Visit Cook County receives record-breaking three awards during Explore Minnesota annual conference

Visit Cook County receives record-breaking three awards during Explore Minnesota annual conference


Feb. 1, 2017-St. Paul, Minn.-Visit Cook County, the tourism organization for Grand Marais, Minn. and surrounding communities, walked away from the Explore Minnesota annual conference last night with a record-breaking three awards. No organization has previously received that many awards during one conference. The awards were for Linda Jurek, VCC executive director, who was named a rising star, and for two VCC-created events: the Lutsen 99er, an extreme 99-mile bike race that occurs on Lutsen Mountains every June, and Storm Fest, a November celebration of the might of Lake Superior.


“I give a lot of credit to my team,” says Kratt. “My staff is extremely creative and hard-working. And our partnership with marketing firm Giant Voices in Duluth and LIN Public Relations in the Twin Cities has been extremely productive.


VCC nominator Pascha Apter, CEO of Giant Voices, says “Working with Visit Cook County is truly enjoyable. We have the good fortune of marketing one of the most beautiful tourism destinations in the world, and we have gotten some tremendous results during the past three years.”


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”.  Cook County, Minn. has earned numerous accolades recently including “2015 Coolest Small Town in America” contest by Budget Travel and “The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016” list by Outside Magazine. Visit Cook County invites visitors to rekindle their sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest, paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and discovering the Lake Superior watershed basin. Be inspired by connecting on social media using #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Discover more at or by downloading the Visit Cook County mobile app.




Tourism Industry Achievements Highlighted at
Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Feb. 1, 2017) —During the 2017 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, held at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel this week, several individuals, organizations and tourism businesses were recognized at the annual Excellence in Tourism Awards banquet for their contributions to the state’s $14.4 billion travel industry.

Steve Markuson, director of Twin Cities Gateway, was named “Outstanding Individual in Tourism” for his long-term work on behalf of the Minnesota tourism industry. During his career, Markuson has served in numerous public and private tourism capacities including positions with Northwest Airlines and several positions with Explore Minnesota, including being appointed director in 1995. More recently, he has been extensively involved with the Minnesota Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus and the metro tourism committee.

Linda Jurek, executive director of Visit Cook County, was named “Rising Star” for her strong work in promoting the area.

Additional awards presented were:

Attraction of the Year:

•Award of Excellence: Glensheen, Duluth

•Award of Merit: Fagen Fighters WWII Museum, Granite Falls

•Award of Merit: SPAM® Museum of Austin


Event of the Year:

•Award of Excellence: Lutsen99er, Cook County

•Award of Merit: Lake Superior Storm Festival, Cook County

•Award of Merit: Middle River Goose Festival, Middle River


Marketing Awards of Excellence:

•Minne-Roadtrip: Multi-community branding effort featuring Faribault, Owatonna and Northfield

•Otter Tail Lakes Country Tourism Association: Video marketing campaign

•Visit Bemidji: New website

•Visit Winona: Branding effort featuring videos

New this year, the Minnesota Signature Award was presented to TBEX (the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media-savvy travel industry professionals) and the Ryder Cup of Minnesota (a biennial golf competition between teams from the United States and Europe) for the broad coalitions they brought together, significant travel dollars generated to the state of Minnesota, and the substantial national and international media exposure these events generated.

The annual tourism conference attracted more than 350 attendees from around the state, including representatives of convention and visitors bureaus and other tourism promotion organizations; hotels, resorts and campgrounds; and a variety of attractions, such as museums, parks, zoos, malls and historic sites. Conference highlights included: a state tourism report from Explore Minnesota Director/CEO John Edman; remarks on the importance of tourism from Lt. Gov. Tina Smith; insights from the National Association of Sports Commission (NASC) about the economic impact of events; and more.

About Explore Minnesota
As the state’s tourism promotion office, Explore Minnesota pursues an entrepreneurial approach, leveraging the state’s tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. A council of representatives from the state’s tourism industry strongly connects Explore Minnesota with tourism businesses and organizations. Tourism is a $14.4 billion industry in Minnesota, and a key sector of the state’s economy. The leisure and hospitality industry—a major provider of tourism services—employs nearly 260,000 workers, representing 11 percent of Minnesota’s private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates 17 percent of the state’s sales tax revenues. Minnesota welcomes nearly 70 million domestic and international travelers annually.




Kjersti Vick 218-387-2788