many roads - to Hickman to Tiptonville to Reelfoot Lake. The organization, Kentucky Great River Road also promotes the four counties in general, beyond the road - using the tagline from the national byway - inviting visitors to "come closer." The organization's board of directors have put together materials for entrepreneurs in the counties to work collectively on inviting people to shop and stay for a while.
In 2011, Pruitt says their red brochure debuted with 120 places to shop, stop, stay, visit, attractions, restaurants, parks, etc. As of 2013, they added 45 places to the list and if reprinted today another 10-12 more would be added. Roughly 28,000 brochures were printed and distributed to welcome centers across Kentucky. It's also published online.
Recently, she's been working with tourism leaders in Hopkinsville to bring Trail of Tears signage into the river region for roads, walking and hiking trails, etc.