BRISTOL – University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech flags are scattered throughout Downtown Bristol, but soon they will not be the only things lining the streets, as thousands of visitors are just days away.
“We’re hiring extra staff and working like crazy to make sure we’re ready when they come to Bristol,” said owner of The Southern Churn and Cranberry Lane, Karen Hester. “We got in tons of new merchandise coming in… lots of collegiate merchandise… we’re making fudge, sometimes we’ll make 20 to 30 batches in a day to have enough fudge ready.”
“We are decking out our window in UT and Virginia Tech décor, game day apparel,” said Sarah Hull, owner of Serendipity. “We’ve ordered a lot of extra game day t-shirts, game day outfits.”
“We have looked at every angle of how do we welcome the fans to Bristol in a manner that will make them want to come back time and time again,” said Beth Rhinehart, President and CEO of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce.
One way to encourage fans to return, the Chamber decided, was to host events downtown Thursday and Friday before the big weekend, complete with live music, entertainment and a pep rally.
“The restaurants and merchants have been very, very excited to see folks come down,” said Rhinehart.
Some of those restaurants and shops are listed in the Visitor Playbook created by the Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol visitors bureaus.
“Folks can offer specials, they can tell you what band they have or music they have playing at a particular bar or restaurant,” Rhinehart said. “We wanted people to be able to take advantage of the entire region and to show that we could work collaboratively together to make that experience a great one.”
The locals hope to see them back sometime soon.
“If they have a great experience, maybe they’ll want to bring family back, or vacation,” Hull said.
“Bristol has so much to offer, not just a place for a big football game, but a lot of exciting things you can do here,” said Hester.
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