By Mike Boyer
On the hunt for a crispy apple fritter? Searching for a cream-filled long john? Or craving a cake donut with cream-cheese icing? Then hit Butler County’s Donut Trail.
The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau has stirred together a confection of nine small, locally owned donut shops along a tasty 82-mile route from Oxford to West Chester to draw sugar-starved travelers. Trail-goers who stop at each of the small shops and get their official Donut Trail passport stamped can receive the official Donut Trail T-shirt when they turn in the completed form to the visitor’s bureau.
Some 2,900 donut devotees have completed the trek and received their shirt, says Tracy Kocher, marketing director for the visitor’s bureau. And it’s not just local folks cashing in on their craving for sweets.
Trail trekkers have come from 33 states and five foreign countries, she says, thanks to a flurry of media coverage including a feature in one international newspaper since the trail was launched in January. She says 50 percent of the people who’ve turned in passports are from outside Butler County.
She doesn’t know how many have downloaded the trail passport at GettotheBC.com/Donut-Trail, but through July the page had nearly 52,000 visitors, most from outside Butler County.
The idea for the trail grew out of the visitor’s bureau’s mission.
“We’re always looking for creative ways to highlight what makes Butler County a unique destination,” Kocher says.
“Culinary tourism is a very large trend right now. People travel around the world to experience unique flavors. We wanted to play in that space and donuts are a great medium for that. It’s family friendly and affordable for travelers. The beautiful thing about the Donut Trail is that you visit places from Oxford to West Chester so people get into communities they might not otherwise have visited.”
The visitors bureau says the county has one donut shop for every 20,000 residents but not just any donut shop qualifies.
“We’ve had requests from other stores to join,” Kocher says. “But right now our parameters are that they be non-corporate, or franchise locations that are clearly located in Butler County and their primary business is donuts.”
Other retailers have jumped on the bandwagon.
“There’s a pottery studio in Oxford with a whole line of pottery that’s donut themed,” Kocher says. “There’s so much interest in the area regarding donuts. It’s certainly floating a lot of other boats.”
Diana Ramsey, owner of Kelly’s Bakery, 1335 Main St., Hamilton, says, “The response has really been unbelievable.”
Most days her shop will have several trail-goers, usually in families or small groups, stopping in to get their passports stamped.
“We had one family from Ireland stop in,” she says. “They were visiting family in Loveland and decided to do the Donut Trail.”
There’s no time limit for completing the trail and you don’t need to buy a donut to get your passport stamped, but Ramsey says most trail trekkers do, usually favoring specialty donuts like The Buckeye, a yeast donut with peanut butter crème filling and chocolate icing.
Kocher estimates about a third of the trekkers have done the whole trail in a day.
“I’ve done it myself in a day and I can say it is exhausting and you can’t eat as many donuts as you think, but it’s a ton of fun.”
The visitor’s bureau advises donut trekkers to start early because most shops close once they sell out of that day’s donuts.