Company’s Coming…

Fix your hair and put on something pretty Winona because company’s coming… and this is going to be quite a visit.

In about a month Winona gets to play host to the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener – a media blitz-o-rama that brings upwards of 150 people to town to celebrate the start of the hunting season. It’s a cool mix of journalists, legislators, DNR folks, and the good people of the Minnesota Deer Hunter Association who roll in the first Thursday in November to kick around town for a few days. Oh yeah, and the governor comes to christen the start of the season too, and you can even have lunch with him.

Over the years I’ve been to quite a few Deer Hunting Openers, and I was so freaking excited when they announced this one in Winona. It’s our first shot at the event, and Winona will get to preen in the million-candlepower spotlight of more media people than you can swing a stick at. You should not swing sticks at media people, by the way. Just sayin. OK – anyway – just picture it: writers and news crews and photographers crawling all over Winona for three days, gobbling up whatever goodness we can send their way. Sure, they’re here to see what’s going on in the world of hunting, but this is about a lot more than that. The event is about showing off our community, this beautiful place we live in, with the hopes that the word “Winona” crosses a few lips and a few editors’ desks on its way to audiences who live somewhere else.

There is an old advertising principle that says anytime someone says a product’s (or, er, a town’s) name – no matter what the reason – it is gold. It’s just recognition – validation that puts you on the mental map. Take 150 influential people, show them a good time, and it’s bound to come back to you like fishes and loaves. Maybe not in the next week or the next month, or maybe not even in the next year. But if you have planted the seed of recognition and fondness in the brain of someone who has the power to influence others, it WILL come back eventually.

You in? Here’s how you can help:

Buy a ticket for the Big Buck Luncheon Friday afternoon at the Winona Sportsman’s Club. It’s $10, and let’s face it, you’re going to spend that for lunch anyway. But with this ticket you get to sit in a room with the governor, and while you nosh, he and John Edman from Explore Minnesota and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr are going to talk about hunting and tourism and money, and it will be about the most interesting $10 lunch you’ve ever had. Really. After lunch, the Gould Brothers are going to put on a sharp shooting show (I dare you to try to say that fast – and right – three times. I tried just now, which makes me a complete dork. Oh, and by the way, you can’t do it. But I digress…) You can buy tickets at the Winona Visitor Center on Huff Street.

If you are a hunter, offer to host a media person or legislator in the woods Saturday morning. They are looking for hunter hosts as we speak, and they probably need a good dozen more. It doesn’t matter if you own the land, borrow private land, or hunt on state land. What matters is that you give one of our visitors the experience of sitting in the woods in Southeastern Minnesota. Not all the hunting guests will want to hunt — they could be like me and just sit in the deer stand with a camera and cry. OK, I never actually cried, but I came pretty stinking close up by Brainerd Lakes once when it was about 5 below zero. And I actually did get misty another time, but it was when I was sitting in a deer stand with former DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten and his 12-year-old son, who had just shot his first deer. It was a powerful moment, and I was grateful that they let me share it.

We need hunter hosts who are willing to share their spot just for one day in order to send media people away with stories about what it’s like to be a deer hunter around Winona.Will you take one for the team here? Winona needs you. Media people need you. I need you. Please say yes 🙂  Message me if you want a look at the form and I’ll email it to you. Or call Pat Mutter, our head guru at Visit Winona, at 507-452-0735 and she’ll hook you up.

There are other stories that will be told as a byproduct of their visit — media will be shown around to some of the most interesting and most beautiful spots in town, from the Winona County History Center and Minnesota Marine Art Museum to Garvin Heights and the Wenonah Canoe factory. If I know my hunting opener buddies, which I do pretty well at this point, there will be some other touring which may or may not involve some of Winona’s favorite liquor-serving establishments. And I may or may not be that tour guide. So if you see me out and about the first week in November with some unfamiliar faces in tow, do me a favor and be sweet to them. I will have talked you all up pretty big to them by that point, the rest will be on you to show them that yes indeed, we really do love having company.

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