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News Community Happenings Forum kicks off Highlands summer season

Mayor David Wilkes talks to Robin Taylor, Leadership class member and director of Marketing, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.In what sponsors hope will become an annual event, the first ever information fair for the Town of Highlands took place Monday, May 23, at the Highlands Recreation Center from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. A project of the 2010-2011 Leadership Highlands class, the four-hour event featured programs and projects available for citizens and visitors to Highlands between May and November of this year.

The Highlands Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Leadership Highlands program. Each class creates and develops a project designed to benefit the community. This class designed the fair dubbed Highlands Happenings Forum and Information Fair 2011. Members of the class included Courtney Scarborough, Faviola Olvera, Jim Fatland, Robin Phillips, Melody Spurney, Melissa Delaney and Robin Taylor.

The Fair provided a brief overview of activities, opportunities, events, shows and productions occurring in Highlands during this “Summer Season.” More than 30 Highlands non-profits and organizations participated in the event. These included such nonprofits as the Literacy Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Highlands Historical Society. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Hudson Library, the Highlands Rotary Club, the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and the Police and Fire Departments explained their programs and projects. Organizations that offer entertainment such as the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Association, the Highlands-Cashiers Playhouse, the Bascom and the Performing Arts Center detailed their 2011 productions. Those attending the event took advantage of the opportunity to meet and visit the non-profits and organizations and learn more about what they do and what they have in store for Highlands for the season.

Robin Taylor, member of the class and marketing director for the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital says, “The Leadership Highlands class participated in gathering together a group of people from within the community in February at one of our focus days that discussed marketing. It was noted during that focus day discussion that it would be good to have a community kick-off to the season, a clearinghouse if you will, of the highlights that are taking place in highlands this season all at once and in one place.”

The group decided the fair would be a combination of several things:

• An opportunity for the organizations that are having events, classes, plays, concerts, etc., to discuss their programs and cover with the community what they might be doing this year that is new;

• Provision of the place and opportunity for the non-profit organizations in the community to present what they are doing;

• Provide residents and seasonal residents as well as merchants, business owners and seasonal employees the chance to see what is happening this season.

Melissa Delaney, leadership class member and Director of Sales for Old Edwards Inn & Spa, says, “Highlands visitors enjoy their stay much more when it is easy to get information everywhere they go — and when the townspeople are commonly informed and excited about the opportunities for fun and leisure.

“One of the most pressing needs identified among business owners in several meetings over the past few months, including Small Town Main Street, was for employees of all businesses to be prepared to answer questions about events and activities and to provide interesting suggestions to their customers when the situations presents itself,” Delaney continued. “This level of service and knowledge benefits all businesses by ensuring a cohesive, informed and entertaining stay for Highland visitors. It also helps us collectively ‘brand’ Highlands as a town filled with enriching culture and leisure activities while reinforcing the ‘smalltown, neighborly’ appeal that makes Highlands so special.

“After all, in small neighborly towns it always seems that the shop owners, service providers and citizens are aware of — and excited about — the things that happen in the town,” she concluded.

Those attending the event were well pleased with the information they came away with. If there was a disappointment in this first such event, it was that attendance was not as much as had been hoped for.

“In the future, we should have the event during the evening hours and offer refreshments for those attending,” said Delaney.

If the event is to become an annual affair, the question is who will sponsor it. This Leadership Highlands class won’t be a unit after this year. Jim Fatland, member of the class and Town Manager suggests that the Town of Highlands and the Chamber of Commerce could co-sponsor the event in the future. Delaney said that the members of this year’s class are committed to sharing their knowledge, expertise and help with any future efforts.


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