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Dragon boats, concert series among offerings

SALISBURY — A variety of new events are coming to Salisbury and Rowan County this summer to entertain local residents and, tourism officials hope, attract visitors.
• The first Rowan County Chamber Dragon Boat Festival is set for Aug. 2 at High Rock Lake, and organizers are working to recruit 20 teams to the inaugural event.
To help lure dragon boat club teams from the Charlotte and Raleigh areas to compete against Rowan County businesses and organizations, the local tourism board recently agreed to pay $25 toward the race registration fee for any team that books a hotel room.
Entering the race costs between $650 and $1,500 per team, depending on the category. The race will serve as a fundraiser for the chamber.
The tourism board has used a similar incentive for Thomas the Train events at the N.C. Transportation Museum with good results, said James Meacham, executive director for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“That encouraged people to take the trip,” Meacham said.
With 20 people on a dragon boat team, one out-of-town team could need five hotel rooms. Five rooms at $80 or $90 a night would make the incentive well worth it, Meacham said.
Salisbury and Rowan County both collect 3 percent tax on hotel rooms, which goes to tourism marketing.
“If they don’t spend the night, we’re not out any money,” Meacham said.
• Cyclists, dancers, walkers and other non-motorized movers will take over some downtown streets from 4 to 8 p.m. July 4 for the city’s first Streets Alive event.
Open streets initiatives, which are becoming popular nationwide, temporarily close streets to automobile traffic so people may use them for playing and socializing. All types of active activities are welcome, according to Skinny Wheels Bike Shop, and the event will include contests, food and beverages.
• Live music returns to downtown this summer, according to Paula Bohland, interim executive director for Downtown Salisbury Inc.
Guitars USA, a new downtown music store, is planning a concert series Thursday nights at the Bell Tower, and Brick Street Live will return on the third Thursdays of the month, Bohland said.
• The Empire Hotel is still vacant, but downtown supporters soon will call on artists, businesses and community groups to brighten up the block by using the windows at the hotel on South Main Street.
Downtown Salisbury is preparing a request for proposals that will go out to organizations asking them to submit an idea for an artistic window display that would stay up for three months, Bohland said. The display could advertise a business or service but would have to be considered visual art, she said.
The program would run until a developer buys the Empire, which Downtown Salisbury owns.
“We are trying to use whatever we have as a resource and not blight,” Bohland said.
Also at the Empire, the Framing Gallery at 320 N. Main St. is organizing a community art project with artist Connie Loflin Peninger. She will lead participants in painting 9-by-12 flat panel canvases that will be featured in the vacant store windows throughout the month of July and then returned to the artists.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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