I’m going to a little soiree Tuesday night, and I’m excited. It only happens once a year, and it’s going to be a whole room full of tourism people moving and shaking and talking about what makes Winona so freaking awesome. The thought of it almost makes me giddy.
The event is so Visit Winona can give some public love to the local businesses that make people want to come to Winona. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum will get an award for being pretty much the coolest place on earth, and some local business folks will talk about what tourism means to them. There’s always a delicious spread of food. And a bar. That’s not why I go, of course. A buffet and a bar — whatever — I probably won’t even get anything from either. And that’s a total lie – I will probably have a chair pulled up to one or the other. BUT I will be listening to Pat Mutter, the tourism queen from Visit Winona, talk about our greatness, followed by Colleen Tollefson from Explore Minnesota Tourism, who will come all the way down the Great River Road to talk about our greatness too. And I will be sitting there eating crackers with both hands marveling at how extraordinary it all is.
What is it, you might be asking yourself, that they will say makes us so great? Well, it’s the rest of the people standing around the room – managers and business owners and committee members of various efforts who have dedicated their energy to making Winona an outstanding place to visit. They are called “Partners” in tourism language — businesses that take a pledge to work with Visit Winona to enhance our tourism appeal either through cash or karma. And while the usual suspects are on the list (hotels and restaurants and golf clubs and such), you might be surprised that this list goes deep into the heart of Winona and includes businesses one might never think of as interested in the tourism industry.
After all, what do Goltz Pharmacy, Yarnology, or Winona Health care about tourism? They are, by most common definitions, the type of businesses that serve a resident population. So are all the realtors, banks, and bookstores named as partners. But see, smart folks in those operations have figured out that the more people who visit and enjoy Winona, the better it is for everybody here, even if visitors aren’t necessarily buying yarn or prescriptions or books. Those business people’s vested interest is that they LIVE here and want to see Winona thrive, so they throw their hat and maybe a few dollars into the ring and say, “Me too – I support Winona and I want to be part of this.” sigh. It makes me a little misty.
The other reason I’m excited about the event is that I’m going to shake down those businesses for prizes to give away here on the blog. Listen, I’m thinking about you guys, and I’m aiming for some sweet stuff so we can keep having fun here celebrating Winona’s awesomeness with contests for local businesses. So help me out here… if I was going to come back with a giveaway, what would you want it to be? If you don’t live here, tell me what would get you to town, and if you do live here, what would make you love this place more? You can leave multiple comments, but a max one comment per day until 7 p.m. Monday the 16th. I don’t know what I’m giving away yet — but whoever I draw out next Monday is going to win it. I can only promise you this… it will be cool, and you’ll want it. We shall call it the Mystery Prize. Let the discussion begin…