Frederick, M.D. -- On Friday, August 22 at 10:07 a.m., Bonnie Rote and Marlies Durso from Springfield, VA received an enthusiastic welcome as they walked through the doors of the Frederick Visitor Center as the one-millionth visitors to the 19 E. Church Street location.
Bonnie and Marlies were greeted with applause and cheers from the Tourism Council staff, board, past presidents and local leaders, including current Mayor Jeff Holtzinger and past Mayor Ron Young. The lucky visitors also received a proclamation from the City from Mayor Holtzinger, a commemorative plaque, and gift basket filled with donations from area merchants and organizations. "It was a wonderful celebration - and certainly a trip to Frederick that Bonnie and Marlies will always remember," says Tourism Council Executive Director John Fieseler.
Friends for 27 years, Bonnie and Marlies seek out towns to explore together on day trips. "This is the best adventure so far," exclaimed Marlies who is also celebrating her birthday today. Bonnie commented on how inviting the "old town atmosphere, hanging flowers and spires of the churches" were as they entered the town. Their first time to Frederick, Bonnie and Marlies were looking for a map to start their day of antiquing. As they drove through town, Bonnie realized "It's going to take more than one trip" to see all that Frederick has to offer.
Visitor Center Supervisor Janet Houck has been greeting visitors like Bonnie and Marlies since 1986. Over the years she has seen many changes, including greatly increased foot traffic on Sundays and the evolution of Tourism’s Visitor Guide from a simple brochure to the award-winning 76-page Destination Frederick County.
One of the most significant changes Janet noted is that visitors today are armed with "more information when they walk through the doors." Technologies like the Internet and GPS devices are bringing a more informed tourist into the visitor center and reducing the number of people simply stopping in for directions. As Frederick County increases its appeal as a destination, visitors arrive with printouts in hand and are seeking advice on where to begin exploring Frederick County.
"But even with the best advances in technology, some things just can’t be replaced. Visitors like Bonnie and Marlies can still find a friendly face behind the counter of the Frederick Visitor Center ready to answer questions," says Tourism Council Board President Randy McClement. The visitor center staff personally assists tens of thousands of visitors each year, opening the doors seven days a week, 361 days a year. In 2008 alone, Frederick welcomed visitors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and over 40 countries including Chile, Guam, China, South Africa, Iran, and Sri Lanka.
The most popular attractions have remained constant over the years as well. The greatest draws to Frederick County are still history and the Civil War; antiquing and shopping; and dining. Janet noted that visitors also "love the look of Frederick" and are particularly drawn here because of its historic charm.
Millionth visitor video clips:
Since 1976, the City of Frederick has partnered with Frederick County and the Tourism Council to provide a place to greet and assist first-time visitors, as well as returning visitors and local residents, to Frederick City and County. Under Mayor Ron Young’s administration in the 1970’s, the building at 19 East Church Street was saved from demolition in conjunction with the adjacent parking garage project and became the home of the Frederick Visitor Center.
With a permanent location, the Center was able to showcase the best attractions in the area. "We have great town, great history, and it’s a great place to live," explained Young in describing the tourist potential he saw in Frederick over 30 years ago. Additionally, "Tourism is great for the local economy," said Young, whose vision led to many of the revitalization projects that make Frederick a premier tourist destination today. Visitors now spend almost 295-million dollars in Frederick County annually, which includes $78.8-million in local, state and federal taxes.
In 2009, the Frederick Visitor Center will relocate from its East Church Street location to the corner of South East and Commerce Streets. Opening of the new center is timed to coincide with the completion of the East Street extension to a new I-70 interchange that will create a new gateway to Downtown Frederick.
"The Frederick Visitor Center always a busy place, and it’s going to be even busier when we relocate to the new location on East Street," says John Fieseler. "We look forward to providing top-notch service to the next million visitors to come."