Middlesboro Main Street attends SOAR Summit

Published 10:20 am Thursday, March 10, 2022

Middlesboro Main Street attended the SOAR Summit in Ashland this past week.

This two-day summit consisted of groups from five states with 640 attendees all from the Appalachian region.

Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) is a regional non-partisan non-profit that covers 54 counties in Eastern Kentucky. The summit consisted of bringing attention to tourism and how these counties can improve.

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“They talked about how we have to change our thought process, we’re no longer a coal area, this region now should be looking at tourism,” said Middlesboro Main Street Director Joanie Beaver.

SOAR attendees were able to get a look into how other areas are showcasing their tourism and what works for them.

“Each one of our areas is special, Kentucky is special,” Beaver said. “We live in the most beautiful spot in this entire state.”

SOAR provided information on the types of grants tourism groups like Middlesboro Main Street can apply for to help bring tourism to the area.

She said Middlesboro Main Street has been discussing a project for the past nine years and looking into funding.

“There were two different grants that they mentioned, one being the old abandoned mines, and of course, there’s another one for natural resources. Those are perfect ones that could help us with the canal walk,” Beavers said.

Pineville Main Street and Bell County Tourism also attended the summit. They are looking forward to shaping Bell County into a tourist destination.

“We have one of the most amazing natural resources with the Appalachian mountains that nobody can compete with that,” Beavers said. “We have trails that you can walk, run, ride a bike, dirtbike, motorcycle, and ATV which is a resource that God just blessed this region with.”

Beaver said this summit has inspired her to enhance all of their plans for Middlesboro Main Street for the present and future, and she said being able to attend SOAR was an honor.

“To be in a room with like-minded people to showcase the phenomenal southern hospitality that eastern Kentucky has to offer is an amazing thing and quite an honor for me,” she said. “It’s our beauty, it’s our paradise, it’s our people.”