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It’s the squirrels that Theresa Anthony of Charlotte, North Carolina, remembers about her trip to Ottawa.
“We have brown squirrels in Charlotte, and they have black squirrels in Ottawa. Amazing,” she said on a recent Saturday.
Anthony was part of a busload of tourists stopping in Battle Creek before heading to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners.
You never know what’s going to make an impact on travelers. And funnily enough, Battle Creek has its own black squirrel story.
Step On tour guide Charles Rose explained it was cereal magnate Dr. Kellogg who imported squirrels to Battle Creek. A group of squirrel-smuggling college students would eventually steal some and take them to New York, which got a chuckle from his audience.
That’s why travel companies such as Christian Tours need a local guide, to share the little stories behind the famous ones.
Looking for the “ah-ha” moment
Rose is a Battle Creek native and a member of the historical society. He originally got into leading tours when the society was in charge of taking visitors around to explain the local history. Now when a tour group calls the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau, they are sent to Rose.
His favorite part of being a tour guide is the “ah-ha” moment.
“I like it when you can see it in their eyes, when they can appreciate some information,” Rose said.
The Christian Tours motorcoach rolled through downtown Battle Creek as Rose talked about architecture or an old pharmacy where they used to have vats of leeches for medical purposes. Rose has a lot of stories he’s learned just from talking to people.
It was a rainy afternoon so there weren’t many opportunities to leave the bus without getting wet. Some of the Southerners wanted to take the rain back home, where things have been dry for a month.
There was one spot Rose really wanted the tourists to see up close – the Underground Railroad Monument. He crossed his fingers as the bus pulled up next to the Kellogg House, near the memorial.
“And wouldn’t you know it, it stopped raining! It was like, thank you Lord!”
The rain started again soon after, but there was enough time to admire the statue, take photos and hear the story of Sarah and Erastus Hussey, stationmasters on the Underground Railroad.
Another spot that elicited “oohh”s and “aahh”s was Fantasy Forest at Leila Arboretum. Even though rain kept everyone inside, camera buttons clicked as Rose explained the sculptures were carved from trees that had been killed by the emerald ash borer.
Charter bus tours bring in visitors
At one point, Rose encouraged the tour group to share the importance of travel with younger generations.
A tour bus is one way to make travel easier.
“I like going with them, they take care of you, make sure you’re on the bus…so they don’t leave you behind,” Anthony said.
“Not yet, anyway,” someone joked.
Anthony has been on a lot of trips with Christian Tours, which is based out of North Carolina. There were people from at least four different states, including California.
Besides the Canada trip, another of Anthony’s favorite memories was traveling along Route 66. The bus started in Chicago and went all the way to the Santa Monica Pier.
Other tour groups that have been through town recently include Lifestyle Tours out of Indiana and 4 Seasons Vacations from Minnesota. There’s a group scheduled for next year that requires a Portuguese translator.
Downtown Battle Creek isn’t the only attraction for motorcoaches – there’s often a bus parked outside of Cornwell’s Turkeyville and Seventh-day Adventists from around the world make a pilgrimage to Historic Adventist Village in bus groups.
You can know as much as a tour guide
Rose is a Certified Tourism Ambassador, a training that is available to everyone in Calhoun County, not only tour guides.
It’ll teach you the history of the county and fun facts along with places to eat and things to do. You might not interact with tourists in your daily life, but the next time you hear someone say, “There’s nothing to do in Battle Creek,” you’ll have an answer for them.
“That training was valuable. It would give insight on how to do things and it kind of organizes the thoughts,” Rose said.
To learn more or sign up for the next training, email Kimber Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.CTANetwork.com.
*Article written by Communications Coordinator, Annie Kelley. Contact Annie at email@example.com.