Allen: Labor Day tourism outlook is strong for 2023
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Allen: Labor Day tourism outlook is strong for 2023

Jun 30, 2023

Views of Lake Cumberland like this one from Conley Bottom Resort are what’s expected keep visitors returning to the area.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Pulaski County is a busy place, with the latter holiday seemingly the end of summer fun on Lake Cumberland. The weather is getting cooler, kids are going back to school, and fall fun is right around the corner.

But just because it's Labor Day doesn't mean Pulaski County tourism will be grinding to a halt.

"We always say the end of Labor Day is sometimes the end of our season," said Michelle Allen, Executive Director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But with our weather a lot of times, we go through October. Then we start with our fishermen too, and we've always got them year round. Hopefully, the (good) weather will stick with us and we can continue to have great events, like for instance the Moonlight Festival coming in October."

With a favorable weather forecast — not much threat of rain, and temperatures in the 80s as opposed to the recent Dog Days of Summer that heat things up in August every year — Allen is looking forward to a heavy visitor turnout.

"Our outlook is looking pretty good," said Allen. "Last weekend was one of our best weekends this summer — I don't know if it was due to the weather and Somernites Cruise possibly — so we're looking for an even bigger weekend since it's Labor Day."

Of course, even when the weather isn't so great, "our diehard lakegoers are going to come no matter what it says," said Allen.

In addition to the obvious attraction of Lake Cumberland, one thing serving as a draw to Pulaski County this weekend is the two-day "Thunder Over Burnside" event in Burnside's Cole Park, with music, concessions and fun on Friday and Saturday, ending with a fireworks show at night.

"We don't just look forward to having tourists, we also look forward to having things that can provide something to do for our folks regionally as well," said Allen. "... ("Thunder Over Burnside" is) a great regional event. It's bringing people in to come and eat in our restaurants, and something extra that, if they're already coming to the lake, that's an extra bonus of something else for them to be able to witness. You're able to see their fireworks from the water if you wanted to come down to the Burnside area and see that, so that's a great added advantage, but the actual event is really good for our region."

Tourism has been strong all year, said Allen. Numbers aren't solidified yet, but Allen does know that last year was the area's strongest ever in terms of economic impact on the community, and 2023 "will be very comparable" to that milestone year.

That's even considering controversies within Somerset City Council meetings, regarding talk of chemicals potentially finding their way into the lake due to the city accepting landfill wastewater known as leachate.

"Not a thing," said Allen when asked if the leachate conversations have had any impact on tourism locally. "Let's not underestimate the intelligence of our visitors, because they live on the Ohio River and they understand the intricacies of water management, so that doesn't scare them a bit."

Of course, getting out on boats — or out on the road — carries the same hazards people have been aware of for years. Allen said that she hopes everyone stays safe this holiday weekend, as well as welcoming to guests and showing them "our southern hospitality."

She added, "That's why a lot of folks do travel to us and come to Somerset is because we do have good people here. We just want to make sure we make way and make sure that everybody stays safe while on the lake and while traveling."

For the marinas of Pulaski County, this weekend is always one of the busiest times of the year. Kathy Stockton, business manager at Burnside Marina, said that they have 342 slips, every one of them full, and most of those will be present for Labor Day boating.

"So far it looks good," she said. It's supposed to be warmer and I'm sure it will be a busy little place. ... I have no earthly idea how many people come though here."

Burnside's holiday event will be good for the marina's traffic as well. "You'll have some (attendees) come out on the water and sit and watch (the fireworks).'

Jimmy Hamilton, who has taken over operating Lee's Ford Marina for his father J.D. Hamilton, said that Labor Day traffic looks "pretty busy" at that venue on the west side of Pulaski County.

"We're booked out on houseboats, and our rental auxiliary boats are all booked out, so that's good," he said. "Once kids go back to school, it does kind of take a little bit of thunder away from the lake, but for Labor Day, everybody pretty much still shows out."

Lee's Ford Marina has about 900 boat slips, and most are full, noted Hamilton, around "99" percent.

To stay safe on the water, Hamilton urged people to wear their life jackets while on a boat, water ski, or whatever form of lake travel they choose.

"People do a lot of silly stuff out on the water, but the life jacket is the real lifesaver," he said.

Stockton agreed, urging likewise, and also asked that visitors "don't drink and drive, or drink and boat, and watch out for people" on the water.

"Last weekend was one of our best weekends this summer — I don't know if it was due to the weather and Somernites Cruise possibly — so we're looking for an even bigger weekend since it's Labor Day."

Michelle Allen

CVB Executive Director

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