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Tourism Theme: Tell Your Fairfield County Story

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Describe what you love most about living, working and playing in Connecticut – including your favorite spots in Fairfield County – and you could help create a new state brand and tourism theme and win a $1,000 shopping spree prize.

That’s the idea behind “What’s Your Connecticut Story” a contest in the first phase of a two-year, $30 million tourism and marketing campaign. It was launched last week by Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development and its Office of Tourism.

"By asking people to think about Connecticut in relation to their own lives, we hope to ignite pride and inspire enthusiasm about living and traveling here," said Catherine Smith, commissioner of the economic and community development department.

"As we continue to move forward in creating a new brand, understanding what we all love most about Connecticut will help us shape the state's identity into something that will resonate with our most important audience - our residents," Smith said. “We want people to tell their own stories.”

Some stories have already come from Fairfield County and appear on a website designed for entries at myctstory.com — including one by Stew Leonard Sr. and his family. The narrative describes how the “World’s Largest Daily Store” started out as a small dairy farm in Norwalk.

Officials say Fairfield County has more than 100 tourism sites, and they expect stories on many of them in the coming weeks. The contest’s deadline is May 18. Online readers can cast votes, and the winning entry will be announced about June 1.

“Coastal Fairfield County is the gateway to the New England region from New York and its neighbors,” according to the state’s tourism website.

“A list of notable museums in the region (includes) the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, which focuses on the arts, nature and science, and the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk that invites visitors to tour the 62-room Victorian house, called America’s first chateau,” the tourism website states.

Attractions for children and animal lovers include the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford.

Fairfield County business leaders say the new contest and campaign will attract visitors from outside Connecticut and spur economic development.

“This new campaign is a very big deal. The dollars spent in the tourism and hospitality industries are vital to Fairfield County,” said Joseph McGee, vice president of the Business Council of Fairfield County.

McGee, who worked on a similar campaign as part of Gov. Lowell P. Weicker’s administration in 1993, said that theme – “Connecticut: Full of Surprises” — helped attract tourists.

“It was a huge success, but this campaign is broader and goes beyond tourism by encouraging people who live here to tell their stories about why Connecticut is a good place to live,” said McGee. “It’s a smart idea because any time you can get people excited that will generate a lot of interest and bring more people here. That will result in economic growth and development.”

Paul Timpanelli, president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said, “Tourism is a very wise investment for the state. It’s a growth industry nationwide and worldwide, and we need to stay competitive in Connecticut because it can spur business growth and create jobs.”

Chris Loynd, marketing director for the Maritime Aquarium, said that when the aquarium opened during the late 1980s it helped transform SoNo.

“We are now the second largest family attraction in Connecticut, and I think that shows how important tourism can be in creating a foundation around which a community can grow and thrive,” said Loynd. “The Norwalk Aquarium was founded with the idea of using tourism to spur economic and business development. This new campaign is a perfect way to blend tourism and business growth and spark economic growth again.”

To learn more about the contest and what's happening around Connecticut, visit www.CTvisit.com .

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