- Associated Press - Sunday, June 29, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - National interest with the Fort Smith area is coming from the historical resurrection of late 1800s U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves months before the planned groundbreaking of the U.S. Marshals Museum, and the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau is preparing to take full advantage of it.

Even before a recent 15-minute Travel Channel “Monumental Mysteries” piece on Reeves aired, the Fort Smith Visitors Bureau was receiving requests for information on Reeves and the museum.

“One of these came from Atlanta and they say they’re visiting because it says, ‘My husband has been reading about Bass Reeves, so we need to plan a trip to visit,’” Carolyn Joyce, group travel and sales director for the bureau, told the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission, the Times Record reported (http://bit.ly/1qJCCG1).

Another request came from a former U.S. marshal who plans to attend the Sept. 24 groundbreaking of the Marshals Museum.

Phone and mail inquiries from possible visitors to Fort Smith quadrupled in May compared to last year, with 2,107 requests in all. About two-thirds of those came in from a national spring insert, bringing the year-to-date number to 3,014 compared to 2,205 this time last year. There were 12,879 visitors to the Fort Smith National Historic Site in May, 4,000-plus more than last May.

The Arkansas Highways Magazine also featured Fort Smith and Van Buren in the May issue with a six-page article with photographs, Joyce said. Joyce has been working with the Historic Site to develop a “True Grit” program for group tours, including discussion on the fictional and nonfictional aspects of the movie redone in 2010 by Ethan and Joel Coen and based on the book by Arkansas native Charles Portis.

In an effort to grab the attention of businesses and groups seeking a spot to hold their conventions, a new video on Fort Smith has been released. The previous promotional video was seven years old.

Fort Smith Convention sales director Sherry Scorby worked with Kellie McDaniel, the bureau’s communications/event services manager, local filmmaker Mike Hart and video production groups 5 Star Productions in Fort Smith and Jones Film & Video in Little Rock to produce the three-minute video that will be posted to the bureau’s website.

The other promotional video was seven years old.

Scorby said Hart donated about $12,000 worth of video content to augment their $5,000 budget.

In his financial report, Bureau Executive Director Claude Legris said the Advertising and Promotion Commission’s fund balance was $108,892, with year-to-date expenses being 10 percent below budget at $215,985.

Fort Smith Convention Center Director Tim Seeberg said the center is on track with its 2014 budget, with year-to-date expenses at $590,773 and a fund balance of $275,904.

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Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/