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4 Decades of Dedication

How Miriam Atria moved a house and put Lake Murray Country on the world map

Article by Micah Decker

Photography by Capital City/Lake Murray Country RTB

Originally published in Lake Murray Lifestyle

She pulls into a parking spot at the visitors center and steps out of a sporty deep metallic blue SUV - the evocative color reminiscent of the water she has devoted the last 4 decades of her career to - the license plate simply says Jewel SC. She is a visionary ahead of her time, a woman whose passions run close to the surface, and a staunch advocate for the Capital City/Lake Murray Country Region of Lexington, Richland, Newberry, and Saluda Counties. In April 2023, Miriam Atria will celebrate 40 years at the helm of the Capital City/Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board. 

Since 1983, Miriam has led the growth of the destination marketing organization from its humble beginnings. “I started off with a budget of $40,000 and was the first employee,” Miriam remembers. Today the award-winning organization has grown to a staff of six with a current budget of $2.1 million, 50% of which is spent on marketing the region. In 1998, despite many naysayers, Miriam moved the Lorick Plantation House, a two-story 1840s house, 4 miles from its original location on St. Andrews Road to North Lake Drive. Twenty-five years later, the region's 1st Visitor’s Center continues to greet visitors from all over the world.

From those early days, Miriam recognized Lake Murray’s potential as a natural resource and the impact it could have on tourism. Taking advantage of those many opportunities, Miriam established Lake Murray as a major player in the Fishing Tournament Industry. In 1998, Miriam’s creativity and determination attracted the most notable tournament trail at the time – FLW. Due to the organization, media coverage, and overall package Miriam put together, Lake Murray would go on to host the Forrest Wood Cup, known as
the “Super Bowl of fishing,” an unprecedented three times resulting in more than $95 million in economic impact. In 2022, Lake Murray hosted the XVI Black Bass World Championship, the first on US soil, and was named “The Best Bass Fishing Lake in the World” by USAngling. The record-breaking event hosted 25 nations, resulting in an overall economic impact of $21.5 million. In the fishing arena alone, CCLMC has invested $2 million to date and has generated an overall economic impact of over $185 million.

April 2023 will mark the beginning of Miriam’s 40th year, as President and CEO of Capital City/Lake Murray County, making her the longest-serving South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions (SCATR) director in SC history. During her tenure, Miriam has held several elected positions within SCATR, including serving as its Treasurer, Chair of the Marketing Committee, and twice as its President - all the while lending her marketing expertise to numerous state-wide promotions and campaigns. At the 2023 South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel, Miriam was awarded the state's top honor the Fred Brinkman Award by SC’s Governor Henry McMaster; SCPRT Director, Duane Parrish; and President of Impact Consulting, Buddy Jennings.

Her license plate says it all…through grit, determination, and an undeniable passion, Miriam Atria has helped establish Lake Murray Country as the Jewel of South Carolina. She has worked tirelessly to help the Lake Murray Country region reach its full tourism potential by “never taking no for an answer” and has literally moved buildings. With all the successes driven by Miriam’s leadership, it is no surprise that Forbes Magazine named CCLMC a “Top Southern Destination” in 2021.

Miriam Atria’s other notable accomplishments: 

  • Created: SC RV Show, SC Golfer’s Showcase, and produced the Columbia Boat Show for well over a decade.
  • 1988, Created the Annual 4th of July Celebration on Lake Murray.
  • 2006, Created A Taste of Lake Murray, a fundraiser for the 4th of July Celebration on Lake Murray. Named one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” to attend by the Southeastern Tourism Society. Today the event is the largest fireworks display in South Carolina attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.
  • 2009, Recognized as a State of South Carolina Palmetto Patriot 
  • 2016, Recipient of the Rudy Award from the SC Restaurant & Lodging Association 
  • 2019, Recipient of the Women of Influence by Columbia Regional Business Report
  • 2020, Sent the first SC team to the World Food Championship in Dallas, TX.
  • 2022, Hosted the World Food Championship’s Final Table event at the McCutchen House at USC.
  • 2022, Created the “Welcome to Lake Murray” destination landmark to greet visitors at the Dreher Shoals Dam.

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