Destination Marketing Association visits Mount Airy

By Jessica Johnson

February 7, 2014

Members of the Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina (DMANC) converged upon Mount Airy for a two-day meeting on Thursday and today, sitting in on multiple learning sessions and enjoying what the town has to offer before their Friday board meeting.

The DMANC is a trade association for other marketing organizations in North Carolina. It provides members with educational resources, marketing efforts, networking opportunities, and advocacy on legislative issues that affect the tourism and travel industry in the state.

Jessica Icenhour Roberts, director of tourism and marketing for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center, said the area benefitted from having at least 35 to 40 members of the group in town for the board meeting on Friday, with those who traveled from long-distances electing to spend at least one night.

“We bid on having this group here, and are happy we were able to get them at time of the year when we can increase our occupancy taxes by hosting more people. This group moves around to different places for their meetings, as a way to showcase what we having going on in this state,” Roberts shared.

The group was planning to meet for dinner at Old North State Winery and various members were enjoying walking through downtown, visiting the museum, touring local wineries, riding on squad car tours, shopping, eating pork chop sandwiches at Snappy Lunch, and “literally touring the area, enjoying what we have to offer.”

Roberts presented information about the local area to the group as the members ate lunch from Old North State Winery. She also passed out gift bags that included more information and brochures, as well as bottles of local wine, including Old North State Winery’s Restless Soul.

Members of the group traveled from throughout the state to Mount Airy — including Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Currituck County, Wilmington, Salisbury/Rowan County, Lake Norman, Chapel Hill, and other areas.

Roberts serves as DMANC’s assistant treasurer and serves on the marketing committee. The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce is a member agency with the DMANC.

Disc golf

At Hampton Inn on Thursday afternoon, Dr. George Sappenfield with Surry Community College presented information about disc golf and how the sport could be used to attract visitors. He also outlined the history of the game with a slide show presentation. Craig Distl with Distl Public Relations presented two marketing sessions to the group, giving details about public relations efforts and professional networking opportunities.

Sappenfield, in 1965 while working as a recreation counselor during a college break, came up with idea to play golf with Frisbees and set up a course for the kids he worked with, using Hula Hoops and other targets. After Sappenfield completed college in 1968, he introduced the game to a wider audience by organizing the first disc golf tournament, recruiting Wham-O Manufacturing to help with the event; the company supplied both Frisbees and Hula Hoops.

The game of disc golf then began to take off in the 1970s and now enjoys a huge popularity among professional disc golf players, many who enter tournaments all over the country, as well as those who enjoy it as a recreational activity. In 2012, more than $2 million in prize money was handed out to winners of disc golf tournaments, according to the Professional Disc Golfers Association.

“I want to show you how you can tie disc golf into what you are already doing in your areas. This is one of those little-known things that can actually draw in a lot of people and it’s a different demographic of people than what you may get already. This is just another thing to put into your bag of arrows, a way to market your area,” Sappenfield recommended to the group.

Sappenfield showed the group the Professional Disc Golfers Association website,, and shared that the group has more than 55,000 members, which he said represents a fraction of those who are interested in the game. The website also contains a course directory, with more than 4,200 registered courses.

“You could even develop a tourism package that includes disc golf,” Sappenfield suggested.

Sappenfield also told the group about the disc golf course he designed for The Resort at Primland, which was one of the first resorts in the country to build a permanent disc golf course. “It’s been up and running since last June, and getting some good play. It’s a great activity for families to do together.”

Mount Airy has a disc golf course at Westwood Park, a free course, with nine holes. Winston-Salem has two disc golf courses.

“I do believe this is something that has potential you may not have thought of previously. You will be surprised at the number of people who play,” Sappenfield said.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 or on Twitter @MountAiryJess.