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SANTEE -- In Santee’s promotional materials, the letter “t” in the town’s name is often replaced with a drawing of a golf tee – and there’s a good reason for that.

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Golf is still the number one reason that out-of-towners come to visit Santee.

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And that’s just fine with local businesses, including the hotels that offer golf weekend packages, the places that sell golf-related equipment, and the stores and restaurants that benefit from sales to additional customers.

But there reports that golf has been losing its popularity, one reason being that millennials are less interested in the sport than the previous generation.

Fortunately, Santee officials and the business community have spent recent years diversifying the town’s appeal to visitors.

The Santee Conference Center stays busy hosting events such as weddings and receptions, gospel concerts, family reunions, church denominational conferences, statewide farmers’ conferences and Congressman James E. Clyburn’s annual jam-packed weekend of various events.

Next door to the conference center is a water park that is open all summer.

Not enough water for you? The Santee Cooper lakes offer opportunities ranging from national-level catfish and crappie tournaments to plenty of places for recreational fishermen to cast their lines. And there’s the occasional alligator hunt.

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On the shore of Lake Marion is Santee State Park, which offers camping in tents or cabins as well as hiking, swimming or wildlife boat rides.

Hungry? There’s a variety of restaurants in the area, including Mexican, Chinese, Thai and the local favorite, Orangeburg-style barbecue. You can grab burgers and fries from a drive-up window or sit down to an elegant plate of steak and seafood.

Across Lake Marion is a wildlife refuge, with an Indian mound for those who like to visit historical places. Those folks can also visit the Eutaw Springs Revolutionary War battlefield and the Elloree Heritage Museum & Cultural Center,

Altogether, visitors to the Santee are can have “an amazing, diverse experience,” said William “Buddy” Jennings, retired director of the South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

And two interstate highways and major secondary roads help get visitors here.

The problem, Jennings said, is that “people have forgotten what a great destination this is.”

He spoke as a “community conversation” back in September at the Santee Conference Center. Citizens were invited to discuss the topic of “marketing and advertising the Town of Santee.”

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