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‘Daydreams’ become reality

Travel Ashland has launched a new branding initiative based on an intensive study of demographic changes in visitors to the area due to the pandemic and recent wildfires. [Courtesy image]
Denise Baratta photo Ashland’s traditional, and always nontraditional, Fourth of July parade will return to Main Street this year, the city’s chamber of commerce announced last week.
Ashland restores Fourth of July parade, launches branding effort

As the pandemic appears to subside, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce announced this week a return of the Fourth of July parade in 2022 and a tourist rebranding after one of the most robust visitor studies undertaken in years.

After a recommendation from the Fourth of July committee, the chamber board of directors this month voted to bring back the beloved parade.

“We are excited to be bringing back the first of our wonderful community events,” said Sandra Slattery, executive director. “Following the parade, the park activities will be limited to bandshell performances with a handful of booths near the bandshell and possibly some activities for children.”

In addition, she said, the American Band College plans to return to Ashland for a 2022 concert.

The chamber, however, will not be producing a fireworks show for 2022. Several factors led to that decision.

“First, we anticipate that fire season will begin early this year,” Slattery said, “and we recognize that many community members are still experiencing trauma from the Almeda and Obenchain fires of 2020.

“Secondly, the fireworks company we have used for decades contacted us and shared that they will no longer be able to produce shows as small as ours on holidays,” she said.

The company cited rising costs of products, fuel and labor, and the need to prioritize larger shows.

“Our Fourth of July committee has a small subcommittee working specifically on fun alternatives for fireworks, so stay tuned for more information,” Slattery said.

The chamber is forming committees to discuss each of the community events. People who are interested in being a part of an event committee should contact Dana Preston at members@ashlandchamber.com.

‘Live Your Daydreams’

Travel Ashland, a chamber subsidiary, has been noticing emerging changes in Ashland’s visitor base for several years. In response to those changes, it has worked to grow both the culinary and outdoor recreation segments.

Traditional tourism to Ashland has faced several challenges in recent years, among them an aging historical audience and occasional poor air quality due to wildfire smoke.

Then the pandemic hit and changed everything.

“What emerged,” said Travel Ashland Director Katherine Cato, “was a new, younger visitor coming to Ashland for new reasons.”

It turned out not to be a short-term bump, but rather a sustained change and a large shift in Ashland’s visitor database.

The chamber and Travel Ashland embraced the change by doing one of the most robust visitor studies in years, with members of the Travel Ashland committee, along with a steering committee, contributing time and effort to the study.

The result is Ashland’s new visitor brand: “Live Your Daydreams.”

The study’s findings served as the foundation for the new brand, which was launched in December.

The branding project included many local stakeholder interviews in the discovery phase.

“We want to thank our committee members and leadership,” Cato said, “which included Hiram Towle, GM for Mt. Ashland Ski Area and committee chair from 2018 to 2021; and current chair Pete Wallstrom, owner of Momentum River Expeditions.”

Cato said Ashland’s recovery has been faster than many other destinations in Oregon, attributing that to the resilience of local business and industry, along with the rebranding efforts.

“It also reflects a healthier, recalibrated local tourism industry,” she said, “that encompasses many different amenities and experiences.”

She also cited strong occupancy and consistent room rates as positive factors for success through the heart of the pandemic.

“Our new brand platform has a new voice, tone and visual identity,” Cato said. “The colors reflect our landscape and our messaging is welcoming, genuine, accessible and uplifting.”

The promise, she said, is to provide a year-round destination for travelers to pursue their passions, showcasing access to nature, offering something for everyone.

“We are emphasizing our modern amenities and homegrown hospitality,” she said. “Our targeted campaigns express the interests of wine, culinary arts and culture, as well as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and family fun.”

One key will be to highlight Ashland as a destination for both quick escapes and longer stays.

An invitation on the Travel Ashland website illustrates the new approach:

“Live your daydreams. Morning coffee in the mountain mist. White-knuckle rapids in the raft. Sunset strolls through the vineyard. Tear-stained cheeks in theater seats. In Ashland, you can catch up with and live out your daydreams, one unique itinerary at a time.”

To engage with the brand, follow Travel Ashland on Instagram and Facebook or view on www.travelashland.com.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.