Polk County Visitor Information Center Turns 12
by James Coulter
For the past 12 years, the Polk County Visitor Information Center (VIC) has been welcoming tourists arriving along Highway 27 and informing them about everything Polk County has to offer, including local attractions, resturaunts, and accommodations.
To celebrate turning 12 years old, the VIC hosted a Birthday Bash on Saturday morning, offering guests light refreshments, fun and games, vendors, and a special discounted ticket offer for local attractions.
The first 200 guests had the opportunity to partake within a “buy one, get one free” ticket offer to receive a free ticket to either LEGOLAND Florida or Bok Tower Gardens with a purchase of a ticket to a similar attraction.
Other festivities that day included inflatable bounce houses, balloon animals, carnival-style games and prizes, food trucks, and several local vendors, many of whom participate within the weekly farmer’s market every Thursday.
The “buy one, get one free” ticket more than surpassed expectations, allowing the event to become one of the highest-grossing within the VIC’s history, explained Justin Laferriere, VIC manager.
The VIC sells discounted tickets to local attractions such as LEGOLAND. When the VIC first opened 12 years ago, it had trouble selling tickets; but since then, ticket sales have remained lucrative and growing for the facility, Laferriere said.
Since opening 12 years ago, the center has been receiving 35 to 45 thousand guests per year. Their mission is to help turn those visitors into overnight customers for the county and encourage them to stay longer and spend more money, Laferriere said.
Moving forwards, Laferriere and his staff members hope that they will continue to offer quality service and information to visitors and encourage more to enjoy the best that the county has to offer.
“The service level that we offer has resonated very well with our visitors,” he said. “They say they have a better experience when they come here and talk with our staff. They are more educated and better prepared to have a good time while they are in Polk County, and they tend to come back and visit us again year after year.”
Celebrating with the VIC that day were several vendors from local community organizations. For example, the Polk County Library Cooperative (PCLC) at their booth helped advertise many of the programs and services offered throughout their 18 libraries and bookmobile.
One such service is a vending machine that dispenses various books and movies with the use of a library card. The machine has been at the VIC for the past seven years, and is the only one like it within the county. The VIC also hosts a book drop, allowing commuters along Highway 27 and I4 to deposit their books and other library materials on site.
“Having this relationship with the visitor center has been wonderful,” said Jennifer Kovac, Library Outreach Services Specialist. “Davenport is growing exponentially, and not having a brick and mortar building, it has been great to have this partnership and a library presence here to provide items and materials to the people who live over here.”
The VIC provides many other amenities, including a Sports Hall Of Fame, museum area, and playground. Every Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., it hosts its weekly Farmer’s Market, allowing local vendors and farmers to sell their wares there.
Katie Clements is one such vendor who has been participating for the past month. She sells her fruit, including her strawberries and blueberries, all over the county, but decided to start selling at the farmer’s market.
“The first day, I did not do well at all, but when people realized I was coming here every Thursday, I have a lot of regulars now,” she said. “The Center is very helpful and very friendly and the center itself draws a lot of people in.”
The VIC is located at 101 Adventure Ct, Davenport, FL 33837. For more information, call 800-828-7655, or visit their website at https://visitcentralflorida.org/visitor-information-center.