Talking Tourism: What does Visit Cook County do? | By Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: April 2017

Talking Tourism: What does Visit Cook County do? | By Linda Jurek

Have you ever found yourself wondering what does Visit Cook County do?  Where do they get their financial support for all this marketing?  Or maybe you’ve wondered, who is this who is responsible for attracting all of these visitors to our town causing such an economic boom. Welcome to Talking Tourism, a new monthly article aimed at providing insight into our organization and the impact of tourism in Cook County written for the Cook County News Herald.

As the executive director for Visit Cook County, I am pleased to be tasked with our first segment.  You can expect to hear from other members of the Visit Cook County team as well as marketing partners and board members.  We hope to provide a clearer picture of our organization, its structure, and our goals.

Because industry jargon, acronyms plague our business. We are trying to demystify who is VCC (formerly known as CCVB or CCEVB). Here is a short list of what we are, what we are not and how closely we are related to some our sister organizations.

  • We ARE a destination marketing organization. Our mission is to build brand recognition of the region and increase lodging tax dollars.
  • We are NOT a chamber of commerce. We DO support local tourism business but are not a policy driven organization.
  • We are NOT a part of county government. We are an independent 501(c) 6 not-for-profit organization that is governed by a board of directors that derives from the local lodging associations.
  • We are NOT the Economic Development Authority (EDA). The EDA is tasked with helping to diversify the economy by assisting in businesses development and workforce sustainability issues.

Nearly everything is impacted by tourism and when the leaves drop from the trees and many want to lock the gate at the county line, we must realize that our economy is 85% tourism based.  That has not changed is significantly for many years.  The allure of our area remains imbedded in the hearts of many.

Like I previously stated, Visit Cook County is a destination marketing organization (DMO).  Originally, founded as the Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau (CCEVB) we transitioned to Cook County Visitors Bureau (CCVB), neither of those titles accurately described who we were until we became VISIT Cook County – the regional DMO.  Not every DMO is a convention and visitor bureau (CVB) as is the case with Cook County.  Because we do not have large meeting facilities, we do not focus our marketing efforts on bringing large conventions to our corner of the state.

How are we supported?  Lodging properties in the Cook County lodging tax district (from Schroeder to Grand Portage) are required by Minnesota State statute to collect lodging tax for any short-term nightly rental. This includes hotels and resorts but also independent VRBO’s, canoe outfitters and B&B’s.  We are required to have the lodging tax collections be processed by the auditor’s office and the amount of tax collected by each property is confidential.  The lodging properties select their payment schedule (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, etc.) We also offer marketing opportunities via our website, visitor guide, and information center that any local business is welcome to participate in. What do we do the dollars collected?  We market to potential visitors!!

We continue to hone our skills and while we do partner with a marketing agency and media relations firm, we know how important it is for our community to embrace what we do.  More importantly, we need to love our visitors.  They are the bread and butter for many.

Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek

Second annual Hygge Festival to be hosted in Grand Marais Feb. 8-15, 2018

Voyageur Brewing Hygge Festival image

 Second annual Hygge Festival to be hosted in Grand Marais Feb. 8-15, 2018

Warm up your Valentine’s Day celebration with a fireplace tour Feb. 8-15 in Grand Marais, Minn. and surrounding Cook County towns

Cook County, Minn. – February 5, 2018 – The Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) has been around for a long time. It refers to the ritual of embracing life’s simple pleasures. Feeling relaxed, cozy and surrounded by the warmth of family, friends, community and fire all encompass the idea of hygge. It began to catch on in the United States last year.

Trend-setting Grand Marais hosted the first annual Hygge Festival last February. In honor of the second annual Hygge Festival Feb. 8-15, participating resort and restaurant owners throughout Cook County will keep their fireplaces blazing during the month of February, so visitors can drop by to warm their fingers and toes, and possibly enjoy a warm or cold beverage. A dozen or more fireplaces will be featured on the tour, including wood, gas, outdoor hearths and fire pits.

“The whole point of hygge is to slow down and get cozy,” says Linda Jurek, executive director of Visit Cook County. “After enjoying activities like snowshoeing through the woods, stargazing, drinking hot chocolate and watching Lake Superior, we hope visitors will take time to sit by the fire and snuggle.  And we hope some visitors rise to the challenge of relaxing next to all of the fireplaces featured on the tour.”

The second annual festival will feature some new events:

  • Fat tire biking demonstrations
  • Knitting lessons
  • Cross-country skiing tour at twilight
  • Fireplace tour featuring some of the most historic fireplaces in Cook County

Favorite events from last year will also be back:

  • Hygge themed menus
  • Bonfires with live music
  • Mukluk ball

For more info about the second annual hygge festival and for dates and times, please check out:

https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/hygge-festival/

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.

###

2019 Hygge Festival Dates: February 8 – 14, 2019

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race Results

Gunflint Mail Run

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race Results 

Alaskan and Minnesotan lead 12-dog race, two women lead 8-dog race

 

Cook County, Minn. –  Jan. 7, 2018 – The Gunflint Mail Run kicked off the start of the dog-sled racing season in Cook County yesterday. The original event, which is a 12-dog, 100-mile race included two runs, approximately 50 miles each, over a two-day stretch, and an eight-dog shorter and faster race (65 miles).

 

The race started and finished at Trail Center Lodge, 7611 Gunflint Trail, on Poplar Lake, Grand Marais, Minn.  (Trail Center Lodge is approximately 30 miles up the Gunflint Trail).  See www.GunflintMailRun.com and https://www.facebook.com/GunflintMailRun/ for more details.

 

Here are the winners of the 2018 Gunflint Mail Run:

12-dog teams:

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Dog Sled Race 12-dog team winners

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Dog Sled Race 12-dog team winners!
Top five 12-dog race finishers from right to left are:
1st place Ryan Redington, Skagway, Alaska
2nd place Nathan Schroeder, Coon Rapids, Minn.
3rd place Matt Schmidt, Grand Marais, Minn.
4th place Denis Tremblay, Saint Michael des Saints, Quebec
5th place Ward Wallin, Two Harbors, Minn.

 

 

 

8-dog teams:

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Dog Sled Race 8-dog team winners

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Dog Sled Race 8-dog team winners.
Top five 8-dog race finishers from left to right are:
1st place Joanna Oberg, Ignace, Ontario
2nd place Martha Schouweiler, Irma, Wis.
3rd place Frank Moe, Hovland, Minn.
4th place Michael Bestgen, St. Cloud, Minn.
5th place Rita Whehseler, Tofte, Minn.

 

Video from the 2018 Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race:

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race. VIDEO “Ryan Redington and his sled dog team enjoying the race.”

Video courtesy of Andy DeLisi at Big Bear Lodge.

2018 Gunflint Mail Run Race Start – VIDEO “12-dog race winner Ryan Redington’s (#7) starts the race Saturday morning. Ryan is racing in the Alaskan Iditarod this year.”

Video courtesy of Jack Stone of Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais.

 

Next up: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Jan. 29

 

Dog sled racing fans can also look forward to the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 28 – Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2018.  This is the longest dog sled race in the lower 48 states and is a qualifier for the famed “Iditarod” in Alaska.  Over 60 world-class mushers are expected at this year’s race, vying for cash prizes totaling $20,000.  The races will traverse the Sawtooth Mountains in Cook County, going as far north as Gunflint Lake near the Canadian border. For a spectators’ map, visit https://beargrease.com/driving-directions/

 

The Beargrease marathon will start just outside of Two Harbors, then head to Trail Center on the Gunflint Trail and back, while the shorter, mid-distance race goes one-way on the route. The marathon typically takes three days to complete. Close to 500 volunteers from around the country come together each winter to support the event. For more race details, visit beargrease.com.

 

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.

 

###

Katie Krantz Visit Cook County MN ph# (218) 387-2788 email: katie@visitcookcounty.com

KQDS Fox 21 Duluth’s Brittney Merlot LIVE on Christmas Morning

2 Hour COLD Morning Show LIVE on Christmas morning with KQDS Fox21’s meteorologist Brittney Merlot. In addition to LIVE on air broadcasts with Lutsen Mountains staff and guests, Visit Cook County’s Kjersti Vick was on site to talk about how to stay warm this winter and what else is coming up.

 

Snowshoeing with Kjersti Vick of Visit Cook County MN.

Talking Hygge with Kjersti Vick of Visit Cook County MN.

LIVE with meteorologist Brittney Merlot at Lutsen Mountains on Christmas morning.

New Years Eve planning and how to dress for cold weather with Lutsen Mountains’ Jim Vick.

Behind the scene with the groomers at Lutsen Mountains. 

Heading out with Ski Patrol to learn about how they keep the mountain safe.

Christmas Gift Exchange with KQDS’s Brett Scott and Brittney Merlot

KQDS Fox 21 Duluth by Brittney Merlot

Visit  Website

Baby Bear Cubs Rescued From Dumpster in Lutsen, MN

Bears Cubs Rescued From Dumpster in Lutsen, MN

Two bear cubs were rescued from a dumpster at the Cascade Vacation Rentals campus in Lutsen.

Baby bear cubs rescued from dumpster

Lutsen, MN, October 25, 2015 – Two bear cubs had gotten trapped inside of a dumpster at the Lutsen campus of Cascade Vacation Rentals early Wednesday morning. The mother of the cubs had managed to escape on her own but the two juveniles were trapped inside the dumpster. CVR employees worked to free the two cubs and they were reunited with their mother by Wednesday afternoon.

  •  At 7:31 AM Cascade Vacation Rentals employee Bara Raah Gregoire was going to dispose of her trash in the dumpsters at the Cascade Vacation Rentals Lutsen campus, where she lives. Although the dumpster was secure with two bear bars, which were securely in place, Bara opened the lid to find a bear within.
  •  “I just went to dumpster and both bars were on it and when I opened it the bear was sitting in the dumpster!! I wonder how that is even possible with it being barred shut?!? I ran off with my trash but didn’t put the bars back on or look to see if the bear jumped out.” That is the text Bara sent to the CVR maintenance team.
  • Around 9AM CVR owner Steve Surbaugh went up to the campus building, located two blocks behind the main office building along Highway 61 in Lutsen, to investigate. Upon going to check the dumpster for damage he spotted two cubs trapped inside. They were too small to escape on their own. An adult bear was in a tree nearby.
    For release 6:00 PM CST, October 25, 2017
  • With the help of employees Andrew Beavers and Mike “Chili” Groth, they fashioned a
    ladder out of a broken futon frame which was then lowered into the dumpster. From
    the other side Andrew and Chili create noise and banged against the side of the
    dumpster until one of the cubs slowly ascended the make-shift ladder and leaped out of
    the dumpster. The cub quickly joined its mother in the tree. The second cub was more
    reserved, popping its head out but then going back in a couple of times before it finally
    made the leap out and was reunited with its family.
  • Cascade Vacation Rentals employees Sarah Somnis and Sarena Nelson captured the
    rescue on video, which can be viewed at
    https://www.facebook.com/CascadeVacationRentals/videos/10154892050091406/
  • None of the bears were harmed in the rescue and all three quickly descended from the
    tree and ran off into the nearby woods. The staff is investigating how the bears
    managed to get into the dumpsters with the bear bars attached and the lid secured. It
    just goes to show how tricky it can be to keep the bears at bay as they try to fatten up
    for their winter hibernation.

Cascade Vacation Rentals is Northern Minnesota’s largest local vacation rental company. They
rent vacation homes in along Lake Superior’s North Shore from Duluth to the Canadian border
with over 170 vacation rental properties. Cascade Vacation Rentals is owned by Steve
Surbaugh of Grand Marais, MN and Mike Larson of Lutsen, MN
For more information please contact Jaye White or Laura Muus at 218-663-7971.

by Jaye White For more information please contact Jaye White or Laura Muus at 218-663-7971. Jaye White

Visit Star Tribune Website

Find your perfect escape this upcoming season with 7 great winter travel destinations

Find your perfect escape this upcoming season with 7 great winter travel destinations. As seen in Star Tribune Magazine October 2017.

Fall’s an easy sell. Once it rolls out those showy colors, people think nothing of traveling miles to watch it unfold. Winter, though, is a mixed bag — with many wanting to jet off farther afield. Here are some choice destinations to help satisfy your seasonal wanderlust. By Berit Thorkelson

Grand Marais, Minn.

visitcookcounty.com

You really should get extra “true Minnesotan” points for visiting Grand Marais in winter.

Sure, it’s cold, and some businesses shut down or run on limited hours, but dress for the weather and reap your reward. Among the grand potentials: Frozen waterfalls, Northern Lights dancing across the dark winter sky and a Lake Superior so stunningly furious you get the sense that you might benefit from a life jacket even while standing on shore.

Other draws are more reliable, such as classes on kick-sled building or lefse-making at North House Folk School, all of the winter sports, and a high concentration of cozy public fireplaces, such as Voyageur Brewing Company’s slate-stone wood-burning beaut, which holds craft beer and fireside knitting sessions during Hygge Festival in February. Word is you get double true Minnesotan points for that one.

Where to stay: Try East Bay Suites, right on Lake Superior. Bonus: The suites’ kitchens and nearby co-op make a great combo during the quiet winter season. eastbaysuites.com

Worth noting: Among the many Cook County fall and winter festivals: The Lake Superior Storm Festival, with speakers on the legendary Gales of November.

Read the full story here: http://www.startribune.com/find-your-perfect-escape-this-fall-and-winter-with-7-great-travel-destinations/450290453/

Star Tribune by Berit Thorkelson

Visit Minnesota Monthly Website

Vote for Grand Marais in Minnesota Monthly’s Best MN Town Contest

sail boat on the water in Grand Marais

sail boat on the water in Grand Marais

MEDIA CONTACTS

Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County, Marketing Manager | PH#: 218.387.2788 + Email:  kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

Or

Lynn Nelson | LIN Public Relations, Inc. | PH#: 612.990.0126 + Email: lnelson.linpr@gmail.com

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Vote for Grand Marais in Minnesota Monthly’s Best MN Town Contest

 

Grand Marais, Minn. – Sept. 20, 2017 – This week, Grand Marais, Minn., was chosen as a contender for the “Best MN Town” contest sponsored by Minnesota Monthly Magazine.  Grand Marais is competing against nine Minnesota towns, including Owatonna, Walker, Duluth, Hopkins, Waconia, etc.  See www.bestmntown.com for more contest details and to VOTE!

“Grand Marais has won three national contests in the past three years,” said Linda Jurek, executive director of Visit Cook County. “These contests are about far more than just driving tourism to our area. As a born-and-raised ‘local gal’, I’m excited about the hometown pride these sorts of awards have inspired.

“When we won the Coolest Small Town in America award in 2015, we weren’t sure what to expect. We anticipated an increase in visitor traffic and media attention, but the biggest win was the boost in community pride. Over 35 businesses have made substantial improvements to their buildings since then, which has improved the look of our town, but more importantly has reinvested money directly back into our local economy. That has been the most significant benefit of these awards.”

Grand Marais Mayor, Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux suggests that “Residents and visitors to join us in showing how proud we are of this little town near the big lake. There aren’t many places that are located right in the midst of a protected wilderness area, an ancient mountain range, and the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Superior. There are many other reasons that Grand Marais is unique, but our natural amenities can’t be beat!”

 

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.

###

Minnesota Monthly MEDIA CONTACTS Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County, Marketing Manager PH#: 218.387.2788 + Email:  kjersti@visitcookcounty.com Or Lynn Nelson | LIN Public Relations, Inc. PH#: 612.990.0126 + Email: lnelson.linpr@gmail.com