Tourist season is underway

Saturday, April 18, 2015
Jason E. Silvers/Tribune photo Members of a tour group from Hill City who visited Fort Scott on Friday watch a film on Fort Scott as a frontier military garrison in the mid-1800s in the upstairs area of a reconstructed infantry barracks on the historic site's grounds. The tour group, which included more than 40 people, also visited other notable local attractions on Friday.

Group tours bringing visitors to Fort Scott are beginning to swing into town.

Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce staff are looking to ramp up the number of tour groups coming into the city. One of the city's and chamber's goals for 2015 is to boost tourism and attract more people to town.

Part of the chamber staff's plan to address that goal involves bringing in tour groups to see what the city has to offer, including visiting local landmarks, businesses and organizations.

FSACC Executive Director Lindsay Madison said some group tours have already come through Fort Scott this year and more are scheduled in the coming months. She said a goal with the tours is to get people to stay overnight in local lodgings but day tours are also booked.

"We're striving for overnight tours but we do book day tours," Madison said.

Madison said on March 21, a tour group from the Kansas City area visited town and on March 26, a group from Cassville, Mo., toured the area. Last week, a United Missionary Baptist Church conference had local lodgings "booked up."

"We've had several so far; we're starting to get busy," she said. "A couple of family reunions are being held here, too. We have seven itineraries to make up for groups that have contacted us."

A group that visited Fort Scott on Friday for a day tour included more than 40 people on a First State Bank-sponsored tour.

Attendees hailed from Hill City, in northwest Kansas. The group's activities included a one-hour, step-on guided tour of local attractions with local historian Arnold Schofield, who talked with tour-goers about such local sites as the Fort Scott National Historic Site and the Fort Scott National Cemetery No. 1.

The tour also covered such topics and sites as local churches, mansions, architecture, civil war and social history. Groups broke off late Friday morning to visit the Fort Scott National Historic Site and the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in downtown Fort Scott. The group was scheduled to depart Fort Scott Friday afternoon.

Another similar First State Bank tour including more than 40 people is scheduled to visit town April 24. Madison said a full charter bus includes between 40-48 people.

Madison said some of the group tours serve as fundraisers for the chamber, while for other tours, the chamber just suggests donations to sites visited.

"Some we do and some we don't," she said. "It depends on the itinerary and how long they're here. We suggest donations for day tours to a couple of local sites ... we try to earn revenue when we can. Some (tours) take longer to organize."

Madison said of special note is a planned tour coming through in June that may help with marketing of Fort Scott on a broader scale. She said on Wednesday, chamber staff had an "exciting visit" with a representative of the state tourism office about the upcoming tour, Madison said.

"We pay an amount every year to be part of Travel Alliance Partners. Twelve communities in the state are invited to be part of it," she said. "They brought a guy who owns a tour company from California. He was in town, planning a familiarization tour (of the town), so he was here going through and organizing details."

Then, on Friday, June 12, a group of 25 tour guides who "sell Kansas midwest tours to all of their clients" will visit Fort Scott by bus to get itinerary ideas for their clients, so this could be a benefit to Fort Scott, Madison said.

Another upcoming tour will involve two buses of students and staff from Lamar High School visiting April 28 to spend the day in Fort Scott. That tour is expected to include 100 freshmen students and six staff members from the school. The tour will split into groups to visit such locales as the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and the FSNHS, and will also include step-on, narrated tours of the city provided by local historian Don Miller.

Madison said she and Chamber Marketing, Relations and Events Coordinator Lauren Stanley work to organize the tours.

"A lot of the groups contact the chamber and then we contact the local attractions in Fort Scott and set up meal options and book the meals," Madison said.

Madison said the chamber still offers its regular 50-minute narrated tours of Fort Scott using a shuttle service while city and chamber officials continue their mission to purchase a new trolley for the city.

The chamber offers other specialty programs and entertainment for group tours in addition to its regularly offered tours of local notable attractions, Madison said.

For more information on these options or chamber tours, contact the chamber at (620) 223-3566.