Those of us who live here in Western New York know we are blessed with a true outdoor paradise. Sharing this hidden treasure with two groups of outdoor media mavens from around the Great Lakes and throughout the Empire State helps to spread the word in a way advertising never could.
Chautauqua County and Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer was the headquarters Sept. 12-18 for a full week of hosting two important media organizations that focus on the outdoors − the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) and the New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA).
So how did we fare?
“When the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers chose Chautauqua County as the site of the 2016 annual conference, I am sure some members conjured a mental picture of New York City,” said Mark Smith, executive director of AGLOW and a media person himself in Indiana. “That image couldn’t be further from the truth. From the shores of Lake Erie to the rolling hills surrounding Chautauqua Lake and all of the historic towns and villages scattered across the countryside, it is a true outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland. I can assure you that the outdoor communicators in our association will have an endless supply of material for developing storylines about Western New York. Given what I now know about the area, you can bet that I’ll be back.”
Jim Zaleski of Kansas, president of AGLOW, had this to say: “Growing up in the Chicago area I have always been envious of locations that can mix big city and big outdoors into one destination. So often the harshest critics for a destination are its
residents. What the AGLOW members found when they visited Western New York was a local resident base that was very proud of the outdoor activities they have. This was a pleasant surprise as even some of the greatest outdoor destinations don’t necessarily have the best of a service environment. From the calms waters of Lake Chautauqua and the big waters of Lake Erie all the way to the not-yet-snowy slopes of Peek’n Peak, our group could not have asked for a more professional and hospitable reception from the locals.”
Charles Witek of Long Island, vice president with NYSOWA, made this comment: “This was my first time in the southwestern corner of New York. While weather hurt the quality of the fishing for us, I could see the potential in both Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake. We had walleye weighing up to 8 pounds, along with a silver bass and steelhead. I’d like to come back for a couple of days, maybe in late July or August when the walleye fishing peaks, and give Lake Erie a fair chance to produce.
“Fishing muskies in Chautauqua Lake is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was 6 or 7 years old. Again, weather resulted in the fish not feeding well, but the big marks that we saw on the fish finder left no doubt that they were there. In some ways, I’m glad we got skunked, because fish such as muskies shouldn’t come easy. Again, I’d like to come back later in the fall, after the water has cooled and I might have a fair chance to hook up with a fish or two.”
Yes, some muskies were caught and photographed from Chautauqua Lake. So were walleye and bass. In Lake Erie, there was a pretty good bite going on and everyone who had a chance to sample it was impressed and left begging for more. Time and time again, we heard that the writers wanted to return for more outdoor adventures – trips that they promised to share with their readers and viewers. That’s what it’s all about.
“The travel writers who visited as part of the AGLOW and NYSOWA conferences will leave an indelible mark on the Chautauqua County area,” said Nixon. “The conferences have been the perfect way to place the region’s considerable outdoor experiences right at the feet of dozens of influential members of the media. In the two weeks immediately following the conference, we have seen more than 20 articles. We are anticipating many more, as well as benefitting from ongoing relationships with writers that we know have a fondness for our area.”
It’s important to note that these events are something that take many years to accomplish. Andrew Nixon, leader of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, put together a team that worked hard to bring AGLOW to the state. It probably started after seeing the success Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation had with the AGLOW group in 2007.
It took years of meetings, attending conferences and hosting media people to finally reel in the big one – an opportunity to showcase these outdoor resources for an AGLOW conference. The NYSOWA conference was a bonus progression after AGLOW picked New York from three other destinations vying for the right to host the group. Actually, it was more than that, but the top three were whittled down from a bigger list.
Thanks to a professional fleet of charter captains and guides, as well as some dedicated recreational anglers that take pride in our outdoor playground, the local ambassadors were able to produce the fish and fowl that were necessary to provide the photo opportunities, as well as the material to write and talk about.