Meeting in Turlock to focus on how to attract tourists to valley

May 20, 2013 

— A gathering in Turlock on Wednesday will explore how to draw tourists to farms, rivers and other San Joaquin Valley attractions.

Business and community leaders will exchange ideas at the first San Joaquin River Valley Travel and Tourism Economic Summit.

Free to the first 150 registrants, the event will feature speakers from tourism, agriculture, river restoration and other fields.

It is sponsored by the Great Valley Center, based in Modesto, with the help of several partners.

The organizers cited a study estimating travelers spent about $2.6 billion in the five counties from San Joaquin to Fresno in 2010. This created about 27,000 jobs and $167 million in tax revenue.

The spending is small compared with the $100 billion-plus for all of California each year. The state draws hordes of people to places such as San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Disneyland and Monterey.

The prospects for the valley include visits to farms and processing plants, recreation on rivers and reservoirs, special events such as rodeos and car shows, and attractions aimed at Amtrak riders.

The speakers will include:

• Denise Skidmore, marketing director at Hilmar Cheese Co.

• Penny Leff, agritourism coordinator at the University of California at Davis

• Nancy Beckman, executive director of the Lodi Conference and Visitors Bureau

• Cindy Lashbrook, owner of Riverdance Farms along the Merced River

• Wes Rhea, executive director of the Stockton Convention and Visitors Bureau

• Dan Leavitt, special projects coordinator for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission

• Dave Koehler, coordinator of the San Joaquin River Partnership

• Chris Murphy, a Modesto businessman and event promoter

• Layla Forstedt, executive director of the Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau

• Glen Roberts of the U.S. Department of Commerce

• Karin Fish, vice president for industry relations and operations at Visit California

• Dave Hosley, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced

• Richard Jantz, retired deputy chief executive officer for Stanislaus CountyTourism Summit

• When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday

• Where: California State University, Stanislaus, Event Center; parking is in Lot 8 in the southeast part of the Turlock campus

• Cost: Free to the first 150 people who register, $25 for others. Lunch is included. Advance registration is required.

• More information: www.greatvalley.org/work/sjriversummit or (209) 483-6991

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