The Friendly Invasion is in reference to the American occupation at Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville from 1941-1966. The name lends support to surge in population growth of Stephenville during that time. From 1935 to 1942 the population went from 1,000 to 7,000. It is the intention of the organizing committee to develop a themed tourism route based on the military heritage and the friendly invasion of the Americans. The development of this project will:
Develop Stephenville as tourism destination
Increase economic opportunity
Preserve our cultural heritage
A themed cultural route provides a Sense of Place for those who live here and those who visit! A sense of place embraces the distinctive sights, sounds and experiences that are rooted in a destination, those unique and memorable qualities that resonate with local people and visitors alike: - Sense of Place Toolkit, Wales Tourist Board. The concept, the Friendly Invasion, came about after 5 creative people attended the Bonavista Institute for Cultural Training (BICT) in October 2012. The BICT model uses the Creative Cultural Destination Framework, where cultural tourism products are categorized into six groups and the team realized that much of what is required to build a themed route already exists in Stephenville.
1. Built Heritage infrastructure determines a sense of place. In Stephenville all street names on the former base are named after US States. Many original buildings exist and some of the original fixtures are in working condition.
2. Human Activity these are the intangible activities like daily practices, folklore, skills, knowledge, as well as tangible activities like art, paintings, theatre. Many groups like the Stephenville Theatre Festival and the Bay St. George Folk Arts Council are already engaged in preserving history through song and story. We would like to build on this.
3. Gastronomy food at restaurants can support the theme; by developing themed dinners.
4. Industrial and Economic History In Stephenville, the locals moved themselves from self-employment to hired employment. There is a story to be shared there. Also many airplane hangers and bunkers are still scattered throughout the base. What an opportunity to tell their stories.
5. Cultural, Exhibition Festivals - such as monuments like the one at Crash Hill and the recognition of all US plane crashes at the Legion Kiosk . These stories and the lives of the people involved can be woven into the cultural theme.
6. Landscapes and Nature there are many attractive and scenic activities that can contribute to the theme like a scenic vista at the Pinetree radar site, or the reason why the base was chosen. Other nature activities can include hikes to crash sites.
The Committees vision will see guided tours, daily flag raising and lowering, Servicemens Balls, themed dances (60s Rock & Roll), theatre productions, souvenirs with the military history theme, interpretative story boards, and hikes to crash sites. During the months of July, August and September there will be no doubt that residents and visitors will have a sense of place in Stephenville. The visual component will include (but not limited to) flags along the street coming from the Base through downtown Stephenville, banners, re-enactments, period costumes and the construction of the base gate. Interactive activities may include flight simulators, combat games, guided hikes, and guided story telling engaging the downtown businesses, as well as open air performances in the newly built Blanche Brook Park.
Specific activities designed to fit the theme will be introduced to the business community and non-profit organizations. Those who will undertake activities using a business model will be guided by the steering committee's recommendation and mentoring. This will help facilitate a cohesive and focused theme ensuring activities provide memorable experiences for visitors. Our biggest hurdle at the moment is tapping into existing research and making contact with legitimate people with knowledge and expertise regarding Harmon Air Force Base.
The Committee requires assistance in locating previous research on the personal stories of the US men and women who lived here; the interaction of the local community and base personnel (including the many marriages); and the contribution of Harmon Airforce Base to the development of the region and to the WW II campaign. Expertise for community outreach and theme development may also be required.
Respectfully, we submit our project to you in hopes that it piques your interest so we can mutually work together.