He asked me, "What can our town do to draw some tourist traffic? We need the business. No one stops!"
My current occupation has a part of it devoted to drawing visitors to our area. We hope they spend a dollar or two here before they move on. Lucky for us we have a thousand lakes within easy driving distance from where I sit. The natural resources we have are a natural magnet to those who like to fish, boat, ski, swim, canoe and kayak.
Why wouldn't anyone want to come here to enjoy what we locals enjoy every day?
But, there are areas devoid of the environmental assets we have here in north central Minnesota. There are towns out on the prairie that have few if any reasons for a person to stray off the interstate and pay them a visit.
It's not their fault. They were established by the farm/rural economy and little thought was given to attracting anyone except the livestock buyer or the land investor.
I didn't know what tourism was growing up on that piece of Iowa sod. The only "tourists" I ever saw were a few pheasant hunters who came out to the country from Sioux City on opening day of the pheasant season. Otherwise the only cars we saw were those of neighbors or insurance and seed corn salesmen.
Human ingenuity has produced many reasons to cause a car to turn off the turnpike. Witness the giant ball of twine or the Spam museum or the statue of the Jolly Green Giant. Giant steel sculptures line the interstate as you cross a portion of North Dakota. They lead you to a little town that would otherwise be a stretch for anyone to visit.
The works of art along that stretch of highway certainly got my attention, although I've never visited the town they led to.
There is a giant dinosaur in the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming. We were traveling back from the Grand Tetons when we came upon Thermopolis, sitting out in the middle of nowhere. We had no intention of staying overnight there, but the giant brontosaurus statue drew us in and we ended up camping along the banks of a river there and "enjoyed" smelling the sulphur hot springs located nearby.
Not knowing where the acrid smell was coming from, I erred in blaming the RV sitting next to us for flushing his septic system. Lucky for me I stopped by the camp office to complain when the owner informed me that the smell was a normal product of the sulphur springs. That information may have saved me a black eye.
Sometimes fate leads you to a place you wouldn't have stopped otherwise. We visited Banff a number of years ago and on the way back to the States we came across a place called Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. It was located out on the plains west of Fort Macleod, Alberta. We would never have stopped there, but the name of the place intrigued us.
We saw the cliff where the buffalo were driven off by the tribes of long ago and we toured an excellent interpretive center. On the way out of the area we managed to blow out our trailer tire and were forced to spend the night in Fort Macleod. Little did we know that the town was the headquarters of the Canadian Mounted Police and we watched a parade of the Mounties just by accident.
Has anyone else ever stopped in Fort Macleod?
Our local chamber of commerce is producing our annual brochure that will arrive soon, just like the seed catalogs. The brochure will tout every reason we can think of to stop a traveler in our town. We've got duck races, farmers markets, festivals, heritage encampments, bluegrass festivals, county fairs, Paul Bunyan's baby boots and more portrayed on the pages. Plenty of reasons for someone to turn right at the stoplights.
We don't have a giant ball of twine or a giant muskie, but maybe, just maybe we have enough reasons to get travelers to stop. The guy who asked me the question at the beginning of this column needs to come up with an idea. Maybe a giant muskrat sculpture would do it?
See you next time. Okay?