Can Vermont convince leaf peepers to become residents?
Fall foliage season is in full swing and that means big bucks coming into Vermont as visitors flock to see the leaves. While visitors mostly only come for the weekends during the fall, state officials hope beautiful colors and weather will convince them to consider making Vermont their new home.
It's a busy weekend on Route 100 at Cold Hollow Cider in Waterbury Center. Hundreds of visitors stop through, hungry for a cider donut or just a plain old apple. And it's visitors like these, drawn here right now by the brilliant reds and oranges, that the state wants to convince to come back and stay longer. Maybe even forever.
So we asked a few of them what it would take to convince them to whisk their family to Waterbury, settle in Stowe, or move to Morristown.
"It would have to be warmer," said Yolanda Rodriguez with a laugh. "I'm from Miami."
"I just graduated law school, so it depends what kinds of jobs are around here," said Leah Kofos.
"For her? A Starbucks," said Austen Wiederspan.
"I don't know. We were pretty impressed by the area. I don't know that we'd need too much convincing to come over here, honestly," Emily Wiederspan added.
The state's "Stay to Stay" program launched this year with the goal to convince people who are interested in Vermont to make the move. It's a pilot program and the numbers aren't all in yet, but so far the state can point to at least three people who came for one of the informational weekends and have since moved to Vermont. Official say others are actively applying for jobs and looking for housing here.
At Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park, you'll mostly find locals. Campsites here are booked right up until they close for the season after this weekend.
"We knew it was going to be really pretty, but it's beyond expectations," said Charlotte Gilruth of Worcester. "It's so still here and we see loons and merganser ducks. And no motorboats. It's just so gorgeous."
Gilruth fell in love with this spot last year and she has this pitch for anyone on the fence about making the Green Mountains their new home. "My son says it's the prettiest spot in the state," she said. "It's a jewel."
Tourism officials say the next "Stay to Stay" weekend is actually in a couple of weeks and 342 people have signed up for the four regional locations. They expect some won't show, but they say it's a good number.
The state expects 1.3 million visitors to come to Vermont in October. The bulk of those will be in the first two weeks for the leaves. They are expected to spend about $280 million total. About $50 million of that will go to lodging, $65 million at restaurants, $20 million at gas stations, and $30 million in retail. All told, that's 10 percent of all visitor spending for the year.