When the Ocean Shores Visitors Information Center (VIC) moves from the Ocean Shores Convention Center to its new home with the Ocean Shores/North Beach Chamber of Commerce next month, one familiar face will be missing.
VIC coordinator Cathie Parker is retiring, and Wednesday, Dec. 19, will be her last day, as most of the center operations already have moved.
“It is with a great deal of happiness, a little sadness and a little apprehension that I am announcing my retirement of the last of several careers in my lifetime,” she wrote last month.
Mayor Crystal Dingler said Parker “really knows the area. And what she didn’t know, she went out and learned about” as one of the key people advising tourists on Ocean Shores and the entire North Beach.
“That’s what you’re looking for, and she is somebody who can really talk to people and get enthused about what we’ve got. And we’ve got a lot.”
Parker answered a few questions about her experiences with visitors and as producer of the Winter Fanta-Sea Arts & Crafts Show.
What are the most fun things about the job?
“The volunteers I work with – they’re a lot of fun! We have a lot of good conversations. And being coordinator of Winter Fanta-Sea. When it all comes together and turns out to be a good show — we had a really good show this year – when everybody’s saying, ‘I had a great weekend’ – that’s a lot of fun!”
What has been your biggest challenge?
“Stepping into Helen Lord’s shoes. I had been a vendor at Winter Fanta-Sea and was already lined up to replace her (as coordinator of the event). I had been a volunteer with the Visitors Information Center for several months, but when I took over, she was ill and I had to hit the floor running.”
What have you learned on the job?
“I learned a lot of computer skills, had to self-teach. I didn’t know Excel and taught myself to do a spreadsheet. Facebook was a whole new thing for me, so I bought the ‘Facebook for Dummies’ book.”
What will you miss the most?
We have a lot of returning visitors that pop in 2-3 times a year just to say hi. I’ll miss that. I’ll definitely miss the volunteers, they’re like a little family. And the Convention Center guys I work with are great. They understand the complexity of events, that are like a jigsaw puzzle with lots and lots or little tiny pieces. A lot of people think, ‘I’ll just get some friends together, send out a few fliers and we’ll have an event.’ There’s a lot more to it, but when it does all come together, it’s a thing of beauty.”
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve encountered?
“People come in and ask, ‘How do I get to the ocean?’ It happens a lot more often than you’d think.”
What will you be doing in retirement?
“I’m going to sail off into my next adventure! I have two looms I want to do some exploring with. I’ll be self-teaching that as well, but I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was five, so fiber art is definitely there.
“And I plan to do a lot more of the arts & crafts shows.
“This job has just been a real good experience. Some of it very challenging, a lot of it very rewarding.”