Trolley driver wins
tourisms Hospitality Award
while on vacation in early 90s
(June, 2002) MADISON, Ind. When Keith Brubaker
retired in 1993 from the U.S. Army and moved to Madison, Ind., he never
dreamed he would wound up as an ambassador for tourism.
But after 26 years as a communications specialist for Uncle Sam, leading
narrated driving tours for visitors around this historic Ohio River
town came natural to him. After four years of driving the open-air Madison
Trolley, his skills as a tour guide were rewarded May 9 when the Madison
Area Convention and Visitors Bureau named Brubaker its second annual
Hospitality Award winner.
Tom McKenna, a Madison native and director of the Indiana Department
of Commerce, and Madison Mayor Al Huntington presented the award during
a reception at the Hillside Inn.
left: Indiana Department
of Commerce director Tom
McKenna, runner-up Scott
Koerner of Key West Shrimp
House, winner Keith Brubaker
and Mayor Al Huntington
McKenna also presented an award to Scott Koerner, the
runner-up and owner of Key West Shrimp House. Other nominees included
Lanier Mansion volunteers Mary Clapham, Betty Copeland, Lila Daniel
and Judith Tompkins, and Madison Main Street Program director Dave Adams.
Margie Webb of Margies Country Store won last years inaugural
award, which was conceived by tourism officials to mark National Tourism
Week, celebrated this year from May 4-12.
Its an honor and a thrill for me, said Brubaker, 58,
a Maysville, Ky., native who has become known on the tour circuit for
his southern accent and charm.
Everyone he meets, he makes people fall in love with Madison,
Madison tourism executive director Linda Lytle said of Brubaker in reading
comments from the nomination. Keith is a very good spokesman for
Keith can melt ice with his southern drawl.
After high school, Brubaker attended Murray State University for two
years, then dropped out to join the Army. He and his wife, Jan, and
daughter, Natalie, were living in Fort Carson, Colo., when he retired
as a 1st sergeant. We were looking for a small town with Midwestern
values to retire to, and we remembered how much we loved Madison after
having visited here once on vacation, Brubaker said.
The family moved to Madison in 1993 and bought an 18-acre farm just
outside of town. Brubaker keeps horses there and spends winters in Bradenton,
Fla. Jan, meanwhile, teaches at Ivy Tech State College, where their
daughter attends part-time and works at the Jewel House assisted living
On weekends from late April to October, Brubaker climbs into the Madison
Trolley and heads down the hill to pick up tourists and ferry them from
stop to stop around the historic district. All the while, he narrates
the tour as the trolley passes by historic homes, attractions, shops,
restaurants and important landmarks. I tailor my talk to fit the
occasion, if I have bus tours or groups interested in certain things.
A lot of local residents have sent me stories about buildings and homes
that I often use.
Despite the fascinating stories and history he relates to his riders,
Brubaker says the No. 1 question he gets is where to eat. For the answer,
he provides riders with the official Madison tourism brochure, which
lists most area restaurants.
The Madison Trolley is operated by the non-profit Madison Visitors Council.
President Dave Daghir credits Brubaker for the success of the trolley,
which has operated for six years. Were so fortunate to have
Keith come on board with us. If he hadnt, theres no way
we would have gotten this venture off the ground.
Although Brubaker is paid to drive the trolley, he estimates he has
racked up 200 volunteer hours over the past five years.
The trolley operates on weekends only from late April through June,
then the schedule is extended to include Fridays and Mondays from July
through September. Judy Duncan also drives some routes. The council
seeks a third driver to help out with a new enclosed vehicle that is
being converted into a second trolley. It is expected to be operational
by mid-summer, Daghir said. The drivers must have a commercial drivers
license and the right personality for the job, Brubaker said. Vehicle
maintenance and painting has been provided by Jimmy Stewart at Jim Hadley
The trolley also is available for hire for private and corporate parties
and weddings. But most riders are individual tourists who buy $5 tickets.
Children 12 and under are free. Ticket holders can hop on and off the
trolley all day.
In addition to ride tickets, the trolley receives its funding from $500
sponsorships of its trolley stops, $300 signs on the side of the vehicle
and $1,000 from the Jefferson County Board of Tourism. Brubaker is currently
working with local hotels to arrange visitor packages that include trolley
transportation. The second enclosed trolley will enable the council
to operate through early December during the Nights Before Christmas
Candlelight Tour of Homes.
Brubaker is now negotiating to buy the trolleys and operate them as
a for-profit venture next year.
Runner-up Koerner, meanwhile, has been involved at the 100-seat Key
West Shrimp House since his parents, Paul and Pat Koerner, took over
management of the 34-year-old restaurant in 1974. Paul Koerner bought
the restaurant in 1981 from C.B. Kendall, who built it in 1968. Scott
bought it from his father last year. Scott was recognized at the reception
for his excellent treatment of customers and his enthusiastic promotion
of Madison to visitors.
For information about the trolley or to inquire
about the driver position, contact Daghir at (812) 273-4446.
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