Talking Tourism: A New Year by Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: January 15, 2021

Talking Tourism – A New Year

By Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County MN

It takes a distinctive person to call northeastern Minnesota home. It also takes business resiliency that is understood but sometimes not recognized.  That is, until faced with a pandemic that set all of us reeling. In March we closed. And I mean truly closed. This decision was difficult and scrutinized by leaders from every sector (healthcare, government, tourism). After heartfelt and respectful conversations, it was agreed that this would be best for our community. When your economy is vastly dependent on tourism, closing takes on a whole new meaning.

As a person who leads an organization that promotes our area, this has always seemed like a no brainer. Why wouldn’t a person want to visit here?  For those of us that are fortunate enough to call this area home, we understand the allure; the inland lakes, THE LAKE, the BWCAW, the highest falls, the miles and miles of hiking trails; the list is extensive.  Early during the closure and as I participated in industry calls from across the nation, I learned that the tourism persona would change. Our visitors would likely travel from a home base radius 250-300 miles from their homes, they would load the family in the car and drive and they would check items off their personal travel and “back yard” bucket lists . That is precisely what happened.

The shift began. Working together, we established protocols that would keep our community safe while allowing our businesses to operate.  In May, as lodging worked diligently to implement new COVID protocols, it became a question of not how to open but rather when. We are a vocal community and there was a certain amount of fear regarding public scrutiny and opening your business during a pandemic.

However, we figured it out. We opened. And the people came. And COVID remained at bay. Over and over again, when engaged in tourism industry calls, I heard how many areas in Minnesota, surrounding states and across the nation struggled mightily with decreased visitors. Areas that were reliant on conferences and major sporting events were ghost towns and were operating at 20-30% over last year. Cook County is fortunate. We have the vast outdoors and many lodging opportunities that are either remote or spacious. We continued to be vocal about our expectations for behavior. A united community voice was heard stating we expect social distancing – One Moose Apart. We expect masks on in our stores. There was a spirit of cooperation that I believe will continue long after we emerge from the restrictions imposed by COVID.

While many businesses continue to struggle and have questions about future workforce, there is a glimmer of hope. The occupancy rates of our lodging facilities outpaced most of Minnesota. Bringing your own linens and not “turning stayovers” helped set a new and accepted hospitality protocol. The determination displayed during the past 10 months will continue. Our people are the heart of hospitality day in and day out and we thank you.

Although festivals and events may look different in 2021, they will return and we will recover. We will continue to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to our area. The determination and strength displayed by our business owners will prevail. The pandemic helped us truly understand the ups and downs and ins and outs of a tourism based economy, and I believe we all have a deeper appreciation one another.

I look forward to greeting you all again in the near future. Happy New Year.

Press Release: Empty Bowls Cook County “Give Together” 2020

Empty Bowls Cook County “Give Together” 2020

Empty Bowls 2020 will once again raise critical funds for our community’s hunger needs this November. In lieu of a soup meal get-together, Empty Bowls 2020 will be an online “give together” to raise the $30,000 necessary for Empty Bowls to continue its work in Cook County. All funds raised support the Cook County Food Shelf and other community organizations working to alleviate hunger in Cook County.  

The current global pandemic may have cancelled Empty Bowls’ in-person fundraiser, but it’s also responsible for an uptick in food insecurity both locally and nationwide, making it more important than ever for Empty Bowls to continue its work in Cook County. Empty Bowls urges everyone to donate at www.emptybowlscookcounty.org to make sure Cook County’s hunger needs are met in the coming year. Alternatively, send checks payable to “Empty Bowls Cook County” to Empty Bowls, P.O. Box 294, Grand Marais, MN 55604. Empty Bowls Cook County is 501c3 non-profit and donations to Empty Bowls Cook County are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

To help with this fall’s fundraising, beautiful handmade bowls from the Grand Marais Art Colony and other local potters will be sold online. The bowl sale will go live at www.emptybowlscookcounty.org in mid-November. A selection of gift certificates and other donated items from local businesses can also be purchased on the website to support Empty Bowls Cook County. 

With a fundraising goal of $30,000, Empty Bowls urges individuals and businesses 

to sponsor Empty Bowls’ 2020 efforts at one of the following levels: Event Sponsor $1000+, Business Sponsor $500 – $999, Table Sponsor $250 – $499. Please send a check payable to Empty Bowls Cook County to P.O. Box 294, Grand Marais, MN 55604 or give online at www.emptybowlscookcounty.org.

Empty Bowls addresses Cook County’s food insecurity through several community hunger programs. Funds from last year’s Empty Bowls event were distributed to Birch Grove Community School, Cook County Food Shelf, Cook County Public Health and Human Services, Cook County Ruby’s Pantry, Cook County Schools, Cook County Youth Agency Coalition, Cooperation Station Daycare, Great Expectations School Lunch Program, Oshki Ogimaag Charter School, and the Violence Prevention Center. 

Empty Bowls in Cook County started in 2006 and works in collaboration with the Grand Marais Art Colony and the generous donations of local businesses. Currently, the Empty Bowls steering committee plans to do a drive-thru soup meal event fundraiser in spring 2021. 

 

Contact: 

Empty Bowls 2020

P.O. Box 294, Grand Marais, MN 55604 

218-370-9581(Ada Igoe, Empty Bowls marketing) 

emptybowlsgm@gmail.com

www.emptybowlscookcounty.org

Press Release: Lutsen Mountains Prepares for a Safe 2020-2021 Ski Season – Opening Date November 14, 2020

Photo - Lutsen Mountains opens Nov 14 2020

Lutsen Mountains Prepares for a Safe 2020-2021 Ski Season Investing Over $400,000 in Improvements to Infrastructure.

Expanded outdoor seating and daily capacity limits are elements of COVID-19 operational plan.

October 27, 2020 – Lutsen, Minn. After months of planning and preparation, Lutsen Mountains has announced it’s target opening date and is preparing to welcome guests for the 2020-2021 ski season. With expanded indoor/outdoor seating and dining areas, contactless reservations and daily capacity limits, Lutsen Mountains is poised to offer an enhanced winter season experience for families, friends and everyone looking to get away. 

“As the weather turns colder, it will become increasingly important for people to get outside, breathe fresh air and exercise,” said Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County Executive Director. “I am proud of how  quickly our local business community quickly adapted to the covid-19 restrictions. We saw record breaking demand this summer and expect that trend to continue into the winter as guests seek to find the perfect place to naturally social distance in the outdoors.” 

After closing last winter season early due to COVID-19, Lutsen Mountains management and staff began making preparations for the 2020-2021 season early on. To date, Lutsen Mountains has invested over $400,000 in improvements to new and existing infrastructure. In addition to increased cleaning and safety protocols, new this year: 

  • Daily limits. Utilizing the data from their new RFID ticketing system, management reviewed past traffic trends to set daily capacity limits based on how many people the chalets can serve safely.  
  • Expanded seating capacity. Following state and national indoor capacity guidelines, expanded indoor and heated outdoor seating areas have been added. Wind barriers have been installed to the deck expansions at both the Summit and Scandinavian Chalet. Outdoor heaters are poised to extend the comfort range for outdoor dining.  And the Village Chalet at the base of Eagle Mountain will be reopened. 
  • No contact check-ins. Eagle Ridge at Lutsen Mountains has taken steps to make staying on property safer with contactless registration and keyless entry using bluetooth technology. 
  • Enhanced Chalet Services. Guests entering the chalets to warm up will be greeted by a host and escorted to a table with their party. Guests wishing to purchase food or beverage may do so by utilizing the new online ordering system. Meals will be made to order.  
  • Apres Ski Entertainment. Live music is part of the apres ski culture at Lutsen Mountains, therefore, Papa Charlie’s will continue to offer live music on select dates. Capacity restrictions will be in place and guests will be assigned seating to comply with social distancing requirements. The Monday Night Songwriter Series, featuring marquee songwriters from throughout the midwest, will continue with advanced reservations and ticketing.  

“We’re excited to welcome guests to a reimagined, pandemic-conscious Lutsen Mountains,” said Jim Vick, Lutsen Mountains Director of Sales and Marketing. “Our team has been working tirelessly to transform the resort and plan for the season.”

News of capacity limits has already spurred early lift ticket sales; many are looking forward to a slice of normalcy this winter. Please note that ticket and lodging reservations are strongly encouraged prior to visiting Lutsen Mountains. Reserve early and explore a mid-week getaway to ensure space is available.

“For new and returning guests, we’re encouraging booking early this season” continues Vick. “We’re already seeing increased demand for the season. And with 5” of fresh snow already on the ground and snowmaking just beginning, we’re on track for a great start to the season.” 

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

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MEDIA CONTACT

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 101

Email: linda@visitcookcounty.com

 

Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 104

Email: kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

 

Photo - Lutsen Mountains opens Nov 14 2020

Photo – Lutsen Mountains opens Nov 14 2020

Press Release: Isle Royale Delivers Handwoven Mats to Grand Portage

Grand Portage - Mats loaded in WOLF at Mott Island and ready for the journey to Grand Portage

Isle Royale National Park News Release

Release Date:    October 14, 2020

Contact:            Liz Valencia, 906-369-7146, liz_valencia@nps.gov

Isle Royale Delivers Handwoven Mats to Grand Portage

HOUGHTON, MICH – In September, a significant journey across Lake Superior from Isle Royale to Grand Portage, Minnesota, took place.  The cargo?  Five culturally significant woven mats (anaakanan) from the Isle Royale National Park museum collection.  The mats, four woven from cedar bark and the fifth made of sweetgrass, are now on long term loan to Grand Portage National Monument.  They joined twelve other mats in the Grand Portage museum collection; six from Grand Portage NM, four others from the Isle Royale collection, and two owned by the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

At least two of the mats from Isle Royale and several more in the collection at Grand Portage, were made by Tchi-ki-wis, Mrs. Helen Robinson Linklater, an Ojibwe woman who lived on Isle Royale in the late 1920s and early 1930s with her game warden husband, John Linklater. She crafted mats and other items of cedar and birch bark and sold them to tourists and summer residents. The mats are a one-of-a-kind collection, representing what has been described by a researcher as the largest collection of Anishinaabeg cedar mats crafted by one artisan in North America.

Grand Portage - Handwoven mat of dyed cedar bark strips; black, red and natural plad check pattern with medicine eye design.Photo caption:  Handwoven mat made of dyed cedar bark strips; black, red, and natural plaid check pattern with medicine eye design.  The mat was possibly crafted by Tchi-ki-wis Linklater in 1930. The mat is eight feet long and four feet eight inches wide.

Packing and moving five fragile mats for an autumn trip on Lake Superior in a small boat was no easy task and required careful preparation and planning in advance by the staff of Isle Royale and the Lake Superior Collection Management Center based at Keweenaw National Historical Park.  Museum Curator Penelope Yocum, who organized the project, also called on the expert advice of a professional conservator from the NPS Harpers Ferry Center.  All supplies and materials needed for project had to be acquired in advance and sent to Isle Royale.

Before shipment, the mats were removed from their storage crate at Mott Island and carefully cleaned.  Four of the mats were pliable and able to be rolled around large tubes, wrapped in muslin fabric, secured with cotton ribbon, and covered with plastic for the trip.  The final mat was brittle and unable to be rolled. A special cardboard folder was constructed so it could be transported flat.  The mats were loaded into the 22 ft. park vessel WOLF and transported the 60 miles to Grand Portage where the Grand Portage Band Tribal Council welcomed them home.  Grand Portage - Mats loaded in WOLF at Mott Island and ready for the journey to Grand Portage

Photo caption:  Mats loaded in WOLF at Mott Island and ready for the journey to Grand Portage. Curator Penelope Yocum kept watch while Archeologist Seth DePasqual piloted the boat.

The loan of the mats highlights just one of the many connections between the Grand Portage Ojibwe and Isle Royale.  In 2019, Isle Royale was designated as a Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The TCP documents and celebrates the traditional and long-lasting use of Minong (Isle Royale) by the Grand Portage Band and identifies the unique relationship between Grand Portage and Isle Royale.  According to Isle Royale National Park Superintendent, Denice Swanke, “the park was honored to protect these mats over the years and appreciates the collaboration with the Grand Portage Band and Grand Portage National Monument to now host all seventeen mats together.”

www.nps.gov

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for the 421 parks in the National Park System and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice

 

 Contact Info: 

Liz Valencia

Manager, Interpretation and Cultural Resources Division

Isle Royale National Park

800 E. Lakeshore Drive

Houghton, MI 49931

906-369-7146

906-487-7153

 

Press Release: $9,339 Raised for the Local Community from the One Moose Apart T-shirt Fundraiser

One Moose Apart Campaign Raises over $9000 - $5,339 in donations to Empty Bowls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

$9,339 Raised for the Local Community from the One Moose Apart T-shirt Fundraiser

Grand Marais, Minn. (October 6, 2020) – What started off as a playful way to promote social distancing, grew to a fundraiser for the community that raised $9,339 in donations. 

“When we launched the “One Moose Apart” campaign in March, we quickly started hearing feedback from folks that they wanted this image on a t-shirt” said Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County. “We saw this as a great opportunity to spread the word about staying vigilant to slow the spread of Covid-19 in our community as well as raise money for local community members in need.” 

Once the fundraising campaign was launched in July, support came in from across the country from both lifelong residents as well as frequent visitors. With each purchase, supporters were given the opportunity to post a comment about why they chose to contribute to this campaign. Here are a few testimonials:  

“Cook County is a special place with incredible people. I want to give back for all the memories they’ve given me” – Brianna Larson

“We just LOVE Cook County and hope that everyone there stays healthy and safe!” – Sharon A Ostlie

Even local business owners were proud to support the campaign:

“Because we love Cook County and we want to help support our neighbors through this difficult time!” – Kim Corliss, co-owner of North Shore Winery.  

To view testimonials from supporters, visit the campaign websites: 

The original campaign ended on August 11, 2020. However, demand remained strong and a second campaign was completed in September. In total, the combined campaigns sold 658 t-shirts and raised $9,339.  

The proceeds were distributed to two local organizations. $4,000 going to the Violence Prevention Center and $5,339 going to the Empty Bowls organization. Both not-for-profit organizations provide critical relief to the local community supporting a broad group of individuals and families from children to the elderly. 

Empty Bowls is an organization that hosts an annual fundraiser in November that focuses on providing food to those in need. However, due to the coronavirus, the event will not be able to be held as usual. Proceeds raised from the Empty Bowls event are distributed to multiple organizations including the local food shelf, schools, Good Samaritan Fund, Snacks & Packs program, Cook County Council on Ageing, Ruby’s Pantry and the Cooperation Station Daycare.  

The Violence Prevention Center provides critical services for individuals and families in times of crisis. Among their vast array of services they provide temporary housing, legal, medical and emotional support. 

Visit Cook County would like to extend a sincere thank you to all supporters of this campaign for their generous support. To learn more about One Moose Apart, please visit: https://blog.visitcookcounty.com/do-your-part-please-stay-one-moose-apart 

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

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One Moose Apart Campaign Raises over $9000 - $5,339 in donations to Empty Bowls

One Moose Apart Campaign Raises over $9000 – $5,339 in donations to Empty Bowls. Pictured here: Pat Campanero board member of Empty Bowls , Linda Jurek executive director of Visit Cook County and Murray the Moose.

One Moose Apart Campaign Raises over $9000 - $4000 in donations to Violence Prevention Center

One Moose Apart Campaign Raises over $9000 – $4000 in donations to Violence Prevention Center. Pictured here: Lindsey Gau, director of Violence Prevention Center, Linda Jurek executive director of Visit Cook County and Murray the Moose.

Kjersti Vick | email: kjersti@visitcookcounty.com | phone: (218) 387-2788 ext. 104

Talking Tourism: Business Hours & Free Website Listings

Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: August 2020

Talking Tourism: Business Hours & Free Website Listings by Linda Jurek

It’s hard to believe that just five months ago, our corner of Minnesota was closed. Doors were shut; we transitioned quickly to remote work, cut budgets, and furloughed employees. Days were spent navigating complex loan applications, analyzing business structures, and meeting with local leaders to discuss what to do next as a community. While tourism experts predicted that travelers would choose destinations like ours, close to home and outdoors, Visit Cook County was busy trying to prepare for an unpredictable future of summer tourism. For all the reasons we love our corner of Minnesota, so do many others, but what would this look like in the world of 2020? Our VCC team and board of directors went to task, and dove headfirst into strategically re-aligning our work with the needs of our community.

COVID RESOURCES FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
Visit Cook County did not escape budget cuts. In fact, we shrank our summer marketing budget by 80% and refocused our energy and resources on how to prepare to reopen our community carefully and strategically–always keeping the safety of our community as a top priority and top of mind. The COVID Resources page on our website shows the evolution of marketing during a pandemic and is chock-full of information and tools for local business owners, including zoom backgrounds, Facebook profile frames, a Visitor’s Pledge, Best Practice Guide, marketing materials (including the beloved “One Moose Apart” campaign) and a whole lot more. Visit Cook County has also made significant investments in providing free face coverings for the public, a vital and important part of how to keep the community safe during this time.

TRUSTED SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
For several years, Visit Cook County has monitored and publicized retail and dining hours as well as weekend lodging availability on our website. This summer, this work continued and, in many cases, has doubled or tripled as businesses respond to staffing shortages and new covid-19 protocols. While planning their visit north, visitors are finding this information extremely useful, and user traffic to our site reflects it. As demand increased, we felt it was important to make this information the most user-friendly and engaging experience possible. A new interface that is mobile-compatible has been updated on our site. We will be distributing postcards and posters to local businesses that have an easily scannable QR code for quick access to local hours for both dining and retail. Users can also go to the home page of visitcookcounty.com and click on the banner “FIND UPDATED HOURS.”

FREE WEBSITE LISTINGS
What started as a conversation to help our local artists and musicians generate income during this time has evolved into much more. Due to the incredible efforts and economic hardships of 2020, Visit Cook County wants to offer all local businesses the opportunity to list FOR FREE on our website for one full year. We are hoping that this opportunity for a FREE Visit Cook County listing will help lodging, local services, guides, dining, retail, artists, and musicians expand their exposure to visitors. And that visitcookcounty.com will continue to be the most comprehensive local business list in our community.

If you would like to get your business listed, contact Maggie Barnard, Communications Manager maggie@visitcookcounty.com.

As the leaves lose their luster and cool fall mornings feel like they are right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a deep breath and acknowledge all that we’ve accomplished as a community during these strange and hard times. Summer of 2020, with all of its perplexities will soon be in the books. While it has been challenging at times, we’ve also seen the strength and adaptability of our community. We are a place that watches out for one and other, and strives to celebrate diversity. We are a place that works together to overcome unforeseen obstacles. Visit Cook County thanks each and every one of you for navigating these unprecedented times with us. As the season changes, we are looking to the future more than ever, and are excited to continue to be an important resource for the community we serve and hold in the highest of esteem.

Be safe, stay adventurous, and wear a mask.

Sincerely,

Linda Jurek, Executive Director – Visit Cook County

Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County

Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County

Press Release: One Moose Apart Campaign is Raising Money for Local Residents 

Limited Edition "One Moose Apart" T-shirts

Visit Cook County’s One Moose Apart Campaign is Raising Money for Local Residents.    

Limited Edition "One Moose Apart" T-shirts

Grand Marais, Minn. (August 4, 2020)Since launching the One Moose Apart campaign in March, Visit Cook County has received an outpouring of support from visitors and locals alike who appreciate the playful take on social distancing.

“We received numerous requests for a t-shirt with the One Moose Apart artwork, so we decided to make one!” said Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County.

“Initially, we were anticipating selling only approximately  50 shirts. However, after only 7 days, we have far exceeded that number!”continued Jurek. In fact, as of Tuesday, August 4th, the campaign recorded 286 supporters and over $4,237 raised. The campaign and t-shirt sales are set to end on August 11th, 2020, with a revised goal of $6,000. 

With each purchase, supporters are given the opportunity to post a comment about why they are choosing to contribute to this campaign. Here are a few testimonials:  

“Cook County is a special place with incredible people. I want to give back for all the memories they’ve given me” – Brianna Lason

“We just LOVE Cook County and hope that everyone there stays healthy and safe!” – Sharon A Ostlie

“We camp on the Gunflint Trail several times every year, made Cook County our honeymoon destination 17 years ago, and have friends that own a local business in Grand Marais. I love the “One Moose Apart” image and message.” – Amanda G Lee

Even local business owners are proud to support the campaign:

“Because we love Cook County and we want to help support our neighbors through this difficult time!” – Kim Corliss, co-owner of North Shore Winery.  

All proceeds from the t-shirt sales will be donated to the Cook County Coronavirus Relief Fund which will go towards supporting local families, community members and businesses impacted by Covid-19. Visit Cook County is partnering with the Cook County Chamber to identify which entities to distribute funds to. 

“The success of campaigns like  this really demonstrate the caliber and nature of our community – both near and far. By working together, we can get through this pandemic stronger than before” Jurek added. 

Another newly launched campaign that exemplifies community strength is the SISU Coffee Project. A partnership between three local businesses (Fika Coffee, Java Moose and Hoaglund Designs) to raise funds to support the livelihoods and everyday needs of the local community.

In addition to the One Moose Apart Campaign, Visit Cook County is providing complimentary face coverings to visitors in the area and is promoting safe and responsible visitation. Learn more about what Cook County businesses are doing during Covid-19 to welcome visitors and keep residents safe by visiting the website.

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

 ###

Assets: 

Link to the Campaign: https://www.customink.com/fundraising/visitcookcounty

Dropbox folder of Photos & Graphics of the One Moose Apart campaign materials: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/g7r23pq1ma4ugcp/AAC_6f4JSXZdke2J8csFIVi7a?dl=0

Requests for Interview Contact: Kjersti Vick | phone: 218-387-2788 ext. 103 | email: kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino Announces Reopening Plans

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino firepit outside the Island Dining Room

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino Announces Reopening Plans

Grand Portage, MN, June 3, 2020: Previous plans for reopening Grand Portage Lodge and Casino have been modified. Originally scheduled for Monday, June 22, the reopening date has moved one week later to Monday, June 29, 2020.

This includes the Casino, Lodge, Island View Dining Room and Antlers Lounge. All will be operating at 50% capacity with enhanced health and sanitation protocols in place. New hours for the Casino will be 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. daily until further notice.

Guests looking to book rooms should call 800-543-1384. Online booking will not be available at this time.

Island View Dining Room will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with new menus, food safety and sanitation measures. Hours: Breakfast: 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Lunch 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Dinner: 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

The Marina and RV Park will be opening very soon. Inquiries about booking RV sites and use of the Marina should call the above listed 800#.

Other features and amenities on the Grand Portage Reservation have earlier opening dates:

  • The Grand Portage State Park is now open for day use only, with limited facilities
  • The Grand Portage Trading Post will open on Monday, June 15, 2020
    • New Hours will be 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Facial Coverings and Social Distancing will be required
  • The Grand Portage National Monument will open on Monday, June 15, 2020

In addition to our usual high standards of cleanliness, during the closure, the property has been thoroughly deep-cleaned and sanitized, and enhanced health and safety plans have been developed with guidance from public health officials. Upon returning, guests can expect additional new safety procedures and protocols. Hours are subject to change. For complete details, please visit grandportage.com.

We will continue to work closely with local and national health officials to keep our guests and employees safe. Please feel confident that we’re doing all we can to provide a healthy environment so that you can enjoy your stay with us. We look forward to welcoming back our guests. Thank you for allowing us to be your lodge and casino of choice. For more information, please visit grandportage.com or call 800-543-1384.

About Grand Portage Lodge & Casino Owned and operated by the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Grand Portage Lodge & Casino has served as the premier hospitality destination on the pristine north shore of Minnesota for over 30 years. The property consists of 95 elegantly renovated rooms and suites, a 12,000 square foot casino, Island View Dining Room, Antlers Lounge, Event Center, Trading Post, Car Wash, Marina and RV Park. It also serves as a home base for the cabins at nearby sister property, Hollow Rock Resort. For more information, visit grandportage.com or call 800-543-1384.

# # #

Contact: Todd Ford / Marketing Director / tford@grandportage.com / 218-475-2933

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino has the most epic firepit with a view

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino has the most epic firepit with a view

 

Newly renovated lobby at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino

Newly renovated lobby at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino

 

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino Front Entrance

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino Front Entrance

Photo: Newly renovated Grand Portage Casino

Newly renovated Grand Portage Casino

Photo: Rooms at Grand Portage Lodge

Newly renovated rooms at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino

For only the second time in it’s 90 year history, the Fisherman’s Picnic in Grand Marais, Minn. has been cancelled.

Fisherman's Picnic 2017

Event organizers in Cook County, Minn. are reinventing what event participation looks like during the time of Covid-19.

The Grand Marais Lion's Club organizes the Fisherman's Picnic in Grand Marais MN

The Grand Marais Lion’s Club organizes the Fisherman’s Picnic in Grand Marais MN

Grand Marais, Minn. (May 14, 2020) – For over 90 years, the Fisherman’s Picnic in Grand Marais, Minn. held annually the first weekend in August has been canceled this year. The only other time Fisherman’s Picnic was canceled in its long history was during WWII. A marquee event weekend, visitors from around the country choose to plan their trip to the North Shore and Gunflint Trail around this annual event to celebrate the heritage and spirit of the community.

Like many communities, major events are struggling to find a way to continue amidst the COVID-19 crisis. “Events are an essential part of our brand,” says Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County. “While we’re primarily known for our outdoor recreational activities, our local event organizers really put on some spectacular events throughout the year that will really be missed this summer.”

However, in the spirit of small town ingenuity, event organizers in Cook County, Minn. have been working hard to reimagine events amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

Lutsen 99er Launches Lone Wolf Challenge 

Lutsen 99er is a family sport - by Visit Cook CountyOrganizers of the Lutsen 99er, a world-class mountain bike competition featuring distances of 25, 49, 69 and 99 miles, is launching a virtual event aptly named the Lutsen 99er Lone Wolf Challenge in place of the cancelled traditional event. “We started the 99er in 2011 because we wanted to showcase the quality of the terrain that exists in this area,” says Peter Spencer, Race Director for the Lutsen 99er. Over the past 10 years, the Lutsen 99er participation has grown from about 100 riders to over 1,800 riders and their families.

“The Lutsen 99er participants are like family and while this year’s event will be missing the physical camaraderie of the event weekend, biking is by nature an individual sport so why not still come up and test your mettle at your own pace?” asks Spencer. GPS directions will be sent out to all registered Lutsen 99er participants for any of the course distances to ride between June 5th – July 12 of this year. Those who complete the challenge will be awarded a limited edition commemorative gift from Wolf Tooth Components. Learn more: lutsen99er.com.

North House Folk School’s Wooden Boat Show & Solstice Celebration

Wooden Boat Show at North House Folk School in Grand Marais - Visit Cook County (1)At North House Folk School in Grand Marais, event organizers are preparing to launch a virtual edition of their famed Wooden Boat Show and Solstice Celebration through a week of live craft demonstrations, evening webinars and hands-on(line) courses. North House will be bringing the event weekend to life through video boat tours and behind-the-scenes wooden boat projects from around the country.

Embrace the Slow TV movementHjordisthe beloved schooner of the North Shore has over-wintered in Knife River, Minn. Join her and her socially distant crew for (part-of) the 14-hour journey home. It’s the nautical equivalent to the televised yule-log…only without even the suggestion of warmth.

The event kicks off at noon CST on Monday, June 15 on Facebook Live, and will continue all week with the full slate of speakers, demonstrations and more available. All content will be available on demand Saturday, June 20 at northhouse.org.

Boundary Waters Expo on the Gunflint Trail

Boundary Waters ExpoBoundary waters canoe area enthusiasts have come to look forward to this gathering of canoe experts every year since 2015. This year, event organizer Quinn McCloughan of Bearskin Lodge & Outfitters is preparing to host the presentations via live stream on their YouTube channel. Combined, these wilderness experts have several decades of experience and stories to share. More information will be posted as available at http://www.bwcaexpo.com/.

 

Find information about more Cook County Minn. events at visitcookcounty.com/events 

 

 

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

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Press Release: In a time of crisis, Businesses and Community Rally Together in Cook County, MN

Press Release: In a time of crisis, Businesses and Community Rally Together in Cook County, MN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In Cook County, Minnesota, Businesses and Community Rally Together Amidst Crisis

Despite COVID-19 shutdowns and a devastating fire, local business owners and residents throughout Cook County look to each other for inspiration, creativity and strength.

April 17, 2020 – Cook County, Minn. In the wake of a fire that devastated three prominent businesses in Grand Marais, the communities in Cook County are coming together, staying positive and finding creative ways to keep the area’s tourism industry engaged during the state-mandated COVID-19 shutdown.      

“We are staying strong,” said Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County Executive Director. “Our communities are mourning the loss of the Crooked Spoon Cafe, Picnic & Pine, and White Pine North, but we will weather this storm together. Above all, we’re grateful that nobody was hurt, that our volunteer firefighters were able to contain the fire, and that we have the fortitude to rebuild.”

While the ashes were still smoldering, two local business leaders started a GoFundMe account to support the businesses who lost their livelihood in the fire. In the first 24 hours, over $25,000 had been raised. Donations are still being welcomed and appreciated. For more information, visit the GoFundMe page.

Known as a destination for artists, creatives and adventurers alike, spring is a welcoming and joyful time in Minnesota’s arrowhead region. This year, however, the awakening of spring is quieter, acknowledged by residents as they pull together to support their local business community in the wake of Monday’s fire in Grand Marais and the absence of the area’s usual booming population of visitors from near and far.

The city’s firefighters are all volunteers. It took volunteers from four different fire departments to combat the fire. Many left their day jobs to step in and fight the fire, only to return later that evening when gusting winds caused the fire to reignite. They returned to work the next morning, too, because that’s the mentality in Cook County. You do your part for your community and your family, and then you do some more. 

Without springtime visitors, the communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, Grand Portage and the Gunflint Trail are oddly quiet, but certainly not dormant. Residents are practicing social distancing while remaining friendly and lending a helping hand to those in need. Many are volunteering their newfound extra time and doing what they can to stay engaged and support their community. 

“It’s been amazing to see everyone come together this spring,” continued Jurek. “In a small and tight-knit region like Cook County, survival depends on sticking together. We’re adjusting the way we do things to adapt to this new normal, and we anxiously await the day we can welcome visitors once again.”

In the meantime, Cook County is staying innovative to keep residents safe, sustain local businesses and engage visitors from afar.

North House Folk School – Crafting in Place

During this time of uncertainty, craft can be calming, inspiring, and sustaining. North House Folk School is offering online craft experiences and connections from afar. From wool mending to sailing, woodworking to starting seedlings, these fun and informative craft video tutorials were designed to inspire creativity and self-expression while we shelter in place. Sign up for the North House Folk School e-Newsletter and follow on Instagram and Facebook for one-of-a-kind tutorials from artisans

Grocery Pickup and Delivery

Nobody could have foreseen that a regular trip to the grocery store could get so complicated, but that hasn’t slowed down the residents of Cook County. Grocery stores throughout the region quickly adapted to accept phone orders and offer curbside pickup and delivery options, and volunteers have stepped up to help meet increasing demand. The primary goal? Maintaining food access for all in Cook County. Whole Foods Coop, Johnson’s Foods and Gene’s Foods in Grand Marais are leveraging volunteers for deliveries, and many other markets throughout the region have found success with curbside pickup. David Jansen, a volunteer, has developed a website that shares photos of grocery store shelves to help residents shop virtually.

Wunderbar Eatery and Glampground – Free Lunch for All

Chef Chris Callender and his team at Wunderbar Eatery and Glampground are offering free lunch takeaway for any who need it during this time. Local grocery stores and restaurants have donated many ingredients to help support these delicious and comforting meals available to Cook County residents who may be out of work or school during the shutdown.

Visit Cook County – Stay Connected with Cook County

During this time of social distancing and isolation, Visit Cook County had turned to technology to help keep connections to Cook County alive. With virtual meetings replacing face-to-face interactions, custom virtual backgrounds for Zoom, Skype, or other platforms bring a smile to everyone’s face. Background images for each Cook County community are available for free download on the Visit Cook County blog

Visit Cook County has also asked visitors to join together and share stories of their favorite times in Cook County on social media. Stay connected through the power of story; please share on InstagramTwitter or Facebook by using #donorthmn 

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About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

MEDIA CONTACT

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 101

Email: linda@visitcookcounty.com

or

Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 104

Email: kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

 

Picnic & Pine, Crooked Spoon and White Pine North all destroyed in the 4/13/20 fire in Grand Marais, MN

Picnic & Pine, Crooked Spoon and White Pine North all destroyed in the 4/13/20 fire in Grand Marais, MN

Press Release: North House Folk School deepens engagement while practicing social distancing through “Crafting in Place” live video instruction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

North House Folk School deepens engagement while practicing social distancing through “Crafting in Place” live video instruction

Grand Marais, Minn.(April 2, 2020) –  While many are struggling to connect with their audiences, North House Folk School is building community by offering complimentary demonstrations and tutorials with instructors online through their “Crafting in Place” video series.  

While the campus is temporarily closed and courses cancelled until May 17th due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff and instructors sought to find a way to connect with their students and supporters to keep the community campus feel alive and thriving during these challenging and isolating times. 

“Building a sense of community is the foundation of our organization” says Greg Wright, Executive Director of North House Folk School. “While we are unable to physically gather, relish the joy of working with our hands and both bake and break bread together at this time, we are able to continue to learn from each other and celebrate the power of community and craft in these challenging times.” 

The “Crafting in Place” series began a few weeks ago and is continuing to evolve as instructors step up to offer skills share with the North House audience. 

Examples of recent and upcoming sessions:

New video schedule announced weekly on Fridays via their free e-newsletter. You can also join the conversation by posting about what you are working on by using #stillcrafting on Instagram. Craft Kits are available for purchase through their online store and enrollment for upcoming classes is still open. 

About North House Folk School

North House Folk School is an educational non-profit whose mission is to enrich lives and build community by teaching traditional northern crafts in a student-centered learning environment that inspires the hands, the heart and the mind. Located on the harbor in Grand Marais, Minnesota, North House Folk School is rooted in the traditions of northern culture, materials, and stories. Over 400 courses are offered each year, along with seven special events and thematic weekends. Hands-on public demonstrations and sails on the schooner The Hjordis are offered seasonally. See www.northhourse.org for more information.

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

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MEDIA CONTACT

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 101

Email: linda@visitcookcounty.com

 

Joe Beres | North House Folk School

Phone #: 218.387.9762

Email: jberes@northhouse.org

 

Still Crafting - North House Folk School

Still Crafting – North House Folk School

Kjersti Vick kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: Fisherman’s Picnic by Dan Helmerson

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: July 2019

Talking Tourism: Fisherman’s Picnic by Dan Helmerson

Our annual Fisherman’s Picnic is just around the corner. Can you believe that it has been going on for 90 years? That makes it the same vintage as Naniboujou Lodge and the Stickney Inn & Store (now Cross River Heritage Center) both built in 1929.  It started the summer of that year as an informal gathering of North Shore fisherman and their families and remained a relatively local event for the next two decades.  It really started to take off after the end of WWII when folks were able to buy new cars again and didn’t have to contend with gas rationing.  The Picnic as we know it today can be mainly attributed to the Grand Marais Lions Club who has shouldered the responsibility of sponsoring, organizing and presenting this event since 1952.

Over the decades things have inevitably changed, old attractions dropped and new activities added.  Many of us “young old-timers” fondly remember:

  • Carnival Rides – Octopus, Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round, and of course the carny game booths – Pitch-A-Penny, Shooting Gallery, Milk Bottle Toss, Mechanical Claw.
  • Miss North Shore Pageant – This highly anticipated event encouraged local businesses to sponsor high school girls as candidates and attendants.
  • Boat Parade – Decorated boats and cabin cruisers would circle the harbor carrying the Miss North Shore queen candidates.
  • Gymkhana – Local hot-rodders got a chance to show their stuff navigating around the course of traffic cones set up in the high school parking lot.
  • Greased Pole Contest – Fellows would attempt to climb out on a timber pole striped of bark and greased up until it was gleaming.  The pole was extended out over the harbor and the object was to retrieve the flag from the end of the pole without taking a spill into the water.
  • Trout Pond – Brook Trout were stocked in the Bear Tree Park fountain for youngsters to catch.
  • Fresh Raspberry Sundaes – A tradition at Leng’s Fountain.
  • Grand Prize / New Car – On all the game shows a new car was always the ultimate prize, and so it was for years at the Picnic.  Usually a compact economy sized car, it was displayed up on cement blocks on the corner of the Standard Gas Station (now Harbor Park).

The Picnic is a time for making memories.  I’m sure everyone has their own particular recollection of one special event.  I am now old enough to have over 50 years of Picnics to reflect back upon.  As kids we eagerly anticipated that first weekend in August.  We had saved up our allowances and summer job money to blow it all in a couple of days.  If our father was a Lion’s Club member we usually helped sell raffle tickets door to door.  As I got older I was able to participate in events such as playing in the marching band that lead the parade on Sunday and help decorate floats for various clubs.  It was an exciting time when everyone “came to town” and you would see your schoolmates, relatives and friends all over the village.  After graduating from CCHS and striking out on my own, if I planned a trip back home in the summer you could be sure it would be over the Picnic weekend.  As I got older I appreciated seeing the folks I had grown up with and reconnect with classmates at Class Reunions and far flung relatives at Family Reunions.

The Fisherman’s Picnic is also a time for making new friends and welcoming the visitors to our town.  I find that most of the tourists enjoy talking with the locals and learning more about our community “from the horse’s mouth” as it were.  If you find yourself standing in a line for a fish burger, ask the person behind you “Where are you from?”  If they aren’t a tourist they could very well be someone you went to school with but didn’t recognize!

Dan Helmerson, Visit Cook County Info Center & Local Historian

Dan Helmerson, Visit Cook County Info Center & Local Historian

PSA Firework Safety in Cook County MN

Tofte 4th of July Fireworks

PSA Firework Safety in Cook County MN

FROM LINDA JUREK AT VISIT COOK COUNTY

With all the news of the 20 year anniversary of the blow down, it seems appropriate to give a little reminder that downed timber and devastation from the blow down helped kindle another disaster; the Ham Lake Fire. While the natural circumstances are not the same this summer, we need to be reminded of safety precautions and the permitting requirements to use fireworks. Summer brings visitors and the July 4th Holiday brings fireworks.

Stay Safe! Some of the more common safety tips include:

  • Never re-light a ‘dud’
  • Never let children handle fireworks
  • Keep your pets inside
  • Always be attentive and avoid alcohol consumption
  • Know what is legal and what is not.

A short list of Minnesota fireworks that REQUIRE A PERMIT ARE:

  • Bottle Rockets
  • Sky Rockets
  • Roman Candles
  • Firecrackers
  • Sparklers
  • Smoke and Punk
  • Fountains
  • Missiles
  • Novelties
  • Crackle and Strobe
  • Parachutes
  • Wheels and Spinners
  • Sky Flyers
  • Display Shells
  • Aerial Items (cakes)

And of course, be respectful, especially if visiting the Gunflint Trail where folks and wildlife seek peace and quiet.