|Dr. Hudson interviewing Pearl Fryar of Bishopville|
Dr. Hudson interviewing Pearl Fryar at his Topiary Garden in BishopvilleA few years ago, we examined opportunities for tourism development in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, and results showed limited brand recognition and a need for innovative marketing to increase awareness of the region as an attractive place to visit. So building on this previous work, the Center recently won an Economic Development Administration grant to establish a brand identity for the Pee Dee, a region plagued by high poverty and unemployment, low educational levels, and a high number of dislocated workers. The first stage of this research will focus on establishing the core values of the Pee Dee, and so the team has just started conducting interviews with key stakeholders and decision makers in the area.
The first interviewee in this project was the charismatic Pearl Fryar from the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville. Pearl started work on his garden in the 1980s, and has since appeared in numerous television shows, including the documentary A Man named Pearl. Today, visitors come from all over the world to meet Pearl and to see his garden. “We had 15,000 visitors last year from as far away as Japan, Australia Germany, Sweden and the UK”. For Pearl, the key to economic success is education. When Fryar gives a lecture to young people, he doesn't talk about pruning techniques or soil amendment. He'd rather urge people to use what they have and put their creativity to work -- lessons his garden taught him. "Don't allow some test score to determine where you go in life," he says. And, "If you're the smartest person in your circle of friends, you need to get smarter friends." For Pearl, the key to attracting more tourists to the Pee Dee is marketing. “We have the products – we just need to package them well. Improved signage on the highway would also go a long way to promoting our area” he says. To learn more about Pearl’s amazing work, go to www.pearlfryar.com