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UK extension tourism efforts launch with help of UK student

Brenda Cockerham, left, works with Katherine Dale on a piece of artwork at the Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation Center.

PHOTO: Katie Pratt, UK Agricultural Communications
Paintsville, Ky.

In Johnson County, Brenda Cockerham has worked for the past 20 years with local artisans, farmers, community leaders and residents to build the county’s capacity for tourism for the past 20 years. With the county’s first comprehensive tourism packages about to launch, Cockerham turned to a University of Kentucky student for marketing assistance.

“We are right where we have wanted to be for some time, but the other piece of this is we have to let the world know and plug people into Johnson County and Eastern Kentucky,” said Cockerham, a family and consumer sciences agent for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Katherine Dale, a double major in marketing and merchandising, apparel and textiles, answered Cockerham’s call for a summer intern. Dale is no stranger to the area having grown up in Flat Gap, located in the northern part of the county.

“It’s really difficult to find internships around here that would allow me to stay home during the summer and help the area where I live. So that really excited me,” said Dale, a junior in both the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

Until recently, Johnson County was without a tourism director, and united tourism efforts were difficult to coordinate as result. Since she started her internship, Dale has connected with other tourism officials in neighboring counties and states to let them know Johnson County has tours available to their clients and how they can access those tours. She is just one of many UK Cooperative Extension interns who are working to support local Kentucky communities this summer through various projects.

The classes Dale took at UK during the past two years helped prepare her for this experience.

“Even though I’ve only had the basic marketing class, I knew what avenues to go through, especially with our limited funds, and how to create a sales pitch,” she said. “I’ve also done a lot of visual things like helping to pick out what the artists will make to include in the tourist welcome package. My visual merchandising class helped me know what is pleasing to the eye, what people want to see and what people need to see.”

Tour packages that include stops at some of the county’s famous landmarks, as well as local accommodations, three Kentucky Proud meals and a local artisan welcome gift, become available in July. If successful, they could provide a needed economic boost to the area. With neighboring counties already seeing success in their tourism efforts, it’s something Cockerham feels could bode well for Johnson County and is one of her ultimate goals for this project. With a new director on board, the group is excited to begin working together as a team.

“We know that tourism is a mechanism to foster the economy of this region,” Cockerham said. “Neighboring counties, for example, average over 90 tour buses per year with 50 people on each bus. If we can achieve that as well with these packages, it will take many of our artisans and several of our farms to a whole new level, greatly increasing their sales. That doesn’t include what the hotels, the restaurants and venues generate. It also does not factor in the quantity of attendees, such as the people who are local or just drive through and don’t stay the night or stay with family members.”

Contact: 

 Brenda Cockerham, 606-789-8108; Katherine Dale, katherine.dale@uky.edu

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