Drawing more than 70 percent of its visitation from metro Atlanta, which includes Bartow County, Tellus Science Museum's appeal to area patrons is evident through its repeat winnings of the People's Choice Awards. Established in 2005 by the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the awards highlight Bartow County's non-franchised restaurants, shops and attractions and are presented annually at The Arts Festival at Rose Lawn.
"We're such a draw in the Southeast but it's really cool to get that kind of local support," said Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria about the Cartersville museum being recognized as Bartow's favorite attraction for the past three years. "It means a lot to us. It's an honor to be [highlighted] by the local promoters of tourism. It's an honor to be considered one of the top attractions, and obviously, we work hard every day to make sure we earn that recognition by making sure that when people come in, they have a great time, they see some cool stuff and the facility looks great.
"As of yesterday, we passed 100,000 [visitors] for the year," he said Monday. "So the total since we opened is [more than] 650,000. [Reaching the 100,000 mark], it's earlier than normal, so visitation is doing really well. Like I said, we try real hard to come up with events and come up with things for people to come see. But also, we're adding more exhibits and doing more things to attract people on an everyday basis. We've gotten great response; like at RockFest, we had 3,000 people [during the] past couple of days and we had over 1,000 people for our Venus [viewing] event. ... [Our] metro-Atlanta visitors, including Bartow County, [total] about 73 percent. So you would think we get a lot of tourism, which we do, but we get a lot of local tourism, which I think is neat because that means a lot more repeat visitation and a lot more membership support."
Along with Tellus, the other 2011 winners were repeat favorites. While Periwinkle has received the best shop distinction four times, Johnny Mitchell's Smokehouse has won best restaurant three years in a row.
Through midnight on Aug. 31, individuals can vote for their favorites at www.surveymonkey.com/s/59KW6CR or www.VisitCartersvilleGA.org. Only one vote can be cast per computer.
"They started just as an effort to draw attention to what our residents as well as visitors feel is the best of the best here in Bartow County and, of course, we've always said that these are the top questions that people come in our visitors center and ask," said Regina Wheeler, deputy director for the local CVB. "They want to know, 'What should I see?' and then they'll say, 'Where's a good place to eat?'
"We're not membership-oriented per se, so we try to glean what they're interested in eating, maybe if they have a particular flavor that they're hungry for, things like that. But this does help us to say, 'Oh well, here's our People's Choice winner for best restaurant or here's our People's Choice winner for best attraction.' And even if they're not the current winner but past winners, it just helps us pinpoint the best in the public opinion."
The winners of the survey will be revealed at The Arts Festival at Rose Lawn, 224 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. The accolades will accompany the CVB's eighth annual Hospitality Heroes Awards, which recognize instrumental current or former residents of Bartow County. While the People's Choice Awards are voted on by the public, the Hospitality Heroes are nominated by various organizations, with the victors selected by the CVB board of directors.
For more information about the awards, call the CVB at 770-387-1357.