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What's Up Magazine

Sharing the Stories of Talbot County

Jan 08, 2014 01:59PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Rebekah Elliott

Cassandra Vanhooser, director of the Talbot County Office of Tourism, is a natural born storyteller. The former travel writer joined the tourism office last February, after moving about 900 miles from her family’s dairy farm in Tennessee. Though her new responsibilities aren’t quite the same as those of a journalist, she says the basic principle of storytelling still applies. As tourism director, Vanhooser hopes to discover the many different stories of Talbot County and capture them in the best way possible. We recently sat down with her to chat a little about her transition into tourism and what she has planned for the future.

It seems like you’re settling in well. How has the first year been?

It’s the most incredibly busy, intense job in the world, but it’s also so great. Talbot County just has so much going on. It’s a small office and there’s a lot to do, so it seems like every day just blows past. It’s just amazing how much we’re able to do here with a small staff. And we have people from all over the world wanting to come here. It’s a great honor when someone comes to your county, in this case, to spend their leisure dollars. We should consider it a real compliment. There’s a world of options when someone is choosing where to go to spend their time off and their leisure money. They could go anywhere; so it’s a huge honor when they decide to come here.

Tell me a little more about Talbot County as a travel destination for international tourists.

The thing about Talbot County is its proximity to the nation’s capital. We are a prime destination for international travelers. What we have that is particularly appealing to international travelers is that sense of the authentic, small town, rural America. International tourists want to see what real America is, right? You’ve got the cities, but then there’s a whole lot of America that’s not cities and we’re emblematic of that wholesome American experience.

What’s one of the major projects you’ve been working on since taking over?

I want an excellent website that tells the story of Talbot County. I would say it will take at least six months until we’re there, but we are on our way to a new website. I would like for the website to be a little bit more dynamic, so you don’t see the same thing every time you look at it. But it also needs to say where Talbot County is and what it means to be in Talbot County. When we get this website redone and if it does what I’m picturing it to do, I’ll be very proud of that.

That sounds like a pretty daunting task. Is there anything else you’re hoping to accomplish this year?

We’re adding a blog to the website. I will be blogging about Talbot County and I’ll be having guest bloggers join me. These things take a lot of time to develop and this (the website) is our anchor, so we’re going to drop our anchor and then see what else we can do. I’d also love for us to have a lot more volunteers and I’d love to develop a volunteer program. But we’re going to drop our anchor first and then branch out from there.

It seems Talbot County is becoming increasingly well known for its restaurants. Is this something the tourism office is helping to promote?

Both Maryland and Virginia are really pushing the states as culinary destinations and we, of course—(former tourism director) Debbie Dodson and now me—are positioning Talbot County as a culinary destination. One of the reasons is that we have unique products that are indigenous to our location; we have oysters and crabs. When people eat an oyster, they want to be as close to where that oyster came from so that they can see how it got to them. That’s the big movement now—how did that food get to my plate? And we do that extremely well.

If you had to pick your favorite thing about Talbot County, what would it be?

Well, I am partial to pretty. Every single day, I get to live in the place I consider one of the prettiest places in America, and that’s the truth. Yes, you find the beauty in the place where you are, but it just so happens we’ve got a gracious plenty here. We are well and blessed in that regard.