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Indiana Ag Tourism Could Someday Include 'Melon Alley'

Indiana Ag Tourism Could Someday Include 'Melon Alley'
Tourism director sees close ties between ag tourism and culinary arts in drawing people to Indiana.

Mark Newman has a vision. Even though Interstate 69 may someday take part of the traffic off U.S. 41 from Terre Haute to Evansville, he thinks he can bring a new type of traveler to that stretch of road. Newman is all about attracting people from both inside and outside Indiana to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the state.

"My vision is a sign at one end of the corridor saying you're now entering melon corridor, and a sign at the other end on highway 41 saying the same thing for people coming from the other direction," says Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.  "This is a vision we've talked about, but which we haven't put together yet."

Excited about ag tourism: Mark Newman told folks at the Indiana Horticulture Conference that ag tourism was an important piece of drawing people to Indiana.

Newman says there are 71 wineries in Indiana, several of them, including the Huber Winery at Starlight, in southern Indiana. The grape and wine business has grown so much in Indiana that it's now on the national map for wine production. It may not be quite the Napa Valley of California, but it is enjoying an increasing reputation as an area to visit to taste excellent wines, he says. To a tourism director, that's good news.

Related: 'Sour Grapes' Contribute to Indiana Economy

He also likes having the Dairy and Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks farm in northern Indiana. "Urban people will make it a destination to come see a calf born," he says. "Then they can go enjoy a cheese sandwich and a milk shake in the restaurant on the property. These guys do it right, and they're not done yet. They may add other species to their destination in the future. People from around the country who are interested in ag tourism come here to see how they do it."

Indiana has more than 500 festivals, far more than many other states. Most have a rural flair but draw urban audiences too, he says. The Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County draws a million visitors per year.

The Indiana Dunes draws 3 million visitors. Many come to see the dunes but then enjoy local restaurants and other attractions, many of them with a rural aspect. "That's what really brings them back" he says.

The Grand Canyon only draws 5 million visitors per year, Newman says. He's proud of what Indiana has done and can do in the future.

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