Black Meetings and Tourism

September/October 2010

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FAM REPORT#1 REVITALIZING THE HEART OF COLUMBUS AN OHIO FAMILIARIZATION TOUR BY VICTORIA HEAD B orn in Columbus,wheremost ofmy family still resides, I happily jumped at the chance to take a FAMtour of the city, hosted by the Ohio Department of Travel & Tourism. Now for me, a trip to Columbus is always sure to please, beginning with Dad meeting me at the airport and the subsequent ride through the town (my childhood stomping grounds); past homes and churches I should remember from preadolescence but are really just vague sentimental whispers of a memory, mostly from stories told and photos seen. We’d drive through the we l l -mani cur ed African-American neighborhood of East Gate, along Mount Vernon Ave. and stop briefly in Hanford Village at the small homeMom and her five siblings grew up in. I always look for- wardtoAuntMattie’s sweet,gentlegreeting, signature hug and smile,aswell asGrandma Jean’s fried chicken andcheddar cheesepotatoes servedupfreshandhot for that first night welcome home dinner. This trip to Columbus, however, would provide new neighborhoods, sights and cuisine for me to explore,and a brand newlist of“Must See Spots”in town. One neighborhood Iwill continue tomonitor each time I’m in Columbus is the King-Lincoln District. From the 1920s through the ‘60s, this was the cultural and commercial heart of Columbus forAfrican-Americans; today, it’s gladly the site of considerable revitalization and renovation. One of the most anticipated projects in the citywas the $13.5-million renovation of theKingLincolnTheater.Nowcompleted, the theater offers music classes, a beautiful banquet room and headline enter- tainment.Also in the District, is the King Arts Complex, an oasis for cultural and educational activities. An amazing exhib- it there – Cargo:The Middle Passage, is a permanent installa- 22 tion recreating the human misery and tragedy of the slave trade. A visit to The Kelton House was equally fascinating; here, guests learn the history of Sophia and Fernando Kelton, wealthy merchants who risked all to shelter and protect fugi- tive slaves as they navigated through the Underground Railroad to Canada and freedom. An expansive section on my list of “Must See Spots” Creekside, a mixed-use development with a park and resultant. includes the great eateries throughout Columbus; there are outstanding American favorites, down-home soul food and everything in between. If you love a good hot dog, Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace with its great vibe, wide variety of tasty Dogs and magnificent onion rings is the perfect choice. The New Harvest Cafe grows various menu items in their own garden; among their recommend- ed soul food dishes are fresh greens, meatloaf and gravy and an assortment of delectable fried fish. A visit to the Creole Kitchen, a take-out restaurant in Mt. Vernon Plaza, was an especially tasty treat. I was introduced to Chef Henry Butcher, a native of the Louisiana Bayou country, who in his late 50s, decided to leave his career as a hotel chef and open his own restaurant. His Cajun creation fea- tures a Bayou clas- sic menu complete with seafood jam- balaya, fried gator, fried catfish and of course, red beans and rice. Chef Butcher also caters and sells selected homemade Cajun spices. It seems that Photo Credit: Gahanna Randall Lee Schieber meeting planners nationwide are real- izing that in addi- tion to being cen- trally located in the country and easily accessible by all four regions, the Greater Columbus Convention Center with its 1.7 million sq. ft. of meeting space is a smart choice; it’s also in the cen- ter of Ohio and in the center of Columbus, surrounded by restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and hotels. The Crowne Plaza, just across from the Center, can be accessed with indoor, covered walkways and offers 375 rooms and four luxurious suites. While planning a memorable meeting attendees are sure to enjoy, check Columbus’ event sched- ule to ensure your folks can catch one or more of the city’s world-famous annual affairs such as The Ohio State Fair, Juneteeth Celebration, African-American Heritage Festival or The Jazz & Rib Fest. If planning a 2012 meeting, the cal- endar will be exceptionally active as Columbus celebrates its bicentennial with a special line-up of the finest artists and craftspeople from around the world, hands-on art activities, musical performances and great food. Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2010:

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