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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Heritage tourism efforts in Easton, Maryland

Easton, Maryland, is located on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, 90 minutes by car from Washington, D.C. The Easton Main Street program in recent years appears to have been at the forefront of promoting Easton. According to their website, approximately 75,000 people are attracted to the Easton area each year through "producing and sponsoring high quality, family oriented arts and educational events".

The "Arts in Easton Banner Program" places original artwork from area artists on banners located throughout the downtown. These are then sold in an auction to raise funds for future projects.

A handsome wayfinding map has also been created and may be seen in display boxes downtown. Buildings in a 21 block area are presented, with businesses by category listed to the right. The map touts Easton as "One of America's Best Small Towns."

Easton also hosts the Waterfowl Festival each fall. About 1,500 volunteer welcome 13,000 visitors and 300 of the nation's finest wildlife artists, craftsmen, and vendors each year. This event which has been going on for nearly four decades now, has resulted in over $5 million being raised and donated to projects throughout the Atlantic Flyway, and particularly in the Chesapeake Bay area.

The Historic Tidewater Inn is on a site that has been an inn for almost 200 years. When Easton was chosen as home of Talbot County's first courthouse in 1711, several inns were established to cater to the role of the town as a center of trade and government. The large wooden-frame Avon Hotel was built in 1891 on the site of the present Tidewater Inn. This was sadly destroyed by fire in 1944 and replaced by the present red-brick structure in 1949. The Tidewater Inn is part of the Historic Hotels of America program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The "Historic Easton Inc. Site and Building Survey" has resulted in the placement of several handsome bronze plaques throughout the community. The present status of this organization is unclear with no website to show for their efforts. According to Guidestar.org this organization was founded in 1973, though has not filed their 990 form with the IRS for the past several years.

This promotion activity of Easton Main Street is notable and no doubt worthwhile, though typically Main Street programs are also engaged in activities including Design, Organization, and Economic Restructuring. The lack of a comprehensive approach limits the ability of Easton to be fully successful in its revitalization efforts at this time.