After an extensive search throughout the United States, Robert Dafford, of New Orleans, was chosen to complete the project.
During the 10-year project that Dafford completed in 2003, calls for tour guides came into the Portsmouth-Scioto County Visitors Bureau.
Although the first tour guides began in 1998, working with Brenda Marth, director of CVB, a group called the Ambassadors began in 2003.
“We called the first ambassadors Belles and Beau, but only for a short period,” Chaboudy said. “The reason we named them the Belles is that we wanted people who had long dresses and hats and old fashioned garb.”
Chaboudy had been a tour director for AAA for 27 years. When not on tour, she taught, produced and conducted travel shows in the southeastern Ohio AAA offices.
So she was familiar with the tour industry when she started the Belles training. Chaboudy set up classes and trained volunteers.
The Ambassadors are all volunteers trained to meet, welcome and act as tour guides for visitors to Portsmouth.
Chaboudy wanted to let the merchants and city know about tourists coming into town on river boats.
So, they made a brochure to give out. Four women, Cathy Whittenberger, Margaret Gordley, Donna Murphy and Chaboudy were the original Ambassadors.
“We would board the boats that came in to welcome them and create good will and tell them to come back,” Chaboudy said.
They would give out brochures about Boneyfiddle and the murals, and they would let merchants know when the boats came in.
“The Belles fell by the wayside because the girls didn't want to dress up,” Chaboudy said. “I really thought it did a lot of good but I just didn't have anybody to help.”
When the Ambassadors group started, she had classes in a house on Front Street, home of Portsmouth Murals Inc., to teach them about the murals.
“They wanted to take part, but it's a hard job,” she said. “The sad thing was we appealed to older people who usually have health problems.”
Only a handful of peopl ended up as tour guides, she said. Each time a new mural was finished, the history had to be written, a new brochure had to be made and the Ambassadors had to learn the history behind each mural.
“Now that they're all there and it's done, a lot of the work is behind us,” she said.
Chaboudy made a slide presentation of all the murals and wrote up the information and had the Ambassadors meet to learn about each mural.
Not only did the Ambassadors act as docents for the murals, they also work as guides for various festivals, such as John Simon's Sorghum Festival, 1810 house, the old Phillip Moore Stone House and other attractions in the area.
After Marth became director of CVB, she began bringing tours in from all over the country, said Mary Martha Questel, tour guide volunteer.
Before Marth came, Chaboudy had a lot of Ambassadors but not as many tours from CVB, she said. Questel has been with the organization since its first inception as the Belles.
“But since Brenda has been there we get so many more tours,” Chaboudy said. “We have people from all over Ohio and all over the country for mural tours.”
When the boats come in, the ambassadors meet them and sometimes about 300 people are on one boat. The River Barge Explorer is one of the largest boats.
“They're just amazed at the murals,” Questel said. “What I love to do is when people come in on a mystery tour and they have no idea where they're going.”
The murals have brought more visitors to Portsmouth every year, Marth said. She became director of the CVB in 2001.
“In 2002, we were averaging around 20 tours a year,” Marth said. “Now, it is more than triple that number. I scheduled around 80 tours for 2005.”
The biggest issue at the time was that only three ambassadors were doing everything, she said.
Marth said that the Visitors Bureau has a very limited budget and could not do the tours without volunteers in the Ambassador program.
“Ava and Mary Martha are very knowledgeable and are more than willing to share and train any new prospects,” Marth said. “Mary Martha and Bill Questel give numerous hours of their time every month to help promote and market our area. Not only are these people willing, but they are friendly and knowledgeable and leave the visitors with an experience to come back and bring friends and family.”
In a special dedication to the Chaboudys scheduled for Aug. 17, a mural of the Chaboudys that Dafford painted for the occasion will be unveiled.
A cocktail reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Scioto County Welcome Center. The mural will be on permanent display at the Welcome Center.
The mural honors the contribution that the Chaboudys have made to the development and advancement of the Portsmouth Mural project since its beginning in the early 1990s.
“We wouldn't have the Portsmouth Murals if it weren't for Lou and Ava,” said Robert Morton, Portsmouth Murals Inc. president.
Muralist Dafford will be at the reception for the unveiling.
Dr. Chaboudy died in 2003, and this year the board has decided to present the first Dr. Louis R. Chaboudy Community Service Award to an area physician who has donated time and talent to promoting the area.
“When Lou died in 2003, Portsmouth Murals Inc. lost a great leader, the medical community lost a great doctor, and the area lost a great man,” said Ann Sydnor, board member. “We want to honor his memory by recognizing a physician who shares his love for the community.”
Tickets for the Chaboudy Mural Dedication are $25 each. For more information and to obtain a ticket, call the Visitors Bureau at (740) 353-1116 or the Chamber of Commerce at (740) 353-7647.
PHYLLIS NOAH can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234, or email@example.com.