To the editor:
We at Destination Salem were especially happy to hear that the government shutdown had ended early Thursday morning and that the Salem Regional Visitor Center and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site would reopen at 10 a.m. We thank our National Park Service rangers for being able to make that quick transition from furlough to regular work day overnight.
While the government shutdown and the closure of our National Parks was inconvenient and bemoaned nationally, it hit hard close to home as we prepared to welcome more visitors than ever during the October Haunted Happenings season. There was no question that we needed to provide an information table in front of the visitor center during the shutdown. Throughout the year, we tell visitors from near and far to start their Salem experience at the Salem Regional Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty St. If the government was going to roll up the National Park Service welcome mat, we certainly needed to find a local alternative.
That local alternative materialized in the form of more than 60 volunteers from the Salem community who turned out to be tremendous ambassadors for the city of Salem. We welcomed more than 13,000 visitors over the course of 16 days, providing maps and information to visitors from all around the country and the world.
Thanks to the parking office staff who provided storage and assistance with the booth setup and breakdown each day, and to the Peabody Essex Museum, which provided temporary storage for our brochures that are usually stored in the visitor center. Thanks also to the Salem Witch Museum, which provided both temporary storage for our brochures and the transportation that brought brochures in from our mail house when we had exhausted the supplies in Salem. (We still have plenty of Guides to Haunted Happenings and Salem Guides. They were safely waiting for us inside the visitor center.) Thanks to History Alive! and Cry Innocent for loaning us a brochure rack, and thanks to the incomparable Ellen Talkowsky for use of her tent and table at the onset of the shutdown.
Last, but not least, thanks to my colleague Stacia Cooper, who has spent the past two weeks creating volunteer schedules, filling staffing gaps, and helping with the tasks of setup and breakdown.
The “Shutdown Information Booth” was a true team effort and a testament to both the high caliber of the Salem community and its commitment to our visitors.
The overwhelming sentiment from visitors during the past two weeks was, “Thank you.” And I echo here, thanks so very much.