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A sampling of folklife and cultural tourism projects in the U.S.
Case Study: Sanpete County, Utah Audio Tour and Booklet*
Utah Arts Council, Sanpete Heritage Council and the Utah Department of Community & Economic Development
The Utah Arts Council recently released a tape tour project featuring Sanpete County—an agricultural region in central Utah. Folklorist Carol Edison of the Utah Arts Council directed this project with staff assistance from Annie Hatch and Craig Miller.
This product came about in part because the Utah Arts Council (UAC) is part of a larger department supporting community and economic development within the state. This department has sponsored a cultural tourism initiative for the last several years. Bim Oliver, a colleague of Edison's who directs Utah's "Main Street Project" focusing on rural development, put together a Sanpete Heritage Tourism Council (SHTC) that included tourism and economic development professionals as well as business leaders from Sanpete County and Valley. The various towns in the region signed up to participate in the SHTC, and committees were formed to focus on business development, preservation projects, tourism, and the like. (For more information on this project in general contact Bim Oliver, 801 538-8638).
Edison suggested to Oliver that a driving tour might be a good product to develop for the Sanpete initiative, and she showed him Willie Smyth's budget of $25,000 for producing the initial Washington Arts Commission guide. In 1996 Oliver contracted with the Folklife Program for $30,000 to produce one tour. (Edison had initially thought this level of funding would be enough, but later found that costs totaled $40,000 in cash as well as an estimated $18,000 of staff time not included in the project budget.)
Jens Lund was hired to undertake the fieldwork for this project. Elaine Thatcher was also hired to conduct about a week of preliminary field research in January of 1997, primarily with community groups in the Sanpete region. Thatcher also explained the nature of the project, drummed up community support, gathered leads about artists and annual celebrations, and identified themes which local people suggested would help them explain themselves to outsiders. At the end of this research, Thatcher wrote a report on local possibilities beyond the tape project, which included recommendations for first steps and program formats. Copies of this report were circulated back to the community groups queried.
Jens Lund initially conducted two weeks of intensive fieldwork and interviewing in June of 1997, focusing on the themes, traditions and leads Thatcher had previously identified for research. UAC staff member Annie Hatch transcribed Lund's field tapes, highlighted compelling sections, and sent the transcripts to Lund, who then wrote the preliminary script for the tape. In the process, Edison discovered some gaps, and subsequently did more fieldwork and re-wrote the script to cover the gaps. The edited script was then recorded by a local TV personality (Edison wanted a local narrator). In the fall of 1998, Lund engineered the first version of the tape at Jack Straw Productions (where the Washington State audio tours were also recorded), incorporating the narration and field recordings. This version was shared with several Sanpete residents already involved in the project for feedback. Comments from residents were mostly positive, and the one or two concerns raised were addressed.
When Edison and her staff "test-drove" the first version of the tape program, they found that the remaining issues had to do with synchronizing the tape with the actual drive. Because the entire suggested route is less than two hours, they had opted to keep the tape rolling throughout the drive and not to ask drivers to turn their tape off and on at certain points. In doing so, they lost the opportunity for drivers driving at different speeds to keep pace with the tape; this problem was exacerbated by the fact that the route might be intermittently blocked in some places by herds of sheep or slow-moving farm machinery. To correct this problem, they edited the material to create longer pauses between segments and removed many specific references, for instance replacing, "look to your left," with a more general ""along this stretch, you'll notice."
Once the tape was re-edited, Edison began writing text for the accompanying booklet, which went to the designer in the fall of 1999. The last logistical problem involved finding a map of the region that indicated specific milepost markers, as most maps only mark these on interstate routes. Edison, like Smyth, suggests that those producing similar tapes should enlist the collaboration of the state department of transportation at the outset of the program to help with these types of challenges.
Two thousand copies of the audio tour were produced—1000 cassettes and 1000 2-CD sets. (The decision to make a CD came later, and two CDs were necessary because the program is 80 minutes and CDs hold only 70. Had that decision been made earlier, Edison would have cut the program back to fit on one CD to save costs.) The audio tour and accompanying booklet are now available for $16 ($15 plus $1 shipping); send checks payable to the Utah Arts Council to Utah Arts Council, Folk Arts Program, 617 E South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84102 (please specify CD or audio cassette). While some are distributed through the UAC, most will be distributed through the networks of the Sanpete Heritage Tourism Council.
Edison points out that because the tour will be sold locally for the most part, it will not so much increase the number of tourists to the area as it will enhance and lengthen the visits of those already coming. Noting that the Sanpete Valley is "not an area where you go by accident or enroute to somewhere else," Edison suggests that visitors might be encouraged to visit the county through billboard advertisements for the guide on the interstate. Edison also plans to sell the tour through selected Utah bookstores; she anticipates brisk sales from state residents, as many have roots in Sanpete County.
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