Promoting a county for all seasons
While gassing up at my local vehicular watering hole the other night, I noticed the truck at the pump opposite me was sporting plates from the faraway land of Louisiana.
By the way, this was not the Semi-Hemi-V10-King Cab-Dual Tire-Dual Exhaust-Blazing White-Monster Truck that us locals have come to generalize as the standard mode of transportation for all oil and gas industry out-of-towners. As I came to find out, it was a locally purchased, personal use, previously owned small pickup.
Anyway, being the local tourism guy, and a native of the Bayou State, I asked, “What part of Louisiana are you from, friend?” The young man seemed to perk up and replied, “Oak Grove, sir, little town in the northern part of the state.” “Oak Grove,” I said, “other side of Monroe, right?” Perking up farther, he says, “yessir, about an hour east!”
Well, the next few minutes were spent in pleasant pumpside conversation, finding common points of reference in Lousiana and Pennsylvania, and gaining a little insight into the mindset of a typical relocated energy industry worker spending time in Washington County.
Polite, courteous and well spoken, Travis (I’ll call him) works for a company that performs various levels of testing on natural gas pipelines. He’s been in Washington County for six months, and hopes to stay for at least another year.
He and a few fellow employees have rented an apartment in the area, and all are far away from home but are finding their way around and enjoying their time in our area.
As usual, the conversation turned to the weather, and I asked Travis what he thought of the upcoming Southwestern PA winter and the prospect of snow. His face lit up again, as he and his buddies had just been talking about that very subject. They hadn’t seen snow in years, and were all looking forward to a little of the white stuff and the holidays.
Which brings me to the real point of this month’s article. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and all winter holidays are special, and a little snow, cold and wind combine to make Washington County a winter wonderland for old- timers and newcomers alike.
The county offers an array of holiday presents and goodies to tourists, locals and transplants alike. The fun has already started, with holiday arts and crafts festivals, open houses, and sales occurring in the first few weeks of November. The energy really starts rising, however, just after Thanksgiving, with Holiday Moonlight Sales that don’t even wait for Black Friday to start!
My family tends to shun the shopping that weekend, and one of our first trips after the last piece of pecan pie (told you I was from the South) is to a local Christmas tree farm to harvest our own Tannenbaum. Hey Travis – bet you never cut down your own Douglas fir in 6 inches of snow in Oak Grove, did you? Give it a try, you may go natural from now on.
The holiday spirit continues throughout December at any number of county events, ranging from choral and symphony concerts to little theater and holiday teas. County heritage sites light up in old-fashioned style for tours, and you may find the jolly old elf himself riding a trolley or starring in a local Christmas parade. And every town and community extends a friendly invitation to all for special church services and events, reminding us all of the true reason for the season.
So check out the handy calendar of events, Travis, we’re glad you’re here. Welcome to the holidays, Washington County style!
J.R. Shaw is executive director of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency.
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