Blowing Rock enjoys booming Fourth of July
by Jeff Eason
First, July 4 happened to fall on a Friday, making for an ideal three-day weekend, or four-day weekend if you happened to secure Thursday or Monday off, as well.
Second, the weather was ideal. Daytime highs were in the mid- to upper-70s and the nights were slightly cool, as mountain nights should be. The humidity was practically nonexistent.
Third, the track and timing of Hurricane Arthur may have caused holiday travelers to rethink their beach trips, deciding instead to spend their Fourth of July weekend in the mountains.
These and other factors led to one of the busiest weekends ever for Blowing Rock businesses, the Blowing Rock Police Department, rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway and others.
Although there are no official numbers, it is estimated that more than 4,000 people lined Main Street on Saturday to take in the annual Blowing Rock Independence Day Parade. Restaurants, shops and Blowing Rock Memorial Park were filled to capacity before and after the parade.
"Friday was the biggest day for the deli ever and Saturday was even bigger," said David Barker, owner of the Blowing Rock Market on Main Street. "Friday and Saturday were our biggest two days ever at the market, and not by just a little bit, but by about 10 to 12 percent."
Barker added that his crew did a superb job of handling the rush and that no one had to wait more than about 28 minutes for a deli order. The staff served more than 300 sandwiches in a little more than three hours on Saturday.
"I don't have any hard numbers or percentages yet, but most everybody I've talked with said they had a great weekend," said Tracy Brown, executive director of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority.
"July is the busiest month of the year for most in tourism here and to start it off like this past weekend is fantastic," he said.
"Most of our lodging partners, especially hotels and B&Bs, were full over the weekend. Based on traffic and lodging reports, it was certainly the busiest weekend of the year thus far. Some cite the hurricane on the coast as a reason for the uptick and we did talk with some visitors who cancelled their plans on the coast and, instead of canceling their vacations, headed up the mountain," he said.
"All in all, that was a very small number of people, though. Most hotels suggested that they were looking full for the weekend anyway and fully expected to fill, regardless of the hurricane."
The one aspect of the weather that did play a hand in the area's popularity during the holiday weekend was the long-range forecast that predicted nearly perfect weather for the mountains.
So far this summer, the weather has been far superior than during last year when the month of June and the Fourth of July weekend were washouts.
"Weather absolutely played a key role in the upbeat and festive atmosphere in town," Brown said. "After the rain we had last year, this past weekend was just perfect. The fact that the forecast looked so good a week or so out, it helped to motivate folks to go ahead and book a place to stay or at least make plans to visit."
One retail business owner on Main Street who wished to remain anonymous stated that their June 2014 sales were up 8 percent from their June 2013 sales and that their sales in the first week in July (July 1-7) in 2014 were up 35 percent from the same week in 2013.
"Many of our restaurants say they had a record-breaking weekend, with some reporting up to a two-hour wait on Saturday," Brown said. "That's a wonderful problem to have. Because the weather was so nice, those with outdoor seating did especially well.
"According to initial reports, all segments within the tourism industry had a great weekend. Our town is well-known for exceptional hospitality, and this weekend was a great example of getting it right. Everyone in town worked very hard to see that our guests had a great time and because of that, I'm sure we'll see many of them return," he said.