Ovation 2014: Excellence in Tourism Promotion

Honoring an effective or unique promotion of tourism related to economic development in a community or region.



Putnam County/High adventure sports

What started as a simple hobby, instigated by sons that were into Boy Scouting, is now a full-fledged business for Tom Lamb, owner of Plateau Eco Sports. Lamb, after attending such adventures as white water paddling, rappelling and more, initially invested in his own equipment. Before long, word got out, and friends wanted to tag along on those trips. That ballooned even further.

“More and more people were wanting us to take them out, and one day, we just said that we didn’t have the time,” he says. “The response we got next was, ‘well, what if we paid you?’ And the rest is history.”

The business soft launched about three years ago and has now developed into a fully incorporated, insured and certified high adventure sporting company. Customers are a mixture of Tennesseans – from about a 100-mile radius of Cookeville – and out-of-staters. Lamb said one major focus for them has been the environment – leaving things better than they were found – and exposing visitors both near and far to the wonders of the region.

“The Upper Cumberland has a treasure trove of natural resources that most folks, including the bulk of the locals, don’t know about,” Lamb said. “They have no idea that a quarter mile from our office is the 11th largest cave in the world and all the fishing, backpacking, etc. But when they find out these things exist, they’re really blown away.”

A Plateau Eco Sports trip costs anywhere from $30 for a half-day caving adventure to $325 for a musky fish- hunting excursion. Others that seem most popular, Lamb said, are climbing and rappelling on Black Mountain in Crossville or kayak fishing on the Caney Fork.

And while he admits they’re still “trying to figure things out,” all seems to be on the right track.

“We’re taking it a step at a time and seeing where it will go,” Lamb said. “We’re excited.”

528 E. Spring St.

Cookeville, TN (931) 881-7900


RANDALL CLEMONS                                                              

Jackson County/Granville Museum president

Every historic community needs a cheerleader. For Granville, that cheerleader is Randall Clemons, the driving force behind the town’s revitalization.

In the 1960s, when the Army Corps of Engineers created Cordell Hull Lake, Clemons’ homeplace and his grandparents’ homes ended up underwater. But he never forgot Granville. He bought a weekend retreat there in the 1990s. In 1999, the Granville Museum was founded in the former Granville Church of Christ building. This project gave community members the confidence to begin to breathe new life into their town, one building at a time, by telling the story of what Granville once was. Because of their efforts, Granville has moved from a ghost town to a tourist attraction. The Granville community of 350 residents, with a volunteer pool of 155 volunteers, recorded more than 30,000 visitors last year.

In the past 15 years, Granville has added a museum, an 1880 general store featuring every Saturday night bluegrass dinner shows, a Homestead Museum with guides in period dress and an ever- growing and changing array of exhibits, an antique car and transportation museum and Pioneer Village, which includes blacksmith and weaving shops, a log house, a smokehouse, corn crib, orchard and garden. Clemons converted an old bank building into a gift shop and bed-and-breakfast. Granville Emporium & Antiques was opened last year in the oldest home in Granville. A saloon and ice cream parlor museum sits where the original saloon was located in Riverboat days in the early 1800s.

Granville also hosts Heritage Day, a genealogy festival, vintage fashion show, Independence Day fireworks, fall celebration, the Scarecrow Festival and country Christmas drawing thousands of visitors each year.

169 Clover St.

Granville, TN (931) 653-4151

Cumberland County/Visitor center

Of all the hoops and hurdles Crossville and Cumberland County officials had to jump through to finally open their Gateway to Big South Fork Visitor Center, finding a party to ultimately manage the facility was not one of them. The Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce stepped up and is doing just that, and the hope is the center could mean more traffic at shopping, dining and hotels in the area.

The Gateway to Big South Fork officially opened April 18. Since that date and through the end of May, the center has seen 712 visitors. Additionally, the chamber’s Ashley Allen DeRossett said traffic volumes have noticeably increased since the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) placed signage along the interstate on May 23.

The center is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Sunday. Beth Wyatt Davis is serving as manager.

“We hope people who stop there and retrieve our literature – about our tourist attractions, restaurants, shopping, lodging – will eventually come back and visit with us if they’re just passing through,” DeRossett said. “Or if they’re actually here for an extended stay, we hope they will visit some of those places.”

76 River Otter Drive

Crossville, TN (931) 787-1755



Overton County/Director of marketing and tourism

Nearly 20 years in the chamber business, and Rita Reagan-Underhill ought to know a thing or two about Livingston’s best assets when it comes to tourism.

While Dale Hollow Lake has always been a strong suit, there’s been a renewed focus in the last five years on increasing visitors and bolstering economic development – with some tangible results to show. An ongoing downtown revitalization project has brought nearly a dozen new businesses to the square. And Live in Livingston, a music festival that takes place just steps from the courthouse lawn, caused a considerable bump in sales tax revenue in 2013. Following the event’s first show in May last year, collections were up 13.9 percent over the previous year, the biggest jump in the region.

In addition to helping coordinate all the above, Underhill is also administer of the Three Star program for Livingston and Overton County among other duties.

“Obviously tourism is a big part of our community,” said chamber director Greg McDonald. “By refocusing our efforts, we’re in a position now where we can focus on things we really want to accomplish.”

222 E. Main St.

Livingston, TN (931) 823-6421

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Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at liz@ucbjournal.com

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