The past several weeks were uncertain times for many Edmond businesses and families as the COVID-19 pandemic altered daily life. Spring break and summer vacations plans were scuttled, with residents instead focusing on social distancing to keep themselves and each other safe.
Now, as the state begins to open back up, Edmond is hoping to reestablish itself as a destination point for Oklahomans venturing out. Tourism is our state’s third-largest industry, generating $9.6 billion in direct visitor spending, and $708 million in local and state tax revenue in recent years.
To support tourism in Edmond and surrounding communities, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department has launched a special #OKHereWeGO campaign to encourage families to travel, shop, and dine local.
“Edmond is a special community that has something for everyone. I hope people in and around Edmond get out and explore all that we have in this incredible community,” said Chris Berry, Edmond native and district executive director of the YMCA. “As we adjust to the ‘new normal,’ it is important to know that many of the businesses and destinations in Edmond are taking steps to keep patrons safe.”
“I encourage you to reach out to find out about these steps and visit Edmond. As someone who has grown up in Edmond and spent the majority of my life here, it is fun to see all of the new opportunities available, as well as revisiting long time favorites,” he said.
“Staff will be wearing buttons to promote tourism, and stickers will be posted at the branches to show we support #OKHereWeGO at both our Rankin YMCA and Mitch YMCA,” Berry said. “We do have a limited amount of stickers and buttons to share, so come in and see our Member Services Team!”
“We are excited about the opportunity to show our Edmond friends and neighbors what the Y is all about, and all the family-friendly programs we have available. If you haven’t be in a Y lately, we invite you to come in and see all we have to offer,” said Berry. “You can spend an entire day visiting the Mitch Park area visiting the walking the trails, playing on the outdoor basketball courts, exploring the playground, and eating and shopping along Covell. The YMCA offers day passes for all ages. We encourage you to visit both of our facilities.”
“We have seen our Oklahoma restaurants, shops, hotels, and tourism attractions weather some truly rough times in these past few months,” said Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who is also Oklahoma’s secretary of Tourism & Branding. “I’ve been so impressed by the toughness and ingenuity they’ve shown — not that I would expect any less. We want to support them in any way we can, and we felt this campaign would be a terrific way to help remind Oklahomans that they can help these great businesses survive and thrive in the coming months.”
Edmond Historical Society & Museum – Route 66 Executive Director, Amy Stephens said her organization is also excited about the campaign.
“The museum recently hosted Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, and we are hugely behind his initiative to increase tourism and Route 66 traffic,” Stephens said. “The museum was already seeing a growing number of national and international visitors interested in Edmond’s placement along Route 66. The #OKHereWeGO campaign is just what Oklahoma needs to be a far-reaching presence.”
The museum, which is reopening on June 2 with safety precautions in place within the historic armory building, and staff are working creatively to bring content to viewers at home, as well. The museum is eager to re-engage visitors through exhibits, programs, research, and the Children’s Learning Center.
“Based on the increased online traffic and interest in the museum’s reopening, the pandemic has caused people to reassess, even crave, the museum as an education and entertainment venue,” Stephens said. “Where else can one’s curious nature be assuaged on historical topics that have modern-day relevance, such as how Oklahoma Land Run settlers experienced feelings of isolation from their neighbors or how modern-day shoppers can now relate to World War II rationing? All museums strive to bring their visitors that ‘aha!’ moment.”
The Edmond Historical Society & Museum’s 40,000 artifacts span a broad spectrum of topics, from Route 66, the Rodkey Flour Mill, and university life to celebrities such as Olympian Shannon Miller, and ventriloquist Darci Lynne.
“Not only does the museum regularly change out exhibits, each exhibit comes with a variety of programs that help visitors and online lookers delve deeper into the topic,” she said. “More than ever, there is the opportunity for anyone or any age to satisfy their curiosity.”
Starting in May, #OKHereWeGO stickers became available for consumers to order alongside Oklahoma travel brochures on TravelOK.com/Brochures. Billboards are going up around the metro area featuring the #OKHereWeGO hashtag to encourage local families to stay and play. Television spots highlighting Oklahoma museums, restaurants, shops, and other popular tourism businesses will soon begin airing.
David Wilcox, general manager of ShowBiz Cinemas Bowling, Movies & More on 3001 Market Street in Edmond, said the theater will also enthusiastically participate in the campaign.
“We will proudly display the campaign stickers and posters throughout our movie theater, bowling alley, bar and arcade areas,” he said. “This is important to us because we are a part of the community and want visitors to know that our fun entertainment center has reopened, and safety is our highest priority. Edmond is a great, friendly community and Showbiz Cinemas, Bowling, Movies & More is proud to be a part of it. Tourists need to know there are a lot of fun options available now.”
The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department will be handing out free buttons for employees at Edmond businesses and tourism industry organizations to wear, along with free stickers for them to distribute to customers. They are also providing businesses and industry partners with a digital toolkit filled with sample social media posts and Facebook frames that will help present a unified message to Oklahomans.
Oklahoma-based media company Griffin Communications will also be hosting a #OKHereWeGO contest with prize packages for Oklahoma vacations. For more information on the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department, visit www.TravelOK.com or follow them @TravelOK on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube.