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PIBIO- Experiential Destination Marketing, and the ‘Disneyfication” of our new Island visitors

By Peter Huston

One day in early April a lady called me on the phone to ask what the cost of admission to the island was (seriously!), and then a few days later a man and his family stood in front of the Put-in-Bay Chamber Office looking at a map discussing what was open that day on the island. They asked what rides (they meant attractions) were open. I explained about how the island was slowly opening up week by week and recited to them a list of what they could do that quiet Tuesday, The father exclaimed that it was “a rip off, {since] nothing is open”. I hate to hear people’s disappointment, but we are not Disneyland. However, we may start to be confused with a heightened expectation of an “experiential destination experience”.

According to a July 2000 article in Spin Magazine a young NY marketing executive named Steve Riffkind had begun selling the idea of “strategic experiential tourism” even if he did not call it that. He was getting fees of upwards of a million dollars to advise businesses on how to create a destination experience. He saw that the use of signage to control people (coming to the ball park) and keep them from thinking about the real issues. …using “expressway” signs on the routes entering and leaving the ballpark (Yankee Stadium) area, buying up advertising signs, … was a revolutionary, cost-effective approach to marketing and promotion.

In 2004 when the first plans for the “new” New York Yankee’s Stadium were being unveiled few people had heard of the concept of “Strategic tourism planning for sustainable destinations and sites”. This was a new idea that posed the notion that a stadium was not just an athletic venue, but a tourist destination. Yankee Stadium was among the very first “planned” experiential marketing campaigns at a sports venue that utilized this approach to design a complete fan experience.

According to surveys this idea led to a broader fan experience, Fans attending a game at the new ball field said that felt like they were in familiar territory from the time they stepped off the subway or parked their car. We have started to do this with gateway signage on Route 53. The Miller Boat Line is working on upgrading their entry point to the island with signage and directional information. And plans are in place to add more waypoint signage on the island in the coming years augmenting the first time visitor experience.

Walt Disney was probably one of the earliest innovators of this concept when he built Walt Disney World in Florida in the late 60’s. He had planned ahead buying up land around the park site to ensure that the entire visitor experience at the park was under his company’s control. Today, everyone who goes to Disneyland or Disneyworld expects to have that full “Disney” experience regardless of the time of year or day of week.

It is no surprise that a Disney consulting group sells this experience now to companies, sports teams, amusement parks, even art museums like “the new Whitney Museum… New York City’s newest world-class cultural destination” according to the NY Times. These higher risk destination ventures are tapping into this concept. Experiential destination marketing of new venues has spread across the country from Kansas City to Omaha, Seattle to Providence.

Our visitors to Put-in-Bay are much more savvy travelers than ten years ago and they are bound to have experienced these emersion style visitor experiences. That unique experience may lead them to expect more and more for their vacation dollars.

There is however a fine balance between creating a positive and unique visitor experience and embracing the complete “Disneyfication” of Put-in-bay, What we want is for our visitors to enjoy their island experience without creating expectations that are beyond what we can deliver. What makes us unique is our collective individual approach that celebrates each individual’s path to a happy island experience without becoming a blurred reality that causes visitors to think we are Disneyworld. So keep celebrating “Island Style”.


By Peter Huston

Everyday here on Put-in-Bay, or where ever you may be, you can get nearly immediate updates on construction projects, things for sale, new babies on the way, and birthdays. Facebook has become an essential way for our community to stay in touch virtually. We can post yard sales, births, deaths, and church potlucks, places we visited, and fund raisers.

I have seen news travel from one end of the island to the other so quickly that it surprised the newsmakers! Just ask the pilot of the plane that landed off the stern of the Miller Ferry a few years ago!

But Facebook is really a high tech information tool that requires time out of our day and consistent effort to stay “involved”. Some facebookers, like me, casually read and follow the updates but rarely comment. Others play games and find constant entertainment just a click away. Still others remain connected all the time and seem to be able to respond to a comment or post in a moments notice.

A few years back the Deputy CIA Director, Christopher Sartinsky, stated in a congressional testimony “After years of secretly monitoring the public, we were astounded so many people would willingly publicize where they live, their religious and political views, an alphabetized list of all their friends, personal emails addresses, phone numbers, hundreds of photos of themselves, and even status updates about what they were doing moment to moment. It is truly a dream come true for the CIA.”

We all desire positive re-enforcement, and the “like” and “emoticons” that are used on Facebook help us to feel better about what we have posted or a comment we may leave. It also allows us to foster interaction and be a part of a conversation that we might not have known about without Facebook.

Alas, as convenient and immediate as Facebook can be I think there is still a need for our “no” tech system. This time tested system has provided us with up to date information for decades with little or no government oversight and provides us with the human interaction we cherish as well.

I am talking about the hubs of our island, the Post Office, General Store and Ferry docks. They are still the most dependable way to find out what’s going on. Just head to our post office in the morning, lunch or just before closing time and you can not only can find out fascinating things. But the mere fact that you are a regular at one of those intervals means that there is a good chance you share a few of the same personality traits with those you see there. It is a great place to “friend” someone.

Then there is the ferry dock. Some days I may see 30 or more people I know in a matter of minutes. On Facebook I might “view” more in a shorter time, but I won’t know if they are here on the island or on a trip somewhere. Human interaction is the best way to not only “friend” some one, but a great way to keep the conversation going.

Recently, reports about the time our brains are dedicating to daily interaction with social media is detracting from our ability to maintain conversations and concentrate. I find that when we are traveling on the ferry, sitting in the cabin often becomes a “no phone call” zone. It is a great time for getting essential updates and updating others on our likes and dislikes.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that our new era of communication can now provide a bridge between the many layers of technology and human interaction, except when we tune out and stare at our phones. One day I left home in a hurry and forgot my phone. Amazingly, I got onboard the ferry engaged in conversation and did not even miss my phone until I was disembarking. In fact I made it through the entire day without it. In years to come I know we will further integrate technology and community. We just have to remember back to the early days of “AOL” to realize the next big thing is just a “friend” away.

PIBIO “Our Isolated Splendor”  by Peter Huston

Keep an eye out for the US Army Corp of Engineers. It just about that time again for a review on whether to build a permanent bridge across to South Bass again. We have joked in the past about the tunnel, (for you tunnel permit holders, please, please keep that to yourselves). Just remember what happened to Grosse Ile when they built that toll bridge…

As spring comes upon usIMG_6530, and before the floodgates of visitors opens, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on just how lucky we are to live in this bucolic tranquil isolated community. The Bass Islands are a place where you can enjoy the quiet, walk down the middle of the road quietly, away from the craziness that could be just a bridge away.

Our future may well include a bridge to the mainland. Not a “fictitious” tunnel, but a bridge like Grosse Isle has that creates a permanent year round connection to the mainland. Our county and state officials see the island commerce and want to leverage that success. A proposal to build a toll bridge bubbles to the surface every few years and it is circulating again. The idea is not new and the obstacles to building it might be difficult to overcome. But chances are good that 20 years from now you will drive to Put-in-Bay.

In the 1960’s an entrepreneur floated an idea of a monorail. I am not making this up. With the Disney World monorail creating such a tourism buzz in Florida, thiimagess adventurous businessperson saw the potential for building the same type of attraction to Put-in-Bay from Catawba Island.

He even proposed how this monorail would be able to bring supplies, allow island businesses to become light industrial manufacturers and attract tourists year round. That idea captured the fancy of many and ignited the idea that a toll bridge, even one with a drawbridge for freighter passage, would allow the county and or private entity to capitalize on the destination tourism we enjoy.

Island life is something to treasure, and it has captured the imagination of poets and musicians for centuries. If you want to get a sense of what that means for the Bass Islands you need to go to and get a copy of Robert Dodge’s 1975 book “Isolated Splendor”. Dodge allows you to savor the history of the island, the joys of our islands year round community and the pleasures of being unique.

For decades islanders have enjoyed the spoils of isolation. No worries about seasonal sickness, or worries about mainland politics. With our own water filtration plant and public management of utilities and transportation we control our own economy. Our elections are among friends that all know each other and realize that sooner or later everyone needs to be involved in running the island. We are the village raising the child!

While the idea of a bridge may on the surface sound attractive, going to the movies or shopping on the mainland whenever you want, what we give up is far greater. And the loss of island life, culture and the mystique of separation by choice will be gone forever. Just ask someone from Grosse Ile.

PIBIO “Swim East” by Peter Huston

Several years ago I was driving home on Route 2 from a meeting in Toledo, lost in thought listening to music. As I approached the gate area of the Davis-Bessie Nuclear Power plant suddenly I heard sirens and became aware of a flashing light at the gate. I was immediately gripped by the feeling that I was smack dab in the middle of a melt down. My palms got sweaty, my heart rate began to race, and I felt panicked. The headline “in the middle of a meltdown” rang loudly in my head for a few seconds. As the reality of the moment finally cleared my mind I suddenly understood that it was noon on the first Friday of the month. The siren and gate light were just part of the normal procedure we have in Ohio for testing our emergency alert system (EAS). Whew! I am so glad that it was just a test.

Davis-Besse first went on line in July of 1978, about 38 years ago. In March of this year it will go offline again for additional upgrades to extend its’ designed life cycle. Over the years it has had 11 “incidents” ranging from tornado damage to a Tritium leak, as well as various design issues and operator error events that have shut it down. According to two NRC reports in September of 2004, Davis–Besse has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979.

A couple of years ago when First Energy decided that the plant should be upgraded and refurbished after exceeding its original designed life they requested NRC approval for the refitting of the plant, including the installation of new fuel rods and steam generators. According to the PRNewswire 1/31/14 release “The new steam generators are expected to provide additional margins of safety and reliability for the long-term operation of Davis-Besse,” said Ray Lieb, site vice president, Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.  “The investment in these new components, along with the other work we will complete during the refueling outage, supports our commitment to remaining an integral part of northwest Ohio’s economy for many decades to come.”

At that time they did not ask Northwest Ohio residents approval to help pay for the upgrades, but they are now! So no matter how you feel about nuclear energy, Islanders need to know what our risks and liabilities are. We will need to plan ahead for an emergency response. This is especially important after we learned how radioactive plumes traveled over water when Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant reactors exploded when safety systems failed following an earthquake in 2011. If you look at the Ottawa County Emergency Management website (, the Lake Erie Islands are not listed in the evacuation plans. The Federal Government regulations require emergency management plans for up to 10 miles surrounding a nuclear plant.

Unfortunately, we are 10.4 miles from Davis Bessie and because of that fact are outside the evacuation zone for Ottawa County’s required emergency plan. According to the NRC rules neither First Energy nor Ottawa County need to specifically include Put-in-Bay, so that leaves us to devise our own plan. History has proven that bad things can happen so lets make an emergency response for the islands a top priority. Hence my title “Swim east”. (Just so you know, Sandusky High School is the main evacuation location for Port Clinton and the Catawba Island area.)

imgresBut seriously, there could be good news ahead! Perhaps you have seen the recent First Energy “Ohio Proud” ads running on local TV. These television ads were produced to remind us how much better off we are now thanks to First Energy investment in our energy grid and to support their request for a rate increase. An article in the Toledo Blade’s Sunday paper (2/14/16) quoted the PUCO proposal request called the “Electric Security Plan”. The Blade explained that the First Energy proposal would “guarantee profits over the next eight years at four of its Ohio power plants”.

According to a similar article in the Columbus Dispatch (12/2/15) they are asking the PUCO to provide them with a new rate structure that will cover costs of rebuilding and upgrading their existing plants like Davis-Bessie. They are looking for a guaranteed rate of return based on flexible rates that include the cost of “infrastructure re-investment” that we would pay. That’s when it hit me. Let’s suggest that they include a budget for us to have an “evacuation plan” too. The ramifications of a major malfunction at Davis-Besse is something no one wants to think about, but let’s take this opportunity to ask First Energy to voluntarily include our evacuation plans in their new PUCO (Public Utilities Commission) rate increase request, call it positive PR. Lets give them a call. First Energy lists Jennifer Young, ( (330) 761-4362) as our liaison at the First Energy Communications office.

I figure if the PUCO is going to consider their “request” we should get on this bus and demand a “Security Plan” for our islands evacuation too. There is already a citizen group trying to stop the hike. Their slogan is “Fight the Hikes”. So If we’re going to get something out of this we need our own pro island ad slogan like “Vote the boat” that would advocate for high speed watercraft or helicopters that would provide us with a dedicated exit, stage right, to the eastern mainland. I figure it can’t hurt to ask, and not asking could hurt a lot. Time to have a plan.

I have started a new column am calling Put-in-Bay Island Observations PIBIO. Here is the first column printed last month on the future of our great lake and our drinking water.

PIBIO(Put-in-Bay Island Observations)- is the sky falling?

On December 11, the Lake Erie Improvement Association headed by Jim Stouffer, held a forum on “Reducing Lake Erie Algae” at Catawba Island Club. This conference brought in experts from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Maryland sharing success stories and other critical information that will help inform us about the current state of water health in the western basin of Lake Erie. And more specifically the progress being made in Ohio and the tri-state region (and Ontario) on keeping Lake Erie safe to fish, boat, swim and drink.

“Chicken Little” may have been a victim of misinformation but we don’t need to be. It is critical that we understand exactly how Lake Erie and the Algal blooms affect us both financially and health wise. We know that Put-in-Bay’s economy is almost completely dependent on tourism. As we have seen in the not to distant past the unhealthy state of our drinking water and Lake Erie can drastically affect our Island overnight and for years to come.

2014 brought a “Do not drink” order to Toledo and the surrounding communities sharing the water Toledo treatment system. The impact of that short-term water ban is still being calculated. But Dr. Andrew Solocha, University of Toledo, has been collecting data on the effects that ban had on the Toledo economy. As Dr Solocha pointed out large corporations and small businesses alike were deeply impacted. Restaurants had to close. Bakeries had to stop production. Pepsi was shut down as was a critical flourmill owned by Nabisco. Who wants to visit an area with bad water or eat in the restaurants that use that water for their food? The loss of tourism may be permanent.
According to Dr. Jeff Reutter, OSU Sea Grant, there are many reasons why that Algal Bloom caused the shut down in 2014 and not in 2015 (even though we had a higher concentration of Algae in 2015). All this is part of a complex discussion that is termed by some as a “Farm to Faucet” process, which includes sewage treatment, dairy production, livestock and agricultural crops impact on the influx of phosphorus into the watershed.

The “nutrient overload” that causes harmful Algal Blooms is influenced by rain and other production practices in use in our water shed areas. Reutter discussed how there is agreement among the three states (Ohio, Indiana and Michigan) that by 2025 there needs to be a 40% reduction in unabsorbed nutrients that flow into the lake. The western basin is shallow and can clean itself much more quickly than the central basin, but the legacy phosphorus in the soils and watershed could take years to disappear. There is a need now to create a region wide baseline to measure against so that a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) can be included in that ten-year plan.

Since we have almost no agriculture or other major single source of nutrient inflow into Lake Erie here in Put-in-Bay (although our personal contributions to the island the Sewage Treatment plant are measurable) it is more difficult for us to see how we can make any lake wide change in the phosphorus levels in Lake Erie. But we can be come more vigilant about the conditions and laws that will affect us.

With the help of advocate groups like LEIA, The State of Ohio passed two laws, SB 1 and 150 both provide some base line restrictions, education, and regulatory oversight on how farmers utilize safe nutrient spreading practices especially in critical no spread seasons. The Ohio Farm Bureau has now initiated many voluntary programs that help promote progressive farming methods and better best practice use of fertilizers.

So what can we do? Follow the Manure. One dairy cow produces 23 times the waste of a human. We need to have better regulations on the manure spreading that is generated by CAFOS (Concentrated animal feeding operations), dairies and livestock producers and we need to promote innovative new technologies to use these wastes. This is a state wide, regional, and national problem. We need to fund the farm production changes with “Flush fees” or an Ohio bond issue now being advocated by our State representative Randy Gardner to cover costs of the implementation of these new progressive methods to reduce the amount of excess nutrients not absorbed by plants and soils. We need to lower out put levels generated by point source producers like CAFOS and Sewage Treatment plants. There is no option except to succeed. The alternative is the loss of our greatest local resource, Lake Erie.

We depend on the EPA and other organizations like Healthy Water Ohio and activist groups like LEIA to inform and protect us. But we need to remember going forward that our good drinking water is the “gold” of our island economy. Keeping our drinking water safe from algae microcystin should be top priority of our islands business efforts. Lets secure and promote our clean safe water. If Chicken Little had taken time to be better informed, Foxy Loxy would have gone hungry! In Put-in-Bay we need to be proactive and protect our selves from being the “end loser” in this discussion.

I was happy to see “Trail Magic.”! You told a great story very effectively.-Ron Tipton, CEO Appalachian Trail Conservancy

“The premier of the documentary was much more than I could imagine! Bette Lou (Higgins), Peter (Huston) and Kelly (Sagert) did a wonderful job telling Grandma’s story. Anne McEvoy, did an amazing job portraying Grandma.- Marjorie Wood, Emma’s Great Granddaughter 

I wanted to provide and update on “BOOKING”. The board of directors met and wanted to make these options as affordable as possible. Thank you again for considering our film, play and story telling presentations. As you know we are very excited about the interest in our film “Trail Magic, the Grandma Gatewood Story” and have shown it to several gatherings. And we would be very happy to show it to your group.

photo 1 (2)

Here are descriptions and updated costs. For a detailed estimate just send us an email at
DOCUMENTARY: “Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story” — $150.00 (includes Q&A session with a staff member; presenter must supply presentation equipment) Transportation and Travel Expenses may apply.

ONE-ACT PLAY: “Emma Gatewood, Are You Out Of Your Bloomin’ Mind?!” $515.00 (Two people; presenter must supply some props/set pieces). Transportation and Travel Expenses may apply.

STORYTELLING PROGRAM: “Grandma Gatewood: Ohio’s Legendary Hiker” – Big book program (with or without PowerPoint): “Make Me An Offer, No Reasonable Offer Refused” Most people offer between $90.00 – $200.00 Transportation and Travel Expenses may apply

Special pricing available when you combine the film with either the storytelling program or the play.

Transportation and Travel Expenses will apply to any performance location outside of 50 miles from Elyria. Room and Board reimbursement will apply for presentations requiring day-long travel and/or overnight stays.

All prices subject to change without notice. Prices good for all programs booked prior to January 1, 2016


Dear tjamrog,
Thank you for mentioning our film #trailmagic about in your recent blog. Of course Emma hiked 2050 miles in 1955 on barely marked trails and back roads and the experience was much different then. This year marks the 60th anniversary of her walk. No GPS, cell phones or easy to procure maps. But she did manage to get quite a bit of press, from Sports Illustrated to The Today Show. I think you and the generation that begin hiking in the 70’s brought the new found interest to the trail that was built on the back of people like Emma.

Todays speed hikers like Scott Jurek are a reflection of the change in extreme sports and it has provided new found media interest in the AT. It is easy to see where the simple trek of Emma “Grandma” Gatewood could be linked to this years story. It will be interesting to see where the next new “face” of the trail will emerge.

Meanwhile, I hope through hikers will take it a little bit slower and enjoy the sites along the way. Come join us at New Hampsire’s AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center this Saturday (July 25th) to watch our film about Emma “Grandma” Gatewood.

Peter Huston

It is wonderful to see MBOA growing again!

Onward:Scott Matthews Journey of Discovery

Onward Port Clinton

Cleveland (November 25, 2014) – As part of their re-organization,
Matthews Boat Owners Association (MBOA) is pleased to announce
a new opportunity for ad placement in their semiannual newsletter,
The LOG.

Published in the spring and fall,
The LOG is mailed to MBOA members and prospects.
Issues are also archived and can be viewed
online at

Ad reservations are currently being accepted
for 2015 placement with rates as low as $35 per issue.

Businesses who are looking to reach individuals
in the antique and wooden boating community
are encouraged to contact the MBOA office
for information at 330-273-5756,
or visit

The Matthews Boat Owners Association (MBOA, a non-profit corporation)
is for past and present Matthews owners
and for those who simply love
and appreciate the Matthews marque.
The Association is devoted to perpetuating
Matthews history, respect for a classic boat,
and to serve as a clearing…

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Grandma (Emma) Gatewood

Anne as Emma Gatewood Anne as Emma Gatewood

A special thanks to Anne McEvoy who was able to bring her “Emma” again on our shoot at Historic Lyme Village this past week. DP Tom Whaley of TW Teleproductions provided the talent and gear to capture Emma telling her story once again. Anne’s on-camera persona of Emma is key to our story. We also want to thank Ray Parker, director of Historic Lyme Village. We utilized several period correct buildings to be our sets in this shoot. We will be posting some great out takes later this week.

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Jessie Duncan Elliott, Villain or Victim? the latest blog entry at Chasing Perry’s Victory