Officials want the new Yampa Valley Regional Airport display for Moffat County and Hayden to showcase what both communities can offer tourists coming into the area. The Moffat County Tourism Association and Hayden Chamber of Commerce contributed funding to the space, including the purchase of new brochure racks and contracting a local artist to design and paint the mural.

Courtesy photo

Officials want the new Yampa Valley Regional Airport display for Moffat County and Hayden to showcase what both communities can offer tourists coming into the area. The Moffat County Tourism Association and Hayden Chamber of Commerce contributed funding to the space, including the purchase of new brochure racks and contracting a local artist to design and paint the mural.

Moffat County, Hayden groups join for airport tourism display

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Donna Hellyer, 75, has spent almost a decade at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport helping tourists plan their vacations.

She works as a Steamboat Springs Chamber of Commerce information specialist and is tasked with showing tourists the things they can do when they're not on the mountain, whether it be snowmobiling, sleigh rides or general sightseeing.

She's glad she can better help people learn about everything west of Steamboat, as well.

"There's just so many things people can do all over, and they just don't know," Hellyer said.

She and her colleague, Sylvia Walker, are two parts of a recent collaborative effort between Moffat County and Hayden to get tourists thinking about the rest of the Yampa Valley in addition to the ski resort.

"Not everybody gets to see what we get to see everyday," Hellyer said. "We get to show them what we have."

Moffat County and Hayden now share a common display in the baggage claim area, which interested locals have long maintained is a good place to catch the eye of tourists visiting Northwest Colorado.

The Moffat County Tourism Association and Hayden Chamber of Commerce have made financial contributions to the project. MCTA bought brochure racks for the two groups to use, while the Hayden Chamber contracted Craig artist Mary Pat Ettinger-Dunn to paint a mural across the top of the space.

Dunn, 58, said she often used to paint interior and exterior murals for local businesses but recently began to focus on her paintings and greeting card projects.

She said this mural, however, was for a critical purpose.

Dunn works within the local tourism industry as a staff member of the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig and the Hayden Heritage Center. She said there is a lot for people to do in Northwest Colorado, but they need a chance to know about it all before Craig and Hayden can expect anybody to come.

"I feel passionate about the two communities, and I think there's a lot for the outdoor recreationist to do outside of Steamboat," Dunn said.

Although it's important to recognize the nuts and bolts of what Moffat County and Hayden have accomplished, Hellyer said she is most proud of the region's new spirit of cooperation.

"I think it's a very plus, plus situation that we're all working together, because it'll benefit the whole valley," she said.

The benefits already may be showing.

The joint display center ran out of brochures within a month of being up, said MCTA Director Michelle Perry, who ran 150 more magazines and 200 more brochures out to the airport to restock the shelves.

Officials' opinions are mixed, however, on how much impact the display will have.

Tammie Thompson-Booker, MCTA board president, wants to know more about how many tourists will go west after seeing the display.

Many people headed for Steamboat know what they want to do before they're waiting for bags at the airport, she said. Many also want an easily planned vacation.

Moffat County, on the other hand, has several things for people to do, but they have to find them, Thompson-Booker said.

"I don't think we're the place for the Disneyland tourists that want everything packaged together," she said. "That may change someday, but currently, we don't have enough to drive them over here in the middle of winter."

The airport display could encourage people to come back to Northwest Colorado during the summer, but Thompson-Booker said she wants to stop the guesswork.

MCTA plans to hire a marketing consultant this year who can advise the organization on who is its target audience and how to reach them.

"Until we do some further research, we don't really know anything," Thompson-Booker said. "We need to be more educated."

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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