In just a couple of days, Mountain Home will become a mecca of sorts as the county hosts the first in what's expected to become a major event in southern Idaho.
On Thursday, the first of thousands of travelers will descend to our part of the state as they prepare to be a part of the inaugural Mountain Home Country Music Festival.
While it's tough to put an exact number on how many people will attend the four-day event, organizers have ensured that it can handle up to 25,000 people. Putting that into perspective, that one event in the foothills north of town will more than double the county's population.
A number of the people I've talked to over the past few months regarding the concert have indicated that the festival will give Mountain Home a significant boost to its economy, in particular our local businesses. It's based on the feedback from similar venues that host the same event in two Oregon communities.
Businesses in one of those communities emphasized that the festival alone generates enough of an economic boost in just four days than these shops and stores make throughout the remainder of the year. For them, the festival has become the "lifeblood" of their existence.
From Mountain Home's perspective, it's clear that some businesses in town stand to benefit from the concert, especially those north of the interstate where all the RVs, campers, trucks, cars will pass.
Don't believe me? Try reserving a hotel room up on the hill. Every last one of those rooms was booked within a week after festival organizers announced the date of the concert here.
While it's understandable that some businesses here will greatly benefit as a result of the concert, I believe that others will also get a significant boost as well. It's safe to say that some festival goers will venture into Mountain Home to see what's available here, especially those who will stay here overnight versus camping up in the mountains.
This is where Mountain Home needs to put on its "A" game. While everyone in this town is used to how this community functions, including all of the quirks that make Mountain Home so unique, the visitors we welcome later this week will base their opinion on what they see and who they talk to.
If they like what they see, I'd wager that they might spend more time here once the festival ends. Perhaps they'll make Mountain Home one of their travel destinations when they return next year.
On the other hand, if they drive into town and don't like what they see, it's a safe bet they won't return.
This is why it's so critical to ensure this doesn't happen. There are a number of things we seriously need to tackle before these folks arrive so they feel welcome.
One of the first things we can do is giving our shops and stores a thorough once-over inside and out to ensure everything is presentable. The same is true with property along the city's main thoroughfares.
There's nothing that says "we don't care" more than having trash along the streets or in front of a business, areas that are not maintained and falling apart and lawns where the weeds are taller than the flowers next to them. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to run a lawn mower or push a broom.
I'd also recommend that the local businesses, especially the "mom and pop shops" that make up a bulk of the stores in town, find ways to extend the welcome mat as well. One of the easiest steps includes changing a store's hours so it's open longer during the day. After all, there's nothing worse than having a tourist walk through our downtown area only to see "closed" signs in most of the windows.
We only have one chance to make a positive first impression with these visitors. Let's make sure it's a good one.
-- Brian S. Orban