Texas

Stargazing, fine arts festivals, cook-offs, sheepdog trials and cow calling are just a few of the unique rural tourism events approved for matching reimbursement funds from a new Texas Department of Agriculture program designed to help rural communities leverage their tourism marketing dollars. TDA announced today that 15 rural Texas communities were approved to receive a total of $127,963 in matching reimbursements in the first round of funding for TDA's new Hometown STARS program.

Hometown STARS (Supporting Tourism and Rural Success) was launched with TDA's Texas Yes! program in late 2003. Texas Yes! is a broad-based membership program open to rural communities, businesses and organizations. The goal of the Texas Yes! program is to spotlight and promote rural Texas. Funding for the Hometown STARS program is provided through a grant from Gov. Rick Perry in support of TDA's rural tourism promotional efforts.

"Tourism is an important way for rural communities to bring in new dollars and share the diversity and beauty of our great state," said Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. "The Hometown STARS program offers a hand to rural communities as they create fresh ideas and new opportunities through their tourism efforts. The range of projects approved for funding provides a wonderful example of the take-charge attitude alive in rural Texas today."

Hometown STARS is a competitive dollar-for-dollar matching reimbursement program open to Texas Yes! community members. Eligible communities apply for the funds by submitting a tourism event promotion proposal to TDA. Proposals are reviewed and scored by the Hometown STARS Review Team, an independent panel with expertise in marketing, media, tourism and rural communities. TDA makes the final award decision based on this input.

Of the 15 proposals submitted for the first round of Hometown STARS funding, all were approved for either full or partial funding.

The Hometown STARS program provides up to $15,000 in matching reimbursements to rural Texas communities that are members of Texas Yes! to offset the cost of their tourism promotion efforts.

Application deadlines for the next round of funding will be announced in April. For more information, go to www.TexasYes.org or call 866-4TEX-YES (866-483-9937).

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