When people ask me how things are going in the Visitor Center I usually respond with, “It’s going great,” followed by, “very busy though!”
Throughout the year we have welcomed visitors from over 39 states and 8 countries. How in the world did little Decorah in the Northeast corner of Iowa attract all these people?!
I began working my dream job at the Chamber of Commerce in February. It may not be the typical dream job, but I get to welcome travelers of all kinds to this beautiful place while supporting local businesses in a town I love. Throughout the year we arranged visits for groups ranging from bikers to bloggers, and Norwegian ancestry meetings to a women’s Corvette club. I am passionate about facilitating memorable experiences in the Decorah area.
The volume of our walk-in traffic drops with the temperature, but it’s also when we are able to put in the most work on our projects. Looking back at the tourist season, we are able to take into account visitor center data and frequent requests to better serve our visitors. This year we developed and maintained 10 unique brochures and guides to assist folks in their discovery of Decorah. I particularly enjoyed making a scavenger hunt style brochure for kids who get bored very quickly while their parents look over maps and talk about which brewery to check out first.
It has been very interesting to see what attractions pull people to this part of the world. First time visitors usually hear about one big point of interest like Seed Savers, Vesterheim, or the eagles and come to the area to check it out. Once they are here, newcomers quickly realize an afternoon in Decorah simply isn’t enough time to fully experience all it has to offer.
The hardest question to answer when people walk through the door is, “What is there to do in Decorah?”
How could you possibly sum up every answer to that question? I try to steer the conversation to narrow down the choices. Do you like nature? Are you interested in museums? Do you like independent boutique shops? Are you here for biking? As soon as I can determine a topic of interest, out comes the city/county map and I start circling and highlighting all the places to go with little notes and tips written everywhere. My map folding skills have increased quite significantly over the last 9 months.
If I were to pinpoint the best part of working at the Chamber, it would be the feeling of being in a community hub. I regularly interact with dedicated community leaders striving to improve the place we live. And while I am able to work in close proximity to these leaders, I am also able to immediately see the benefit their efforts have on our visitors. I see the smiles when a father/daughter duo completes the Trout Run Trail for the first time; I hear the excitement in the voice of an angler who is new to the area and picking up a fishing guide; I listen to the many, many stories Decorah High School and Luther alumni tell about how much things have changed for the better in the years they have been away.
Thanks for doing great things Decorah, it makes my job a lot more fun!
Growing up standing beside my dad in the alleyway watching the tractors pull in while dad opened the doors on their wagons and watching the corn or beans spill out into the pit was one of my favorite pass times. After the tractor pulled out of the alley and if there was no one waiting dad would hand me the push broom and I would start sweeping the rest off the floor into the pit. I remember watching in amazement as my dad walk across the grate of the pit, I would always walk around scared somehow, I would fall in. I learned to get over my fear of heights quickly, because I would always want to ride with my dad up in the man-lift to walk across the catwalk while he was checking bins. There are so many memories I have from going to work with my dad or stopping by with supper for him during the long fall nights.
Agriculture has and will always be such a large part of my life whether it be through my dad or all our friends and family, it will repeatedly impact my life. I heard the following phrase once and I can’t think of anything truer. “Despite all our achievements we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains” –Farm equipment association of Minnesota and South Dakota. When I started my career with the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce there was a lot to learn, but after a half a year or so I was presented the opportunity to be liaison to different committees and programming. I was ecstatic to take on the Ag Committee to be able to give back and show appreciation to farmers in this area.
This is my second year delivering during our Stay Safe project, but it is my first year leading the committee. Having the privilege to be apart of our Ag Committee holds a special place in my heart. This year I drove and had Gabriel with me out delivering bags. Our area to cover was in the Highlandville to the state line corner of the county. There may not be a lot of farm land in that neighborhood, but there was enough to put smiles on the faces of everyone that we found. One of the farmers we stopped even mentioned to us that his crew and him were just talking about the program the other day while doing something they knew wasn’t probably the safest. It’s nice to hear that the thought of safety translates into thinking about this program.
The Stay Safe and Take a Break program was started in 2004, so this was our 14th year going out and delivering bags. Some of the original people that implemented the program are still on the committee and still find it to be very incredible event to take place. It is such a rewarding experience to give back to the agriculture community. Farmers have the craziest hours during the fall and being able to hand them a bag full of goodies that our members donated is a very fulfilling experience. Everyone that receives a bag is always so appreciative of us taking the time to come out and remind them to Stay Safe and Take a Break. It was another success, as we delivered 180 bags out to the hard-working farmers in the Northeast quadrant of Winneshiek County.
While all the farmers are out pushing hard to put 2018 harvest in the books, the Ag Committee and I are here to remind you to Stay Safe and Take a Break.
This year I had the opportunity to participate in the annual Stay Safe, Take a Break program offered through the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce and run by its Ag Committee.
We started the day with 180 bags loaded up with all kinds of snacks, safety items, and donations from area businesses. Six teams gathered at the Chamber building for a quick lunch of Mabe’s Pizza then hit the road.
The Northeast quadrant of the county was in rotation to receive the bags this year. We spent about 4 hours cruising the gravel roads looking for harvesters out in the fields. Rachel drove the truck while I kept an eye out for the tell-tale cloud of dust rising from the hills along State Line and North Bear Roads.
We gave a bag to a farmer who may have been on the Minnesota side, but that’s just being a good neighbor and it never hurts to do a little PR for Iowa. There was a county road worker out cutting brush on the roadside and we figured he could use a snack and a break too.
Ultimately the twisting hills and valleys around Highlandville proved to be more suitable for fishing than farming so we hit the blacktop on Big Canoe Road to see who we could find. We stopped at every truck, semi, or combine we came across, handing out bags along the way while reminding folks to “stay safe and take a break!”
This program is in its 14th year so many people recognized us driving to their fields with the bright orange goody bags. There were smiles all around as we chatted with farmers who were working hard to finish up harvesting before any more rain.
Winneshiek County has over 2,000 active farmers and agriculture is a cornerstone of our economy. I enjoyed the chance to show support for the growers in our area who keep the county vibrant and strong.
Everyone can work to stay safe by slowing down and watching for farm vehicles on the roads during this harvest season!