DeKalb County Visitors Bureau staff

Outside the future home of the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau are its executive director, Amber Caccamo, left, and social media manager, Mollie O’Rourke.

AUBURN — The DeKalb County Visitors Bureau is moving to the neighborhood of the county’s top tourist attractions.

Soon, the visitors bureau will make its home directly across the street from Auburn’s automobile museums — the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and the National Auto & Truck Museum.

“Everybody knows where the ACD Museum is, so it just made the most sense for us to try to get somewhere around this,” said Amber Caccamo, executive director of the visitors bureau. “To be right across the street from everything going on, strategically, makes the most sense for us.”

Cacammo said she consulted with 15 other visitors bureaus about the ideal location for an office. When she learned a space at 1601 S. Van Buren St. in Auburn was becoming available, she called right away.

After 3-4 weeks of construction, the visitors bureau will be ready to move from its present office at 500 S. Grandstaff Drive in west Auburn. Caccamo is hoping to open the new site by July 25, but concedes that may be optimistic.

A remodeling project will create a front presentation office with a guest restroom and a view of the museums through the front windows. The office will include a board room and potential for a community meeting room. An upstairs space offers future possibilities.

“As we expand, maybe we will have some retail, maybe we will have some more showcasing,” Caccamo said. Auburn Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning will continue to use the rear of the building.

Bright-red awnings identifying the tourism office will be seen by everyone visiting the two automobile museums.

“The fact that people are talking about us as a visitors bureau — they see we’re growing, they see we’re trying to be innovative and do things — is really important to us,” Caccamo said.

Events coming to county

Tourists will be coming to the Auburn museums for two special events in late July, thanks to arrangements by the visitors bureau.

The Rolling into Roanoke Dream Tour will stop in Auburn on July 25. The three-county driving tour will visit Auburn’s auto museums and the headquarters of Worldwide Auctioneers at Kruse Plaza, among nine destinations on its route.

On July 31, participants in Fort Wayne’s Harvester Homecoming will bring their International Harvester Scout vehicles to Auburn for museum tours.

The visitors bureau also is promoting DeKalb County by sponsoring the Hit the Road radio show and podcast. It can be heard 10-10:30 a.m. Sundays on WOWO radio and through podcasts on every major platform and the visitors bureau website.

Classic car expert Rich Dolsen of Ultra Motorsports in Fort Wayne serves as host for the show, and Caccamo uses it to promote DeKalb County — including tourist attractions such as wineries and a brewery that are not car-related.

“We want to make sure that the rest of the county knows that we are here to support that as well,” Caccamo said about non-automotive events.

In one new event, Garrett is involved in a regional mural project this fall, which will see a large mural painted on the side of Garrett City Hall. Make It Your Own Mural Fest is scheduled for Sept. 8-18, organized by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Caccamo said a committee met June 23 to review 11 proposals for the design of the Garrett mural.

“We really have some amazing submissions,” she reported.

The visitors bureau also is increasing its grants to local attractions.

“There’s still a lot of accessible money in our grant program,” Caccamo said.

“You don’t necessarily have to be a nonprofit to apply for this grant money. If you’re having an event that brings tourism into the county, we want you to apply for these funds, because we want to promote what people are doing around here,” she said. “I would definitely say that our grant program is underutilized.”

The visitors bureau board has lifted a previous $2,500 limit on grant size. It recently gave $5,000 toward repairs of the Spencerville Covered Bridge.

“If it makes sense, and we think that it’s good for the county, we want to be able to support that. So, think big!” Caccamo said to potential grant applicants.

The visitors bureau operates on money from an innkeepers tax on hotel rooms. Caccamo said corporate travel to DeKalb County industries has kept innkeepers tax collections somewhat stable during the pandemic.

“We’re not cutting back on marketing, where a lot of visitors bureaus are having to cut back on marketing due to COVID,” she said. “We’re finding different ways to make cuts. That way we can still advertise as we need to advertise.”

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