Spurney taking on Newton tourism
An orange-yellow stripe runs down the middle of Main Street Newton as hundreds of cars use it daily as a lane guide. The street is flanked by numerous shops in historic buildings, with signs and colors beckoning patrons to shop there.
Newton has a great deal of attractions, some of which are those downtown businesses. There’s Karen’s Kitchen, a restaurant near Santa Fe school that’s run by Karen Walton, the sheriff’s wife.
Another business, Charlotte’s Sew Natural, brings people in from all over the state, while Anderson’s Book Store keeps the décor of years gone by.
Prairie Harvest sells health foods products made in Kansas and spices.
Like most downtowns, Newton’s has a personality all its own. Even the Historic Fox Theatre, which used to be the only show in town, is playing movies again and has live music performances. Over time, it’s being renovated.
Newton/North Newton have other attractions, as well as events, including museums, Sand Creek Station Golf Course, an annual car show, Bethel College’s Fall Festival and an annual chili cookoff.
The new coordinator for the Newton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Melody Spurney, who started June 30, has the job of making sure people find out about what Newton has to offer. So far, she’s liked her job.
“I really have enjoyed working in the Newton community so far,” she said, sitting in her office in Newton City Hall. “I’ve enjoyed working in the community and meeting residents and visitors, and I took forward to learning more about the Newton community and meeting more people.”
Her duties include giving information to visitors—groups and individuals who are interested in Newton. She informs them about what there is to see and do in Newton and markets what Newton has for potential visitors.
“Just a source of information about what Newton has to offer,” Spurney said.
She said Newton/North Newton have several museums, including the Kansas Sports Museum, Kauffman Museum, Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives, and Warkentin House Museum.
“It has a downtown business area, which is an attraction for some,” she said.
Newton also is attractive to smaller groups.
“It’s attractive to smaller subgroups, like a group that comes on the Transamerica Bicycle Trail, and they bike from Oregon to Virgina.”
Newton is on their route.
“I’m learning more about the community every day,” Spurney said.
Other attractions for visitors include the airport and the other two golf courses.
During the past few weeks, Spurney has been working on getting a social and digital media presence online. Now, there’s a website to attract people to Newton at tonewton.com.
On the site, there’s photos of the Meridian Center, people shopping at a local boutique, a golf course, Fox Theatre and a motel or hotel room.
Those wishing to travel to Newton by train can click on “Discount Offer to Visit Newton,” as Amtrak is offering a 10 percent discount through June 30, 2015, for travel on the Southern Chief line to Newton. The website also has a calendar of events.
The site lists places to stay, such as hotels, a bed and breakfast, and a recreational vehicle park. Potential visitors also can learn about local dining options, as well as where they can play, such as at golf courses and in parks, where to shop, and about attractions and entertainment.
The Newton Convention & Visitor’s Bureau also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/visitnewtonks. As of July 18, the page had 89 “likes.”
“I’m working on enhancing the digital media process,” Spurney said.
She hopes it can help people who are coming to town and be a resource for residents.
Her plans include continuing to work on digital media, she said, and she also wants to explore other ways to reach potential visitors. Spurney intends to hand out Newton-specific information at the state fair. Other ideas include creating and handing out brochures about Newton, which will include things to do, attractions, and places to eat and stay.
Resource for visitors
One way Spurney helped visitors was during the U.S. Golf Association 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship July 14-19 at Sand Creek Station Golf Course. Spurney created a sheet for players listing locally owned restaurants and things they might want to know about, like where they can buy groceries and receive medical care.
Also on the sheet, Spurney explained what a bierock is, giving players some regional flavor, so to speak.
“Bierocks are meat-filled rolls originating from Eastern Europe. Fillings usually include beef, cabbage and onion. Bierocks were introduced to the area by Mennonites and are offered on the menu of several local restaurants.”
The sheet was an “at-a-glance” guide to Newton for this specific group.
“The golfers — they ran us out of every copy I had of that,” Spurney said.
Spurney grew up in Maize and received a degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. She was managing editor of The Highlander newspaper and Legacy magazine in Highlands, N.C., with circulations of 2,500 and 20,000 to 25,000, respectively.
Highlands was seasonally busy from May through September. When she worked for The Highlander and Legacy, they put out some specialized publications, such as a dining and lodging guide, and wedding issue. She worked there for 10 years.
“We had themed issues during the tourist season,” Spurney said.
When she was employed at The Highlander, Spurney worked a great deal with tourists and the hospitality community.
“This job encompassed a lot of what I enjoyed doing there,” she said.
One motivation she and husband Blake had for returning to Kansas was both have family here, as they’re from central Kansas.
For more information about the Newton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, call Spurney at 316-284-3642.
Photos and Story by Wendy Nugent