PR: Memorial Day weekend in Grand Marais features a sound garden in Harbor Park, an art gallery tour, bike event and more

Harbor Park Sound Garden

Cook County, Minn. is kicking off Memorial Day weekend with Art Along the Lake: Spring Gallery Tour, a bike event and more

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cook County, Minn. – May 8, 2018 – Art Along the Lake: Spring Gallery Tour highlights a collaboration of the different art galleries throughout Cook County. Six galleries will host different events Thursday, May 24 -Sunday, May 27.  An extra exciting element this year will be transforming Harbor Park into a sound garden with the help of Minneapolis-based award-winning composer/director James Everest.  Other events include artist Q&A’s, stone drilling demonstrations, live music, silk and wool dyeing, as well as interactive activities at the Grand Marais Arts Colony.

The Harbor Park Sound Garden is a family-friendly, free, outdoor event open to all ages and will take place from 12 – 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 27.  The Sound Garden event will celebrate the coming of spring, and the history, geography, and ecology of Harbor Park and Lake Superior.

According to Everest, the Sound Garden will feature a temporary sound installation, combining live musicians and a small choir with 35 small, battery-powered remote speakers distributed throughout the park, each playing a different part of the larger piece of music – a spatial concert you can walk through!  In addition to the sound installation, the event will feature visual art elements by local artists, live poetry, history, and storytelling and interactive opportunities.

Another event taking place on Memorial Day weekend is Le Grand Du Nord gravel cycling classic. The Le Grand Du Nord bicycling event represents one of the most amazing gravel courses in the United States. This year Heck of the North productions will introduce a new 120-mile route, which was built on the 100-mile course from previous years. There will also be the addition of a stunning 66-mile course, as well as a great introductory 20-mile course.  Beginning in downtown Grand Marais, all three events follow the shores of Lake Superior before climbing to their final destinations.

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

 

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Katie Krantz Katie@visitcookcounty.com 218-387-2788

PR | Rare Opportunity: Golf and Ski in Lutsen, Minn. on the same day in May

May 5 & 6, 2018 | SKI @lutsenmountains, GOLF at @superiornational AND explore WATERFALLS! The 1st annual Kite Festival will also be occurring over the Grand Marais harbor with kids kite making and big kite flying. It's going to be one fun spring weekend up north!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Rare Opportunity: Golf and Ski in Lutsen, Minn. on the same day in May

 Lutsen, Minn. – April 27, 2018 – While spring is starting to take hold of the northland, winter is hanging on for one last weekend at Lutsen Mountains. Visitors will have the unique opportunity to not only ski at Lutsen Mountains in May but also enjoy a round of golf at Superior National Golf Course.

Superior National Golf is excited to announce that the Mountain 9-hole course will be open for play beginning Friday, May 4th. A round of golf will be $35/person with a $10 discount on play after 5pm. The newly renovated River 9-hole course is planned to open by May 9 or 10 depending on weather followed by the Canyon 9-hole course closer to June.

Lutsen Mountains Ski Hill will be offering skiing on Eagle Mountain on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 2018. A single day lift ticket is offered at $39 for an adult and $29 for a child with two-day lift and lodging packages starting at $93/person. Only one other time in its 69 history has Lutsen Mountains been open for skiing into May.

“We plan our snowmaking to store reserves so we can remain open through April, anticipating some warm days in late March and early April,” states Jim Vick, Marketing Director at Lutsen Mountains.  “With the prolonged winter, we didn’t need to touch those reserves until last week, leaving plenty of snow to ski into May.  It is a rare opportunity to blend our seasons where you can ski, fish trout and golf on the same weekend.”

About Superior National Golf Course: Superior National Golf Course opened in 1992. It quickly became known as one of the premier destination golf courses in Minnesota. The Lake Superior adjacent 27-hole championship course with nearly 6,900 yards of sloping fairways and grand elevation changes earned it the title of “#1 Public Golf Course in Minnesota” by Golf Digest magazine. For additional information, visit superiornational.com.

Main contact: Heath Ekstrom, Business Manager | email: snlproshop@gmail.com | ph# (218) 633-7195

 

About Lutsen Mountains: Lutsen Mountains, located in Lutsen, Minn., is the largest ski resort in Mid-America with four interconnected mountains, 95 runs and 1,000 feet of vertical rise.  Its new gondola transports visitors to the highest peak along the North Shore for unparalleled views of Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains. For additional information, visit lutsen.com.

Main contact: Jim Vick, Marketing Director | email: jim@lutsen.com | ph# (218)406-1300

 

In addition to skiing and golfing, the waterfalls of the North Shore are reaching peak flow and a first year event, the Grand Marais Kite Festival, will also be occurring over the weekend.

 

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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May 5 & 6, 2018 | SKI @lutsenmountains, GOLF at @superiornational AND explore WATERFALLS! The 1st annual Kite Festival will also be occurring over the Grand Marais harbor with kids kite making and big kite flying. It's going to be one fun spring weekend up north!

May 5 & 6, 2018 | SKI @lutsenmountains, GOLF at @superiornational AND explore WATERFALLS! The 1st annual Kite Festival will also be occurring over the Grand Marais harbor with kids kite making and big kite flying. It’s going to be one fun spring weekend up north!

 

 

 

 

 

Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County MN 218.387.2788 (office) kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

PR: First annual Kites at the Harbor event: new Grand Marais Kite Festival set for May 5

Grand Marias Kite Festival

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cook County, Minn. – April 25, 2018 – Grand Marais will be hosting Kites at the Harbor: Grand Marais Kite Festival on Saturday May 5, 2018. The festival will feature professional kite flying demonstrations, a group fly as well as kids’ activities.

Avid kite fliers from the Twin Cities, Mitch Kiel along with his friends Richard Masak and Pam Hodges will be in downtown Grand Marais demonstrating kites between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. They will primarily be in the Coast Guard parking lot, 315 S Broadway, Grand Marais, Minn. 55604.  Depending on wind conditions, they may also fly in other locations around downtown Grand Marais.

The kite flying trio: Kiel, Masak, and Hodges are all members of the American Kitefliers Association (AKA) and have been flying kites professionally for many years at kite flying festivals and national conventions across the United States, Canada and overseas in Singapore.

A kids’ kite-making class will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., with a group fly to follow. These events will be held through Fireweed Bike Co-op, which is located near the Coast Guard parking lot. Fireweed will be selling kites and kite-making kits throughout the weekend. There will also be live music all weekend at various locations in Grand Marais.

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

 

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Katie Krantz Katie@visitcookcounty.com 218-387-2788 Photos available

PR: History buffs find charming destinations in Grand Marais and Cook County

Grand Marais Coast Guard Station historical photo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

History buffs find charming destinations in Grand Marais and Cook County

COOK COUNTY, MINN. – April 16, 2018 – The Grand Marais area is rich with history involving Ojibwe people, French fur traders, and Scandinavian settlers. Tourists interested in the area’s top historical destinations can participate in the Cook County Historical Society’s Passport Program, which encourages them to visit up to 20 area historical locations. http://passporttothepast.org.

Chippewa City Church

In the late 1800’s, the village of Chippewa City had over 100 families, and a tiny Catholic church stood as the center of their village.  Visitors are welcome at St. Francis Xavier Church, built in Chippewa City in 1895 by Ojibwe carpenter Frank Wishkop. It is a serene stop just off Highway 61, at milepost 111, which is one mile east of Grand Marais on Highway 61. In the late 1900’s, it was the hub of the community. The church began as a Jesuit mission for the priests who travelled from the dioceses of Fort William/Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) to hold services with the residents of Chippewa City. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. For more info, see: http://cookcountyhistory.org/chippewa_church

Grand Marais’ Lighthouse

By the early 1900’s, settlement and population growth had progressed slowly.  Fishing and logging became the primary industries, and the current lighthouse was constructed in 1922 for the harbor town of Grand Marais.  The original lighthouse – the first on the North Shore – was made of wood and built in 1885.  A sturdy, concrete breakwater was added and provides access to the lighthouse. Today visitors have access to the lit point, where they can take in a breathtaking view of the harbor and the Sawtooth Mountain range.  Large ships used this harbor for many decades, and they were the main mode of transportation for goods, services, and people until 1928 when the highway connected Grand Marais to the rest of the state.

Cook County Historical Society

In addition to the construction of the lighthouse, the federal government also commissioned the construction of the keeper’s residence, which was built in 1896. This charming structure is nestled on Grand Marais’s main road leading out to Artist’s Point, and currently houses the Cook County History Museum.  Prior to the electrification and computer automation, early lighthouse keepers were needed to trim the wicks, replenish fuel, wind clockworks and perform maintenance tasks. The keeper’s residence now features a variety of historic displays, as well as the beautiful Fresnel lens used in the community lighthouse for more than 100 years.  It was recently replaced, and museum visitors can examine the brilliant craftsmanship in this well-made, sturdy glass centurion. For more info, see http://cookcountyhistory.org/museum

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

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Katie Krantz (218) 387-2788 katie@visitcookcounty.com Photos available for the story

PR: June 8-10: Three events in one weekend. Grand Marais welcomes walkers, runners, paddlers, and more

Craft Beer: Voyageur Brewing

June 8-10: Three events in one weekend

Grand Marais welcomes walkers, runners, paddlers, and more

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cook County, Minn. – April 13, 2018 – June 8-10 in Grand Marais will encourage visitors to shake off winter and warm up to summer; there are options for visitors with a variety of interests.  The weekend’s events include the first annual Voyage North 5k & 10k, Grand Marais Block Party, and the Boundary Waters Expo on the Gunflint Trail.

The first annual Voyage North 5k & 10k will occur on June 9 at 11a.m. Participants will enjoy the scenic beauty of Lake Superior, surrounding Sawtooth Mountains and the quaint harbor town of Grand Marais. Walkers and runners can finish with a post-race party at Voyageur Brewing Company.

Occurring at the same time will be the first annual Grand Marais Block Party. The block party will include live music, games, vendor booths and more. It will run all day from 9am-5pm.

The third annual Boundary Waters Expo is a family-friendly, hands-on event that features speakers, exhibitors and activities for everyone. It’s a two-day event June 9-10 that celebrates canoeing, camping and wilderness travel. Presenters include Cliff Jacobson, Rob Kesselring, Bear Paulsen and more. The event is free and open to the public. It is located 26 miles north of Grand Marais on the Gunflint Trail.

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

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Katie Krantz Katie@visitcookcounty.com (218) 387-2788 Photos available for the story

Talking Tourism: New Directions – Visit Cook County hosts Board Retreat | by Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: March 2018

Talking Tourism: New Directions – Visit Cook County hosts Board Retreat | by Linda Jurek

What’s the best way to advance an organization? Retreat.  A board retreat that is.  Many of us have heard of board retreats and in planning for the first ever Visit Cook County retreat, the work done in advance is equally as important as gathering a busy group of board members. Being a younger organization of eight years and having achieved incredible growth and increased tourism traffic were a couple of reasons a board retreat was necessary. Number one for me? I wanted to offer the Visit Cook County (VCC) team and board members the opportunity to step away from their day to day business and provide a chance to exhale and consider the work of our organization. Hosting a retreat in Cook County comes with its own mixed bag of consideration but one of the best is the ability to disconnect with a drive inland – up the Gunflint Trail. And let’s not forget gathering a group of very busy individuals that serve on the boards of our local not for profits in addition to running their own businesses. A retreat should not be burden, and to my delight the vast majority of our board was able to attend.

 

The retreat also served as an opportunity for the team at Visit Cook County to provide thoughtful reflection on their area of expertise including marketing, events, communications, finance and info center operation. The retreat was set up in a sharing circle format with the opportunity to provide verbal and written feedback. Each team member provided a report and was able to receive feedback from the our knowledgeable board leaders. The VCC team reviewed the feedback and provided a brief report prior to kick of the day two work session. Some of the suggested highlights and directives include:

 

  • A review of our mission and vision
  • To focus on sustainable tourism growth with a focus on our slower occupancy months
  • Better identifying the role that Visit Cook County has in supporting local events
  • Improving our metric analytics for our marketing efforts
  • Improved communications with Visit Cook County stakeholders on everything from vacancies to the most popular visitor information requests to promotional opportunities and news alerts
  • Share marketing campaigns and initiatives

 

On behalf of Visit Cook County, a big thanks to the board of directors for providing leadership to continue the growth of tourism in Cook County.

 

2018 Board Retreat Group Photo

Back row (Left to right):
• Roz Randorf, Dale Carnegie (facilitator)
• Anna Klobuchar, Visit Cook County
• Frank Vecchio, Grand Portage Lodge & Casino
• Jennifer Kennedy, East Bay Suites
• Jim Vick – Lutsen Mountains
• Charles Skinner, Lutsen Mountains
• Dave Tersteeg, Grand Marais Rec Park
• Dave Seaton, Hungry Jack Outfitters
• Dennis Rysdahl, Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts
• Nancy Burns, Lutsen Resort
• Scott Harrison, Lutsen Resort
• Beth Kennedy, Birchbark Books & Gifts
• Maggie Barnard, Visit Cook County MN 
• Lisa Bodine, Giant Voices (facilitator)
Front row (Left to right):
• Katie Krantz, Visit Cook County
• Emily Haussner, Caribou Highlands Lodge
• Molly O’Neill, Visit Cook County
• Pascha Apter, Giant Voices
• Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County
• Kjersti Vick, Visit Cook County
Visit Cook County Board Members absent from photo:
• Tom McAleer, Cascade Lodge
• Zach Baumann, Golden Eagle Lodge
• Mike Larson, Cascade Vacation Rentals

 

 

 

 

Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek, executive director at Visit Cook County MN

PR: Coming soon! April and May are peak months for waterfall season on the North Shore

View of the Aurora Borealis from High Falls at Grand Portage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

April and May are peak months

Waterfalls in Cook County can roar from April through October

Grand Marais, Minn.January 30, 2018 – The North Shore of Minnesota’s unique geography provides perfect conditions for a vigorous waterfall season. As the ice on the inland lakes break up and the snow begins to melt, a deluge of water rushes toward the lowest point, Lake Superior, and through the ancient Sawtooth Mountain range.

The months of April and May are peak for waterfall season, but the rivers can begin breaking up as early as late March and continue at peak flow until June. Sometimes, as winter storms approach there can be a consolidated river rush in late October or early November.

Estimating peak waterfall season: Watching the weather forecast is a good way to narrow down the timeframe for waterfall breakup. The days need to be sunny and warm enough to melt the snow and ice up stream, generally 50-degrees Fahrenheit or higher for a few consecutive days.

 

“While they are at their peak in the spring season, waterfalls can be enjoyed all year long,” says Linda Jurek, executive director of Visit Cook County. “In the winter time, the waterfalls freeze and create scenic ice sculptures. In the summer, the rivers are warm enough to take a hike through. Using caution, you can find hidden falls that can’t be seen by a hiking trail. In the fall, the blue rush of water is the perfect contrast to the fall colors.”

High Falls is the tallest and most majestic waterfall in Minnesota; it is located in Grand Portage State Park and is part of the Pigeon River north of Grand Portage. At 120 feet high, this beauty is unforgettable.

Go to the Waterfalls page of our website for a printable map of the top 15 waterfalls in the county and more touring details:

https://www.visitcookcounty.com/waterfall-watching 

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

 

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Kjersti Vick (218) 387-2788 kjersti@visitcookcounty.com Photos and video available for the story

Talking Tourism: Evaluating Success – How We Use Data To Direct Marketing Initiatives | By Kjersti Vick

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: March 2018

Talking Tourism: Evaluating Success – How We Use Data To Direct Marketing Initiatives | By Kjersti Vick

Spring has arrived in Cook County! While our spring is less about beach vacations and more about spring skiing and maple syruping, it is equally as sweet. In the marketing world of Visit Cook County, we are always at least a season ahead preparing our ad buys and content creation. We’re thinking “summer” while the grass is buried under two feet of snow.

As the destination marketing organization for the region, we keep our ears to the ground listening for what trends or new opportunities lay ahead. In the depths of winter we send out a summer marketing survey to our stakeholders requesting feedback and ranking of various campaigns and vertical markets. Vertical markets are the broad topics we select to build a campaign around; often they are broken down into subcategories for content creation and receive budget allocations within seasonal marketing campaigns. With three years of results, we are now able to compare sentiment with measurable data. For example, we’ve seen biking as a vertical, previously in the lower third of the list, climb up to the top five most important verticals to focus on. This year, biking dipped slightly in ranking but that is nothing alarming. What that kind of data suggests is that our recent campaign on biking is working. Stakeholders are seeing our marketing efforts and there has been an influx of bike traffic and now other verticals are vying for the spotlight. Similarly, we have seen verticals that were at the top (ahem, Coolest Small Town) fall to the bottom of the list. Again, that viewpoint was palpable but without supporting data, it is difficult to assess if it is individual bias or truly what the majority wants. Being able to pair context with data is critical for evaluating a successful campaign.

Enough about what we think, what about our visitors? We all have our reasons for living here – but what makes someone visit here? Enter “Social Listening” my favorite buzzword phrase. Observing what people are saying on social media about their favorite attractions and digesting the feeling of posts help provide insights into why people come here again and again. While there are some constants, Lake Superior and the BWCAW, there are some surprises that are uncovered when you listen closely.

Case Study: Waterfall Season

If Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, Cook County is the land of 10M gallons of water. An evaluation of visitor posts has shown substantial emphasis on water as a primary attraction to Cook County. The obvious being Lake Superior and inland lakes, however, upon deeper analysis waterfalls were nearly as prevalent. In 2014, we started a new campaign promoting Waterfall Season during the months of April and May, known locally as “mud season.” Since the campaign launched in the spring of 2014, lodging tax has increased by 31.9% in what are historically known as low occupancy months. Additionally, the waterfall page on our website has become one of the top ten content pages on visitcookcounty.com. In reviewing the survey feedback from our stakeholders, it is clear that waterfall season is a time of year in which there is room for growth. While the additional amenities might not be as bountiful as in the height of the summer, the visitors during that time do not mind. They are here to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy season, and let the stress of life wash away with the ice breakup over the falls.

Of course while we are always looking forward to the next thing, being present and enjoying the current season is also important. For myself, I am celebrating the arrival of spring by skiing 31 consecutive days – starting March 1. Rain, snow or sunshine I get out for at least an hour a day to ski: downhill, backcountry or cross-country skiing (on a good day, all three in one day.) One could say my winter fatigue index is pretty low, so while we’re strategizing our summer campaign – I’m simultaneously savoring winter.

See more “Talking Tourism” articles and more at visitcookcounty.com/talkingtourism

Cook County News Herald by Kjersti Vick, marketing manager at Visit Cook County MN kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: How Lodging Tax Supports Events and Attracts Visitors | by Katie Krantz

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: February 2018

Talking Tourism: How Lodging Tax Supports Events and Attracts Visitors | by Katie Krantz

The Visit Cook County team receives this question many times throughout the year. It sounds something like this, “We’ve got a great idea for a new event that we’d like to put on. Can Visit Cook County help us out?” The answer is yes!  As Events Resource Manager for Visit Cook County, my job is to ensure that events in Cook County are well marketed, promoted and supported. But how do we determine which events we help with and to what level?

Let me begin by breaking it down. Of the 4% lodging tax charged to visitors, 1% of that is specifically earmarked toward events. This kind of allocation is unique to Cook County and totals approximately $400,000 annually. That sum is then divided among the tourism associations based on the contribution of lodging tax collected by community: Grand Marais Area Tourism Association (GMATA), Gunflint Trail Association (GTA), and Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association (LTTA). Each of those individual associations meets every winter to determine how to distribute their 1% budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, which runs May 1 – April 30.

The process includes evaluating past events that have received support and reviewing new requests. Event planners that would like to submit funding requests are invited to attend the meetings to present their event. They can also send a letter or document that outlines what the event is, how they plan to spend the dollars, and why the event is relevant to tourism. While Visit Cook County organizes much of this process, the funding decisions are made by the association board members.

These meetings coincide with the budgeting process of Visit Cook County and are thorough and thoughtful. Board members take all of the information into consideration as well as evaluating time of year and how the overall marketing message relates to current marketing campaigns. The Visit Cook County team is always present and provides recommendations based on what is best for long term tourism growth and branding. While some events are solely funded from one area, the majority of events are funded across two or even all three associations.

One program that is unique to a community is the Grand Marais Area Tourism Association grant program. In Grand Marais, there are several organizations that host events that benefit from smaller levels of financial assistance or help with marketing. GMATA has implemented a simple application process for this program which is open until March 13, 2018. GMATA then meets later in March to evaluate the nearly $20,000 in requests.

The 1% is critical to growing our shoulder seasons, attracting new tourists to our area and ensuring that visitors have a memorable time when they are here. Cook County offers live music seven days a week, major festivals on most weekends through the summer and fall, four biking events with a cumulative registration number of 2400, professional art events and more. Because of the marketing, public relations and funding support that Visit Cook County provides through the 1% event tax, events thrive in Cook County.

 

http://www.cookcountynews-herald.com/news/2018-02-17/Columns/How_Lodging_Tax_supports_events_and_attracts_visit.html

Cook County News Herald by Katie Krantz, event resource manager at Visit Cook County MN Katie Krantz katie@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: Leveraging Lodging Tax Dollars for Success | By Molly O’Neill

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: January 2018

Talking Tourism: Leveraging Lodging Tax Dollars for Success | By Molly O’Neill

What is Lodging Tax? Who pays it? What is it used for? Who authorized it? Do I need to register my lodging property? There are a number of misconceptions and questions surrounding the collection of lodging tax. So in 1,000 words I will try to explain this complex subject that is vital to the success of tourism in our community. It’s not only visitor bureaus and chambers of commerce who rely on lodging tax for funding. Target Center, Mall of America, The DECC, and even Superior National Golf Course owe their existence in part to lodging tax funding. So how does it all fit together? 

A brief History of Minnesota State Statute 469.190:

While the art of hospitality has long been a part of our heritage, the official collection of lodging tax has a brief history. Prior to 1972, cities and towns were allowed to impose local tax on sales of admissions, lodging, or live entertainment to fund entertainment or tourism projects as approved by individual city ordinances but it was up to the local governments to decide to participate. In 1983 the first law of what is now known as MN State Statute 469.190 was passed authorizing MN cities to collect a 3% tax on lodging room sales. In 1985 that tax as extended to include towns and counties.  In 1987, the townships of Tofte, Lutsen and Schroeder voted to approve lodging tax. The City of Grand Marais followed in 1988, and the county approved the unorganized territory of the Gunflint Trail in 1992. Additions of unorganized territory areas that fall outside township boundaries and increases to the approved percentages followed until 2000, when all areas had adopted the 3% maximum allowed.

Revenues collected through lodging tax must be used only for promoting the city or town as a tourist area. The collection of all lodging tax is monitored and penalties imposed for non-compliance by the authority stated in each entity’s ordinance. In Cook County, this is done by the Auditors office while compliance with other laws such as state health laws is monitored and regulated by the state.

In 2008, to address the need for supporting the production of events that draw visitors and fall outside the scope of marketing, the state of MN wrote an allowance into session law (366.007 Section 17) specifically for Cook County to apply an additional 1% lodging tax, and also allows up to 3% tax to be collected on sales related to recreation. The 1% Event Tax, what we call it for clarity, is used to support and promote local events selected by the tourism associations that make up Visit Cook County as we are now known. This law is up for renewal after 15 years, unlike the permanent 3% lodging tax.

Marketing and Events– How we use tax revenues to bring visitors here and enhance their stay:

Now that you know the history, let’s talk about how Visit Cook County leverages those tax dollars. The 3% lodging tax is used primarily for marketing the entire Cook County area, whereas the 1% event tax is used to produce and market events that may attract visitors or augment their itinerary. Marketing initiatives can be anything from a print ad in a magazine to hosting a booth at a tradeshow to a digital billboard in the Twin Cities. In addition to traditional marketing efforts, Visit Cook County also manages social media accounts and works with a public relations firm in Minneapolis to spread awareness of the area’s communities. The 1% event tax is unique to Cook County and ensures that events are well marketed and supported. Thanks to the 1%, event planners specifically choose to host events in, or even move existing events to Cook County for the support that Visit Cook County provides for event marketing and funding, bringing their attendees and their tourism dollars with them.

Lodging tax dollars are also invested in bolstering the visitor experience. It’s imperative that tourists have a positive and memorable time in Cook County which they then share with friends, family and others through word of mouth and social media. To accomplish this Visit Cook County prioritizes the website visitcookcounty.com, funds and staffs information centers in Grand Marais and Tofte, and creates printed publications including an annual visitor guide, recreational trail and attraction maps and a monthly event newsletter. These tools help visitors plan their trips, find interesting things to do while they’re here and share their memories when they return home.

How is lodging and event tax collected and paid?

Cabins, hotels, resorts, vacation rentals and private campgrounds are all required to collect lodging tax from their overnight guests. Once collected, it must be paid to the Cook County Auditor’s Office monthly, quarterly or annually.  Additionally, some non-lodging recreation businesses voluntarily collect a fee in lieu of tax to provide financial partnership with the lodging tax funds.

More and more there is heightened awareness about vacation rental by owner properties collecting lodging taxes from guests and paying it in to the county. Along with state and local requirements about zoning compliance and health regulations, all rental property owners except those leasing for more than 30 days, are required by law to participate in lodging tax collection. The benefits that vacation rentals by owner, or VRBO’s, bring as additions to our area’s lodging offerings are clear and undeniable. VRBO’s can fill a visitor’s vision of a dream escape. VRBO’s also provide employment opportunities for local cleaners, contractors, and administrative professionals. Homes and cabins that might otherwise be part-time second homes become occupied with more frequency by visitors who then imbibe in our local retail, dining and activity offerings. But this only works if the rental property is compliant with regulations regarding zoning, health and lodging tax.

So what does it mean?

The proof is in the pudding folks. Since the inception of the current structure of Visit Cook County in 2010 lodging tax revenues are up over 40% in every geographical area of the county. In 2016 that sum was over $1.16 million, which represents just a fraction of the total dollars brought into our local tourism economy by visitors. Visit Cook County Executive Director Linda Jurek has put together and reworked the organizational structure of her team to provide uniquely outstanding performance results in leveraging these lodging tax dollars for our area’s success. Check out visitcookcounty.com for links to the resources and to see a little more of what we do and how we do it.

http://www.cookcountynews-herald.com/news/2018-01-27/Columns/Leveraging_Lodging_Tax_dollars_for_success.html

Cook County News Herald by Molly O'Neill, administrative manager at Visit Cook County MN Molly O'Neill molly@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: 2017 A Year End Review | By Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: December 2017

Talking Tourism: 2017 A Year End Review | By Linda Jurek

When I woke this post-holiday morning, I knew one thing for sure – 2017 has chosen a chilly departure.  I can’t help but reflect on the year knowing we have accomplished much.

Early in 2017, the Visit Cook County team traveled to the annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference. It is always beneficial for us to gather with like minded professionals all working to promote Minnesota as a travel destination. The proof is in the pudding, as demonstrated by our third year winning awards for excellence in Tourism marketing. In 2017, we were the recipient of three industry awards:

  • Award of Merit – Lake Superior Storm Festival
  • Event of the Year – Lutsen 99er
  • Rising Star in Tourism Award – Linda Jurek (so very humbled)

Part of what makes our team so strong is that along with our scheduled marketing and public relations work, we remain ready to promote the unexpected.  Who knew a moose rescue story would gain so much interest?! Kjersti Vick, marketing manager, recognized the newsworthyness of this story and pushed it out to all media channels. The organic results were impressive. Over 90 stories were generated and media outlets in over 30 states shared the story bringing the Gunflint Trail and Cook County on to their TV, newspaper and digital screens for well over a week. This earned media resulted in incredible organic reach that is worth over $100K of ad value – for very little hard dollars spent.

But our success is not only luck. We also strategize and watch trends to direct our marketing and public relations outreach. For the third year, we have place an emphasis on celebrating our “dark skies” as one of our vital community assets. In 2017, our dark skies campaign gained some traction generating two major media stories. A front-page story in the Star Tribune as well as an on-air interview with KSTP TV in the Twin Cities. An estimated 500K people watched or read the story about our night sky. The results have been instant as the inquiries to our information center about “tips for viewing the northern lights” have increased dramatically and traffic to the Northern Lights page on our website increased by 22% year over year!

Of course there were the special surprises along the way. The Gunflint Trail Association hit a homerun by hosting the largest blueberry contest which brought visitors and locals to the blueberry weigh stations coveting the prizes. The Cook County Chamber’s Downtown Business Coalition continues to do great work. Grant Marais Area Tourism and Visit Cook County are able to partner with these folks and support many local events.

I work with an incredible team. In May, I calmly stated that we received approval to rebuild our website. There were a few raised eyebrows when I also informed the crew that we would accomplish this in three short months while simultaneously completing the visitor guide content. (Incidentally, the visitor guide is very popular and we distributed over 11,000 last year.) If you haven’t taken time to check out the website, please do so. The photography is stunning!

In terms of lodging tax collection, we’ve leveled off a bit but continue to see growth. For those of you that review the lodging tax report, remember to look at the apples to apples to comparison. I’ve found that many folks compare last year’s monthly totals to the current. There are many variables which affect these totals and the apples to apples compute a much truer reflection.

On behalf of Visit Cook County, Happy New Year! Please stop by for a visit. The door is always open and the coffee pot on.

http://www.cookcountynews-herald.com/news/2017-12-30/Columns/A_YearEnd_Review.html

 

Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek, executive director at Visit Cook County MN Linda Jurek linda@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: The Super Bowl of Marketing | by Maggie Barnard

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: November 2017

Talking Tourism: The Super Bowl of Marketing | by Maggie Barnard

My background is 28 years in the hotel business working for a national hotel chain starting as an on-call banquet server and working up to Roving Corporate Director of Catering & Convention Services. During those years I enjoyed being a resident of six different states and two Caribbean islands. My roving assignments were two to three months long. I took the opportunity to be familiar in a destination, getting to know people and places beyond the tourist highlights.

I’m a football fan so I was thrilled to be working in two cities that hosted the NFL’s Super Bowl: Tampa in Jan. 1991, and Miami in Feb. 2007. It was impressive to see the evolution of the festivities from 1991 to 2007. In 1991 the focus was predominantly the game and the weekend. In 2007 it was now Super Bowl week with multiple parties, fundraisers and the NFL Experience set up as a daily fan destination. The year-end player awards became a televised gala with red carpet coverage. There was such great energy walking around both cities interacting with fans and visitors. It was special to have access to peek ‘behind the curtain’ and see the plans for the pageantry and production.

The Super Bowl is the year end celebration and pinnacle of a season. In comparison, our annual Fall Gala celebration is teeny tiny but feels the same for us. We look back on our campaigns like Storm Season and Hygge as well as letting the world know we are looking out for our moose. The Chamber of Commerce honors the accomplishments of our local businesses and leaders. Like the NFL, Visit Cook County is passionate about our organization and product, we love what we celebrate and invite everyone to join in.

As the tourism destination management organization for Cook County, MN we care about the success of our communities. We dedicate ourselves to telling the stories of our destination because we love the people we live with and where we live. We understand our responsibility to make our destination as successful as possible. We are happy to be a marketing asset for our Cook County businesses and organizations that want to take advantage of our outreach. One of my responsibilities with Visit Cook County is communicating these marketing opportunities.

We launched a new, beautiful, second version of our website this past August. We investigate and invest in new advertising mediums and social media channels. We make marketing access very affordable: our Basic Level costs a little over $20/month. This level includes a website listing with a photo, contact info, short description and a business listing in the 15,000 printed annual Visitor Guides. Throughout the year we communicate new marketing opportunities such as contests, feature stories or seasonal and event promotions that involve larger media markets. To all of our dedicated, hardworking business owners and organization leaders, we invite you to buy-in and celebrate our little Super Bowl of marketing every year.

http://www.cookcountynews-herald.com/news/2017-11-25/Columns/The_Super_Bowl_of_marketing.html

Cook County News Herald by Maggie Barnard, communications manager at Visit Cook County MN Maggie Barnard maggie@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: Embracing resilience, post-summer stampede | by Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: October 2017

Talking Tourism: Embracing resilience, post-summer stampede | by Linda Jurek

As described by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, the tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. As we approach the end of October, many of us have reached our own personal tipping point. We’ve seen streaming lines of traffic making their first or possibly their one hundredth trip to the North Shore, festivals most weekends during July, August, and September, thousands of donuts and craft beers served, and the exit of our summer workforce far too early. Need I say more? Summer is our high season and much of our workforce is tired. We long for the quiet days. Our personal Hygge.

Having grown up here in the 60s and 70s, I vividly remember the excitement of summer. I anticipated the return of summer friends and the multitude of new faces. Although I would never have described my summer employment as working in the hospitality industry, that’s what I did. I washed dishes at the Birch Terrace, cleaned rooms at the Seawall,  stocked the shoe department at Humphrey’s, picked rocks at Lutsen Mountains to earn my ski pass and waited tables at the Harbor Inn.  There were over 80 students in my graduating class; a community workforce right in the high school.

When I arrived back in Cook County during the summer of 2013, my role seemed rather straight forward. I grew up here. I visited often and love northeastern Minnesota. Building the shoulder seasons and drawing visitors to this place seemed like a simple and natural thing to do. Even though Visit Cook County was relatively new in formation, the guidance received by a seasoned board of directors representing our entire county made the task less daunting.

Before returning to Cook County, I had traveled the Upper Peninsula of Michigan many times. I noticed that many abandoned hotels and restaurants dotted the roadway on my journey. These once thriving towns and businesses were reduced down to relics of days gone by.  I knew I didn’t want to see that happen here.

What have I learned? It is complicated. Our economy is driven by tourism. It was in the 70s and remains much the same today. We are so incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the Superior National Forest, an international border and the greatest of the great – Lake Superior. Where 95% of the land in Cook County is federal or state land, we have an advantage of space and preservation built into our foundation. What has changed is the tipping point. We are now faced with the need to protect our J1 and H2B work programs. Our unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state and the ebb and flow of our tourism economy more apparent than ever. I am an optimist. We will persevere if we work together to continue building our community and economy. Thank You for all of your hard work this summer and fall season!

So tired business owner, happy donut eater, and weary hospitality industry pro. Help us celebrate by joining us on October 24th, at the Summit Chalet at Lutsen Mountains for the 8th annual Fall Gala hosted by the Cook County Chamber and Visit Cook County. It is an evening of laughter, food and camaraderie. Pre-registration is recommended at https://www.visitcookcounty.com/events/ by Sunday, October 22 but walk-ins are welcome.

http://www.cookcountynews-herald.com/news/2017-10-21/Columns/Embracing_Resilience_PostSummer_Stampede.html

Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek, executive director at Visit Cook County MN Linda Jurek linda@visitcookcounty.com