Being a tourist in your own community

Being a tourist in one’s own community increases awareness about little-known sites, arts, culture and economic development strategies, and gives people a chance to finally find a community's "hidden gems."

Participants in the annual Alcona County George Byelich Memorial Fall Color Tour get off the bus to visit their next site.Organizers have a secret to keep – what sights will they visit while on the Alcona County George Byelich Memorial Fall Color Tour? Tour participants are not made aware of where they are going or what they will be doing until the day of the tour. Each year 108 people become “tourists in their own community.”

As the name implies, the tour is dedicated to the memory of George Byelich, former Michigan State University Extension Director for Alcona County. Byelich organized the original bus tour years ago to help citizens explore the unique facets of the region. Dubbed the “Fall Color Tour,” participants were introduced to far more than red and gold fall foliage, and today the tour has become an annual sold-out, waiting-list event.

Being a tourist in one’s own community increases awareness about lesser-known sites, arts, culture and economic development strategies, as well as demonstrates that the region holds myriad local gems right “under our noses.” Last year, the tour, themed In Your Wildest Dreams, revealed surprising sightings of Elvis, Louie Armstrong and Patsy Cline. Only in their wildest dreams did the participants ever expect to see such a combination of local musical talent, peacocks and unusual hunting camps.

Other recent highlights included the Byelich Farm (2007) where Louella Byelich shared her perspective about George’s Bus Tour, as well as a close-up view of the Glenview Acres P & G Farms’ Clydesdale horses. In 2008, a tour of the High Mount Midwest Energy plant and the Cedarbrook Trout Farm were just a few of that year’s many energy-related activities. Three years ago, participants were transported back in time, visiting locations of ghost sightings at the Springport Cemetery, reflecting on the county’s past and even exploring ancient history at the Harrisville Cultural Center. The 2010 tour viewed the Peyerk Tree Farm, the Alcona Quilt Trail and other Glennie area points of interest.

Every year, this tour offers an opportunity for participants to become a tourist in their own community. Oftentimes participants revisit the sites later, sharing what they experienced with friends and relatives. Every county and every region has a wealth of hidden gems to be uncovered. A bus tour can be the perfect opportunity to share those gems by providing a platform to spur community pride as well as economic development.

Planners of the Alcona trip, which is coordinated by MSU Extension and a group of dedicated community organizers, are in process of creating the 2012 tour. This year the tour will start at 8:30 am from Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, where participants will board school buses and embark on an unknown journey. Tickets go on sale at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 4 at the Alcona MSU Extension office.  

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