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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Shining The Spotlight On Southern Oregon

Shining the Spotlight on Southern Oregon

And those who market the region’s many attractions

Story by Valerie Coulman

Southern Oregon is known for its wide variety of cultural and natural attractions, and one of the strengths of the community is the network of people both personally and professionally committed to showcasing the best of the area. These tourism professionals have devoted their days to promoting this region, a job they tackle wholeheartedly.

“We live in a wonderland of adventure,” says Colene Martin, President/CEO of Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce. “The legendary Rogue River is among the greatest places in the Pacific Northwest for whitewater thrills, fishing and hiking and biking trails.”

The natural resources of the Rogue Valley are what draw many people to the area, but it is certainly not all that is offered, adds Martin. “Added as a bonus are the friendly faces, and a dynamic local arts and entertainment scene.”

The area offers an incredibly wide range of opportunities, points out Tim Balfour, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. “It’s just amazing how many days that you can plan out when you put together an itinerary,” he recalls. Based on his own first visit to the area from Delaware, and his subsequent nine years as co-owner of TouVelle House, Balfour is quick to point out the range of indoor and outdoor options for visitors and locals alike. From Crater Lake to the Oregon Caves, Britt Festival to Shakespeare Festival, and even the Jacksonville cemetery, fascinating experiences abound. And he credits much of that success to the many independent business owners and creative collaborators who work to make each element of the community a success. “These people put their heart and soul into what they offer,” says Balfour 

“I believe in our community,” says Anne Jenkins, senior vice president at Travel Medford. “The people are wonderful, and it’s very well rounded.” From artisan events to cycling, wine tasting to theater, she says, “our diversity provides something for everyone. 

For many people, first impressions can lead to life-long involvement. A native of New Hampshire, skiing brought Katharine Cato—now director of marketing, Sales and Ashland’s Visitor Bureau through the Ashland Chamber of Commerce—to the valley, where she quickly found Ashland to be an inviting place to stay, work and connect. “The sense of community drew me in,” she recalls. Along with community, the range of experiences keeps her always on the lookout for new opportunities to build relationships and promote the talent and innovation of the region. As an example, Cato personally spearheaded Ashland’s Culinary Festival, now in its 8th year, as a way to connect and showcase the growers and producers of the region. “I love the abundance we have here,” says Cato, not meaning just in natural resources. “It’s the quality of life and the strength of our relationships,” says Cato.

“It’s our friendly people and amazing businesses that make a great experience for those that visit and those that live here,” agrees Paula Smith, vice president of marketing and sales for The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County. And, she points out, “there is something for every season here.” From the blossoming wine industry to the easily accessed natural resources, there are reasons for people to come and enjoy Southern Oregon year round.

“Tourism is the front door to our economy in Ashland,” points out Cato. But it doesn’t stop there. “We are one of the gateways to our entire region and the state as a whole. We give a lot of time to foster relationships with other organizations, and take pride in those connections.”

“Chambers of Commerce were created for that sole purpose,” confirms Martin. “We dedicate ourselves to promoting, advocating for and supporting the community.” Whether it’s in boutique shopping, fine dining, handcrafted beers or sausages, Martin is confident in the ability of the region’s communities to provide an experience for everyone.

“We really are a portal to the community,” says Smith. “We are the facilitator that brings people together to make great things happen.”

“My job is different every single day,” says Jenkins. “It’s the people we have, and the variety of things we can go and do. There’s never a dull moment.”

“I’ve got a great job,” sums up Jenkins. “It is such an honor to showcase our valley.”


To learn more:

Ashland Chamber of Commerce & Visitor’s Bureau

110 E. Main St., Ashland




Grants Pass & Josephine County Chamber of Commerce

1995 NW Vine Street, Grants Pass




Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center

185 N. Oregon Street, Jacksonville




The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County

101 E. 8th St., Medford




Travel Medford Visitor Information Center

1314 Center Drive, Medford





Pro Tips and Hidden Gems

“It’s easy to promote what you love,” says Anne Jenkins of Travel Medford. 

So, what do these tourism pros love most about the area?

“I love the outdoors,” says Jenkins. “To be hiking 5 to 10 minutes from your house is such a hidden gem that people sometimes don’t realize it’s there.” For events, Jenkins includes Clayfolk Pottery show, Gingerbread Jubilee, and Art in Bloom. “My family doesn’t miss it.”

For Katharine Cato, the skiing that first drew her to Ashland remains at the top of her list. “When I have my skis on and it’s the first track in the new snow [at Mount Ashland],” she says, “that’s where I find my peace.”

“We have great local theater and interesting culture, from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the Craterian Theater and the vibrant Camelot Theatre,” says Medford’s Paula Smith, but adds, “I love the outdoors. And it’s so accessible—within 30 minutes you can be hiking in the mountains or on a lake or river.”

Two places Tim Balfour puts top of his Jacksonville gem list include Spa, on West D Street, and TouVelle House, which he recommends with a laugh. “It’s not self-serving because I don’t own it anymore.” Both off the main thoroughfare, says Balfour, “they provide a welcome place to relax and refresh.” 

“My favorite invitation-only dinner is Twisted Cork’s Wine Maker’s Dinner,” says Colene Martin of Grants Pass. “And you don’t want to miss taking a stroll through Glass Forge to see their beautiful blown glass.” Martin also acknowledges the farmers of the area, who offer the community a source for wholesome and locally grown foods.

And then, in the true spirit of those that spotlight Southern Oregon’s attractions, Martin adds “But wait, there’s more…”

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