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Travel writers get VIP treatment, 'ghost' tour

Visitors bureau hopes event sparks articles about Gainesville area

POSTED: October 30, 2007 5:05 a.m.

Where else can you see the mountains on the horizon, see the lake, take in cultural events, local history and hear about the legend of Agnes in a single day?

A small VIP group of freelance travel writers are getting the total Gainesville experience, from Chicken City’s myriad monuments to poultry to this week’s "Ghost Walk" tour on the campus of Brenau University.

The group of seven writers came from Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Georgia in a special five-day trip sponsored by the Gainesville-Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau that started Wednesday and concludes Sunday.

"It’s a beautiful city," said Warren Resen, a writer from Greenacres, Fla. "I’ve never seen so many small ‘Taras’ before — all these houses with the big white columns."

Even folks from just down the road had their eyes opened to Gainesville’s amenities and attractions.

"There’s a lot more here than I ever thought," said Nancy Spraker, a frequent visitor to Lake Lanier who writes freelance articles for Sail magazine and Autopilot magazine. "There’s more cultural activities and cultural wealth than I thought existed here."

On Thursday, the group visited Riverside Military Academy, the Elachee Nature Science Center, the Northeast Georgia History Center and Brenau’s Pearce Auditorium, where they heard Kathy Amos spin her stories of Agnes, the infamous ghost of Brenau University, and other weird and spooky legends.

The fourth annual Brenau Ghost Walk, which starts at the Northeast Georgia History Center from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday night, is adding two new stories and some different storytellers this year on the seven-stop tour for the benefit of return visitors, Amos said.

"The idea behind the ghost walk is really to find out the truth, as much as we can," Amos told the group of journalists.

John Jones, a travel writer from Cisco, Texas, has gone on an estimated 50 such media tours. He says readers want to know about destinations, large and small.

"They want to know about places where they can go and see something," Jones said.

That includes Lake Lanier — though perhaps not at the moment — and other outdoors attractions, as well as places like Jaemor Farms and Babyland General, stops on today’s itinerary.

Gainesville-Hall Convention and Visitors Bureau President Stacey Dickson said the decision to sponsor Gainesville’s first-ever media tour was money well spent.

"It’s a lot more credible for a reader to read an article about a destination as opposed to seeing an ad," she said. "It’s more trustworthy and reliable than any advertisement we could buy."

Dickson said the response from the group has been one of "shock and awe."

"They have been really amazed that a city the size of Gainesville has so many amenities," Dickson said.

Now, the hope is they’ll go home and write about it.

"This is a new, new product for them to turn around and sell to their editors," she said.

Just make sure it’s the right Gainesville.

Noted Resen, "I didn’t realize there were seven Gainesvilles in the United States."



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