Area communities stand to benefit from scenic drive

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The rural towns of Southeast Missouri are preparing for thousands of visitors during the 15th annual Mississippi River Valley Scenic Drive, which takes place Saturday and Sunday.

The route stretches from Commerce in the south to Brazeau in the north and Marble Hill in the west with historic sites, parks, wineries, antique shops and restaurants dotted throughout -- along with plenty of scenery.

The drive is held the last weekend in April because that's when the spring colors are supposed to be at their best, said Dr. Frank Nickell, event organizer.

The scenic drive is a self-guided tour through 13 towns -- the largest in the tour's history, Nickell said. Each stop offers has its own style and recreational opportunities, he said.

Nickell said the drive is a way to show off the rural flavor of Southeast Missouri.

"You can explore the social diversity of the area," he said. "On this weekend every one of these towns will be showing off their best face and providing an interpretation of their history. It will provide an opportunity to take a new look at an old town."

Marble Hill has the most sites taking place in the drive of any town, including several restaurants, the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History and the Cat Ranch Art Guild.

Tourism draw

The drive can help develop the area, Nickell said. He points to the example of Brazeau, which he said has developed a winery, blacksmith shop and other historic sites due to the drive.

"For a town of 52, what they have done is no small accomplishment," Nickell said. Brazeau should see 2,000 to 2,500 people in the two days, with as many as 3,000 participating in the tour.

"This is a chance for small towns like Brazeau or Pocahontas or Old Appleton, that have basically no money in their city coffers, to promote tourism. This is a chance for them to connect with people from other towns."

For more information on the scenic drive route or establishments taking part in the drive, call the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 777-0068.

335-6611, extension 182

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