Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Local art exhibit boosts Athens economy

By Allison Herman

As the summer months inch closer, it is time to start planning summer vacations. However, in this economy, large, extravagant trips far from home are no longer an option for many people. Athens County is benefiting from more people staying close to home and spending less money.

At the Dairy Barn in Athens, their biennial Quilt National exhibit brings thousands of people to the area - and this year is no different. Kathleen Dawson, the Director of Quilt National, says when the exhibit opened to the public this Memorial Day weekend, they had over 800 people show up. Drawing on members of the Athens community and Ohio residents, as well as bringing people from all over the world - tourist attractions like the Dairy Barn help to boost the local economy. Dawson says it is especially helpful for local businesses during the summer months when Ohio University students have gone home for summer break.

Dawson explains the impact The Dairy Barn has on local tourism.

Quilt National 2009 is a collection of 85 quilts by artists from 25 states and 13 countries, and it runs through September 7, 2009. General admission to the show is just $6.00 - which is a cheap alternative to spending a week at the beach. The quilts themselves, however, are quite pricy. The cheapest one is $600, but most fall between $2,000 and $6,000. The most expensive quilt in the show, however, sells for a whopping $22,080. Dawson says to her surprise, the down economy hasn't stopped people from buying the pricy quilts. Opening weekend 7 were sold.

Dawson says the Dairy Barn is working with the county visitor's bureau to bring more Ohioans to the area, keeping them close to home and supporting local vendors, businesses, and attractions.

Dawson talks about bringing people within driving distance to Athens.

The Athens County Convention and Visitor's Bureau works to bring business and tourism to the area. In addition to the Dairy Farm, places like the Hocking Hills and Passion Works are big attractions. Also, events like Ohio Brew Week and Halloween also pull in big numbers of visitors - which means big money for the area.

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