The ghost of "There's nothing to do around here" continues to haunt me.
It's haunting others as well andndash; and it's getting frustrating.
Earlier this month, local artist, musician and man-about-town Horst Wolf was distributing flyers for an upcoming Art Walk in downtown Brookings. Upon asking owners or employees if he could post the flyer, a majority of them responded, "What's the Art Walk?"
What's the Art Walk?!
It only happens on the second Saturday of every month and involves at least a dozen galleries, shops and businesses that host local artists' work, musical entertainment and free food. It's been happening andndash; rain or shine andndash; for the last six years.
It's the kind of event, like many that happen all year long, that people visiting our town would love to experience and locals should know about, andndash; especially those working in hotels, shops and restaurants.
Yet Horst, myself and others continue to encounter a number of clueless hospitality workers and residents.
When asked "What is there to do around here?" too many people say, "Nothing" or "I dunno."
"We have to do something about this," said Rick Hiser, an area business consultant and co-coordinator of Hospitality 101. "We have tons to offer visitors and people need to know how to sell it."
Hospitality 101 is a new effort being launched in Curry and Del Norte counties to train front-line workers how to respond to visitors' inquiries.
"Imagine 750 employees along the Wild Rivers Coast who know how to smile, know what to do in the area, know what's up the road and where things are," Tim Hoone, director of Hospitality 101, said in a recent Pilot article. "We want to raise the level of service and hospitality along the Wild Rivers Coast."
Why are so many local residents ignorant about the many things to do around here?
Perhaps society is so overloaded with information that we filter much of it out in order to focus on our personal priorities and maintain our sanity.
Perhaps supervisors or business owners in the hospitality industry don't have the time or inclination to educate their employees, or don't bother because of the high turnover in front-line employees.
Whatever the reason, too many visitors are leaving our town with a less than impressive opinion of our area. This is not good at any time, and especially now, with the economy in the toilet.
Curry County has a lot to offer visitors. In addition to the regularly occurring art and musical events in Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford, there are at least five local community theater groups, annual festivals, chili cook-offs, hiking, camping and fishing opportunities.
Of course, people can learn about these things twice a week in the pages of the Curry Coastal Pilot and in our twice a year Vacation Guides.
To make it even easier, the folks at Hospitality 101 are planning training sessions starting next month for those hoping to get jobs in the visitor industry, or those already working. Employers can place between four and 10 employees in the classes for free; additional slots will be available at fees from $80 to $130 per employee.
The effort is being funded through a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to Rural Human Services in Crescent City.
That's a lot of money just to change the current lackluster responses of "Nothing" and "I dunno" to "Plenty!"
But if that's what it takes to chase away the "There's nothing to do around here" ghost, then count me in.