Pilot, Mount Airy exploring tourism partnership

By Tom Joyce

July 17, 2013

A tourism partnership built around upcoming beach music events in Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy could lead to long-term arrangements that bring sweet sounds to cash registers at local businesses.

It will take shape with concerts scheduled during the Labor Day week in early September. That’s when The Embers and The Fantastic Shakers will appear on back-to-back nights at Blackmon Amphitheatre in Mount Airy, on Sept. 5-6, and The Craig Woolard Band performs the next day during Pilot Mountain’s monthly cruise-in.

The presence of three of the top beach music acts in the country over a three-day period in communities separated by only 10 miles presented a “tremendous” tourism opportunity for both, Pilot Mountain Town Manager Homer Dearmin said.

With the far-reaching promotional help of the “On the Beach” syndicated radio show hosted by Charlie Brown, leaders in both Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy are inviting beach music fans to plan a weekend of entertainment in Surry County.

“Maybe as one large beach music weekend,” Dearmin said.

Officials said tourism packages designed to make Surry County a beach music destination are being marketed, enticing fans to book several nights’ stay in lodging establishments, accompanied by restaurant, retail and other expenditures.

The age group targeted tends to be baby boomers with large disposable incomes, according to Greg Perkins, the chairman of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority (TDA), and extra time on its hands.

It is hoped that the promotion of the Labor Day Week events on a regional basis by Charlie Brown, whose “On the Beach” show is aired on nearly 40 stations, mostly in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia, will provide a major boost. The stations broadcasting the show include WSYD in Mount Airy and WBRF in Galax, Va.

When Perkins and others discussed the Labor Day partnership at a recent meeting, they pointed out that it seems to be a perfect fit for Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy.

While Pilot Mountain has a successful cruise-in program that draws crowds to town streets on the first Saturday of each month, lured by classic cars and concerts, it lacks the hotel and other accommodations of Mount Airy.

“Pilot has had better luck with cruise-ins,” Perkins said in reference to the fact similar events held on downtown Mount Airy streets aren’t as well-attended. The tone of the recent Mount Airy TDA meeting was that each locality can play off the others’ strengths.

One distinction Perkins also mentioned was that Mount Airy’s summer beach music series tends to have a local audience while concerts held at Shelton Vineyards at Dobson, for example, are more widely promoted and well-attended. It is thought that the new partnership could help broaden Mount Airy’s beach music reach overall.

Dearmin, the Pilot Mountain town manager, suggested that Surry County communities as a whole should seek similar tourism package opportunities to capitalize on the holding of similar events within the same time frame.

He added that partnerships by Mount Airy or Pilot Mountain with Dobson could be forged in conjunction with future events there, and become a regular part of the county’s tourism industry. Depending on how successful it is from an economic standpoint, the upcoming concert series in early September could play a large role in bringing that about, Dearmin said.

“We hope it’s going to be a success and maybe a model for something in the future.”

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or