Cedar Cove Days expected to draw tourists, boost economy
August 31, 2008 · 5:19 PM
An event that will transform local streets into the fictional town of Cedar Cove is almost a year away, but organizers are already hoping it will provide Port Orchard with an economic and perceptual boost.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola. “It will bring a lot of people to town. They can see what we’re all about, maybe stay a little while or come back again.”
Cedar Cove is a fictional re-imagining of Port Orchard by Debbie Macomber, a longtime local resident who just happens to be one of the best-selling authors in the country.
This series, which is loosely defined as romance, has earned her readers throughout the world.
Global fans snap Macomber’s books up as soon as they’re published, making it theoretically possible for someone from Luxembourg who lands in the middle of Port Orchard to find city hall without asking.
Even as Cedar Cove isn’t an exact copy of Port Orchard, it is close enough to draw Macomber fans who visit the region into town for a three-dimensional look at the imaginary town.
That Macomber actually lives here adds to the appeal, and fans are always turning up downtown to take their own self-guided literary tour.
With this in mind, the organizers of Cedar Cove Days, scheduled for Aug. 26 to 30, are hoping to draw from this built-in constituency.
If an appreciable amount of people come to Port Orchard on their own for a slice of Macomber, how many more will make the trip for the opportunity to participate in a celebration of the books along with the author herself?
What will result will be a literary festival without intellectual pretense, where a large group of earnest fans can celebrate what initially drew them to the books. And as Port Orchard evolves into Cedar Cove, it will become an example of how life imitates the art that imitated that life in the first place.
Cindy Lucarelli, who serves as the executive director of the sponsoring Cedar Cove Association, thinks that at least 2,000 people will travel from out of state to be part of the event.
It is to include tours, raffles, a dance, a cruise and several chances to interact with Macomber.
“People are already coming to town because of Debbie,” Lucarelli said. “So we thought we’d turn this into something positive for the town.”
Macomber has sold 60 million copies of about 150 books, with eight installments in the Cedar Cove series.
The ninth will be published concurrent with Cedar Cove Days, giving attendees something of a tangible weekend souvenir.
The idea began last year when Lucarelli and her neighbor, Jerry Childs, were both running for city council.
She lost, and he won. But both pursued the creation of a festival, and contacted Macomber with the idea.
The author, whose success is partially attributable to a proactive interaction with fans, jumped aboard and donated her 100,000 member e-mail list to drum up interest.
“Debbie loved the idea,” said Lucarelli. “It has really grown. It will give us some needed economic vitality, and support literacy.”
One of the beneficiaries of the event, when it shows a profit, will be the Port Orchard Library — which is how many locals gain access to the world of Cedar Cove.
Lucarelli and Childs, only two members of their neighborhood group, raised seed money from Macomber’s publisher to cover the event’s start-up costs. As it progresses different community members have jumped on board and donated services in their specific areas.
Port Orchard City Councilman John Clauson, an executive at Kitsap Transit, is helping to provide adequate public transportation.
And Childs, now on the council, has become an effective, official ambassador for the project.
At this point, everyone working on the project is a volunteer. Lucarelli said all the money raised from the publisher is being used to rent facilities and put on events, such as the Argosy Cruise ship that will sail from Port Orchard to Suquamish on Aug. 28 for a posh banquet at Kiana Lodge.
Tickets are not yet onsale, with many costs yet to be determined. Lucarelli said the most expensive part of the event will be the cruise, which will start at around $185 and offer fancier packages with more author access.
Other parts of the weekend will be free, to satisfy Macomber fans from all income levels and social standing. And if tickets sell out there will still be time to plan a second cruise.
Lucarelli, who had not met Macomber prior to making her pitch, has a background in event planning--although not on such a large scale.
She expects to spend most of her time working on the project over the next year, and said the payback for her is an economic boost for Port Orchard.
For more news and information about Cedar Cove Days go to www.cedarcoveassociation.com or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.