The job of promoting a destination area such as the busy and beautiful town of Meredith in the Lakes Region is never an easy one. The area has changed over the years, as have the demands and needs of those who vacation here. Sue Cerutti, the executive director of the Meredith Area Chamber of Commerce, has seen many changes in her years of overseeing the busy office. As Meredith prepares for its annual Lakes Region Fine Arts and Crafts Festival, Sue reminisces about the first fair, held 34 years ago.
1. How long have you lived in NH and what brought you here?
“I have lived in the Lakes Region all my life, other than four years when attending college in Michigan.”
2. What is your professional background in the industry of promoting tourism?
“My professional background is actually in the field of education, although, as a child, my parents ran an inn in Center Harbor and, during high school and college, I worked in various positions in the hospitality industry. I have always been a people person and, when the part-time position became available in 1984, it was a perfect fit for me. Through the years, I have attended tourism conferences and workshops which provided me with education about promoting tourism and also allowed me to make many contacts with tourism officials.”
3. Can you describe your job, because many people may not know what it takes to run a chamber of commerce that promotes a popular area such as Meredith?
“Each chamber of commerce director has a different job description, depending on the nature of the chamber. The Meredith Area Chamber has very strict by-laws as to our mission, which is to promote the area and provide services to our members. My role is to oversee all of the activities of the chamber, such as increasing membership, producing our award-winning brochure, organizing and publicizing chamber events. I am also responsible for the management of the Information Center and all communications with the membership and the media.”
4. How have the tasks of the Meredith Chamber changed over time?
“When I first became involved with the chamber, our membership consisted largely of tourist-related businesses and the main role was to manage a summer information center and produce a brochure which listed all the lodging establishments, restaurants, attractions, and retail. We were strictly a summer operation. As time went on, the name was changed to Meredith Area Chamber of Commerce as our members are from all the towns in the Winnipesaukee, Squam, and Newfound regions of New Hampshire, and we are now a broad-based business organization. As such, we offer services to all segments of the business community. For instance, we still produce a 24-page, four-color brochure and distribute it nationally to promote the area, but we also produce Service and Professional Guides which are distributed locally to assist those who live in the area. In the late 1990s, we moved the office and Information Center to our present location and became a year-round chamber which made it possible for us to offer many services to area clubs. For instance, we sell tickets at the chamber to many events sponsored by our service clubs. Another change has been that, in the past, most inquiries came via the mail; now they are either phone calls or email. Most recently, the major change has involved technology. We now communicate with our members largely via email as opposed to hard-copy newsletters and our website is used heavily by those looking for information about the area. Most noticeable is the way people now receive lodging information. Our lodging calls now are mostly from people searching for last-minute lodging and, to assist with this, the staff keeps an up-to-date, day-by-day log of each lodging establishment and the rooms they have available. Now much of the staff’s time is devoted to keeping the website up-to-date.”
5. What types of inquiries does the Meredith Chamber receive?
“We receive a myriad of inquires, many obviously from people looking for a place to stay or interested in moving to the area, to people asking for directions. The bulk of the inquiries are people asking, “What is there to do?” or questions about specific events. The area has become a mecca for weddings, so our staff spends a great deal of time providing information related to weddings. (The chamber has produced a wedding guide, which we distribute.) Our office provides an answering service for the Meredith Rotary Club and, for three months in the winter, their calls are mostly related to the annual Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby.”
6. It is almost time for the annual Lakes Region Fine Arts and Crafts Festival in Meredith (Aug. 24 and 25). This year is the 34th annual festival. It was among the first in the area and started at a time when such festivals were becoming popular. How did it start and how was the chamber involved in the years of getting it going?
“The Arts Festival was actually started by three area artists who wanted to bring a quality event to Main Street. For the first three years of the event, the Town of Meredith sponsored the fair, although the chamber aided in the promotion. In 1982, it became a chamber event. The event was the named Lakes Region Fine Arts and Crafts Festival as, from the inception, the goal was to offer the public quality arts and crafts.”
7. What do you do in your free time to unwind?
“My hobbies are quilting, reading, and knitting and both my husband and I enjoy theatre, traveling, golf, and skiing. We also enjoy taking day trips to the many beautiful places in New Hampshire.”
8. What keeps you in the area; in other words, what do you love about the Lakes Region?
“This is my home. I feel very fortunate to be able to live and work in such a beautiful part of the country.”
9. Why do you think the Lakes Region remains so popular?
“I believe there are many factors which contribute to the popularity of the Lakes Region. While the natural beauty of the lakes and mountains might draw people here, what makes the area so popular varies depending on each person’s situation. Such things as the quality of the schools, easy access to medical care, and lifestyle offered here are all important. The fact that the area offers so many recreational activities is important; and not to be overlooked is the fact that we are a short drive to Boston, the coast, and the mountains.”
10. What are the future goals for the Meredith Chamber?
“As we begin our new fiscal year in October, the Meredith Area Chamber is looking to continue its mission of promoting the area and providing services to our members. The board of directors is engaged in looking at new services that would benefit our members and, specifically, we are looking to plan a new event for next fall. Keeping the website current is always a goal.”