The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 24, 2013

Consultant: Enid needs leisure attraction

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A tourism consultant told Visit Enid Advisory Board one thing the city lacks is a major leisure attraction that will draw visitors from the major metros in the region.

Berkeley Young also said the city must target travelers in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

In a special meeting of the board Tuesday, Young — who has advised the city on previous travel and tourism issues — said there already are a lot of good shopping and dining options, but nothing that stands out enough to have people drive several hours for a visit.

“You’ve got a lot of good restaurants, but I don’t know if you’re ready for a feature on the Food Network,” he said.

So far, though, he thinks the city is on the right track.

To push the city past where it now is, Young said, city officials and civic leaders should focus on improving the city’s “gateways,” basically what visitors see as they come into Enid along U.S. 81 and U.S. 412.

“You’ve got your big pieces in place now. You’re working on your gateways. You definitely need to focus on arteries,” he said. “It’s like good teeth and bad teeth. You’ve got a few good teeth and in the middle of every block there’s something that’s just hideous and it kills it.”

Another bad visual he cited are vacant shops.

“Research shows that people don’t walk past a vacant building. So if you have a vacant lot in a street, when you come to an empty storefront you kind of feel like it’s all over,” he said.

Young believes the city also needs to work on improving front-line encounters visitors have. That would include an effort by retail store owners to improve customer service skills of their employees. Hospitality, he added, is like a train.

“If the first car jumps the track it pulls the whole train with it. If your first impression is not right, then everything else is off,” he said.



PhoenixQuest grant

During the board meeting members approved a $1,000 grant to help organizers put on PhoenixQuest, a Harry Potter-themed convention.

The grant was unanimously approved, with the stipulation the money be used for publicity of the event outside Enid.

PhoenixQuest is the brainchild of Tammy Wilson and Amy Kelly. Wilson, who also serves as Ward 5 city commissioner, said it began as a fundraiser for Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse. Part of the proceeds will go toward the museum, and Park Avenue Thrift will match that donation.

Wilson’s daughter, who is a fan of the series, suggested having a Harry Potter convention there, Wilson said.

She doesn’t know how many people will show up because there isn’t anything to compare it to. Wilson said most of the Harry Potter gatherings, like other niche entertainment conventions, occur in cities on the coasts.

“As far as I can tell, there haven’t been any in the area, so we’re hoping we get a good crowd,” she said.

The convention will be Nov. 22-23 at Adventure Quest, the outdoor science playground next to Leonardo’s.

There will be craft classes and a presentation on the history of magical creatures from Ken Gerhard, a cryptozoologist who has appeared on national TV. There also will be an exhibition with about 20 birds of prey like falcons and owls.

Enid native Mark Marshall, who did post-production work on the first Harry Potter movie, will give a talk about his experiences, and show rare footage from the film. Two collegiate Quidditch teams also will compete in a match Nov. 23.

Wilson said she still is seeking sponsors and vendors for the event. Booths need not be Harry Potter-themed. More information about the event is available online at www.iloveenid.com or through the Visit Enid website.