Alabama welcome managers tour Troy, find ‘town steeped in history, culture’

Published 8:06 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh, the stories they could tell.

And, one day they might and, maybe, even put them in a book. But, for now, the managers of Alabama’s eight welcome centers will just “bait the hook,” so to speak.

“I had a man walk in with a service pony,” said one of the center mangers, who will remain anonymous. “Registered and everything. There was nothing I could do but let that pony in.”

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The idea of a “horse” walking around in one of Alabama’s welcome centers brought laughter all around as the managers chatted over lunch at the Troy Tourism Office on Tuesday.

Frances Smiley, supervisor of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel’s welcome centers, and the eight managers were in Troy to see what the city has to offer tourists.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford spoke briefly to the group and sang the praises of the city that he has led since 1982.

“What sets Troy apart from other cities is that we offer big city amenities in a small town atmosphere,” Lunsford said. “Troy offers the opportunity to visit an Andy Warhol exhibit one day and attend a Division I football game that night.”

Lunsford told the managers that Troy’s focus is on the things that matter most to its citizens.

He expressed pride in the city’s outstanding recreational facilities, its senior citizen program and one of the most outstanding libraries anywhere.

“Troy is a historic city and a progressive city,” Lunsford said. “Troy is a safe city and we offer our citizens the lowest electric rates in Alabama. Maybe the country.”

The welcome center managers had an opportunity to decide for themselves if Troy is all that the mayor said as they toured the Johnson Center for the Arts, historic College Street where they visited the Telfair and Brown homes, the downtown square, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama and Troy University. The managers made a couple of stops of their own, at Sisters Restaurant, which is one of the bureau’s “100 (places) to eat in Alabama before you die,” and Byrd Drug Store for a round of old-fashioned milk shakes.

And, a milkshake toast was made to T-R-O-Y which is “just as great as the mayor said.”

“Troy is one of Alabama’s well kept secrets,” Smiley said. “It’s a town steeped in history and culture. And, you have to love the downtown square with its antique shops, boutiques and old-fashioned drug store. To come to downtown Troy is to step back in time.”

The managers agreed but each of them found something that they especially liked about the city. For Trisa Collier, manager of the Ardmore welcome center, it was the Pioneer Museum of Alabama. For Jerry Hale, 26-year manager of the award-winning Cuba welcome center, it was the antique shops on the square.

“People are looking for small towns with antiques and ‘old things,’” Hale said. “They are tired of big department stores and shopping malls. They like the small boutiques and small towns where they feel safe.”

The welcome center managers cited unique shops, bed & breakfasts and historic homes as places of choice for tourists. They said a tour of the historic homes on College Street would bring the tour buses to Troy.

Troy University is a destination for many parents, who travel to visit their students, and young people searching for the ‘right” college. For overnight travel, people prefer B&Bs, state parks and motels with free breakfast.

Jackson said having the welcome center managers visit Troy will be beneficial “down the road.”

“We know what a wonderful city we have and now that we’ve shared our secret with the managers of Alabama’s welcome centers they can share it with others.”