As the busy summer season winds down, organizers are gearing up for the annual People’s Coast Summit — an invigorating gathering of coastal stakeholders that will be held in Garibaldi October 7 and 8. Now in its fourth year, the People’s Coast Summit, hosted by the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA), will include a series of workshops and speakers intended to support small business owners and agencies.

“The intention is to bring coastal stakeholders to a fun and informative event where they can network and learn from fellow coasties,” says Arica Sears, OCVA Destination Management Coordinator. “Workshops give them the tools they can take back to their businesses and communities immediately while keynote speakers inspire the audience with big-picture thinking.”

This year’s sessions will focus on topics like marketing and social media, grant writing and emergency preparedness as well as workshops about international travelers, mountain biking tourism development and Travel Oregon 101 — an introduction to the basics of tourism at state and regional levels. The weekend’s keynote speaker is storyteller Will Hornak, author of Tales of Topofilia: Stories and Poems Inspired by Love of Place,who will share his passion for Oregon.

The People’s Coast Summit has grown from 80 participants its first year to more than 120 last year. Sears says the gathering has a great deal to offer small business owners and staff who can’t afford the time and money to travel to larger conferences with higher admission costs that also require out-of-region travel and lodging.

“I hope attendees will get to know OCVA better, meet new coastal people, and feel supported by the different tourism organizations that are spending a lot of time and energy towards the betterment of tourism on the Oregon Coast,” she says.

Misty Anderson is one attendee who has gained all that and more. As the manager of the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B, Anderson has gone to the Summit every year. She says while the workshops are informative, she’s found connecting with other attendees even more valuable.

“It’s really about the one-on-one connections with other people and hearing their challenges and solutions,” she says.  “Every time I’ve gone I’ve met someone who was really relevant to a project I was working on that season. “

Anderson says the biggest surprise is how much fun the event is.

“It’s more social and unwinding from the year than it is formal education,” she says.

She also likes the campus-style arrangement of events around the host town, which allows visitors to get to know the destination. “It’s like its own fam tour. You get to know the town and see what it has to offer,” she says. This year, sessions will be held at Garibaldi’s Old Mill RV Park and Event Center as well as the City Community Hall and Garibaldi Maritime Museum.

Greg Holland, who serves on the Waldport City Council and founded the Waldport Arts Group, attended the Summit for the first time last year.

“I learned about marketing on social media and became savvier on how to make our community tourist-friendly,” he says.

Holland said the thing that surprised him most was that he still had a lot to learn about tourism on the Oregon Coast. He said the combination of workshops and networking served him well.

“I can hardly wait to go again.”

This year’s Summit also marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the North Coast Tourism Management Network summit as part of the Travel Oregon-led North Coast Destination Management Studio. Sears says the People’s Coast Summit will offer those participants the chance to reconnect and see what the rest of the coast is up to.

For tickets, go to the People’s Coast Summit Eventbrite page.

Photo courtesy of Visit Tillamook Coast