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Exploring the Southeast Coast
Rick Kidder is Co-CEO of One Southcoast Chamber and Executive Director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Visitors Bureau. We spoke to Rick about Southeastern Massachusetts and its distinctive history, culture and cuisine.
Tell us about your career and your work at One SouthCoast Chamber and the Southeastern Massachusetts Visitors Bureau.
Born in Massachusetts, I left in 1985 for a wonderful 30 year stint in Scottsdale, Arizona where I continued a career in private school education until tapped by the Governor of Arizona to become a Senior Policy Advisor. My duties covered all policy and legislation related to drugs and gangs, education, transportation, Native American affairs and Indian gaming. Upon leaving the Governor’s Office, I was offered an EVP position at Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, eventually ascending to CEO where I served for 9 years in that capacity.
Always wanting to return to New England, I assumed the role of CEO of New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce and spearheaded the merger with our counterparts in Fall River to merge in 2020, creating the second largest chamber in the Commonwealth. Along with the CEO position at the chamber came the role of executive director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Visitors Bureau, a fledgling group comprised of five chambers, the purpose of which is to market Bristol County for tourism.
The holiday season is a vibrant time in SE Mass. What are some of the highlights?
The holiday season brings Southeastern Massachusetts to life, with lights, action and fun for the family. This month, New Bedford welcomes back the Schooner Ernestina after a 7 year refitting. In Fall River, the Battleship is lit up, as artisans display their unique gifts at pop-ups throughout the city. In Attleboro, hundreds of thousands of lights are on display at the beautiful LaSalette Shrine . It is free of charge, but donations accepted.
New Bedford continues its annual Holiday Stroll, with retail shops welcoming people to their small businesses while Santa parades through the streets and assists in lighting the city’s tree. And Zeiterion Theatre presents holiday shows, movie sing-alongs and the century-old New Bedford Symphony Orchestra for Holiday Pops.
The beautiful lights of recreational sailing boats in Padanarum Harbor in Dartmouth helps make the spirit bright. Throughout the region cultural holiday events abound, mostly celebrating traditions of our Portuguese and Cape Verdean populations.
Southeast MA is also hailed for its fishing industry and emerging blue economy. How do you connect the region’s maritime assets into your tourism outreach and branding?
Much of our region is popular because of the sea. From the Maritime Museum in Fall River to the world-class New Bedford Whaling Museum, there are always ways that we can connect our visitors to the ocean and the maritime industries that still thrive. Try a scallop off the boat and you will never be happy again to have them somewhere else. Through the artists for whom the sea inspires, there are countless galleries and arts venues to embrace the culture of the sea. There is nothing quite so beautiful as seeing a working waterfront come to life in an area where you can reach out and touch the mighty boats that bring intrepid fisherman out to dangerous waters in search of food for our tables. It is both colorful and informative and an experience all should have. We thrive on commercial and recreational boating, and the natural beauty of our coastline makes the heart soar and allows you to contemplate the challenges of whalers and fishermen who have ventured for years into the vast oceans of the world.
As vice-chair of the Advisory Commission on Travel & Tourism (ACT&T), tell us how the 16 regional tourism councils (RTCs) and ACT&T members collaborate in representing Massachusetts.
While each part of our Commonwealth offers separate and distinct adventures for visitors, we are one state with one goal – to ensure that Massachusetts receives better than its fair share of visitors and the revenue that comes with it. Parts of the state thrive on tourism as a primary source of business and community wealth-building, while for others tourism is an important piece but not the primary industry. Still, the tourism industry is the third largest industry in Massachusetts and a crucial importer of revenue to cities, towns and the state. Tourism keeps businesses afloat and provides an unparalleled visitor experience. The 16 RTCs represent the tremendous diversity of our state and allow each region to compete for tourism dollars. The RTCs work together for the betterment of tourism for all, and ACT&T allows for bringing those tourism professionals together to learn, share and find new and exciting ways to work together. Through the coordination and leadership of MOTT and ACT&T, we have the backbone for joint efforts, thematic tourism possibilities and coordination and leveraging of funding and assets.
When visitors come to town, how do you give them a quintessential experience in Southeaster Mass?
I take them first to the working waterfront to see first-hand the nation’s most valuable fishing port in action. Coming to Southeastern Massachusetts is about experiences. We then travel to one of many Portuguese mom and pop restaurants to see and feel the rich cultural fabric of the region. We venture out to Horseneck Beach in Westport, one of the nation’s most beautiful and relaxing places and then on to the remarkable military history available in Fall River – with Battleship Cove, the Iwo Jima Memorial replica and the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica – respecting and honoring those who served for us. We must see Seekonk Speedway where fast cars race in a more personal and up-close racing venue, to Old Colony Museum in Taunton and the beautiful LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro. As we return, we hug the coast, looking at the stately summer homes, the beautiful harbors and inlets and feeling a life well-lived. And then, tired but invigorated – we eat scallops, a lot of scallops!