Simply to see the word “Shamokin” attached to something positive and exciting and even cool is important.
We reference the “Rock Krawler Showdown in Shamokin,” this weekend’s big event for the Ultra4 racing organization at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
Yes, the AOAA is based in Coal Township, not Shamokin, but understanding the overall goal of attracting tourists and businesses to a region is to know that it’s about an attraction being connected to a community. Shamokin will often be that designation for the AOAA.
No matter what community name is attached to the event, what’s important is that the Showdown in Shamokin has attracted an estimated 2,000-plus competitors, vendors, staff, family, friends and spectators to the region this weekend. That is the essence of what the AOAA was intended to do, not just for weekends with large events, but every weekend during its season.
The showdown attracted racers from across the country, but it also provided an opportunity for local businesses to get involved as food vendors, for lodging and in other support roles, not to mention the impact on local restaurants, grocery stores and other shops from such a large influx of people.
• • •
Remember that those coming to ride or race at the AOAA, this weekend and throughout the year, have a different perspective. No doubt they’ll see some blight and hear about the struggle against drugs locally, but they’ll also see the natural asset we have in the mountains south of town. As it is, groups like Ultra4 don’t see their event as happening specifically in Shamokin, but in a much larger context — it’s a venue on the East Coast. With a facility as unique and special as the AOAA, that’s what will help bring them back.
And at some point this summer — in contrast to the TV folks from northeast Pennsylvania interviewing people about cold coffee and dead dogs, in contrast to the same old story from international media about mine fires and dying coal towns — NBC Sports Network will be broadcasting coverage from the showdown — and “Shamokin,” and we certainly hope Coal Township as well, will be part of a positive, exciting narrative.
Perhaps a comment from Alex Johnson, a partner in regular AOAA food vendor Kelsea’s Kitchen, of Mount Carmel, says it best about the vibe of the park and its image on the region for this weekend: “We look forward to serving up some good food and having a good time with some good people.”
That’s “good” for all of us.