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Rural tourism conference set for Cleveland Oct. 23-25

Writer: Ms. Susan M. Collins-Smith, MSU Extension Service

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Tourism employees, city council members, elected officials and others interested in growing tourism in rural areas are invited to attend an upcoming tri-state conference.

The Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference will be held Oct. 23-25 in Cleveland, Mississippi. Themed “Investing in Local – Transforming Rural Communities into Destinations,” the conference is coordinated by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and a small group of individuals from diverse backgrounds across Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee committed to developing and promoting tourism in rural communities.

The conference is open to anyone who works in tourism, economic development or public service. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with professionals in the tourism industry and attend multiple educational sessions.

Conference attendees will get a firsthand look at the projects Cleveland has implemented to create a vibrant place for locals and visitors.

“Cleveland is an excellent location for attendees to see and understand how community members worked together to transform a small, rural town into a tourist destination,” said Rachael Carter, an Extension tourism and community development specialist, who is helping coordinate the conference.

Preconference activities kick off Oct. 23 with a grant-writing workshop at 1:30 p.m., followed by a downtown walking tour and opening reception at 4 p.m.

The conference opens at 8:45 a.m. Oct. 24 and ends at noon Oct. 25.

Topics include creating successful initiatives with small grants, marketing for community and tourism events, improving communication with elected officials, an overview of Cleveland’s local investment strategies, creating unforgettable outdoor experiences, investing in and managing agricultural events, promoting a unique region, festival development, creating positive economic impact by celebrating Mississippi’s culture and history, and strengthening the customer service experience.

Speakers are Rolando Herts with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area; Brian Ostrovsky with Locable; Senator Derrick Simmons; Matthew Burdine with Mississippi River Expeditions; Scott Coopwood with Coopwood Communications; Tricia Walker with Big Front Porch Productions; Becky Nowell, president of The Cleveland Music Foundation; Nan Sanders, co-founder of Cleveland’s Mathews Sanders Sculpture Garden; Craig Johnston with Alabama Mountain Lakes; Marty Marbry with Tennessee Department of Tourism; Laura Jane Giaccaglia, Angie Abrams and Gina Wills with the Mississippi State University Extension Service; and hit singer, songwriter and producer Steve Azar.

Attendees also can visit with vendors.

Registration is $95 per person through Oct. 1. Registration increases to $150 per person after Oct. 1. To register online or download a mail-in registration form, visit the conference website at

For more information or to view the agenda, visit the conference website at

MSU is an equal opportunity institution. For disability accommodation or other information, contact Rachael Carter at 662-325-3141 or

Source: Rural tourism conference set for Cleveland Oct. 23-25

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