The Tourism Council of Frederick County not only unveiled a new building in March, but also introduced an award-winning film.
"So many (attractions and personal interests) overlap (in Frederick County), that if one member of the family wants to come to Frederick because they want to go to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, but the spouse is not as interested, there's other great stuff for them to do," said John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council.
The film, "A Turn of the Wheel," is a four-screen, 15-minute piece composed of seven vignettes, each about two minutes long. The brief segments cover the many attractions, events and notable aspects in Frederick County.
Metro Productions won the Communicator Award of Excellence in May 2010 from the International Academy of the Visual Arts for the staff's work on "A Turn of the Wheel." The Tourism Council waited to announce the award until the new location opened earlier this year and the film could be viewed.
Chris Haugh, Scenic Byway and special projects manager for tourism, and Tim Farrow, senior producer, from Metro Productions in Richmond, Va., wrote and edited the script.
"It was a real give-and-take sometimes," Haugh said. "He would write it one way and I would be like, 'That sounds beautiful, but it's just not (accurate).'"
Haugh fact-checked the film and some sections proved to be challenging to write.
"One of the tricky parts was pertaining to the Special Orders 191," he said. "It's a very romantic tale about a copy of Gen. Lee's being dropped on what would later become Monocacy Battlefield. But just the verbiage of what did it do -- did it halt Gen. Lee's invasion into Maryland or did it thwart or did it disrupt? It's a fine line."
Frederick County is part of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, and the film includes a vignette on the Civil War. During the segment, the modern-day footage segues into the only known photo of Confederate troops on the march taken at any point during the Civil War, The Rosenstock photo, Fieseler wrote in an email. The photo was taken on East Patrick Street in Frederick. The photo is noteworthy because photography during the war couldn't capture action -- the images were usually blurred. Snapshots, action and candid pictures were nearly impossible with the early technology, and equipment was cumbersome -- battlefield photographers had to have wagons to carry their supplies.
In general, images of Confederate soldiers and civilians are less plentiful than those of Union soldiers and scenes, so that fact adds to the uniqueness of the photo, wrote Heidi Campbell-Shoaf, executive director for the Historical Society of Frederick County, in an email.
The majority of the funds for the film production were from grants from the National Scenic Byways Program (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration), Chesapeake Bay Gateway Network and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.
The film is just one way for visitors to learn more about the county's sights and offerings. An exhibit on Frederick County coordinates with the film's vignettes. The exhibit is literally laid out like a wagon wheel on its side.
"We're playing off the transportation theme (with the film and exhibit)," Haugh said. In the exhibit, "Frederick city represents the hub of a wheel and then (there are) these major roadways in the form of spokes."
The spokes include locations that are geographically laid out in the building. As a visitor looks at the information on the displays, they walk in the direction the attraction is located.
"It's one of my favorite things about the visitors center," said Michelle Kershner, marketing and communications manager for the Tourism Council.
The short film is displayed on three screens with a fourth acting as a guide for the random visitor who is likely to walk in while the film is on loop. It lets the viewer know what section of the film is playing and what is next. The fourth screen also has captions for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing.
"I really like the way (the captioning) turned out, as opposed to having the LED bar graph kind of captioning, which can be really distracting" Fieseler said. "This is done more elegantly and we've already had folks from Maryland School for the Deaf tell us they appreciate that we did do that."
During April and May, the visitor's center had 17 percent more visitors compared with the same months last year at the former Church Street location, Kershner wrote in an email.
Staff have also noticed more handicapped people coming in.
"I'd say in the 13 years I've been here, I saw maybe two wheelchairs (at Church Street) in that whole time," Fieseler said. "Because I guess it didn't appear that accessible, and we have seen multiple folks in here. It's been pretty neat to see that. It's just more inclusive, possibly because it appears more welcoming."
Plus many visitors stay longer.
"If we were to ask you on the spot to commit to 15 minutes that you weren't planning on, it sounds like a lot," Fieseler said. "We tell them it's a series of vignettes and what we find is that people come in here and do take the time to watch it all because it is very compelling video, moves very quickly, there's a lot to see and it's making them that much more aware of all the things there are to do (in Frederick County)."
At the old visitors center on Church Street, people stayed for about five or six minutes. Now, they stay for about 20 to 25 minutes, Fieseler said.
"We're not actually clocking people in and out, so it's more based on observation, but we've been pleased about how busy we've been here," he said. "It (illustrates) the value of being right on the road that's taking people in from the highway."
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: A Turn of the Wheel
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday to Saturday; closed New Years Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and closes early Christmas Eve and New Years Eve
WHERE: Tourism Council of Frederick County, 151 S. East St., Frederick
INFO: 301-600-4047 or www.fredericktourism.org