In just a few days, visitors will be pouring into Cherokee County, as the Memorial Day weekend officially ushers in the local tourist season. For some of us, that means it’s time to batten down the hatches; for others, it’s time for the cash registers to start ringing.
A lot of local folks regard tourist season with a blend of anticipation and dread. They know there will be drunks on the river, and thus more intoxicated drivers on the highway. There will be lewd behavior, unsightly messes, and perhaps even some extra crime to add to the mix perpetrated by local miscreants.
But whatever one’s personal view of the impending influx of tourists, we all agree on one thing: Cherokee County’s economy relies to a great extent on visitors, whether they come to enjoy the lakes and river, or are enrolled at Northeastern State University. And that’s why we all need to roll out the red carpet and welcome them.
Most visitors leave Cherokee County bragging on how friendly the folks are. By that, they don’t just mean merchants at stores where they shop, or fellow travelers floating the river. They mean a smile and a howdy-do from a stranger they pass on the street. They’re referring to folks to take the time to stop and give them directions or advice on which restaurant to choose.
Sometimes the smallest gestures can make all the difference in the world. A small gesture could be the impetus for a student’s selection of NSU over another regional university elsewhere in the state. It could also be the seed that germinates and brings a new family to town to invest in our community through tax dollars, or even by opening a business here.
While we need to be welcoming and helpful to our guests, we also need to pay attention to our own behavior. Though we may feel powerless to stop others from drinking and driving, or from endangering themselves and others by operating motor boats while under the influence, we can be vigilant ourselves. We can avoid becoming part of the problem by eschewing alcohol if we’ll be operating any type of motor vehicle. We can keep a sharp eye out for unruly or criminal behavior, and report anything suspicious or hazardous. We can make sure our kids – and our neighbors’ kids - stay safe.
As we extend our welcome to our visitors this coming weekend, we also offer best wishes to our local business owners. We hope you have a prosperous season because, after all, what’s good for one of us, is good for all of us!