Fairhaven Office of Tourism

This page outlines the history and activities of the Fairhaven, MA, Office of Tourism from its inception in 1995 to the present.

Town Meeting approves the funding of an Office of Tourism through the collection of Hotel Room Occupancy Tax.

After much work by the volunteer Fairhaven Tourism Committee, Article 13 of the Special Town Meeting of May 6, 1995 was passed to begin collecting Hotel Room Occupancy tax in Fairhaven and to deposit the funds into an account that “may be expended for the establishment and maintenance of an office of Tourism including, but not limited to, the purchase or leasing or real or personal property, equipment and supplies, and the hiring of part time and/or full time personnel, and the conducting of promotional activities and publishing [of] promotional materials.”

In March of 1996, with funds then in the Tourism account, the Select Board advertised the position of Director of Tourism. There were seven applicants and the Select Board chose four candidates to be interviewed. On April 16, 1996, the Select Board hired Christopher J. Richard for the position. He has served continuously since that time. Prior to his hiring Mr. Richard had worked as a graphic designer, writer, editor and photographer for Hathaway Publishing Company, owners of a weekly newspaper chain, and had been employed by local printing companies, where he had produced advertising materials, brochures, posters, and publications. He was caretaker of Fairhaven’s historical Coggeshall Memorial House, and had served as co-chair of the Town of Fairhaven Poverty Point Historic District Study Committee. He was president of the Fairhaven Historical Society and a director and officer of the Fairhaven Improvement Association.

Within a very short time of being hired, Mr. Richard learned that a storefront location was available for rent, which would make a good starting location for a town Visitors Center.

The first full year

For the first full year of the Office of Tourism (FY97), the Select Board was authorized by Town Meeting to spend up to $50,000.00 for the Office of Tourism. (More than $88,000.00 was collected in Room Tax for the period.)

In July of 1996, less than three months after the establishment of the Office of Tourism, a lease agreement was signed by Executive Secretary Jeffrey Osuch to rent the small storefront at 23 Center St. to use as a Visitors Center. The center was stocked with brochures promoting Fairhaven and surrounding attractions. In its first year, visitors from 31 states and 11 foreign countries signed the guest book.

The Director of Tourism took over guiding many of the historical walking tours from Natalie S. Hemingway, who had created the tours in 1995 as a member of the volunteer Tourism Committee. The first tours were of Poverty Point, the Fort Phoenix area, Riverside Cemetery, and Fairhaven center, which had only been offered on a limited basis. Mr. Richard created a new “Henry H. Rogers Walking Tour,” which was offered free of charge to the public once a week in the summer. The Office of Tourism also provided guided tours to visiting groups, school classes,  and commercial tour operators by special arrangement.

Mr. Richard created a 20-page guide book to provide information about the town, as well as a brochure on Henry H. Rogers, two printed calendars of events, and a four-page Fairhaven restaurant guide. Advertisements promoting the town were produced and placed in publications such as Bristol County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Americana Trails guide, The Traveler newspaper. Best Read Guide, and Gateway to Cape Cod. An advertisement and a story were also placed in New England Group Tours Magazine which is a leading publication for tour group operators throughout the country. In addition, many press releases and photos about Fairhaven and special events were distributed to newspapers and magazines.

Fairhaven events were listed in the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism calendar-of-events for 1997 and other publications. A weekly newspaper column, “Notes from the Visitors Center,” was published in the weekly newspaper The Advocate.

A logo for the Office of Tourism was designed by Mr. Richard. “A Small Town With a Big History” was adopted as the primary advertising slogan to promote the town.

As of March 1, 1997, the Director of Tourism position was increased from 19 hours a week to full time.

The early years

Through the years, the Office of Tourism created new events and programs with the intention of drawing visitors to Fairhaven and to provide activities to both visitors and residents. Here are highlights of the Office of Tourism activities.

After doing extensive historical research, additional brochures were created to tell the stories of the Delano family, Manjiro Nakahama, Capt. Joshua Slocum, the historic Poverty Point neighborhood, Fort Phoenix, Joseph Bates Jr., and Riverside Cemetery.

1997: The Office of Tourism began the July 4th American History Costume Parade and the Fort Phoenix Independence Day Ceremony. It was the first 4th of July celebration to be held in town since 1963 and the first to be sponsored by the Town of Fairhaven itself.

1998: With permission of the Historical Commission, the Office of Tourism encouraged the North Fairhaven Improvement Association to begin opening up the historic Old Stone Schoolhouse to the public two afternoons a week during the summer.

1998: the first Old-Time Holiday was organized by the Office of Tourism in conjunction with more than 30 non-profit groups, school groups, and churches. Held on the second weekend in December, the event featured activities in several locations, particularly in the historical center if town, with craft fairs, music, food, carol singing, etc. At first, the event was named the Very Victorian Holiday with some of the participants dressing in period clothing. After a few years the name was changed to the more general Old-Time Holiday. It continues to be held annually to this day.

1999: A group of Office of Tourism volunteers was recruited to be stationed at Fort Phoenix on some afternoons during the summer. The Fort Phoenix Guides soon begin to dress in colonial costume and play the roles of people in the Revolutionary War era. The group grows as others volunteer.

1999: In June, a new “Fort Phoenix Minuteman Tour” was begun on Friday mornings in the summer. Presented by Mr. Richard, dressed in Revolutionary War clothing, the tour also featured a musket firing demonstration by Charles Cromwell, and later by Frank Mathieu. These tours continued every summer until the script was redeveloped as a different program in 2016.

2001: The Fairhaven Visitors Center relocated from 23 Center Street to a considerably larger leased space at 43 Center St.

2003: The Office of Tourism became the second Town entity to go online in 2003 when Mr. Richard set up three free web pages on “Hometown AOL” to promote Fairhaven. (The Millicent Library had created a website in 1995.) Town Hall would not start the Town of Fairhaven website until 2007. The AOL pages were later replaced by free web pages created through Google’s Blogger.com. This was used until the end of 2013.

2003: The Fort Phoenix Guides group adopted the name Fairhaven Village Militia. At the suggestion of member Ellsworth Sylvaria, the militia holds an overnight historical encampment at Fort Phoenix on the 225th anniversary of the British raid on the harbor during the American Revolution. At sunset the five fort cannons are fired. The popular event was repeated annually each fall under the auspices of the Office of Tourism. Later a second encampment in the spring was added. Eventually the Fairhaven Village Militia was incorporated as a private non-profit organization, independent of the Office of Tourism.

2006: Beginning in 2006, the Town stopped depositing the  Hotel Room Occupancy Tax into the account dedicated to the operation of the Office of Tourism. Instead, this steadily increasing revenue was deposited into the town’s general fund so the money could be allocated to any use. For FY97, the Office of Tourism budget then became one of regular departmental operating budgets funded in Article 4 of the regular Town Meeting.

2009: A Facebook page, Fairhaven, MA, Visitors Center, was created to begin the Town’s promotion on social media. You can visit the page here: https://www.facebook.com/FairhavenTours Through the years, other Facebook pages have been created to promote programs and events run by the Office of Tourism.

2010: Because of a lack of volunteers, the Office of Tourism itself started opening the Old Stone Schoolhouse on Saturday afternoons in the summer. Mannequins were purchased by the Office of Tourism and dressed to represent 19th century students. Glass cases were installed and filled with artifacts related to schooling in the 1800s.

2011: A series of meetings at Town Hall by the Office of Tourism with Fairhaven business owners resulted in the creation of the Fairhaven Business Association. Mr. Richard designed a logo for the group and it incorporated as a non-profit organization.

2011: With volunteer Dana Dextraze, the weekly Henry H. Rogers walking tours in the summer were expanded from Thursday mornings to Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Move to the Academy Building

2012: The Fairhaven Visitors Center was moved to the first floor of the town owned Fairhaven Academy Building at 141 Main St. in October 2012. The money previously needed to lease a visitors center and pay for utilities cut from the annual Office of Tourism budget.

2013: The Office of Tourism created a new annual event in the fall called “Harvest Fun Day,” a fall themed fair with booths for Fairhaven non-profit groups and Fairhaven businesses offering items for sale, children’s games or fall-themed activities, food, etc. There were 30 booths and music was provided by DJ Ken Sousa. The event was held each fall for seven years and was then absorbed into the Huttleston Marketplace.

2013: The website FairhavenTours.com was created by volunteer Jeff Wotton of the Spectrum Marketing Group, whose company would begin hosting the website for free. The new site would replace the older “Blogger.com” web pages. Since its initial setup, Mr. Richard has managed the entire website.

2015: The office of Tourism created an 8-week summer children’s program called “Monday Morning Fun,” held on Monday mornings in July and August. It featured lawn games, a bounce house, face painting, ice cream, and a special guest presentation each week. During the five years it was held, presentations were given by Save Buzzards Bay, the Lloyd Center for environmental Studies, Mad Science, Acushnet River Safe Boating Club, Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford ArtMobile, New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, New Bedford Historical National Park, Fairhaven Fire Department, and other guests. The Covid pandemic ended the program in 2020 and it has not been held since.

2016: The Office of Tourism revamped the old Friday morning “Fort Phoenix Minuteman Tour” into the “Pirates and Privateers Presentation” to take advantage of the public’s interest in pirates. The popular program runs on Friday mornings at 10:00 from June through September with a cast of three dressed in pirate garb presenting history in a fun, family friendly way.

2018: On June 16, 2018, the first Huttleston Marketplace was held on the lawns of the Visitors Center and Fairhaven High School to provide a venue for local artists and crafters, farmers, food producers, and non-profit groups to sell goods. The marketplace, held weekly on Saturdays, now runs from mid0May through the end of September. It was initially funded solely by donations by the vendors to the Tourism Gift Account. It grew from 30 booths when it started to a high of 97 booth spaces in 2023. Because it is registered with Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources as a farmers market, it was allowed to operate through the Covid pandemic, when it then grew in size because most local craft fairs and festivals were canceled. Beginning in 2024 it has operated on a fee schedule with the revenue deposited in the general fund.

2021: The hiring of Youth Services librarian Allie Thiel at the Millicent Library prompted Mr. Richard to approach her with the idea of holding a fall Fairhaven Kids Fest as a cooperative undertaking between the Office of Tourism and Millicent Library Youth Services. The event was planned for October and was modeled in part on the earlier Harvest Fun Day fairs, but with an even greater emphasis on activities and entertainment for children. Vendors selling items geared to kids were signed up. Other Town of Fairhaven departments and committees were invited to participate, including FairhavenTV, the Belonging Committee, the Sustainability Committee, and the Fairhaven Recreation Center. Children enjoyed pumpkin painting, Halloween costume contests, and interactive activities with members of Pirates of the Cape, the cub scouts, the Fairhaven Village Militia, costumed storybook characters, and others. Kids Fest quickly become a very popular fall event for families.

2023: A new Fort Phoenix program called “Dreadful Medicine” began on Thursday afternoons in June, July, and August. It features reenactors of a Revolutionary War era “barber surgeon” and a colonial village midwife taking about medical procedures, dentistry, and herbal cures in the late 1700s. The reenactors are at the fort from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Other Office of Tourism Activities

In addition to the more publicly visible activities, the Director of Tourism sends out press releases, meets with authors, travel writers, film and television producers, and movie location scouts, and provides interviews on the town’s attractions, history and special events. This has resulted in Japanese television documentaries on Manjiro Nakahama, appearances on Boston Channel 5’s Chronicle, an appearance on the HGTV program Houses with History (season 2, episode 1, “The One With Mark Twain,” 2023), and Fairhaven’s appearances in films including The Perfect Gooseys (2002), Passionada, (2002), Fairhaven (2012), Finestkind (2023), and the Golden Globe and Academy Award winning The Holdovers (2023). Mr. Richard met with and helped author Rick Boyer with research for the Doc Adams mystery series novel The Man Who Whispered, which is set in Fairhaven.

The Office of Tourism has provided research material and support to other Town departments writing grants. The Director of Tourism served on the study committees drafting the Sign By-law and the Sanitary Scoop By-law, as well as serving on the Fairhaven Bicentennial Committee. He argued for the use of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds for the installation of the disabled accessible sidewalk at Fort Phoenix.

Volunteer tour guides and history presenters for the Office of Tourism, past and present, include Natalie S. Hemingway, Sandy Main, Diane Duprey, Lori Richard, Charles Cromwell, Steve Bano, Frank Mathieu, July Moniz, Dana Dextraze, Vanessa Gralton, Anne O’Brien, Erin Hedges, Andrew Morin, Jordan Richard, Lee Bonia, Joanne Zych, Deborah Almeida, Michael Hevey, and Michael Sylvia.

Director of Tourism: Chris Richard, email: FairhavenTours@fairhaven-ma.gov, phone: 508-979-4085, mailing address: Fairhaven Office of Tourism, 141 Main St., Fairhaven, MA 02719

Return to Home Page

Share Button