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Llano Visitor Center Welcomes 10 years with Anniversary Party

The Llano Visitor Center, 100 Train Station Drive in Llano, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15. File photo

LLANO — There’s a donkey in Llano County that sometimes serves as an “ambassador” to visitors.

The donkey, whose primary job is to keep snakes and other unwanted animals away from the herd it protects, is a friendly presence for drivers on a certain road.

"The donkey will come up and stick its head in a car once the window is rolled down," said Briley Mitchell, the Llano Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center executive director. "We tell visitors they can actually pat the donkey when he does that."

The only way to find out where you can see the donkey is to stop at the Llano Visitor Center and ask the chamber staff, Mitchell said.

Telling visitors where to find unique spots and hometown hospitality is the Llano Visitor Center’s mission. And it’s been doing it for 10 years.

To celebrate that milestone, the center, 100 Train Station Drive, is holding an anniversary party from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, complete with free hamburgers, hot dogs, water, soda, and birthday cake.

Former Mayor Roger Pinkney, who was in office when the center opened a decade ago, will be the special guest speaker.

Llano student Kenon Riley, who is working toward his Eagle Scout rank, also will be introduced to the crowd. His proposed Eagle Scout project is to recreate a water collection bin like the one from the 1800s that sat at the old train depot, where the chamber office, center, and railroad museum are now located. The old tank was used to transport water to the waiting trains when the property served as a depot. The new bin would be used to water the Depot Garden on the chamber’s property.

Mitchell anticipates the project would take at least a year to complete since plans have to be drawn and a budget must be created.

According to Mitchell, the Llano Visitor Center averages 2,500 walk-ins a month with 4,000 per month during March, April, and May, illustrating how vital it is to the local economy.

"Any town that's tourism-based or wants to be has a visitors center," he said. "We tell them where to get on the Llano River and where to kayak. Each year, (the center) has gained in people coming in here. People tell us we're very personal with them, we give them personal experiences about where to go."

Such as where to find a friendly donkey.

In the past two years, the chamber has made an effort to spread the word about Llano. It created a travel brochure that has been sent to visitor centers across the state. A total of 68,000 have been printed in the past two years with a third printing scheduled in a few weeks.

"I'm going to make sure we have a presence throughout the state," Mitchell said.

The chamber also developed a phone app, which is used by both residents and visitors, and provides information about what's happening in the area.

Mitchell, who is also celebrating his three-year anniversary with the chamber, said he used to avoid visitor centers when he traveled to other cities but has changed his mind since he started overseeing one.

"Somebody told me that tourists like to go where the locals go, but locals don't like to go where the tourists go," Mitchell said. “(Tourists) stop (at visitor centers) and get info because (the centers) know so much about the area.”

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