By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer
The last count I made showed a total of 42 Elkins and Randolph County merchants participating in the "It's $2 Good" advertising and "shop locally" economic impact campaign. Several merchants are offering specials, along with other promotional opportunities, with the use of the $2 bills.
According to Robert Morris, executive director of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, the program is doing quite well. It is, however, producing some interesting and rather humorous situations many of which result from not fully understanding the program and others from never having seen $2 bills before.
According to some merchants at Tuesday's Downtown Merchants Meeting, some people are refusing to accept the bills out of fear that they are not legal tender. A customer at one of the banks supposedly asked to exchange the $2 bills for "real money." Another, after receiving several $2 bills at the drive-through window immediately went to the parking lot, went inside and asked to exchange the bills for money that could be spent outside Randolph County.
The program is supposed to show how local shopping with $2 bills supports the local economy and how the money stays in the community, but some merchants fear that the bills are being hoarded. Supposedly, many people have never seen them before and are collecting them rather than putting them into circulation as was hoped.
Whether the program proves how much of the money ($2 bills and all the rest) stays in the community remains for the most part speculation, but the stories coming from the campaign are fun to hear.
Merchants are beginning to discuss ideas relating to Christmas shopping. While the season is still some two and a half months away, it is time to start thinking about advertising and special shopping hours. If you have an idea you'd like to share with other merchants, you are welcomed to do so at the next and succeeding meetings. The next meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 12 at Ceramics with Class located at 203 Davis Ave. The merchants usually meet every other Tuesday morning, but with the Forest Festival being in full swing on the next regularly scheduled meeting it was postponed a week.
While we're on the subject of Christmas, the Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, will be on Dec. 3, beginning at 6 p.m. More information will be forthcoming.
Trick or Treat for the Elkins downtown area will be on Friday, Oct. 29 from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. What a great time to offer specials since many adults will have their children in the downtown stores.
Many folks are wondering what the construction in progress at the All Veterans Memorial is all about. Well, according to Ed Griesel, a concrete pad is being poured to better facilitate and support future functions at the memorial. This would provide a level and reliable surface for serving refreshments.
We hear many, many comments about how the people who run the Mountain State Forest Festival "take over and install their own form of government" during the week of festivities often times to the dissatisfaction of local residents. I hear many people say that they are "getting out of town that week to get away from the hassle and confusion." Personally, I think this is counterproductive although it's everyone's choice. Things do get hectic during the week and traffic does become a headache for the locals who know the traffic patterns and get aggravated and grumpy because of the delays caused by out-of-towners. Put yourself in their place and perhaps courtesy and patience might come a little easier.
Anyway, back to the actions of those who plan, organize and "pull it all off."
Those who have been associated with the festival know that it is a tremendous undertaking involving everything from traffic control, to security, to the prevention of blocking businesses with activities such as the carnival and countless other details. Garry "Short Pants" Schoonover, who loves to wear shorts during the summer and said he'd wear them year around if he could, has been associated with the annual event for "more years than he likes to remember." He offered his take on the actions of the planners and organizers at Tuesday's merchants meeting hoping that those there at least would have a better understanding of how things work.
"There are a thousand and one things that have to be considered when planning each event," Schoonover said. "It's not that the organizers are dictatorial in their planning - it's a matter of compromise. Changing the daily pattern of things to accommodate a particular function always irritates someone for the convenience of others. They (the organizers) do everything possible to keep inconveniences to a minimum but simply cannot eliminate all of them.
"Traffic arteries and flow for emergency response vehicles are a prime consideration. Preventing the blockage of priority services and businesses must be considered and dealt with."
Alluding to the many changes that have taken place in the old railyard, he said, "There have been many changes in the physical layout of the downtown area in the past few years necessitating the relocation of several things - one of the main ones is the carnival. Because of the addition of the American Mountain Theater and the Railyard Restaurant, much of the carnival that used to be located on Railroad Avenue has had to be resituated. This has and continues to irritate some of those who live or have businesses in that area. It can't be helped. The carnival brings in money to cover the cost of many of the activities that are provided without charge.
"The festival people work very hard with everyone involved to make the event as enjoyable and irritation free as they possible can," Schoonover said. "They deserve the consideration and latitude needed to make the most festive event of the year in Elkins a success and enjoyable for everyone."
While I and many others that I've talked to disagree with the "findings" of the economic impact study of a few years ago, the festival is undeniably a tremendous economic boost to the local economy - perhaps partly responsible for helping some businesses remain open during the lean months of January through April each year.
Everyone has the right to do what they consider best for themselves, of course, but to leave town during the most festive event of the year does not seem to me to be the best way of supporting our community.
I, as are many others in our community, am saddened that we lost Don Smith as our general manager and publisher of The Inter-Mountain. Don and his lovely wife, Samantha, were longtime residents of the community and took an active part in the preservation and promotion of its cultural and economic heritage and worked hard to assure its economic future. He gave me the opportunity to write this column, an opportunity for which I will be eternally grateful and I thank him for that.
I welcome our new leader, Heather Goodwin Henline, to our community. I will do everything in my power to support her and wish her every success in her new assignment. Sometimes it's hard to make the adjustment to change but with new people come new ideas. Welcome aboard, Heather.