THOMASVILLE- Tourism has taken on new heights in Thomasville as Flat Stanley, the 1964 children’s book character created by Jeff Brown, makes his way through the city.
Ruth Ann Maxwell has lived in Thomasville for over 50 years and was pleased to receive a letter from Colton Gandee, a first grader in Burton, Ohio, requesting her participation in the Flat Stanley Project.
“I feel honored,” she said. “This is a new experience for me. We’ve had plenty of visitors, but I have not participated in this before.”
Created in 1995, the Flat Stanley Project promotes learning and literary skills in students.
Participants nationwide send a customized Flat Stanley cutout to anyone around the world who is tasked with creating a travel journal that includes pictures of the cut-out figure in unique places.
Maxwell said she was eager to participate in the project not only for Gandee’s sake but also for the Thomasville community's.
“I jumped at the chance just because it’s kind of a thing that I can incorporate into my daily activities and spark some interest in our community as well as theirs," she said.
Since receiving the Flat Stanley paper cutout, Maxwell has taken pictures with it at well-known places in events in Thomasville such as the Rose Garden and the Butterfly Festival.
She’s anticipating her adventures with the Flat Stanley figure will introduce new interests in Gandee’s life.
“I’m sending snapshots of the various aspects of my life so that he’ll know it’s very different and it may spark his curiosity to come visit or at least develop interests that he hasn’t been exposed to,” she said.
Maxwell added the Flat Stanley project is a great learning tool for any student interested in learning about different environments outside their own.
“For them to have this little bit of exclusivity of information from another part of the country I think is really beneficial to them and they get to share it,” she said. “It’s an inexpensive way of casting a very unique experience on a child in school and it’s also fun for us.”
Bonnie Hayes, tourism manager for the city of Thomasville, said Flat Stanley continues to be a creative outlet for exposing Thomasville to potential tourists.
“It’s a wonderful way to promote our city and share it,” she said. “The neat thing about when you show somebody a picture of Flat Stanley is that it makes people and inspires people to come to Thomasville and see it for themselves.”
This isn’t the first Flat Stanley to visit Thomasville, Hayes recalled.
“We have seen several people over the last few years show up with a Flat Stanley and want to take a picture close to our brochures or out somewhere iconic in the breezeway, and we’re always excited to assist the person with that,” she said.
Before heading back to Ohio, Maxwell said Flat Stanley will get to travel further out to the Gulf of Mexico for a fishing trip that she hopes Gandee will be excited about.
“They certainly are exposed to a broader experience than they have in their everyday life in Ohio,” she said.
Hayes said she looks forward to seeing more Flat Stanleys in Thomasville, especially at this time of year.
“Fall is a great time for people to get out and explore,” she said. “We encourage people to show up with their Flat Stanley and let us give them so great suggestions on things to see.”