BECKLEY, W.Va. — Balloons and confetti fell over the Tamarack’s main entrance Thursday as they welcomed their 9 millionth guest.

Tamarack Marketing Manager Norma Acord told MetroNews affiliate WJLS Thursday’s ceremony was one of several since their opening in 1996.

“This is one of the most fun things we get to do at Tamarack. We’re very, very honored to have hosted 9 million visitors to our great facility. We’ve been able to showcase the many different art forms, crafts and talents of people in our state.”

Visitors are counted by greeters as they enter the building’s main entrance. Acord says they average 600 people per day in the winter and roughly 2,000 per day in the summer months. This number does not include the side entrances near the conference center.

The 9 millionth guests were Trent and Karen Schanen from Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. As they entered the doors staff stood ready with confetti canons, balloons and a large gift card for $250.00 to the Tamarack. Trent Schanen said they visit multiple times per year when driving to visit their son in North Carolina.

“We were doing our typical stop where we stop and get apple butter and wine to take back to Wisconsin. When we walked in, and I saw some event was going on I thought we were walking into somebody else’s private party. Little did I know we were the 9 millionth customer.”

In addition to the gift card, they also received an ornament, a free meal and an ornament inscribed with the accomplishment from Santa Claus. Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold also handed the couple a key to the City of Beckley.

When asked what the gift card will be spent on, the couple said they haven’t thought that far yet.

“We love Tamarack. I would like to say wine but it won’t be all spent on wine,” Karen Schanen joked.

According to their website, Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia was the nation’s first showcase of fine art, handcrafts and regional cuisine. It encompasses retail, working studios for artisans, a fine art gallery, the “Taste of West Virginia” food court and a conference center.

It was formed under former Governor Gaston Caperton, who wanted to create a unique space to showcase the Mountain State’s offerings. A $143 million bond was issued by the Parkways Authority in 1989 and construction began shortly after.

Before leaving, the lucky couple took pictures with Santa Claus and Tamarack staff before having a meal and hitting the road to North Carolina.

“We’ll be talking about this for a long time,” Trent Schanen said smiling.

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