Beach music weekend in full swing

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

September 7, 2013

Move over, Mayberry, beach music could become another tourism drawing card for this area in addition to its link to “The Andy Griffith Show.”

By car, Surry County is hours away from the coast, but legions of beach music fans are making it their destination this week in response to a special promotion involving performances in Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain.

In all, three nights of beach music were slated, kicking off with a performance by The Embers Thursday night at Blackmon Amphitheatre in Mount Airy which drew a huge crowd. Fans filled the seating and surrounding hillside there to hear one of the premiere beach music bands.

The series continued at the amphitheater Friday night with an appearance by The Fantastic Shakers, and will shuffle south to Pilot Mountain today for a performance by a third beach music group, The Craig Woolard Band. Its free concert begins at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Pilot Mountain as part of a monthly cruise-in series there.

All three shows were bundled for promotional purposes as part of a partnership between tourism officials in Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain. This involved marketing a “beach music weekend” locally to entice visitors to book extended hotel stays, which would not result from just a single concert.

The campaign included special commercials about the concerts being broadcast in target areas, and mention of them on the “On the Beach” syndicated radio show hosted by Charlie Brown.

It was hoped this would evolve into a long-term situation of Surry County becoming a major beach music destination, and there are indications that it’s working.

“The joint marketing effort between the Pilot Mountain (tourism segment) and the Tourism Partnership of Surry County was a success,” summed-up Jessica Roberts. She also is involved with the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority along with her role as director of tourism and marketing for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce.

“This marketing effort gave us exposure to those who probably have heard of Mount Airy or Mayberry but were not familiar with our beach music or cruise-ins offered in the area,” Roberts added.

That was echoed by Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, which oversees beach music events at Blackmon Amphitheatre.

“I’m hugely grateful,” Jones said of the recent widespread effort to market the concerts there. “We’re grateful for the extra publicity. We have heard of some folks who were at the beach and heard this (promotion). We have had some calls from out-of-town folks asking us how to get here.”

All this gave Jones reason to expect “good things” Thursday and Friday nights at the amphitheatre.

A similar report was voiced regarding the response to the promotional campaign from Pilot Mountain’s vantage point. Jerry Venable, a member of Mount Pilot Now, the organizer of the cruise-in series there, advised that it has produced tangible results.

“I’ve had a number of calls about the ad. I had calls from Ferrum, Va., Raleigh, Kernersville, Greensboro, Charlotte and now Clemmons. We believe we will have an estimated crowd of near 10,000 in Pilot Mountain (today).”

The Long View

Jones, the Surry Arts Council official, believes the recent partnership will pay dividends not only for this week’s events but down the road.

“I don’t think it’s just something that will affect just this weekend,” she said. “I think it will get the word out to beach music fans that there is beach music in Surry County.”

She said the quality of the groups is the key. For example, The Band of Oz and The Tams will perform in Mount Airy later this month as part of an annual summer concert series.

“They are willing to travel to hear those bands,” Jones said of beach music connoisseurs’ willingness to go long distances. They can’t hear such an array of top groups anywhere else but Myrtle Beach, S.C., she added. “And even the bands will say they like our venue better.”

Roberts, the tourism official, agreed that the recently forged partnership could produce ongoing gains for the local accommodations, restaurant and retail sectors.

“Several (fans) that I talked to via email and by telephone mentioned they may not be able to come the Labor Day weekend, but that they were interested in coming on a different weekend and were now aware of what all we have going on here in Surry County when it comes to beach music and cruise-ins.”

More than just the music-oriented activities will benefit from the campaign, Roberts believes.

“I think for the small amount of advertising dollars spent on this joint effort, it gained us exposure to people who were not aware of all the wonderful activities we have going on in this area and that we have stuff going on almost every weekend.”

“There is no doubt this will help us,” Jones agreed.

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