BY JODI CAMP
Dan Ware retired as Simpson County Tourism director Dec. 31 after 23 years in his position.
"I've been thinking about it for awhile, it is hard to know exactly when because I was enjoying the work, but a lot of the people that I had worked with over the years have retired," he said.
There were many new faces and he said as he looked around the table he was the oldest one. Ware said his wife retired in early 2019 and was free to travel where he was not.
"We have lots of places we would like to visit that are on our bucket list," Ware said.
When he started in the position it was on the second floor of the Goodnight House and was a part-time position. The transient room tax, the tax people pay when they rent a hotel room, was bringing in $75,000 a year and now with his help it is bringing in $250,000 a year.
During his time tourism moved from the Goodnight House to the welcome cabin at Exit 2.
"It was built in 2000 we are right now finishing up doing some repainting and touching up and preserving that building," Ware said.
In 2007 tourism partnered with Carolyn Lanham to paint murals along the concrete wall when US 31W was widened. He said they were looking at bare concrete for a year when they decided they could find grant money to help fund the historic mural.
"It took her seven years, but seeing that through from the beginning concept to the finish was very, very gratifying," Ware said.
A horse sculpture made entirely of horseshoes by Jeremy Loveall and his welding class at the high school was constructed. Ware said they named their horse Darlene.
"The sculptures and the murals are actually the largest art installation in south central Kentucky," he said. "It tells 200 years of our history. We say it tells 200 years in 200 feet and that was very gratifying."
Ware said he wished he had seen some sort of museum established for antique cars and tractors during his time as director.
"I know there are a lot of collectors here in the community and an opportunity to let people see the things they have lovingly restored, by rotating exhibit," he said. "That is something I wish we could have gotten done and maybe we will get done in the future."
He also wished he had seen more public art downtown, like a statue of Johnny Cash and June Carter. He said he would also like to see more hotels being built in Simpson County.
"There were two hotels built while I was tourism director and the people who already had hotels were apprehensive that it was going to take away business from them and it was going to be smaller slices of pie for everybody, but in fact each time it grew the pie and brought in new business," Ware said.
He said one of the good things about retiring now is that is it the slow season so there is time for the Tourism Commission to search and hire the new director. The normal travel season is from mid-March to mid-October because of fall break and spring break.
"It has been a very gratifying 23 years and I've enjoyed it these last five years in particular," Ware said.