Orange County Tourism Sector Attracts High-Profile Events
John Jordan | September 2019
GOSHEN—Recently, tens of thousands of residents and visitors traveled to Orange County for pardon the pun—some high-flier acts—country music sensation Tim McGraw and the New York International Air Show.
On Aug. 14, a record crowd at the Orange County Fair Speedway attended “An Evening with Tim McGraw.” The event kicked-off a three-day racing event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the storied dirt track that culminated in a 160-lap feature race on Aug. 17th.
OCFS is America’s oldest continuously operated dirt track. The first race was staged at the Orange County Fair Speedway on Aug. 16th, 1919. The current ownership of the speedway is bringing back big-name country and rock and roll acts as part of its capital improvement program to revive the speedway.
The historic grounds have hosted dozens of big summer concert tours since the early 80s, however McGraw was the biggest country music artist to have ever performed in Orange County.
Another landmark event for Orange County has been the New York International Air Show staged at New York Stewart International Airport in New Windsor. This year’s fifth New York International Air show was the best ever for the air show attracting the largest turnout to date, reportedly well over 100,000 attendees.
This year’s program was headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Royal Air Force Red Arrows. The event, held on August 24-25 also featured the Northeast U.S. debut of the F-35 Lightning II Demo Team. In all this year’s lineup included 14 of the top military and civilian performers from around the nation and from across the Atlantic, show promoters noted.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus noted after another successful air show, “The Air Show has resulted in regional and national exposure, and obviously more tourism spending.”
Amanda Dana, director of tourism for Orange County, said the next major tourist event to take place in the county will be the highly popular “Applefest” in Warwick on Oct. 6.
Tens of thousands of visitors flock to the village for Applefest that began in 1989 as a simple harvest celebration. Named one of the “Top 100 Events” in the country, more than 30,000 visitors attend the one-day free event to experience the extraordinary variety of Warwick’s apples, culture, and entertainment. The festival is produced by the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce. Festival proceeds benefit the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce, and some 50 local non-profit organizations, for whom the event is their biggest annual fundraiser.
The Applefest will feature more than 200 craft vendors, dozens of food vendors, 50 local non-profit exhibitors, music and entertainment on several stages all day, a children’s Carnival, a Farmers’ Market, an Apple Pie Baking Contest and more.
The New Face of Orange County Tourism
Orange County’s tourism industry is seeing significant investment by the food and beverage sector, as well as new hotel construction. At press time, 22 hotels are in the planning stages or under development, a clear sign of a growing tourism industry in Orange County.
In late May of last year, Orange County Executive Neuhaus announced the appointment of Dana as the county’s new Director of Tourism.
Since her appointment, Dana, the former Director of Business Retention and Expansion for the Orange County Partnership, has been very busy with a host of initiatives aimed at bringing more tourism to the county and making the department more accessible to Orange County residents.
For example, the Department of Tourism has taken over the Orange County Film Office. Dana said the county is already seeing success with the department’s proactive approach and outreach to the film industry.
The department also relocated to its Welcome Center at 99 Main St. in Goshen and hired additional staff members., In addition to Dana, the department now also includes: Stephanie Kistner, Jiana Barker and Nora Martinez.
Dana said the Department of Tourism is exploring collaborations and co-branding with global entities to strengthen its reach and impact both domestically and internationally.
The department is also developing new marketing strategies and is working to create awareness on social media and elsewhere that is geotargeted to metro markets.
In terms of making Orange County a destination, the department is telling its story to potential visitors of historical, arts, shopping, craft beverage, farm-to-table and other venues. It is also using creative marketing, including slogans, such as “too much to do in one day,” “find your adventure,” and “far enough away yet not far at all.”
Dana concluded that the department is also collaborating with marketing teams at the LEGOLAND New York resort, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2020, to expand Orange County’s reach and to be ready for the influx of international visitors to the children’s theme park.