Vis­i­tors wel­comed to Mys­tic Falls

The Covington News - - THE SECOND FRONT - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

The Cov­ing­ton/New­ton County Vis­i­tors Bureau is busier than ever th­ese days, and it may be be­cause it’s added a new city to its pro­mo­tion list: Mys­tic Falls, Va. The cen­ter is con­sid­er­ing adding Sparta, Miss., and Haz­zard County as clients in the fu­ture.

The trick is they’re all the same place.

Cov­ing­ton plays the role of Mys­tic Falls in the em­i­nently pop­u­lar “The Vam­pire Di­aries” TV show, now film­ing for its fifth sea­son, which premieres Thurs­day, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. on The CW.

A replica of the Mys­tic Falls sign from the show has been in­stalled in front of the vis­i­tors bureau to pro­vide a photo op­por­tu­nity for tourists, and it’s been a big hit.

“So many fans who came to the wel­come cen­ter would ask if the Mys­tic Falls sign was still on the square. This was one of the first photo ops they wanted,” said Tourism Di­rec­tor Jenny McDon­ald. “You wouldn’t be­lieve how many peo­ple take their photo next to it and post it all over their so­cial me­dia chan­nels. It will stay up till the fan­fare dies down, hope­fully no time soon.”

Based on what she has been told, McDon­ald said, the orig­i­nal sign was lo­cated on the cen­ter is­land in front of Trea­sure Thai on the square and sim­ply wore out from be­ing out in the ele­ments.

Lo­cal sign com­pany Print­abil­ity built a re­pro­duc­tion; the cost, around $425, was paid from the tourism mar­ket­ing bud­get, McDon­ald said.

“The re­turn on in­vest­ment for the sign is the PR ex­po­sure we get from all the photo ops be­ing spread across the In­ter­net. That type of re­turn on in­vest­ment can’t re­ally be mea­sured in pure dollars, but $425 was a low cost, es­pe­cially for what a print ad would cost in a mag­a­zine,” McDon­ald said.

While tours of film­ing sites of “The Vam­pire Di­aries” are han­dled by pri­vate com­pany Mys­tic Falls Tours, which part­ners with the Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce, McDon­ald is also hop­ing to set up tours based on “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Dukes of Haz­zard,” which were both filmed in New­ton County in past decades.

When those tours get de­vel­oped, lo­cal res­i­dents may see signs pro­mot­ing Sparta, Miss., and Haz­zard County. When the cham­ber rolled out its GoCov­ing­ton.com tourism web­site, As­sis­tant Tourism Di­rec­tor Ron Carter in­vited res­i­dents to be tourists in their own town. Soon, that’ll be eas­ier than ever.

Gabriel Khouli/the Cov­ing­ton News

A replica of the Mys­tic Falls sign from the show “Vam­pire Di­aries” has been in­stalled in front of the Cov­ing­ton/New­ton County Vis­i­tors Bureau.

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