Blackstone Valley Timeline

  • Robert Billington starts the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council at his kitchen table in Cumberland, Rhode Island and goes out to speak to over 150 civic groups and clubs about his idea of making the Blackstone Valley a tourism destination

  • Publish the first brochure on Blackstone Valley historic sites 1986

  • First room tax is implemented by the state on hotels to share with state tourism districts

  • Blackstone Valley Tourism Board of Directors hires Bob Billington as the Council’s first full time director in September

  • Federal government authorizes the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (named in 1999 for the late U.S. Senator John Chafee)

  • Publish first brochure on Holidays in Pawtucket

  • Publish first brochure on Holidays in the Valley

  • Publish first brochure on the Blackstone Valley’s Historic Mills

  • The Tourism Council moves to the Northgate Tollhouse in Lincoln, home of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society

  • Create the first Blackstone Valley Banner Tour, a self driving tour of the nine Blackstone Valley communities

  • Welcome the first interns from Johnson & Wales Department of Travel and Tourism

  • Develop the Blackstone Valley Passport Sample Tour Packet

  • Publish first brochure on Springtime in the Blackstone Valley

  • Publish first brochure on Summer Events in the Blackstone Valley

  • Publish first brochure on Christmas in the Valley

  • Launch slogan: Destination Blackstone River Valley – Something New, Something Different

  • Schedule seven bus tours of the Blackstone Valley highlighting the area as a tourism destination

  • Fulfill 10,000 mail requests for information about the Valley

  • Launch Blackstone Valley Tourism One, a 16 foot rubber raft secured through Navy surplus

  • Hire first part-time staffer to co-ordinate interpretive canoe trips, bus tours and railway trips thru a contract with the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

  • Begin fall foliage sightseeing tours aboard the Providence & Worcester Railroad

  • Release The Fiber That Wove America’s Spirit, with soundtrack by Pendragon, the first promotional videotape of the Blackstone Valley

  • Establish Travel Experiences trade show in conjunction with Conway Tours

  • Create 8-foot tall William Blackstone character to appear at special events and march in parades

  • Publish Blackstone River Valley Fresh Water Fishing Guide, first fishing guide for the Valley

  • Begin the first cruises on the Blackstone River using glass-bottom boat supplied by Luther Blount

  • Launch three-year “Let’s Build a Boat” campaign to raise $50,000 and purchase a 49-foot Explorer riverboat

  • Hold first Steamboat Muster at the State Pier, School Street in Pawtucket

  • Move Tourism Council headquarters to larger office space at Blackstone Valley Electric Co. building on Route 116 in Lincoln, RI

  • Write and publish first comprehensive tourism guide for the Blackstone Valley

  • Organize Turn it Around with Tourism conference at Bryant College with Dr. Pat Manheim of Johnson and Wales University

  • Initiate Events of the Week, a regular media release sent to over 300 media outlets

  • Launch 49 passenger Blackstone Valley Explorer, the first riverboat on the Blackstone in 170 years

  • Sign the Blackstone Valley-Amber Valley Compact in Belper, England with delegation from Blackstone Valley traveling to Amber Valley to celebrate the signing and participate in “twinning ceremony” with Belper, England

  • Develop River Classroom program on the Explorer Riverboat, offering history, ecology and wildlife education to students

  • Purchase the Blackstone Valley’s first trolley in 60 years in partnership with the Conway Gray Line Bus Company of Cumberland

  • Begin selling 1st edition, Cumberland by the Blackstone – 250 years of Heritage by Dave Balfour and Joyce Hindle Koutsogiane on behalf of the Town of Cumberland

  • Host 45-member Thornton’s Brass Band from the Amber Valley, England

  • Move Tourism Council headquarters to 171 Main Street, Pawtucket

  • Open the first year-round, full time Visitor Center in the Blackstone Valley

  • Establish plans for the first Blackstone Valley Watershed Council

  • Coordinate the World Canal Conference held in the Blackstone Valley

  • Develop Christmas trolley tours through Blackstone Valley neighborhoods

  • Launch second riverboat, the Spirit of Blackstone Valley

  • Blackstone River receives the prestigious designation of American Heritage River

  • Establish Rhode Island Rivers Day, celebrating the Blackstone River’s impact on the community and honoring its volunteers

  • Lay keel for the British-built canal boat Samuel Slater, to be docked on the Blackstone River for day cruises and floating bed and breakfast accommodation

  • Launch the Hope and Renaissance – two European-style ferry boats to shuttle commuters between Providence & Pawtucket

  • Initiate THE POLAR EXPRESSTM Train Ride with permission from author Chris Van Allsburg and publisher Houghton Mifflin

  • Move Tourism Council headquarters to permanent office at 175 Main Street, Pawtucket across from historic Slater Mill information kiosk, the Slater Mill Gift Shop and Gallery, the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative Gallery, a movie theatre, RIPTA bus station, and Tourism Council offices

  • Launch Samuel Slater British canal boat for use as overnight accommodations and for daytime cruising on the Blackstone River

  • Introduce dragon boat racing to the Blackstone River with first annual Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Race and Taiwan Day Festival

  • Host 28 person tour group from the Amber Valley of England – Belper, England is the hometown of Samuel Slater

  • Begin Central Falls Landing project

  • Three thousand parents and children are carried away aboard THE POLAR EXPRESSTM Train Ride

  • Purchase 1981 British model double-decker tour bus – the only one of its kind in Rhode Island

  • Create worldwide publicity for the Blackstone Valley after sending 7-foot tall Mr. Potato Head to England

  • Launched tourblackstone.com website promoting attractions, events and other Blackstone Valley information

  • Create first Easter Bunny Express train ride

  • Partner with the Great American Cleanup along the Blackstone River, in cooperation with nine Blackstone Valley communities

  • Create DeTours, self-guided maps featuring themed tours in the Valley.

  • Develop Cylcleblackstone.com website promoting four accessible bike trails for recreational activities along the canals and pathways of America’s industrial birth

  • Launch interactive web calendar, Eventblackstone.com for the listing and promotion of Blackstone Valley events

  • Join with the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Heritage Corridor and Chamber of Commerce establishing the Civic Art project Blackstone Canoe Trail, presenting artists' renditions of the history, culture and natural beauty of the Valley depicted on sponsored canoes situated throughout the Valley

  • Coordinate Preserve America’s Footsteps in History event, “Five Centuries in Three Days,” a culmination of the Preserve America communities award

  • Produce BlackstoneCanoeTrail.com website showcasing Civic Art and prompting community participation to follow the trail, find the canoes and discover the Blackstone Valley

  • Obtain licensing by Warner Brothers to host THE POLAR EXPRESSTM Train Ride – one of five organizations nationwide now permitted to hold the event

  • Launched Dineblackstone.com website providing a database of Blackstone Valley restaurants and eating establishments

  • Receive United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Ulysses Prize

  • Attain UNWTO SBest certification

  • Open Blackstone River State Park Visitor Center off I-295 in Lincoln

  • Host RI Tourism Sustainability Conference

  • Complete first Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Tourism Economic Impact study with assistance from the Travel Industry Association of America

  • Launched Blackstone Alert website to provide information in case of weather and other emergencies

  • BVTC is recognized by the National Geographic Society as a sustainable tourism development pioneer on the Center for Sustainable Destinations website

  • Receive world-wide publicity in Dubai, UAE, by the World Travel and Tourism Council, winning top Tourism for Tomorrow Destination award

  • Release first completely Rhode Island Green Visitor Guide for the Blackstone Valley using all environmentally-friendly methods and materials, and highlighting eco-friendly destinations, activities and environmental principles

  • Launch “Free Sundays” aboard the Explorer riverboat, sponsored for public enjoyment by the Citizens Bank Foundation

  • Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful program is certified by Keep America Beautiful

  • Win $50,000 Preserve America grant for the Broad Street Regeneration Project

  • Announce Broad Street Regeneration Project with Mayors of the involved municipalities of Pawtucket, Central Falls and Cumberland

  • Introduce Tour Your Own Backyard themed public familiarization tours highlighting the heritage, culture, natural history and scenic beauty in our own backyard

  • Bring to market “Blackstone Valley Salsa” and “Blackstone Valley Dynamite Sauce,” making our tasty “local flavor” truly tangible

  • Export Sustainable Tourism Planning & Development Laboratory to Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  • Initiate Events of the Week, a regular news release emailed to over 300 media outlets and linked to a widening network of websites.

  • Blackstone Valley joins FaceBook and Twitter – Become a Fan and Follower!

  • Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory is accepted as partner to: Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance of the United Nations Foundation; Rain Forest Alliance; United Nations World Tourism Organization.

  • One hundred eighty participants from across the U.S. come to participate in the Council’s Civic Tourism II Conference, based on Sustainable Tourism concepts

  • Create Achievement in Rhode Island Sustainable Tourism Award (ARISTA) to acknowledge the efforts of qualified non-profit organizations incorporating sustainable practices

  • Sustainable Tourism Laboratory continues to build its portfolio of workshop seminars with a focus on responsible tourism and sustainable tourism development

  • The Secret Ingredient Food Tour becomes a regular Wednesday night culinary event

  • Traditions and cultures of Asia and America come together for The Rhode Island Cherry Blossom Festival with a parade, dancing, demonstrations and May Breakfast

  • Blackstone Valley Leisurely Bicycle Tours rolls out in September providing a fun and relaxing way to experience the heritage, culture, nature and recreational opportunities offered in the beautiful Blackstone Valley

  • Began Chocolate Mill Overlook campaign

  • Led the creation of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame

  • Completion and opening of Chocolate Mill Overlook
  • First inaugural concert and ceremony for the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame
  • Hachiko monument unveiled in Woonsocket
  • Began marketing the Pawtucket Visitor Center for events
  • First annual Cupid Ball
  • Ghost Army film and reception held at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket
  • Held special Polar Express Event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the movie, featuring: author Chris Van Allsburg, Warner Brothers, Rail Events, Lionel Trains, and artist Patrick Kinkade.
  • Parts of the Blackstone Valley were officially designated a national park