After several months of waiting, our guests for the Democratic National Convention are arriving, and were putting on our best efforts to welcome them, assist them and, hopefully, convince them to come back.
Members of the media, security personnel and just-interested folks have filled York Countys hotels. Out of the 17,960 available reservations this week, 17,191 were booked, an estimated economic impact of $2.6 million a figure local tourism officials caution is conservative.
To help our visitors better understand who we are, interpreters in historic costumes from Brattonsville, the cast at NarroWay Productions near Fort Mill and Catawba Indians will visit nine hotels from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday to greet those departing for the convention.
When our guests depart for home on Friday, there will be a Peach Stop at the South Carolina Welcome Center on Interstate 77 from 9 a.m. to noon. While peaches will be the complimentary fruit of the morning, there will also be cookies, coffee, bananas and tea sweet tea of course. Visitors will receive a recipe for peach corn muffins, compliments of local author Dori Sanders.
As guests travel between Rock Hill and Charlotte early in the morning and late at night, they wont be impressed. The stretch of I-77 from here to Charlotte looks like Anywhere USA with too many signs beckoning travelers to stop for gas and fast food.
Two things, however, stand out. Yes, thats a water tank painted like a baseball, but more importantly, its an award-winning water tank painted like a baseball.
It also marks the home of the Charlotte Knights, who have played south of the border in Fort Mill for 24 years. This year the Knights are holding a convention of their own, competing for the International League title.
On the other side of the road is the Carowinds amusement park. Its the No. 1 gated attraction in the state. It also has some of the best roller coasters in the country just ask members of American Coaster Enthusiasts who held Coastal Con XXXV there this year. You know it must be a good event when it needs Roman numerals.
Although the park straddles the North Carolina-South Carolina border, we believe the better coasters are on our side. Just ride the Intimidator.
The billboards on either side of the roadway offer a bit about us, but its better to have the rest of the story.
The billboards promising quality health care are not about President Barack Obamas signature legislation, but about the competition to bring a new hospital to our community. Nothing has been built yet not the access roads, not the hospital as they fight their battles in court.
There are signs and a billboard for the Catawba Indians. In 2012, they are still finding out that an agreement with the government isnt worth the paper its printed on, as they fight a legal battle to build a casino.
They argue its about entrepreneurship and not the evils of gambling. The Catawbas have a long history of entrepreneurship; they leased land to the settlers when this area was still the backcountry of an English colony. They took a beating on that deal too.
While a few markers are scattered on the back roads, you will likely have to ask a few questions to learn about those who have either been born in York, Chester or Lancaster counties, or have chosen to make the area home.
Our neighbors have walked on the moon, won Olympic gold medals, drawn iconic images that Snap, Crackle and Pop, and written commentary worthy of a Pulitzer prize. They have fought in every war since the Revolution, carrying truce flags at Appomattox, becoming flying aces in World War I, serving with distinction in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, and are now again serving in Afghanistan.
And they had the conviction to change things at home, taking a pivotal stand during the civil rights movement.
Were a community where cotton once was king. We then spun it into textiles. Now, there are workers who made the fabric that covered the London Olympic stadium, workers who paint helmets for NASCAR drivers, weld steel for nuclear plants, replicate the weather inside time and time again, and make resins stronger than epoxy.
While many of our neighbors will be working from home for the convention, Sunbelt Rentals, an equipment-rental company based in Fort Mill, will have about 150 pieces of equipment deployed to Charlotte this week including the scaffolding that workers use in the arena, light poles for convention-related parties, and air conditioners and dehumidifiers to combat the Southern climate.
As a political, sports and business reporter, Ive learned that the benchmark for most out-of-town trips is the chance to sit down and enjoy the local cuisine at least once before scrambling back to the arena, stadium or convention hall for work and cold food off a foam plate. If our visitors get that chance, they need to ask about our farm-to-table restaurants, our hot dog joints or, if they are adventurous, the best place for q.
My sources say the best q comes from a barbeque joint where the paint is peeling, the parking lot is filled with iceberg like chunks of asphalt, and you can see the smoke and smell the cooker long before you reach your destination. Experience tells me it will be hard to get those who have toiled at the convention to return to York, Chester or Lancaster counties. They have come to work, not loiter.
But as we implement our convention plans, maybe the lesson is for us, not our visitors. In selling to others, we remember the special things that we often overlook.
The State newspaper contributed.
Don Worthington firstname.lastname@example.org