FRANKLIN CO., Va. -

How do you get people to go the lake when it's cold?

It's a challenge businesses at Smith Mountain Lake have faced for years. Business owners are confident a solution appears to be on the way.

Recently, the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau announced that businesses in Virginia's Blue Ridge can advertise for free on its website and other promotional materials.

For businesses here in downtown Roanoke, they have the benefit of an urban center.

For some of the areas rural attractions, like Smith Mountain Lake, it's news that may be even more welcome.

"We look forward to being able to market this as part of the region year round," said Roy Enslow, co-owner of Bridgewater Marina.

The challenge at Smith Mountain Lake is making it a destination.

Places like Bridgewater Marina along the lake have very little trouble doing good business in the summer compared to this time of year.

June, July and August used to be the season and that was it.

"Now we're looking at we're having season from March all the way through November," Enslow said.

The hope is this new partnership with the Convention and Visitors Bureau will make the lake a destination year round.

This collaboration between the visitors bureau and the small businesses could be great for a rural economy.

"The biggest thing that I see about this area are the businesses are willing to work together. They are mom and pop operations but they also know they need to rely on each other," Enslow added when asked what's different now.

Lesley Kocsis runs a gift shop at the Marina.

She says business on these shoulder months is good and has the potential to get better, "We still see lots of out of towners, people that are coming here for weddings or other special events."

For now, the plan is continuing to market the special weekend events the marina already has and hope for a bump because of the new Convention and Visitors Bureau partnership.

The hope is that business will continue to grow at a time of the year when conventional wisdom says it shouldn't.


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