By DAVE MAST

The Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism rolled out the red carpet to patrons visiting the second annual Classic in the Country Challenge over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Camping out in the lobby area at the Perry Reese Community Center, where visitors from more than two dozen teams throughout Ohio converged, the Chamber provided a huge rack of area brochures, the new 2005 Holmes County information maps, and a unique drawing designed to help bring tourists back later this year.

According to Chamber marketing directory Tanya Miller, who manned the table throughout the event, there are nearly 70 motels and bed & breakfasts in Holmes County. The Chamber sent out a letter to each, asking them to participate in the drawing by donating a one-night’s stay for the lucky winner, who would be drawn during halftime of each contest.

There were 20 games, and the Chamber was hoping to get enough to fill each game with one drawing. They went above and beyond that, when 24 of the area’s motels and B&Bs responded.

“Our goal was to create an increase in tourism after the Classic in the Country,” said Miller. “Now, with 24 businesses responding, 24 families will come back into the county to stay for at least one night, and maybe more. It gives them another reason to come back and enjoy our county.

Mast was approached by event director Dave Schlabach, who asked if the Chamber would like to get involved. the members of the Chamber brainstormed, and the idea for the one-night stay was born.

What was even better, those entering the contest weren’t even required to be in attendance, which meant that the participants could watch their team, and if they headed home, they would be notified by the Chamber.

“It worked out pretty well,” said Miller. “We felt that everyone who attended the game was a prospective tourist at a later date. I think it was very successful for both us and for our community. People were very excited about winning. I think out of all 24 winners, we only have to contact five or six. Most people stayed for the better part of the weekend. Our community should be very proud of what has taken place here, and with how things went. It was a special weekend, and we expect that this will be even bigger and better next year.”

The Chamber has been busy promoting the benefits of visiting Holmes County to surrounding counties, throughout Ohio and beyond, and this unique method was just another example of the innovative ways that the Chamber has set about accomplishing their goal of spreading the word on Holmes County and all that it offers.

“This is such a great place to visit,” said Miller. “The whole point of this was to give people the opportunity and a reason to come back and spend some more time here. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”