Spirit of Rowan: N.C. Transportation Museum becomes a hub for county tourism

Published 11:36 am Tuesday, May 22, 2018

By Deirdre Parker Smith

Kelly Alexander, executive director of the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, is pleased with the number of visitors at the state historic site.

“This past year, 2017, was out highest visitation ever, with 143,000 visitors,” Alexander says. “Our economic impact was $18.3 million to the county.”

Alexander believes the museum’s central location in the state helps. She says a good number of visitors are within an hour’s drive.

“Southwest Virginia is good for us, too, and the Raleigh area,” she said.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is in Roanoke.

The key to attracting more visitors is to always have something new, although theh Polar Express and Day Out With Thomas attractions continue to be huge draws.

“People want to see something new or an improvement,” Alexander says. “We’ve been trying to do that, and that’s part of our success story. We have to think outside the box, do things that attract families or new groups of people, and bring people back who have been here before.”

The recent exhibition featuring Blackbeard’s ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge brought good numbers in. Last year’s firetruck festival was such a big success, it drew the most visitors in one day. This year’s festival will be June 23.

The museum will also have two programs as part of the Arts and Ag initiative that James Meacham, CEO of the Rowan County Tourism Authority, is excited about. The first, the Tractors & Trains Festival, will be April 14. It’s been done before, but this year it will have more displays and activities for children.

There is no down time for the museum, which had its best January ever thanks to the Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit.

“We want people to know what all we’re doing. We want them to realize we still have a lot to do, but we’re going to keep trying to expand offerings and increase revenue so we can do more things.

“This is truly a partnership here,” she says. “Volunteers are critical, the staff is willing to go above and beyond, we have so many other partners, like the Rowan County Tourism Authority.”

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