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!