The Salem News - Article

RALLY IN THE 100 ACRE WOOD: No room at the inn? No problem

by Dwayne McClellan
Staff Writer

Dent County resident Jeff Steelman knows the economic benefits of the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood and how important it is to the community.

Thus the basis for his volunteer effort in matching local housing with those driving teams who may not be able to stay in local motels because they're sold out. The race will be held Feb. 26-27 in Dent and surrounding counties.

"It's something that I can do to help both sides," Steelman said. "It's a win-win situation for everyone."

After getting to know several of the racers and their teams over the last year, Steelman said those participating told him they preferred to stay in Salem because of the open arms local residents have extended to them.

But with hotels filling fast, rooms were a premium. That's when he turned to residents, asking them to provide apartments or homes for visitors to live in while they're here.

The response has been great Steelman said.

"My goal is to help keep as many of the teams in Dent County as possible," he said. "It's a big economic impact for the county and we need to work to keep as much of the money here as we can."

An apartment has been made available by My Place Restaurant, and Meredith Cook, Matt Femmer, Judy Conway and Tom Henson have also provided housing for the drivers. Gateway Home Furnishings Monday delivered furniture to the My Place apartment so rally participants could have furnishings.

"It's a perfect opportunity to help both the community and the racers," said Rosetta Bacon, My Place manager. "The teams that come to Dent County bring a lot of business to our community, not just the restaurants. These teams are good, respectable people who have enjoyed coming to Dent County, and we all need to work together to make sure their stay here is good."

Salem Economic Development Director Sharon Tubbs said Steelman is using his own initiative to do this. She said he is a community volunteer, out to help the community, and is not part of Rally America or the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

Tubbs, like the racers who participate, see several advantages of staying in Dent County.

"It is good to see young leaders be interested in seeing Salem benefit," Tubbs said. "Visitors that stay in Salem during the rally instead of an adjoining community helps increase the economic impact of this event."