For as long as I can remember, Conway has been trying to figure out how to lure visitors from the beach to the pastoral beauty and charm of the city on the river.

Conway has had some success. Many people from the beaches attend Theatre of the Republic plays, enjoy fine dining and attend various festivals.

Walking tours of Conway have always been popular, too.

At a workshop last year, Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy floated the idea of running a bus from Conway to the beach to tap into the tourist market.

Last week, Conway City Council heard a couple of new ideas that would make the city an even more attractive place to visit.

For starters, city council gave the green light to seek a grant to study the feasibility of building an ampitheater somewhere along the Waccamaw River. The performing arts outdoor facility might seat anywhere from 400 to 700 people.

City Administrator Adam Emrick suggested three possible locations for the ampitheater. One idea would put it at Riverfront Park. Another idea is to put it across the river from the Bonfire Restaurant and ferry people back and forth. I like the idea of putting it on the point near the Firemen’s Clubhouse because such a location would be more convenient for foot traffic to the venue.

Theatre of the Republic director Tim McGhee envisions an ongoing theatre production, concerts and more to attract locals and visitors to the ampitheater.

A covered stage, similar to the one on the ocean at Main Street in North Myrtle Beach, would provide many entertainment opportunities for Conway.

I also liked another idea under consideration by city council to make Conway a tourist railway hub. The train would connect Conway to Tabor City., N.C. I particularly like the idea of the rail being licensed as a Polar Express and Thomas the Train excursion.

These novelty concepts have worked well in other parts of the South. My grandchildren rode the Polar Express last Christmas and loved the experience.

A consulting firm recently completed a feasibility study on a tourist railroad in Conway for the Economic Development Administration and issued a report favorable to such a concept.

Based on anticipated growth in the tourism industry, the consultants concluded that railroad excursions could very well be of great interest to visitors.

A variety of experiences could be offered including trips for veterans, organized school trips. lunch and shopping special trips and possible dinner trains.

Best of all, setting up train excursion could be done for very little cost.

Opportunity is knocking. I hope city council listens.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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