I’ve been connected to Princeton, British Columbia for over 30 years through Business, Charity, Family, Adventure, Vacation but most importantly because it is my “hometown”. I love the Similkameen Valley and the ability to escape to it and the surrounding communities whenever I can. Tulameen, Coalmont, Princeton, Hedley and Keremeos are all communities I frequent regularly.
Princeton, BC is a small town located in the Similkameen valley. It’s a highway with a population under 5,000 that becomes a hot spot in the summer as travellers from the coast (Vancouver) head towards cities like Penticton and Kelowna. While they have the option of taking highway 5, the Crowsnest is still regularly used as a more enjoyable drive (in my opinion). The gas stations in Princeton often look like a tailgate party during the summer with tourists stopping for food, to chat with their groups and they mingle amongst semi trucks and motorcycle groups who also use the winding highway.
When I first heard that Princeton was going to focus on becoming the Bronze Capital of Canada I didn’t get quite get it. I’ve worked on a lot of tourism related marketing strategies, so I understand the nature of attaching a community whose economy thrives off of tourism to something that will get press and provide an additional layer of culture for visitors, but I wasn’t fully “bought in” to the strategy. I remember speaking with both the Mayor and the Director of Tourism about the strategy through casual conversations and I could feel the conviction, but didn’t at first appreciate the sentiment. I thought it was cool, and it would get some press but the overall strategy didn’t click.
Until I started seeing the statues in the community and the story telling along with them.
The statues bring the community an additional story for the Town to centralize, and tell. It acquired press, and will continue to do so as more statues are added and also presents opportunities in the future for the community to utilize the statues to remember its own history and culture. I foresee statues of specific locations, animals and stories coming into the picture throughout the years. The overall goal for the town during the busy tourist months is to attract tourists to take the 10 second turn from the highway and venture into the town to see what it has to offer. I do believe that having these statues up will provide families with simple “rest stop” decisions to get out and walk with their children to check them out. If you’ve ever stopped in Manning Park Resort with your children, you know the giant bear statue outside the restaurant is always a hit with tourists and kids. Pictures are taken in front of it constantly.
This will provide tourists with something to do other than just park and stretch their legs. A stop in the town can mean a quick, easy to handle walking tour that will start to promote picture taking. Throughout the years, that alone will pay off in value as tourists share pictures of themselves, their children, and parties in front of the statues with their friends on social media.
As I started working through the business strategy in my head, I started to realize the effort wasn’t necessarily for an immediate return on investment, this is going to have an immediate impact, but the branding that comes from a move like this is future-pacing and forward thinking. It gives Princeton another angle to tell the story of the town for as long as it’s open for business (forever). Knowing a lot of the funding (if not all) for the actual statues came from grants from the government for tourism related activities also softens the blow to the town’s revenue and budget.