What a fantastic staycation I have enjoyed this past week.
It is amazing how much there is to do in the city of Gloucester in the summertime. In fact, the 2012 summer tourism season is shaping up as the best since the start of the recession. More people than ever are checking out the wonderful attractions we have to offer.
Fantastic weather, lower gasoline prices and increased visibility for the city are behind the reported jump in visitors. Recent high-profile coverage of the HarborWalk on the front page of the Boston Globe’s Metro section and a profile about the city’s charms on Channel 5’s Chronicle provide even more optimism as the tourism season enters August.
Room bookings at motels and inns are strong, according to the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and beach revenues, which finished the last fiscal year $300,000 above the budgeted figure, also indicate strong activity.
If you have plans for a staycation, there is a lot to do during the upcoming weeks.
The Gloucester Sidewalk Bazaar on Main Street wraps up today. I spent three hours wandering around, and talking with people. And I finally sampled the incredible vinegars and olive oils at the new Olive Oil shop on Main Street. What a treat! Never will I buy mass produced salad dressing again.
Also, when you are in the Main Street area, take a look around at the new banners on Main and Rogers, and the beautiful hanging plants. The Downtown Development Commission, a devoted group of citizens, goes above and beyond to make sure we have a welcoming presence and have taken the lead on beautification efforts. The city-funded “Clean Team” which is a jobs program for our youth, ensures a litter-free environment as well.
The first annual Gloucester Blues Festival at Stage Fort Park, featuring vocalist Shemekia Copeland, is being held on Saturday, Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Remember the Cape Ann Symphony outdoor concert at Stage Fort? That was always one of our favorite nights, and the Blues Festival is shaping up to be a great Gloucester event in a spectacular venue.
Speaking of Stage Fort Park, the Farmers Market is held there every Thursday starting at 3 p.m. with free parking. And the Gloucester Waterfront Festival, featuring the works of more than 175 artists and craftsmen is coming up on Aug. 18 and 19, also at Stage Fort Park.
There are two more Downtown Gloucester Block Parties, which attract more than 3,000 people, on Aug. 18. and Sept. 15th. Labor Day features the Gloucester Schooner Festival, including the Mayor’s Race, Parade of Sail, lighted night time boat parade, and fireworks. And Nights on the Neck continue on Sept. 6 in the historic Rocky Neck Art Colony.
Visitors also are flocking to the Cape Ann Museum on Pleasant Street, which recently received a $250,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Commission to upgrade its facility. The recently re-opened Whale Center of New England is another draw for tourists. Of course, our city’s famed whale watch tours are the best in New England. A tour offered by Ryan & Wood Distilleries recently captured top-ranking from TripAdvisors.com for traveler-recommended events.
The Gloucester HarborWalk, which will formally open on Aug. 9 with a weekend-long celebration, is poised to further showcase the city for a new generation of visitors. Visitors and guests can learn about the heritage and lore of our city as the HarborWalk reveals Gloucester as never before.
Phew. We might need a summer-long staycation!
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.