Community thanked for supporting ‘Bring LOVE’

Published 10:54 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

by Amanda Jarratt

Last week, the Virginia Tourism Corp. sent out a call to officials to nominate bringing the oversized “LOVE” artwork to their community for September as a part of the Virginia is for Lover’s Marketing Campaign.

The “LOVE” artwork, which is 16 feet wide and 8 feet tall, was designed to promote family vacations in Virginia. This artwork has debuted at several welcome centers across the state and grabbed plenty of media attention throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

In the application, each locality was required to say how the “LOVE” artwork would be linked to a tourism event in its area during September. The Town of Courtland was chosen because of the immense success of Heritage Day, which will be held on Sept. 10.

This event attracts up to 2,000 people each year and is held at the Southampton Agricultural and Forestry Museum. The EVB Bank graciously agreed to allow us to use its property to display this artwork, had we been selected.

The bank’s property is a prime location, as the art would have been visible along Business Route 35, which is a shortcut to the Richmond area and Interstate 95 used by many. It is also a few short steps away from the Historic Courtland Walking Tour as well as the Southampton Agricultural and Forestry Museum.

After we submitted our application for the “LOVE” artwork, we were notified that 21 communities were nominated, and that the winner would be based on an Internet poll linked to the Virginia is for Lover’s Facebook page.

This presented a wonderful opportunity, because as was previously stated in The Tidewater News on Aug. 17, this would be the perfect opportunity for the Franklin-Southampton community to rally together and help promote the area in a statewide competition.

The poll opened at 8 a.m. Aug. 17 and closed at 5 p.m. Aug. 18, giving us two days to spread the word.

During this period, there were 24,000 votes cast for localities across Virginia to bring the LOVE artwork to their town. The blog post was viewed more than 35,000 times and shared on Facebook nearly 6,000 times and tweeted over 200 times. Locally, the Franklin Southampton Economic Development Facebook Page as well as the Franklin Southampton Chamber of Commerce received numerous hits and views.

Abingdon was the winner with 5,662 total votes and will display the LOVE artwork at the Barter Green.

Although we did not win, this was a tremendous experience for the community. Every time one of the 24,000 votes was cast by someone from out of state or across Virginia, Franklin-Southampton was represented. Our community received 501 votes, and I am more than pleased to say we placed ninth out of 21 localities, which is incredible!

Franklin-Southampton came in ahead of much larger localities including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, Gloucester, Matthews, Fauquier, Rappahannock Waynesboro and Smithfield.

Tourism is an instant revenue generator for Virginia. In 2009, tourism generated $17.7 billion in revenue, supported 204,000 jobs and provided $1.24 billion in state and local taxes.

Tourism is yet another way to diversify our economy. Locally, our Tourism Steering Committee made up of business owners from Franklin and Southampton County has worked incredibly hard to promote tourism initiatives for the area and be represented at the state level.

I invite you to visit our website at to learn more about tourism in the Franklin-Southampton area.

Those two days last week were a great example of how successful community collaboration can be. FSEDI, Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Franklin Association, The Tidewater News, WLQM, EVB Bank, the Town of Courtland, and citizens from the city and county worked together to get the word out and support our area in this statewide competition.

Many thanks go out to all of the individuals, both locally and across the county, who spread the word and voted to bring “LOVE” to Franklin-Southampton.

AMANDA JARRAT is the manager of marketing for Franklin Southampton Economic Development and can be reached at