Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Billboards Try to Snatch Business Off Freeway

Billboards Try to Snatch Business Off Freeway
By Ben Antonius

FAIRFIELD - Travelers on Interstate 80 may notice some changes across Solano County this Labor Day weekend.

On Friday, billboards in Solano County will begin displaying advertisements intended to lure drivers to dozens of events occurring in the cities along the freeway.

"If we can get them here we can show them plenty of things to do," said Candy Pierce, who has worked on the "80 on 80 Initiative" for the Fairfield Hotel Association. "The first time, maybe they'll just pull off the freeway . . . but the second time maybe they'll plan to come back."

The advertisements will direct people to a Web site that will have information about festivals and other events along the stretch of freeway from the Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo to the Yolo Causeway near Davis.

The Web site,, which wasn't operational as of late Tuesday, is expected to list a year's worth of events throughout Solano and Yolo counties. The name of the campaign comes from the idea that there are 80 or more events going on at any given time.

Organizers chose to promote events that appeal to people outside the community. Among the Fairfield events included in the promotional campaign are the Tomato Festival in August, the Candy Festival in October and the Summerfest car show and chili cook-off.

"What we are staying away from are the community events where everybody is likely to know each other already," said Yvette Mulholland, director of the Yolo County Visitor's Bureau. "We want to make sure that the visitor is going to have the experience they want to have."

Also contributing to the two-year pilot program are the Dixon Chamber of Commerce and the visitors bureaus in Vacaville and Vallejo.

Communities typically encourage tourism because out-of-town visitors pour money into local businesses and hotels but don't require much in the way of social services. The heavily used freeway offers an opportunity the two counties have not done the best job of capitalizing on, Mulholland said.

"We'd like to see a greater visibility so we can capture some of that drive-through market," she said. "(Right now) they're not saying, 'This is an area that has some interesting things going on and I'm blasting by it every day.' "

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or

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