Communicating the Byway Experience

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February 24, 2013
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Communicating the Byway Experience

Russ Van Dervoort at the Byway booth

Russ Van Dervoort represents the Mohawk Towpath Byway at the Adirondack Sports and Fitness Summer Expo – photo by Paul Olund

The Mohawk Towpath Byway was represented at the Adirondack Sports and Fitness Summer Expo at the Saratoga Springs City Center March 9 and 10, 2013.    The purpose of the booth was to provide information about the Byway and its assets and our broad objective to tell the Byway story.  This is the at least the third year that we have done the show which attracts out door enthusiasts and individuals from all over the northeast with an appreciation for health and fitness.

Different this year was the organization of volunteers from both the Friends and from the Coalition who “manned” the booth in two or three hour segments.  The Byway is most grateful to the following for their help with the booth: Ed Tremblay, Bill Gutelius, Sandy Rohner, Mary MacDonald, Paul Olund, and Russ VanDervoort. We had an excellent location in the glass enclosed front room near the entrance to the Expo. The sunny weather outside provided an excellent lighting and a transition from the outside to the interior exhibits as though reflecting the purpose of the show: to start participants thinking and planning for the summer weather ahead.

“Since it is an outdoor show, most people thought that the Byway was a bike/cycling trail,” reports Ed Tremblay.  “Once that was cleared up people had lots of great questions or didn’t realize it existed.  Lots of people are interested in how the whole historic tourism arena fits into what to do in the greater capital district.  Also people love to take printed material.  Even with everyone saying they rely on the internet, they all have their bags and take whatever is on your table.”

Bill Gutelius engages a visitor to the Byway booth.  Photo by Ed Tremblay

Bill Gutelius engages a visitor to the Byway booth. Photo by Ed Tremblay

Bill Gutelius, President of the Friends of the Byway says, “I would estimate that there were at least 30-40 separate conversations I had with people. Probably twice as many picked-up materials and perhaps 20-30 people stood long enough to just read the posters and table-top displays.  I definitely think it was a worthwhile venue, as the conversations were ‘high-quality’ leading to extended discussions about the the Byway, where it is, and what can be done on it and around it.  I think about only 25% of the people I talked to actually knew what it was.”

“There was a pretty steady stream of people stopping to at least take a look at the materials.  A number of them confused the Byway with the Bike Trail and seemed interested in the distinctions.  Some supplies were exhausted when I got there so I held back on putting all the Discovery Guides out lest the Sunday people have nothing.  I thought it was successful,” enthusiastically adds Sandy Rohner who lives right on the Byway.

“Quite a few people stopped by during the 10-12 session on Sunday morning,” points out Mary MacDonald. “Most people thought it was the bike path. It was definitely an education for quite a few people. About 20 brochures were taken. I told many people about Waterford and the locks – some knew a little, some nothing and a few were very familiar. I gave directions to Cohoes Falls to quite a few people. One group was from downstate NY and does a lot of bike riding. Most people were outdoorsy type.”

Paul Olund agrees, “People indeed tend to identify this with the bike trail and are not as aware of the other byway features. One of the reasons being there were many ‘northerners’ there from the Saratoga/Glens Falls/Lake George areas – they were overall quite interested. I wish I had an 11×17 byway map to give them as a handout – like the display board map, which was excellent, but could use some more labels and call-outs to key features to help orient the ‘outsider’. Sunday afternoon was prime-time, lots of visitors to see us.”

“I only did the last two hours and breakdown,” reports Russ VanDervoort.  “My experience with ‘Trade Shows’ lead me to believe that this would be the worst time to be there, so I had low expectations.  When I relieved Paul, he said he was busy, I probably engaged 50 people in conversation, probably another 50 just looked or took a brochure.  It seems most had never heard of us, most appeared to be biking & hiking enthusiasts and several confused us with the Hudson-Mohawk Runner’s Club.  All in all I would say it was a worthwhile experience and was effective.”

I am so grateful for all those who volunteered time to “share the Byway experience” and with such universal enthusiasm. I think this teamwork will really pay off as our community moves forward implementing the Mohawk Towpath Byway as a destination.

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