Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

Point Pleasant, West Virginia: Making a Tourism Landscape in an Appalachian Town

Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

Point Pleasant, West Virginia: Making a Tourism Landscape in an Appalachian Town

Article excerpt

This paper focuses upon the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia located at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers in the Ohio Valley. It examines the processes involved in developing and coordinating several types of tourism. In addition to promoting heritage tourism, Point Pleasant markets itself as the location of alleged sightings of the Mothman, a monstrous creature depicted in a film starring Richard Gere. Point Pleasant also gained national attention in 1967 when the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River resulting in over 40 deaths. This project provides an analysis of the ways in which the heritage and paranormal tourism narratives are interwoven with narratives and markers of the bridge disaster. Through interviews with local leaders and an analysis of the tourism landscape in Point Pleasant, this paper illuminates the strategies employed by local leaders to improve the local economy and actively shape the representation of the town to its visitors.

KEY WORDS: Appalachia, Mothman, West Virginia, heritage tourism, Silver Bridge

Este articulo se centra en la ciudad de Point Pleasant, West Virginia, ubicada en la confluencia de los rios Ohio y Kanawha en el valle de Ohio. Examina los procesos que intervienen en el desarrollo y coordinacion de varios tipos de turismo. Ademas de promover el turismo de patrimonio, Point Pleasant se promociona como el lugar de los presuntos avistamientos del Mothman, una criatura monstruosa representada en una pelicula protagonizada por Richard Gere. Point Pleasant tambien gano la atencion nacional en 1967 cuando el puente de plata/Silver Bridge se cayo/ se derrumbo/se colapso/se desplomo al rio Ohio resultando en mas de 40 muertes. Este proyecto proporciona un analisis de las formas en que las narrativas del turismo de patrimonio y paranormal se entrelazan con las narrativas y los marcadores de la catastrofe del puente. A traves de entrevistas con los lideres locales y un analisis del paisaje turistico de Point Pleasant, este articulo ilumina las estrategias empleadas por los lideres locales para mejorar la economia local y moldear activamente la representacion de la ciudad a sus visitantes.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Appalachia, Mothman, Virginia Occidental, turismo de patrimonio, Silver Bridge

INTRODUCTION

Small towns in Appalachia and other regions have a vested interest in attracting tourists. Tourism can provide a much-needed boost to their often struggling economies. Although economic incentives are common to many small towns, they employ a variety of approaches to draw tourists. For example, some scholars have examined tourism in terms of the construction of public memory and the promotion of heritage tourism (Williams 2009; Bohland 2013). Others have focused upon the impact that nostalgic stereotypes, influenced by television and film, have on particular towns (Aitken and Zonn 1994; Alderman et al. 2011, 2012). Still others note the proliferation of "ghost tours" that highlight idiosyncratic and anecdotal histories of particular towns (Gentry 2007; Thompson 2010). Whatever the focus, geographers and other scholars have revealed that the re-branding of small towns as tourist destinations involves a process of vision, local coordination, policy, funding, and an active role played by native community members (Ipson 1989; Blevins 2008; Copper et al. 2011; Grunwell and Ha 2014). Moreover, the process of place-branding often involves a diversified approach of marketing for a town (George 2011).

This paper focuses upon the tourism efforts in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a small town located at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. Point Pleasant serves as a relevant case study because it is in the process of coordinating efforts in the areas of heritage tourism and paranormal tourism while simultaneously shaping public memory of the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967. Also significant is the degree to which a major motion picture, The Mothman Prophesies, continues to draw visitors to the area even more than ten years after its release. …

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