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Published: Thursday, 4/7/2005

Columbus fan shares enthusiasm

A monarch butterfly sun bathing on a brilliant Dale Chihuly glass sculpture is but one reason Lynn Kartavich believes families should visit Columbus.

A dedicated cheerleader in promoting Ohio's capital, Kartavich's descriptions of other things to see and do may not be as graphic as the butterfly-Chihuly one, but she is equally enthusiastic about them.

Kartavich and I met by happenstance in Parkersburg, W.Va., where she and I had chosen the same motel for the night. I was on my way home from a southern sojourn. She was on one of her weeklong trips handing out Experience Columbus business cards and promoting the city's historic, sports, dining, entertainment, and shopping possibilities.

Because she had made a fuss over Digby earlier, I said hello when I saw her in the dining room. She invited me to share her table.

It was after I asked, "And what are you doing in Parkersburg, W.Va.?" that she enthusiastically began to explain her work. After her first few sentences, I got out my pen and notebook.

Kartavich is visitor service manager of Experience Columbus, formerly the Greater Columbus Convention and Business Bureau. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she developed the plan to promote the city and its environs throughout Ohio and to other states.

She saw a need for short-distance motor travel for families who were hesitant to take long plane trips after the tragedies. She contends that Columbus visitors can see most of Ohio's major attractions within 2 1/2 hours of the city. The promotion program originally was called Hub and Spoke.

Making an average five stops each day during the two weeks each month that she is on the road, Kartavich works primarily with AAA club trip counselors. Her lengthy menu of cities takes her as far east as Pittsburgh, south to Louisville and Lexington, Ky., east to Indianapolis, and into Michigan to Ann Arbor and Brighton.

So what is there to see in Columbus and immediate environs? The answer to that question took the listener through dinner and past dessert and coffee.

Chihuly glass sculptures and butterflies met a year ago at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden and are still meeting. Thirteen pieces of the famous Seattle artist's work are permanent in the conservatory because they were purchased by a donor after the Chihuly show. Butterflies in an annual exhibit are attracted to the colorful blown-glass works.

The Titanic exhibit at COSI will continue through Labor Day. The Phantom of the Opera is billed through August. Cirque du Soleil will be an August featured attraction. The Arena District is a downtown area of shops and restaurants.

German Village, with small homes and German restaurants, has remained popular for generations, according to Kartavich.

In 45 minutes visitors, can be in Holmes County, the centerpiece of Ohio Amish farms and shopping. Also within easy driving from the capital, Frazeyburg is now the home of the Longaberger Homestead, which features factory tours, shopping, and other activities related to the famous Ohio-made baskets.

Kartavich's Toledo visits bring back memories of her days in politics when she was chairman of the Ohio Reagan presidential campaign.

"Do you remember when the Heartland train came to Perrysburg from Dayton during the campaign? " she asked. "That was my idea, too."



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