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Kim Kraemer...West Kentucky Tourism Thinker
Main street in Grand Rivers - antique shops and Badgett Theater rely on tourism.

Her day starts with thinking about how is the best way to get the message out to civilization on the merits of visiting Grand Rivers, KY. As Executive Director of Grand Rivers Tourism Commission, Kim's job is to worry about how the world views Grand Rivers.

The Village of Grand Rivers has a population of 300.

Kim said, "We have more boat docks, 650, than we have homes -150."

But for its size, Grand Rivers is a West KY tourism powerhouse. For example, during the month of December, between 60,000 and 70,000 people will see the Christmas Lights of Patti's Village.

Patti's 1880's Settlement serves approximately 500,000 dinners a year to discriminating food connoisseurs of all ages. From their 2" thick pork chops to desserts that seemed to be made only in some fantasy kitchen, Patti's is the anchor for food tourism in West Kentucky.

Badgett Playhouse which prides itself as being "A Branson style show in Grand Rivers, KY" is home to musicals, dramas, professional singers and dancers. Each year, the Badgett Playhouse has an evening with Patsy Cline. For two hours, some 250 ticket holders are blessed with a young female singer going through 30 songs that Patsy Cline made famous in her life.

From boating to eating to viewing musicals to just relaxing and watching the sunset, the little village of Grand Rivers captures thousands of wandering souls in their quest for spending time in a really "cool" place. Boaters making "the loop" - that route around the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico and back again, have made Green Turtle Bay Resort Marina a favorite stop.

Kim Kraemer's easy manner hides a professional who keeps facts and figures at her fingertips. On the surface, her face is always alight with a smile, giving warmth to freckles. Yet, Kim has worked in pressure cookers like Washington DC where she was for many years. She also worked as East Coast Sales Director for the Nashville, Tennessee Convention Bureau. She earned her tourism skills in very competitive markets.

Even with all the good things about her job (numbers of tourist from Patti's, Green Turtle Bay, Badgett Theater, antique shops), she remains aware that tourism marketing is often "hand to hand combat" for every dollar.

Kraemer credits Grand Rivers' success to the foresight and cooperation of business people, like William Gary and family who began Green Turtle Bay Resort back in the Seventies. The Gary family have embarked on a new venture - turning the closed IGA store into a modern grocery store that caters to residents and visitors.

Kentucky annual tourism market is around 12 billion dollars. Most is split among Central Kentucky horses, liquor, urban centers, and state parks throughout Kentucky. That sounds like a lot - until one looks at the Volunteer State to the south. Sevier County Tennessee (Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville) alone spend $18 million dollars a year on advertising - a third more than the whole state of Kentucky.

Yet, Western Kentucky has a major plus of geography. It is where fresh water lives. Waters from the convergence and flowing of the Ohio River, Tennessee River, Cumberland River, Mississippi River, Green River, Rough River, Clarks River, Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake secure a unique type of tourism.

For years, local tourism was all about small boat fishing and pleasure lake house boats. That is now changing.

In the 21st Century, the new tourist may be a family of four with dad around 48 years old and his wife around 45 years. With dad and mommy will be two children, boy 10 and little sister 7. Or, there could be the newly rich and well off European or Asian family who fly into Nashville for a two week vacation to tour Middle America.

These new tourists will change how tourism is to be designed for this new century. Now there is not only water to offer the new tourist but history, cultural heritage, genealogy, and small town living.

It is to this emerging 21st Century tourism marketplace that Kraemer must not only design new strategies for telling the world on how to find the hidden tourism jewel of Grand Rivers, but must draw as many tourism advertising dollars to her region from Kentucky state government.

Grand Rivers is a stopping place in time between Barkley and Kentucky Lakes within a four hour drive time 6,000,000 urban dwellers, eager for some old fashioned down home cooking and playing on the Lakes and having coffee in small towns.

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