This weekend, I did something I've never done before. I volunteered to work the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce booth at the St. Louis Boat and Sport Show. Because St. Louis is my hometown, I loved the idea of returning home to market my new home to people visiting the show. The trip also gave me the opportunity to see my parents, cousins, uncles and aunts, and that was a lot of fun. My mom and dad helped me work the booth all three days I was there and even helped me tear it down at the end.
The main purpose of having a booth at regional sports shows is to promote the Cassville area and attract new visitors to the area. The chamber invested in a new backdrop to take to these shows, and it is definitely one that turns heads. People seemed especially drawn to the huge picture of anglers fishing at Roaring River as well as photos of the Cassville Aquatic Park and the Cassville Golf Course. They also seemed interested to know that Cassville was located so close to Table Rock Lake, Eureka Springs, Ark., and Branson.
When I first arrived at the show, I began handing out brochures to anyone who passed by the booth. Many people seemed a little annoyed but took the brochure anyway and quickly headed down the aisle to the next booth. After about an hour of that, I decided to take a different approach. I sat back and smiled at those walking by. If they smiled back, I would try to engage them in conversation. Nine times out of 10, these "smilers" would stop and begin asking me questions about Cassville.
Some people might think promoting a town of 2,800 in a town of 2.8 million would be tough, but I found that the vast majority of people who stopped by our booth were looking for a peaceful place to fish and relax, and Cassville fit that bill perfectly. In particular, Cassville seemed attractive to trout fishermen, families with children and retired couples who had never had the opportunity to travel to the southwest corner of the state.
It was also great to visit with all the people who had fished at Roaring River and shopped or ate in Cassville and had fond memories of the area that they were eager to share. One elderly gentleman stopped at the booth and told me that the pictures of fishing at Roaring River and the name "Cassville" transported him back to when he was 15. He told me that he and his three teenage friends took their first road trip to Cassville back in the early 1950s. He and his buddies drove down from Iowa and set up camp at the park and headed into Cassville for supplies. When they got to town, they were hit by a deluge of rain. This gentleman said it was the first time he ever witnessed horizontal rain, and by the time they drove back to Roaring River, they could see that the campgrounds had flooded. He said he and his friends had a pretty good vehicle so they spent the rest of that first evening helping people gather valuables from their campsites. He said he remembers coming back into town and staying at a hotel on the square and then returning to the park the next day for several days of great fishing and camping. "Those are some of my best memories, and I've always remembered Cassville ever since," said the gentleman.
As people stopped to talk about their experiences at the park, others would gather at the booth to listen and pick up information. Some of those who stopped were in their 20s and had travelled to the park when they were little with their parents. These 20-somethings had kids with them and told me they had plans to continue the family tradition by taking their children to Cassville and Roaring River in the near future.
What I discovered during these three days in St. Louis is that Cassville is an easy place to sell. I talked to people about our small town atmosphere, the charming shops, the natural beauty of the area, our low cost of living, the peacefulness of the park and all the recreational opportunities that include trout fishing, hiking, swimming and golfing. I also told people that Cassville is a great place to raise a family with excellent schools and medical facilities.
I had many people tell me that they planned to visit Cassville and Roaring River State Park this spring and summer. In fact, I think I discovered an up side to a tough economy. With less money to spend on vacations, I think more and more people will be choosing to stay closer to home. Spending a week at Roaring River State Park is a lot less expensive than a week at Disney World, and I think more young families will be opting for a less expensive vacation plan this year. And as I told those who stopped to listen, we are located in an incredibly beautiful corner of the state and Roaring River State Park is the jewel of Missouri's state park system. By driving only four hours, these families will discover a whole new world and create memories that their children will treasure for a lifetime.
I had a great time this weekend and returned to Cassville with a renewed appreciation for the community I now call home.