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Tourism effort boosted

Date: 8/18/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- A major effort to increase tourism to Holyoke was started last week with the release of a "Discover Holyoke" walking tour guide.

The guide, which includes maps to the city's cultural and historic attractions as well as lists of places to eat and stay, was funded by a tourism grant from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. The guide was formally released Wednesday at a press conference at Holyoke Heritage State Park called by PassportHolyoke, a coalition of businesses and attractions in the city.

The group includes Holyoke Heritage State Park, the Children's Museum of Holyoke, the Holyoke Civic Symphony, Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, Wistariahurst Museum, Open Square, Wire Monkey Dance, the Volleyball Hall of Fame, the Holyoke Public Library and the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, among others.

Melissa Boiselle, the director of the Wistariahurst Museum, said the brochure was "a long time coming."

State Sen. Michael Knapik, said, "This is a fabulous way to brand the city of Holyoke."

Knapik added that in the era of "staycations," places such as Holyoke with a group of attractions are still relevant.

The initial print run of 25,000 copies will be distributed in a variety of venues in the region and the PassportHolyoke Web site -- -- will also be updated with events.

Maureen Costello from the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round noted there are many visitors to the vintage amusement park ride ask about what else there is to do in the city. With the brochure, she said, "We are not in a more advantageous to answer [those questions.]"

Gerry Fitzsimmons, the executive director of the Volleyball Hall of Fame said the brochure would help his organization. Hall is planning a month of events this October, including this year's induction.

"We bring in visitors from literally around the world," he noted.

PassportHolyoke is planning its first PassportHolyoke day this fall that will include bus tours of the city as well as other events.

The announcement of the PassportHolyoke brochure was accompanied with one concerning the installation of three exhibits on Holyoke's history as a part of a citywide project to encourage historical tourism called "Creating Holyoke." The city's historian, Kate Thibodeau explained the exhibits were funded part of a $399,950 grant to the city from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Those funds have also been used to develop signage for walking and driving tours of the city and for a Creating Holyoke Institute that instructs teachers on the history of the city. A Creating Holyoke Web site -- -- was also installed.

Three sets of permanent exhibits were also developed through the funding. The exhibits at Holyoke Heritage State Park deal with the waves of immigrants who came to the city, while the one at Children's Museum at Holyoke is about family life and the exhibit at Wistariahurst Museum is about recreation.

At Holyoke Heritage State Park, visitors can sit rocking in mini-recreations of front porches and listen to recorded oral histories if the immigrant experience to the city. The park also now features in its lobby an extensive display of Holyoke artifacts ranging from souvenirs form the Mt. Tom Summit House to items made by Holyoke businesses.

The grant also underwrote a documentary that will be seen on WBGY this fall on the past, present and future of the city.

Jose Bou, who owns Salsarengue Restaurant at 392 High St., said he is hopeful about the future of the Paper City.

"Holyoke is the next frontier," he said.