Courtesy US Tours
SpecTAPular, which was initially envisioned as a one-time event, has grown into a series of patriotic travel and entertainment celebrations taking place in destinations around the country and soon the world.
Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) introduced SpecTAPular in the fall of 2012 with a USO-themed event in Virginia Beach, Virginia. SpecTAPular blends elements of traditional tours, including visits to attractions around its host city, with special concerts, parades and patriotic presentations. TAP partners from around North America sell tickets and tour packages to their customers and then bring them all together in the destination for a large-scale celebration.
The concept was the brainchild of TAP partner Bob Cline, owner of U.S. Tours, based on TAP partners’ desire to create once-in-a-lifetime tours and events that were not currently being offered. The first SpecTAPular Event proved so popular that it has spawned a number of follow-ups, including a sequel that took place in October.
“The Virginia Beach USO show has operated once and is getting to operate a second time,” Cline said in an interview shortly before the 2013 event began. “The first year we had more than 1,200 people on 34 buses. Results aren’t completely in for the second year yet, but I know it’s about as big as anything I’ve ever done.”
Participants in the Virginia Beach program spend three days at the destination, touring attractions during the day and then visiting different venues in the area for dinner and entertainment each evening. The highlight is a USO-style show featuring the Glen Miller Army Air Force Band as well as actors impersonating Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters.
Based on the positive reception for the inaugural SpecTAPular in 2012, Cline and company planned another event for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which took place in April. Called “Welcome Home, Vietnam,” this gathering attracted more than 1,000 attendees, who came to visit attractions in the Tennessee Smokies and to throw a “welcome home” parade for Vietnam veterans and their families.
“We had more than 500 veterans in that parade from more than 70 different units,” Cline said. “These guys came with their wives and grandchildren, and the locals came out en masse to support them. We had the hardware, helicopters and huge military vehicles.”
In addition to providing travel and patriotic entertainment experiences for customers, the events can opt in to raise money for a good cause. To date, each USO-themed show has benefited the USO, and tickets to the “Welcome Home, Vietnam” events have include a contribution to the Vietnam Veterans of America.