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Gov. Martin O'Malley (center) was joined by other elected leaders at the groundbreaking. Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is to the governor's right. To his left are: Rep. John Sarbanes; retired Sen. Paul Sarbanes; and Sen. Benjamin Cardin.


Construction to start on new visitors' center at Fort McHenry

Gov. Martin O'Malley and other state elected officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new visitors' center at Baltimore's Fort McHenry, April 27. Construction of the facility – which will house exhibits, an auditorium, staff offices, a bookstore and a library in a 15,000- to 20,000-sq.-ft. space – is expected to take 18 months.

With a fall 2010 opening, the center will help to accommodate the state's plans for celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812. State officials consider Fort McHenry to be a gateway to other War of 1812 sites in the region.

The existing visitors' center is a 5,700-sq.-ft. structure designed to accommodate 250,000 yearly visitors. Current data shows that the park now draws more than 620,000 annual visitors. Congress had appropriated $11,060,000 for the project through the Transportation Reauthorization Bill of 2005. The state of Maryland and Baltimore City each committed matching funds in excess of $1.4 million.

Maryland to unveil online sports-facility directory

DBED Secretary Christian S. Johansson will join Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) Chairman John Morton and Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr., to officially introduce the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing, May 8 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Headed by Director Terry Hasseltine, the office represents a partnership between DBED and MSA that was created to bring more sporting events to Maryland. It will unveil a new web site and an online sports-facility directory – which includes more than 600 recreation and sporting venues in the state – at the event.

For information, call or e-mail Ashley Cottrell, 410-767-1406.


Film Office sponsors panel discussions at Maryland Film Festival

The 11th annual Maryland Film Festival, May 7-10, will present 50 regular-length films and 80 shorts – films that run between three and 20 minutes. Most of the screenings will be at The Charles Theatre in Baltimore.

The Maryland Film Office, a founding sponsor of the festival, will host a filmmaker-panel series during the weekend. "We're happy to provide a public forum in which filmmakers and other industry people can discuss their craft," says Jack Gerbes, director of the Film Office.

Two prominent Baltimore natives in the film industry – John Waters and Barry Levinson – will take part in the festival. Waters, as is his custom, hosts a movie of his choice Friday evening. His selection this year is a 2007 French romantic musical, Love Songs. Levinson will introduce his new political documentary, Poliwood, Sunday evening.


Tourism Week marks impact of travel industry

National Travel and Tourism Week runs May 9-17 across the nation. The message from the U.S. Travel Association for this 26th annual event is "Travel Matters." In March, the advocacy group initiated its "Meetings Mean Business" campaign – an effort to show how business travel creates a positive economic impact on communities throughout the U.S.

More than 140,000 Marylanders work in the tourism industry. According to a recent economic-impact report, visitor spending totaled $13.6 billion in 2007, which generated $1.7 billion in state and local taxes.

Tap into Maryland's tourism industry by telling the managers at the state's 11 Welcome Centers about your attraction or destination. Or, offer your marketing materials at one of the centers after you've received approval through the free-distribution program. Call or e-mail Jennifer Jones, 410-767-6296, manager of Maryland's Welcome Center program, for details. And, be sure to plan your own Maryland adventure.

Finally, the Maryland Tourism Council has planned a grassroots celebration on May 13 at Patapsco Valley State Park. Participants will remove vines, plant trees and work on a trail project. Call or e-mail MTC for more information, 410-974-4473

Maryland hotel industry exceeding national averages

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown welcomed 2,000 members of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) to Maryland at the group's annual conference, April 23 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Prince George's County.

Brown told the gathering that Maryland continues to outperform the national hotel industry. In February of this year, according to Smith Travel Research data, room demand in Maryland grew 2.9 percent while the national average declined 7.2 percent. He also reported that state revenue from hotels during the 2008 fiscal year exceeded $110 million. This 16-percent increase is a 27-percent higher growth rate than all other industry categories for sales and use taxes.

AAOHA represents more than 9,000 hotel owners who operate 22,000 hotels in the U.S. – 40 percent of all hotel properties nationwide. Approximately 700 AAHOA members are in Maryland.


Wineries, wine trails emerging across state

When Maryland's winery owners got together for meetings in the past, everyone knew everybody, even their kids, says Kevin Atticks, director of the Maryland Wineries Association (MWA). "Now," he says, "we all wear name tags."

The wine industry in Maryland has tripled since he became director six years ago, Atticks says. "We're opening five wineries this year, six or seven next year. Pretty soon, we'll have 50 wineries in the state."



Governor's salute to Welcome Center volunteers
Margie Long (center) and Welcome Center volunteers accept a Governor's Volunteer Service Award for their work in the Maryland Welcome Center Volunteer Program, April 20 at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.


Get involved with the National Folk Festival
First presented in 1934, the National Folk Festival is the oldest multi-cultural traditional arts celebration in the nation. Now entering its 71st year, this traveling festival has been held in 26 communities around the country. The National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the nation's premiere folk and traditional arts presenting organization, is accepting applications from cities and community partners to co-sponsor the National Folk Festival for the three-year period, 2011-2013. For more information, visit the NCTA web site.

Take a stroll
Free Baltimore Heritage Area Star-Spangled Trails Tours begin May 1, originating from the Inner Harbor Visitors Center. Other Trail tours also available.

Vote often
Select Baltimore as one of one of America's favorite cities in a contest sponsored by Travel + Leisure magazine. Polls close May 15.

Join the 1812 Commission's listserv
The Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission has created a Star-Spangled 200 listserv – an online bulletin board – where stakeholders in Maryland's War of 1812 bicentennial celebration can provide information, exchange ideas and promote programs and events.