Athens County is home to a variety of tourist attractions, and due to the increase in vaccinations against COVID-19, those attractions were hoping for a summer of normalcy.
The Athens Farmers Market is a year-round attraction that takes place Saturdays and Wednesdays, located at The Market on State, 1002 E. State St. The farmers’ market consists of a multitude of local food vendors and artists.
Tanya Hire, manager of the Athens Farmers Market, said she was unsure of what to expect regarding the number of tourists this summer.
It seems like folks that go up to the Hocking Hills region, up in Logan, is where most of what I would say our tourists come from,” Hire said. “And then we also get, of course, students and parents that come in for the Bobcat Student Orientation or campus visits and that sort of thing from the university.”
However, by the end of the summer, Hire said she observed a smaller number of tourists coming to the farmers’ market than she expected, despite many local customers who shop there weekly. She said she expected the travel season to be more robust than it was.
Although The Athens Farmers Market saw fewer tourists than some estimated, other Athens attractions gained more traction than expected.
The Dairy Barn Arts Center, an art museum located at 8000 Dairy Lane, consists of various art exhibits by local artists. Leah Magyary, director of the Dairy Barn Arts Center, said she expected about 33% of what the center usually receives in visitors for Quilt National, a contemporary quilt exhibit the center is premiering.
The actual number of tourists to Quilt National, so far, is better than expected, Magyary said.
“We're not up to regular numbers of what we would expect in a normal Quilt National year, but we certainly have been getting a lot of local interest and interest within driving distance,” Magyary said.
In a typical year, Magyary said the art center usually receives a plethora of visitors from a wide variety of locations, including international tourists.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said he believes there has been an increase from 2020 in people visiting Athens, and he enjoys seeing events taking place again.
“In terms of tourism that we did have … the Vulcan motorcycle club came into Athens,” Patterson said. “And Boone Troyer, (executive director of) the Convention and Visitors Bureau indicated that it was 250 motorcycle riders that came in and just kind of explored the windy nine.”
Additionally, Patterson said there have been multiple additions to Athens that will attract visitors in the future, including the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA.
He also spoke about his anticipation for bikers and trail runners to come to Athens to enjoy the Baileys Trail System.
Despite Athens experiencing another summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tourist attractions have been able to continue business safely.
“I think our focus is on making the experience as meaningful as possible to folks who do visit and as safe as possible for folks to visit as well,” Magyary said. “This year is less about how many people can we get through the door and more about quality of experience.”