By Kari Bray Herald Writer
DARRINGTON — Darrington businesses were struggling before the hillside collapsed, burying Highway 530 in mud and rocking the small community to its core.
After the Oso mudslide, the town of about 1,400 people and less than 50 businesses could use an economic boost in the form of summertime tourism.
A state-funded advertising campaign kicked off this week to highlight the natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities in the Stillaguamish Valley, from Arlington to Darrington.
The state Department of Commerce is funding the $150,000 campaign in hopes of rejuvenating businesses that floundered after the Oso mudslide, said Paul Queary, campaign spokesman.
“Business wasn’t very good before the slide, and it got downright scary after the slide,” said Martha Rasmussen, board member with the Darrington Area Business Association.
Police, firefighters, rescue crews, politicians and reporters swarmed the Stillaguamaish Valley in the weeks after the March 22 disaster that claimed 43 lives. Business owners stepped up to help with food, space and supplies, Rasmussen said. Their efforts made the community stronger, but businesses’ already limited revenues began to dwindle.
“The streets filled up and got busy, but we didn’t get a lot of clientele at the businesses,” Rasmussen said. “We flatline except for summer. We live for that. That’s where we get our money to carry us through the winter.”
The Visit Stilly Valley campaign focuses on the seasonal recreation opportunities that keep a number of Darrington and Arlington-area businesses afloat. The campaign’s centerpiece is a 30-second commercial featuring images of camping, bicycling, hiking, rafting and climbing with the tagline: “There’s never an end to the possibilities within the Stillaguamish Valley.”
The commercials are scheduled to air on television in the Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., markets until mid-August, Queary said.
While each commercial features the same snippets of outdoor recreation in the valley, different endings highlight local events throughout the summer, starting with the Timberbowl Rodeo in Darrington this weekend and moving on to the Arlington Fly-In, Darrington Bluegrass Festival and Summer Meltdown in Darrington.
BrandQuery, a marketing and branding agency based in Mount Vernon, is designing the campaign. The marketing is centered on images of stone cairns, meant to symbolize “way-finding, navigating and finding a sense of place,” according to a BrandQuery news release.
“The vision from the campaign really came from the people of the Stillaguamish Valley,” said Jacque Beamer, president and brand strategist for BrandQuery. “The main ideas for the campaign came from meetings in Darrington, Oso and Arlington.”
Hand Crank Films, based in Bellingham, produced the television commercials. Accompanying social media campaigns also are under way on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Beamer said.
Rasmussen described the Visit Stilly Valley campaign as “a real lifesaver” for her town.
“I think still a lot of people have not discovered that we have an incredible outdoor recreational opportunity up here,” she said.
The campaign’s success will be measured by the turnouts at summer festivals and any upticks in participation in outdoor activities, Queary said.
The first chance to gauge public response to the advertisements will be at the Timberbowl Rodeo, which takes place Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Darrington Rodeo Grounds.
“We’re expecting a really great response from the community,” Beamer said. “I think people really want to know how to help, and they can help Oso, Arlington and Darrington by showing up.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the Visit Stilly Valley commercials at http://bit.ly/1ypRLON.