Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Region Links Up to Promote Events

Region Links Up to Promote Events
Web Site Focuses on I-80 Corridor
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer

In an "outside-the-box" effort to overcome the Vallejo area's near-invisibility marketing-wise, several area cities' visitors bureaus have joined forces on a new Web site.

The site, 80on80.com, was launched Friday, officials said.

Designed to promote special events and festivals along the Interstate 80 corridor between the Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo and the Yolo Causeway in Davis, 80on80.com lists all of the more than 80 area festivals and special events, and lets visitors sign up for e-mail reminders.

The 80on80 Initiative was conceived of by the 80on80 Coalition, a partnership between the Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Fairfield Hotel Association, the Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau, the Dixon Chamber of Commerce and the Yolo County Visitors Bureau, organizers said.

"The purpose is to promote festivals and events that take place all year in communities along the I-80 corridor," said Vallejo bureau executive director Mike Browne. "All the CVBs got together and brainstormed on how to work together. It's a unique, unifying partnership."

The group needed to find ways to overcome their natural competitiveness, and focused on festivals and special events.

"We looked at what we could do to work together and we decided we're not in competition over festivals and events, which also benefit local nonprofits," said Vacaville visitors bureau executive director Antonette Eckert. "It's a novel yet simple idea, and we encourage event organizers to list their events with us."

The Web site also offers links to the various visitors bureaus or chambers of commerce and can be searched by city, event type and time of year.

This type of special marketing is necessary, in part, because the California Travel & Tourism Commission inexplicably lists for marketing purposes the Solano County area as part of the Central Valley region, which contains Fresno and Bakersfield. Calls to the commission for comment were not returned Friday.

"We're in a section no one really notices," Eckert said. "We're not in the Bay Area, as far as they're concerned. That stops at Crockett. And we're not in Gold County, which starts in Sacramento. No one wanted to take us into their region. We feel a little like the red-headed stepchild, so we decided to come up with ways get visibility for our area."

The communities along the I-80 corridor are often not much more than a blur commuters see through their car window, Browne said.

"So many people say they pass through the area on their way someplace else, but don't stop," Browne said. "We wanted to find a way to make them stop and maybe stay."

Vallejo firefighter and Medusa Mile committee member Jon Riley, for one, thinks the one-stop festival and event calendar Web site is a pretty nifty idea. The Medusa Mile event is scheduled for early November.

"Any time you can get a vehicle for getting the word out about events, it's a great thing," Riley said. "Some of the local events that are floundering, are doing so because there's no vehicle to get the word out to people who are figuring out what they want to do for the weekend."

John Josselson of Vallejo, founder of the foundering Dreadstock reggae festival, said he wishes 80on80 had come sooner.

"It's too little too late," Josselson said. "We needed it a while ago. But I'm optimistic it will help Vallejo in the future."

The two-year 80on80.com pilot program's $10,000 budget comes from $2,000 contributed by each of the five coalition members, Eckert said. The idea's been in the works since spring, Browne said.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

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