Destination Oneonta to launch downtown visitors center

Denise Richardson | The Daily StarDestination Oneonta board members Rachel Lutz Jessup, left, and Nancy Scanlon talk shop Wednesday at the organization's new Welcome Center, which will open at 2 Dietz St. on Friday. 

Destination Oneonta will launch the downtown Fabulous Friday series with an opening of a visitors center just off of Main Street. 

The grand opening of the Destination Oneonta Welcome Center at 2 Dietz St. in the city will be at 5:30 p.m. Friday, organizers said, and the event will feature music, a ribbon-cutting and other activities.

The opening of the Welcome Center is a highlight of expansion and outreach efforts by Destination Oneonta, which last year changed its name from Main Street Oneonta. The nonprofit also is working on a new website at www.destinationoneonta.com.

The advocacy group promotes businesses, the arts and entertainment, seasonal events, local resources and other opportunities.

According to Rachel Lutz Jessup, vice president of the Destination Oneonta board, Oneonta has considerable traffic by visitors.

"We wanted a central place where they could go to find out what's going on in Oneonta, check out local events, grab a map for the local trails ... a place where they could get their questions answered," Lutz Jessup said Wednesday. "The website and the Welcome Center are the two newest additions to what Destination Oneonta does."

Under a new mission statement, Destination Oneonta aims to enhance diversity and consumer appeal in the Greater Oneonta area in order to create increased commerce, "visitorship" and a better quality of life.

Destination Oneonta board member Nancy Scanlon said the new mission statement, broader emphasis and Welcome Center have generated excitement.

"It's a really great step for us," she said Wednesday.

Fabulous Fridays, a celebration of the arts, business and downtown on the first and third Fridays of the month, will continue into early fall.

Lutz Jessup said Destination Oneonta's annual budget of about $80,000 includes about $70,000 from the city of Oneonta and about $10,000 from the town of Oneonta. The group has about 80 members and a goal to eventually become self-sustaining, she said.

Destination Oneonta will continue providing financial support for the Farmers Market, OH Fest, the City of the Hills Arts Festival and First Night Oneonta, officials said.

Businesses, merchants and individuals make up the membership of the nonprofit organization, which also supports downtown beautification projects.

For Friday's event, Dietz Street will be closed from Main Street to the Crystal Palace Barbershop, organizers said.

Hooked on Tonics, an a capella group from the State University College at Oneonta, will perform starting at 5 p.m. and before a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m., according to the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Country Express will perform.

Northern Eagle Beverage will provide tastings, the Crystal Palace Barbershop will mark its fourth anniversary, organizers said, and food will be available, along with offerings by downtown merchants and the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.

Lutz Jessup said that with expanding outreach and services is a need for volunteers to help with events and running the Welcome Center.

Current hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Lutz Jessup said, but after the opening and with more volunteer help, the hope is to expand hours. The telephone number for Destination Oneonta is 432-2941, she said.

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