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A spirit that is not afraid

Robyn Bridges and AO Tourism bring people to the Plains

Samford Hall in the background of the toilet-papered trees of Toomer's Corner after Auburn football beat UMass on September 2nd, 2023.
Samford Hall in the background of the toilet-papered trees of Toomer's Corner after Auburn football beat UMass on September 2nd, 2023.

Auburn, Alabama, commonly referred to as “The Loveliest Village on the Plains,” is a community beloved by many. From Auburn University students to families, Auburn is made up of all kinds of people.

In a growing community like Auburn, marketing the city as a tourist destination is essential. That is the purpose served by Auburn-Opelika Tourism and its president Robyn Bridges.

Bridges moved to Auburn in 1994 and despite attending The University of Alabama, developed a love for the community. She has seen a lot of growth during her time on the Plains.

“Shortly after I moved here, the front page of the OA News was ‘Ruby Tuesday Opens in Auburn,’" Bridges said. “That’s about how much we had going on in 1994.”

Bridges discussed the purpose of Auburn-Opelika Tourism and how it impacts the community.

“Auburn-Opelika Tourism is here to make the community better – that is our vision statement, and that is what we work toward every day,” Bridges said. “Our business revolves around our core values and how those contribute to making this community better. The way we do that is by impacting the visitor economy. We are here to bring in people and events that are positive for our community, both for the economy and long-term benefit of our residents and neighbors.”

Bridges elaborated on where her passion for marketing Auburn as a tourist destination comes from and how rewarding it is to do so.

“It just comes from my love for this community and a heart for service that I developed and honed when I worked at the Hotel at Auburn University,” Bridges said. “I never knew that was what I wanted to do with my life, I never studied hospitality. That was not my major. I took a job in marketing at the AU Hotel for about seven years before I moved over to tourism. I don’t think there is any other place in the world that I’d rather live and work.”

Bridges spoke on the effect that the city of Auburn as well as the campus has on the people who visit and where that welcoming nature comes from.

“It’s not so much about what the campus looks like,” Bridges said. “It’s the people, and we hear it every day in our work and when we’re out and about hearing from people who visit. There is something special about it, and no one is immune to it – if you come here, you feel it.”

Bridges talked about her favorite places to dine throughout Auburn and the surrounding areas.

“I love to go a lot of places,” Bridges said. “Café 123 [in Opelika] is one of my favorite restaurants in the community. I think it’s very underrated. It’s been there a long, long time. It’s a workhorse, but the chef there is very creative and does a really great job.”

Bridges listed some places to eat and visit as well as other things to do that she would recommend to someone visiting the area for the first time.

“If you live here, it seems cliché, but everyone needs to go the Toomer’s [Corner] and have lemonade when they come,” Bridges said. “I think everyone should see Chewacla State Park and the trails that have been built out there. Everybody needs to go to downtown Opelika and eat and shop in those little stores. There are just some no-brainer things everyone should make sure to do the first time that they’re here.”

Bridges mentioned how Auburn has become more marketable as a place to open a business as a result of it becoming a more popular place to live and visit.

“It’s a place where people want to come to open their business because it’s such a great community and such a thriving community that continues to grow,” Bridges said. “A place where people want to live is a place where people want to open their businesses. We continue to add sports facilities and parks and recreation facilities. Those types of facilities are great for our businesses.”

Bridges talked about what she would like to see come to Auburn either soon or further down the road.

“Everybody wants a major attraction,” Bridges said. “Years ago, there was talk of an aquarium or something that is visitor-centric. We’re here to make this community better and to develop those projects that are beneficial not just to our visitors but are going to be a long-term benefit to our residents.”

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Bridges has dedicated her career to the betterment of the Auburn community, a place that she loves dearly.

“It’s something people say all the time," Bridges began, "but if you love Auburn, it will love you back.”

Daniel Locke | Community Editor

Daniel Locke, junior in journalism, is the community editor for The Auburn Plainsman.

Twitter: @danieljlocke

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