Culture Beat / Sep. 5, 2018

Lexington Sees Tourism Suffer After Red Hen Flap

The region's tourism board dips into emergency funds as it seeks to boost flagging tourism.

Here’s a lesson on why one shouldn’t allow the emotions of the moment dictate the actions one takes. Or, in the words of that wise maxim, “Think before you act.” Recall the incident from earlier this summer in the little town of Lexington, Virginia, when the owner of a restaurant known as the Red Hen refused service to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders due to disliking President Donald Trump. At the time of the incident, the Red Hen’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, displayed the classic symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome, stating that she refused to serve someone who works for an “inhumane and unethical” administration that would dare to enforce immigration law. She further opined, “This feels like a moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

Well, it looks like Wilkinson’s decision to uphold her personal self-proclaimed “morals” is proving to inflict a financial cost on the rest of the town. The Roanoke Times reports that the regional tourism board is having to dip into emergency funds in an effort to boost a flagging level of tourism. And it has become quite clear that the negative publicity following the Red Hen incident is the primary culprit for the downturn. Director of marketing Patty Williams noted that “for a town our size, it was a significant impact.”

What may be the most ironic twist to this whole story is the fact that at the time of the incident Wilkinson was the director of a local tourism group — a group whose stated goal was to increase tourism to the town of 7,000. Shortly after making the ugly scene with Sanders and her family, Wilkinson resigned her position, but too little too late. Actions have consequences and often those consequences have an impact well beyond the immediate moment.

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