David Ball – For The Record

In November, 2014, Ashley Mahana was hired as the coordinator of the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mahana is a fresh face and she seems to bring new ideas and enthusiasm for the job.

“Orange is different from a lot of cities. Some cities take all the money that comes into the CVB, but Orange allows entities to apply for grants and the money goes to them for the events they propose. The money comes from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, so it needs to go to events that will bring overnight visitors to Orange. After an event we take a survey of the local hotels to see how many rooms were used by out of town visitors. The money comes from tax on the rooms and we want to use it for things that will ‘put heads in beds’,” said Mahana. “We promote tourism and quality of life events with the CVB.”

Mahana is an Orange native with strong ties to the area. “When I decided to apply for this job, I did so for several reasons, one is that Orange is my home town and I do not want to see it die. I want to see things happen to promote Orange and the good things here.”

One of the most successful events in Orange has been the Bassmasters tournaments. They have brought national recognition to Orange through the Bassmasters promotions of the tournament and the way the contestants were treated by the businesses and citizens of Orange.

“Bassmasters has been so successful that we are working on a saltwater fishing tournament of the same type. It will be more regional than the Bassmasters, but should be as popular in time. Water in and around Orange is our greatest asset and we want to promote events that utilize our river and the surrounding waterways. September 18-20 there will be another set of tunnel boat races. We have been able to reschedule Tracy Byrd since he was rained out the last time he was scheduled to appear in Orange. He will be here Friday, September 18. On October 24 we have a music festival scheduled at the Pavilion on the river. We are having an open venue and there will be an opportunity for bands of any type to perform. Then music is not limited to only country, or Cajun, or pop. There are a lot of good local bands and we want to give them all a chance to be here. Cree Harrison has agreed to be here. She was another ‘rainout’. In December we will partner with the Kiwanis Club on the Christmas Parade. The tree will be in front of city hall and will be lighted in a ceremony. Santa will be here and we have invited local choirs to perform Christmas music. There will also be some caroling and several food vendors. We are averaging 10 events for Orange and they are free events. It is a great opportunity to provide for the citizens of Orange from the HOT money. The more beds we can fill the better things we can provide”, said Mahana. “Five years ago there were only three events.”

One project Mahana is working on is to build a relationship with the Stark Foundation that will allow Art in the Park to return to Stark Park. She said Stark Park is a popular venue for Art in the Park and gives both vendors and patrons better viewing and walking areas.

“We are working on giving our vendors better spaces. We are reworking booth placements and things like that. Art in the Park is very popular and we want it to be done in a manner so that vendors and patrons alike will want to return”, said Mahana.

In the “talking and planning stage” is a new event, a wine and jazz fest. It would be something that has not been done before and will be an event with potential.

Mahana attends city council meetings and does media advertising to promote CVB events. She has some ideas about advertising and promotion with area media and is willing to always look at partnering with local civic groups when possible. There are rules and regulations that apply to the use of HOT money, but there is also a lot of potential for use of the monies for a variety of events.

The fireworks display on the Fourth of July is a project that is funded with money from the city’s general government funds. HOT money cannot be used for fireworks and the city has to approve the use of the funds. Mahana is already working on the display for 2016.

“We had great response from this year’s fireworks. The Ruxpins did a wonderful job keeping the crowd entertained, people really enjoyed the event. People were glad to see them return. We need to look at what we can do next year to make it better. We know that for next year we need more food and toilets at the fireworks. There are some other things that probably need to be fine tuned also”, said Mahana.

Mahana describes herself as a small town girl doing a job she loves in a town she loves. Her past career was as a radiologist in hospitals.

“I wanted to make a career change. I have always loved working with people and as a radiologist I was with people and I am working with people here”, said Mahana.

Even though she is in her first year on the job, city officials are pleased to have someone with her attitude and dedication on the job promoting Orange, said City Manager Dr. Shawn Oubre.

“We have a good overall city staff and are getting a good reputation; that is why we can have good people like Ashley apply to work for our city”, said Oubre. “She is doing a great job.”