Explore the history and future of Oak Ridge

D. Ray Smith

The Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau was established by Oak Ridge City Council on June 1, 1981. The purpose of the office was to market and promote Oak Ridge as a travel destination, promote natural resources, facilities sports and the unique history of the city. The CVB promotes all events taking place in the city as well as museums, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and city attractions.

The activities and promotions of the Tourist Office are financed by part of the hotel tourist taxes. This means that no taxpayer money is used to promote tourism, as our hotel guests pay to help promote the city to future guests. Other sources of CVB revenue are state tourism grants and proceeds from the Secret City Half Marathon.

In June 2015, the CVB began using the name “Explore Oak Ridge” to market attractions and outdoor activities in the city and increase hotel occupancy and local spending. The Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club paid for the design and branding of the Explore Oak Ridge logo and it has been incorporated into all Oak Ridge tourism promotions.

My first interaction with ORCVB was in 2006, when Keith McDaniel involved me as a co-producer for the Secret City documentaries. Joe Valentino was the director at the time and was also interviewed by Keith for the documentary. These documentaries are still in use today to help promote Oak Ridge and can be found at https://www.y12.doe.gov/about/history/video-gallery.

Over the years, I have remained closely associated with the organization’s efforts to promote heritage tourism in Oak Ridge. Many opportunities to participate were appreciated, ranging from the Secret City Festival to other citywide events. I had the pleasure of being invited to be a tour bus guide, as well as a tour guide for families and individuals visiting our city. Often I have been able to interact with travel editors and tourism professionals.

These interactions with people in the tourism industry are very important as they often write for national travel tourism publications and websites. It is important that Oak Ridge be featured in these publications and media to spread awareness of the great things we have to offer to visitors of various ages and interests. Whether it’s our unique history, our world-class rowing venue, or the incredible outdoor activities we offer, Oak Ridge can fill days of fun and activity for most visitors.

The Explore Oak Ridge website and social media presence are also important elements that help promote Oak Ridge. The website was redesigned 18 months ago for ease of navigation and to provide a place where all city events can be located for both visitors and residents. I am happy to have been included in the development of the content of these key media. Videos and blogs are among the many features of the website, and I have been able to come up with content that provides information about our history, our hikes, our photographs and much more.

“Explore Oak Ridge’s social media presence helps tell the story of the Manhattan Project and our unique story in a way that encourages the viewer to seek out more information and dig deeper into planning a trip to. a unique place. a unique place, ”said Katy Watt, President of Explore Oak Ridge. “The staff at New Frame Creative have been instrumental in enhancing the online presence of Explore Oak Ridge in a fun and exciting way. “

Katie the Calutron Girl

More recently, a new series of short films starring Katie the Calutron girl began to be created to provide a spokesperson for “Sharing the Secrets” of the Secret City. See Episode 1, located on the Explore Oak Ridge homepage, featuring the K-25 History Center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF5VHiz1iWQ.

The idea of ​​Katie the Calutron Girl as a spokesperson is an original idea from the staff at New Frame Creative. They believed that putting a face to the story was a way to bring the past and present together in an informative and engaging way. After working with the Oak Ridge Playhouse to find an actress to fill the role, Kadi Brazil was chosen to be Katie the Calutron Girl.

Explore Oak Ridge, in partnership with the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, is responsible for the many interpretive, roadside historic landmarks located at historically significant structures and sites. Once again, I was delighted that I was asked to help support this effort as a historian of the town of Oak Ridge. These roadside markers help our visitors quickly understand various aspects of the incredible story of Oak Ridge’s rich heritage and help tell the story of the Manhattan Project. See interpretive markers here: https://exploreoakridge.com/wayside-markers/.

Tourism is the state’s second-largest industry according to the state of Tennessee, and Explore Oak Ridge provides an element of economic development that creates jobs and generates taxes for the city of Oak Ridge and Anderson County. In 2020, every household in Anderson County saved $ 326 in taxes thanks to dollars spent on tourism in the county.

So the next time you have visitors in town or looking for something to do on a weekend, be a tourist in your hometown. Visit the Explore Oak Ridge website at www.exploreoakridge.com and see the city attractions that tell the story of Oak Ridge. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoor activities around town like the 14 greenways around town or cycle paths around town.

Oak Ridge has so many secrets that we are ready to share with the world, so we all need to start telling everyone about our war-born town teeming with natural beauty, unique shops, great food and loads of things to do. family activities.

Here’s what an Oak Ridger told me after choosing to explore Oak Ridge rather than taking his University of Minnesota friend somewhere else. He was so impressed with his experience that I asked if he would record a video for me. He accepted. You can see this short video here and you might be interested in exploring our city: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjepuRljb2Y.

There are several videos on the Explore Oak Ridge website’s video gallery that might help you learn more about our history, and you could share them with visitors who come to your home before they arrive to whet their appetites for. explore our city, our “Secret City” which is becoming increasingly well known in the East Tennessee region. See: https://exploreoakridge.com/video-archive/.

Oak Ridge is one of several heritage tourism destinations within short driving distances, such as: Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton, Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Coal Mining Museum in Rocky Top, Temperance Building / Harriman Heritage Museum in Harriman, and of course, the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville.

We are also on the Tennessee Top Secret Trail: https://www.tnvacation.com/articles/uncover-top-secret-trail. You may have noticed the little brown signs along the roads.

If you want to learn more about Katy Watt’s Explore Oak Ridge, I invited her to a recent Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning course on “More Stories from the Secret City”. She starts at 12 minutes of class and continues to 58 minutes giving a presentation on Explore Oak Ridge and answering questions from class members. See Katy here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPFCn3itBFE.

Katie the Calutron girl.

Keith McDaniel and I are producing a video podcast, “Hidden History: Stories from the Secret City”. We produce the show every other Saturday and usually have a guest on the show. Katy was our guest a while ago. You can see her on this show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3_Y-bj5mas&t=88s.

Chapel on the Hill is an example of one of the interpretive historical markers.

If you want to see other episodes of “Hidden History: Stories from the Secret City” see: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC52Ainl_FiRCGMvtZdLEvWg. Keith and I have been doing this program for over a year and half now every two weeks and collected them on a YouTube channel. There are 37 episodes, all of which focus on a hidden story and have special guests.

Clara Culnon, who aims to run a half marathon in each of the 50 states, ticked Tennessee by running the Secret City Half Marathon.

And finally, let me go back to the most recently launched video series, “Katie the Calutron Girl”. Watch for more episodes in this short video series featuring Kadi Brazil that will help promote the heritage of our secret city.

About Justin Howze

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