By Jordan Wolfe
The original Tillamook County Creamery Association’s original Visitors Center is closing its doors on March 6.
The closure marks the beginning of construction for the brand new Visitors Center TCCA announced in the fall, with an anticipated completion date of summer 2018. The popular destination will be moving to a temporary building – the newly built red barn on the property – on or before March 22.
“We need the down time to move everything we can,” Corporate Communications Manager Tori Harms said, “The whole ice cream counter in the current Visitors Center will be the ice cream counter in the temporary one.”
She added most of the facilities will be coming from the old Visitors Center for cost effectiveness and efficiency.
“Our goal is to be back up in time for Spring Break,” Harms said, adding if the temporary location can open sooner, it will.
TCCA will not lay off any employees of the Visitors Center, according to Harms.
“Any full time employees are staying on,” she said. “Maybe it means we hire less seasonal employees.”
As for the two-week gap between the closure of the original Visitors Center and the temporary one, Harms said the employees will be working hard during that time, moving equipment and supplies, as well as training for new exhibits and operating systems.
The temporary Visitors Center will include dining options, a Tillamook ice cream counter and shopping area, as well as a unique exhibit that will allow TCCA to share with visitors a more in-depth look at dairy farming in Tillamook County.
“The farm exhibit is one of the things we’ve wanted to do,” Harms said, “Because we’re not connected to the plant and the packaging facility, we’re brining the dairy farm for people to learn about.”
Taking up about 50 percent of the temporary Visitors Center, Harms said the farm exhibit will provide guests a peek into the world of calving, milking parlors and the equipment dairy farmers use.
“We’re in a unique position to teach people about dairy products and the dairy industry,” she said. “The board members have been very helpful in getting factual information [for the exhibit].”
However, the closure of the original Visitors Center will mark the end of an era for TCCA.
“I can tell you that hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in Tillamook County have been given career opportunities at the Visitors Center over time,” Harms wrote.
The temporary Visitors Center will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (expanding to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during summer months).
Visitors should note that all visitor experiences will be closed between March 6 and March 21, during the transition to the temporary visitors center. TCCA apologizes in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.
As with any popular tourist destination (Disneyland, anyone?), the original Visitors Center has had its share of notable visitors since its inception.
Aside from guests visiting incognito, Harms said some of the people who were confirmed to have visited includes President Bill Clinton (while campaigning for Hillary in 2008); “Dirty Dancing” actor Patrick Swayze; the daughter of singer-songwriter, Ray Charles; Terri Irwin and Bindi Irwin, the wife and daughter of the late Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter and the Roloff family from the TLC television show, “Little People Big World,” of Helvetia, Ore.
“And, while technically we didn’t have a full Visitors Center at the time,” Harms wrote, “President John F. Kennedy did come to Tillamook and did take a plant tour in 1961. We imagine he had to have taken a stroll through our visitor’s area, too.”