A Passion of Love for Kids from founder Nancy Craun, owner of Encore Elite Partners
“Family life is more complicated today than when I was a child. My summers were spent on my grandparent’s farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia. I had the luxury of exploring my little world on this farm from the creek beds to the mountainside trails very often on my own or with my cousins. I was introduced to the life cycles of both plants and animals. When my visiting cousins and I were too rambunctious, my grandmother often sent us to the garden to pick up the small rocks that would cause an issue to her rototiller. As a child, I believed that gardens grew rocks since each time we went outside there were more rocks. As a teenager, I followed my love of dancing by studying in New York City in the summers. However, I always loved coming back to the farm where I was one with nature.”
– Nancy Craun, founder of the Kids Trail and Taste of Blue Ridge’s Root to Table Culinary Series.
The beginning – Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail
The Virginia Kids Trail began in 2014 at a conference table in Woodstock, Virginia. Eight business partners wanted to work together to develop a marketing campaign centered around family travel. The name began as Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail. The consensus was that businesses alone were small as individuals, but as a group, they could have a bigger voice in the travel world. The Kids Trail’s purpose was to be a guide to visitors coming into the Valley covering Route 15 West and the Interstate-81 Corridor from Winchester to Harrisonburg.
VA Tourism’s research studies had identified that families found it difficult to easily find activities geared to children. Here in the northern Shenandoah Valley, it is easy to cross not just county lines but state lines. The result is over 48 tax-funded travel websites that did not connect. Four years earlier, this issue had been addressed by Encore Elite Partners with the launch of a regional website called Go Blue Ridge Travel. The research also identified the growth of multi-generational travel which made the Kids Trail a perfect fit for these visitors. The Kids Trail became a large section of Go Blue Ridge Travel in 2015.
Meeting parents needs
In talking with parents, the request simply was the need for activity ideas showcasing what is available to do here in Virginia. Kids have different interests, so to address this, the Kids Trail activities are centered on Action, Creativity, Heritage, and Wellness. To tell our story, we have created four mascots – Bucket, Shenny, Ridge, and Fungi.
Now in 2020 as we move into our sixth year, the Kids Trail is expanding to cover more of Virginia! Encore Elite Partners (EEP) is launching this new Kids Trail website separating it from Go Blue Ridge Travel. Today the Kids Trail’s major focus is on the locals and educating them on activities here for their children. We believe if we get the locals to be raving fans of the Kids’ Trail, they can promote the Kids Trail to their friends who account for over 49% of visitors coming to Virginia.
The Kids Trail is committed to offering the best fun experiences including at least 30% of these activities being FREE. Money should not be a preventive issue to having great experiences with your child.
Why the Mascots –
“Part of the Kids Trail mission is to show kids it is OK to be different. Our four mascots activities for kids range from:
- being an explorer – action enthusiast
- loving all things beautiful with a passion for creativity
- being a bit of a nerd loving research and our past family heritage to how the future can be shaped
- foodie enthusiast – a lover of REAL FOOD.
Enter Bucket, Shenny, Ridge and Fungi. Why snails, a step back from our fast world! Check out our characters and let your child identify with the one they are the most like.
“Having friends who have different interests just makes your world bigger!” – Nancy Craun, Owner and Founder
Message – Mission – Vision
“Get Out and Play with your children”
The mission of the Kids Trail is to promote kid-friendly activities in the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia through heritage, action, creativity, and wellness.
The Kids Trail vision is to be the “go-to” resource that connects families planning a Shenandoah Valley adventure and the businesses, programs, and events that promote Valley heritage, action, creativity and wellness for children.
Virginia Tourism has awarded five marketing grants to the Virginia Kids Trail since it began in 2014.
The Kids Trail is owned by Nancy Craun under the marketing company, Encore Elite Partners (EEP). The Kids Trail brand is overseen by an Action Board of leading business partners from the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding area.
Nancy’s passion and business experience comes with over forty years in the marketing event business and ten years in the tourism hospitality industry. EEP’s mission is to serve as a conduit for – and between – businesses interested in the niche of generational travel. Located in the Shenandoah Valley, EEP specializes in two growing, lucrative markets – multi-generational travel and locally sourced culinary experiences.