- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2007

WILLIAMSBURG — Tourism was up at Jamestown’s two attractions and Colonial Williamsburg after the May commemoration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary, and officials are looking to build on that momentum.

The three-day “America’s Anniversary Weekend” included concerts, demonstrations by glassblowers and other artisans, fireworks and an appearance by President Bush. One week earlier, Queen Elizabeth II visited the area.

The images of these dignitaries will keep people interested in the region, as when world leaders gathered here in 1983 for a global economic summit, said Jeanne Zeidler, Williamsburg mayor and executive director of Jamestown 2007.

Figures from Historic Jamestowne, the original site of the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum, show that interest has increased through the first half of the year.

Attendance has increased more than 30 percent at both sites, said Ross O. Richardson, Jamestown 2007’s director of marketing communications.

Some have visited the area because of events related to Jamestown 2007, while others are coming for the usual attractions — Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg.

On a recent day in Colonial Williamsburg, some visitors were oblivious to Jamestown 2007 events.

Moira Checkosky, of New York’s Staten Island, was visiting Colonial Williamsburg with her children and parents. She’d been there as a child, but doesn’t remember much other than the “people dressed up.” The family was vacationing for the July Fourth holiday week, not because of any advertisements for Jamestown 2007.

“The kids loved Busch Gardens,” she said. “They’re trudging through Williamsburg.”

Jamestown 2007 organizers have attempted to make attractions relevant to all cultures with events that continue through September.

Organizers have been careful to call the 2007 event a “commemoration” instead of a celebration. With the arrival of the English in May 1607, Indian tribes were pushed off their lands, and slavery in America is traced to Jamestown, where the first Africans in the country arrived in 1619.

This year’s anniversary is the first to focus on all three of the cultures.

“America’s Anniversary Weekend” on May 11-13 brought in 63,000 visitors. Officials say 30 percent of tickets were purchased outside of Virginia. About 47,000 tickets for the festivities were sold, while others were issued to volunteers or sponsors. Organizers expected to sell 90,000 tickets.

Jamestown 2007 has commissioned an economic-impact study to determine what the benefits have been to different regions of the state. They expect the results early next year.

“We have grabbed people’s attention, and it’s going to be up to businesses and the tourism industry to continue to make the most of that,” Mr. Richardson said. He also said ideas for keeping up the momentum will be part of what they look for in the final report.

Jamestown 2007 has created some long-term effects already, said Bob Hershberger, executive vice president of the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce. He said there is a renewed awareness of America’s birthplace.

“Reacquainting the individual outside of the Williamsburg area with what this area has to offer them says we’re more than just a theme park or just a historic attraction,” he said. “Folks that visited here saw the breadth of all the opportunities that it affords a family to come and take a vacation.”

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