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Adding Warmth To Woodstock No Matter The Season

Mar 18, 2024 08:39PM ● By Stephen D’Agostino Photography By Lynn Bohannon

Beth and Annabella, an Old English Sheepdog, cross the pedestrian bridge between the Welcome Center and High Street.

At Mon Vert on a weekday morning in July 2023, Beth Finlayson, executive director of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce, walked in while I was waiting to order. People greeted her, and on this day, just weeks after the historic flooding in early July, asked questions and raised concerns about the recovery. What Beth conveyed was warm and reassuring, offering what she knew about recovery efforts and the state of several businesses, many of which were chamber members.

Months later, Beth and I meet to discuss her role at the chamber. I ask her if she recalled this experience. Patricia Martel, the chamber’s bookkeeper, who had just settled down to work, gleefully jumps in before Beth can respond. “Everyone just warms up to her,” she says. “They feel really comfortable around her. They’re always stopping by talking to her because she never makes anybody feel like she’s pressed for time. She’s always there to listen.”

Luckily, the Welcome Center, where Beth’s office is, is having a quiet day, giving us time to talk. “Yesterday,” Beth says, “we had just 38 visitors compared to an average of 150 a day the week before.” For comparison, the average number of daily visitors is 500 during foliage season. Beth admits that many of the people come in to use the restrooms, but that gives them a chance to pick up the chamber’s annual publication, “The Woodstock Area Guide,” meet Beth, ask questions about things they should see and do while they’re in town (advice Beth is always happy to give), and spend a few moments with Beth’s gorgeous, gregarious Sheepdog, Annabella.

It takes a particular person to be executive director of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce. And what makes Beth perfect for the job, she thinks, is that it matches her personality and because of her bond to our little slice of heaven. “I love the area,” she says. “I’ve always loved the area, and I get to talk about its wonderfulness.”

Promoting Woodstock

Beth and her husband Ron moved to Barnard in 1977, and shortly after, Beth began at Woodstock Area Council on Aging as a Senior Advocate. In 1993, Beth and Ron moved to Maine, and Beth worked as executive director of Freeport Community Services. Wisely, they kept their house in Vermont, and in 2004, they moved back. Three years after their return, Beth began her role as director at the Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, her title became executive director.
Like any chamber, Woodstock’s promotes the member businesses in the area, currently 190. “Whether you’re a general contractor or the Woodstock Inn,” Beth says, “the chamber promotes these businesses to New England, the United States, and the world.”

The chamber also promotes Woodstock as a place for people to move to. “We provide information packages beyond a Realtor,” Beth says, “and help young couples that have kids get in touch with someone from the school and just talk about what’s available for the community and in the area, like the library and the movie theater.”

However, Beth notes that the chamber’s primary focus is tourism, though the events the chamber runs are for residents and visitors alike. For example, Market on the Green, which began the year before Beth became director, is such an event. The two big agriculture vendors draw locals who come weekly to buy their produce during the market’s run (Wednesday afternoons, June through October).

“We’re promoting local products to local people,” Beth says, “but people passing through stop by because they see the tents set up.” For tourists, the market offers pottery, jewelry, cheese, and, of course, maple syrup, all things they can take home.

Other events draw locals and visitors alike, including A Taste of Woodstock, the first event the chamber launched under Beth’s leadership, because everyone loves to eat; Art on the Green, because everyone loves beauty; the Sidewalk Sales, because everyone loves a bargain; and Wassail Weekend, the chamber’s biggest event and the celebration that often lands Woodstock on lists of the best Christmas towns in America, because everyone loves a parade.

For celebrants, Wassail is three days of merriment. For Beth, it’s practically a year’s worth of work. The chamber began planning Wassail 2024 on January 12, barely one month after the end of 2023’s celebration.

Places to See, Things to Do

In March, you’ll find Beth working on the Area Guide and thinking of brighter, more inviting days. The guide is a narrow 64-page booklet that provides information on all that the area offers, from lodging to shopping, museums to outdoor recreation, and a multiple-page calendar of events for the entire year.

The Area Guide takes months of work because its accuracy depends on gathering all that information from people who, in March, may still be trying to figure out their year. “The guide comes out in May,” Beth notes, “and in March and April, I’m still calling for information.”
And what is Beth doing when she’s not helping visitors, fielding questions, or going to other meetings run by different entities dedicated to the town’s success? Maybe you’ll see her walking Annabella around Silver Lake, or perhaps you’ll see her mowing her lawn, something she enjoys. “I put on my headphones,” Beth says, “Listen to some music, and just go to town.”

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