Wednesday, December 22, 2010
We've been working on making some modifications to our city welcome signs on I-135. While researching the "Signs" file I came across some great correspondence from when the city adopted its new logo in 1998. Apparently, it was not popular with several people and many wrote lengthy diatribes to the editor of the Sentinel. The logo was called an "exploding ice cream cone" and the lettering we affectionately call "the confetti logo."
In my naivete, one of the first things I did as CVB director was ask a graphic designer to come up with a new logo for the CVB to use. Talk about wading into a pool of alligators. He did come up with a cool line art logo using the courthouse, Gen. McPherson Statue and the trolley. As an afterthought we added a one-color version of the confetti logo. Maybe not everyone's choice of iconic figures but they worked well for the CVB's purpose. We put it on t-shirts, visitor bags, our letterhead. Most city agencies still use the 1998 logo which is great. I don't use it much, especially when printing because it's a four-color artwork. Our new CVB artwork is one-color and cheaper to print. I haven't heard much feedback on the CVB logo because we've sort of quietly put it out there. We didn't put it to a public vote or have a large committee help shape it. I probably stepped on some toes, but no disrespect was meant.
Trying to find a logo that makes every entity in town is impossible. Should it be Scottish? Should it be industrial? Feature historic buildings like the Opera House? We don't have an iconic symbol like the dala horse so it's doubtful we'll find one unifying logo.
I did come up with an "it" for the Kansas Sampler last year. It's about the closest thing we'll probably ever have to an icon.
Friday, December 17, 2010
“You know how you have to predict the future when you’re putting together budgets and stuff,” she said.
I wish I had a gift for divination to figure out what the coming year will hold for tourism in McPherson. We really don’t fit the mold when it comes to attracting visitors. Hotels are busier during the week than the weekend and many visitors stay for a week or longer. It’s that strong industrial base we have again.
If I had to make a prediction for 2011 it would be that most leisure travelers are still taking smaller, more modest vacations. They roll in a weekend activity like their kid’s soccer tournament with a short family getaway. They plan their fun on the way to or from a family event. I’ve been to Disneyland once since my daughter was born 11 years ago. I’ve seen every zoo, botanical park, children’s museum, semi-pro sports team, water park, drive-in theater and outdoor festival in central and eastern Kansas several times though.
People still like to have fun even if their resources are limited. If you have family that’s planning to visit in 2011, why not point out some of the fun activities going on in McPherson next year – the water park, Opera House, All Schools Day, trolley rides, museum, Scottish Festival and golf course come to mind.
The group tour industry has a term I find interesting – a hub-and-spoke tour. Pick a central location and take day trips out from there to all the interesting sites. From Mac you can do day trips to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Little Sweden, the Kansas Motorcycle Museum, Cosmosphere, Underground Salt Mines, Kansas State Fair or drive a scenic byway to the lake or wetlands.
Keeping an eye on business traveler trends is a little tougher. Most association leaders I spoke to at a recent convention are starting to weigh their loyalty to a certain meeting place against more economical alternatives like McPherson. Hopefully we’ll see an increase in this type of traveler to town too.
There’s my slightly rosy outlook for 2011. I hope you have a great year.
Please contact Pam or myself at the CVB for all of your tourism questions – (620) 241-3340
Monday, November 22, 2010
Before we do that, I want to take a minute to reflect on 2010. We’ve had a great year and accomplished several things in addition to the mural. Movies in the park are still going strong. We published our second calendar using photos from our annual “What’s Your McPherson?” contest. We’re making many contacts for conventions and group tours and our guest tax revenue for the year is up. We’ve partnered with the Chamber and Main Street on a number of projects this year. (Don’t miss all the fun activities this holiday season.) The ASD parade had a great attendance this year. We added a Saturday night event with the McPherson Scottish Festival and had about 100 people attend. Things aren’t happening overnight but they are happening. I don’t mean to take credit for the success of any of these events because everything we do is in cooperation with other organizations or volunteers in McPherson. That’s the CVB’s role, to assist others in being successful and helping market and enhance attractions and events to attract visitors to our community.
In an effort to do just that, next year we’ll start two new types of grants through the CVB – sports tournament grants and event/attraction grants. Our existing grant program has been limited to assisting with marketing and we saw this as a great way to encourage community members to have activities that would bring visitors to town. If you’re interested in either type of grant, call me at 241-3340 or go to www.mcphersonks.org/visit.
I’m excited for all that there is to look forward to in 2011. It will be the 75th anniversary of the Globe Refiners win of the national AAU tournament and participation on the gold medal Olympic basketball team. We have the 98th annual ASD, a great line-up at the Opera House, and many contests and festivals coming up. But first we have all the great holiday activities. Be sure to catch one of our holiday trolley light tours on Dec. 9, 16, 23 beginning at the Opera House. Or go ahead and purchase tickets now for the Dec. 20-22 tours beginning from the Mid-Kansas Model Railroad display at 1111 E. Kansas Ave.
Are you on Facebook? Check out our Visit McPherson page at www.facebook.com/visitmac for updates on upcoming community activities.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
One veteran planner responded to my comment that our Scottish Festival just celebrated its 17th year this year that it must be the same thing year after year and then pretended to fall asleep. I had to point out to him how untrue that assumption was -- this year alone we tried two new components for the first time -- a Scotch tasting hosted by the McPherson Museum (which sold out) and A Scottish Evening at the McPherson Opera House with a buffet, live entertainment and a Scottish country dance that more than 100 people attended.
The festival has been so successful because the mainstays are consistent from one year to the next. The big events like entertainment, clan tents, Highland athletics, dancing and drum and pipe competitions are well run. I've only been to the last three festivals but I've seen new offerings every year like the Highland cow exhibit and a rugby match.
I've been thinking of the whole reinvention idea. Performers like Madonna will reinvent themselves with each new song. Web sites like eBay are constantly tweaking and improving their business model. If you don't hone your act you become dated, kitsch and stale. Basically Madonna is still a singer and eBay is still an auction web site, but they manage to stay relevant.
The Scottish Festival has some of the most dedicated volunteers in McPherson and trust me they don't like it when you tinker with their proven formula for success. This year we tried something different and it worked. I think everyone was pleased with the Opera House event. Hopefully the festival will continue to embrace new ideas and stay fresh for years to come.
Monday, September 20, 2010
• Scenery: Beautiful beaches, tall pine trees, lakes, mountains and rivers can be found in most every “cool” town. What’s cool about this scenery is not simply that the town is conveniently located in a scenic area, the town has taken steps to make the scenery accessible. Parks have been built along waterways, wildlife centers funded in natural areas, biking and hiking paths explore the great outdoors. These small towns haven’t just built large hotels to take advantage of the scenic views, they’ve made the scenery an integral part of their identity.
• Culture: Outdoor music festivals, buildings repurposed as art galleries, paintings on the sides of barns and building for the public to view and renovated theaters all help distinguish these towns as culture-friendly communities.
• Food: Sea salt cookie bakeries, regional barbecue, wines from local vineyards – the food is as unique as the towns themselves.
• Shopping: Nearly every cool town boasted a vibrant downtown with unusual locally owned businesses. Stores that sell locally made products and cater to visitors that yearn for originality stand out like the goat cheese shop in Waitsburg, Wash., or a gift shop celebrating Kennett Square’s top agriculture export – mushrooms.
• Imported locals: Nearly every cool town story has a transplant from the big city that fell in love with the town, sold their successful business or cashed in their stock portfolio to open a gallery/bed and breakfast/café. I take this as a sign that many Americans are looking for a better quality experience when it comes to choosing where they live or vacation.
If you look at the list of what makes a town cool, you can see McPherson has many of those qualities. It takes nature to provide you with great scenery or agriculture opportunities but it really requires forward-thinking and innovative individuals to create a town that is interesting enough to draw new residents and visitors.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
"...tourism, as the largest industry in many states and communities, has an obligation to partner with political, cultural, environmental, and economic sectors to help craft a healthy quality of life – for residents as well as visitors. That means more than 'heads in beds' or lavish websites; it means acting as a responsible corporate citizen, socially and politically. It means leadership."
As I wrestle with the mission of what the CVB is for McPherson, I like to think my job is about more than putting heads in beds and helping build up the hotel business in McPherson. After all, visitors come to McPherson to conduct business, play sports, visit relatives, enjoy leisure activities and not to specifically stay in a certain hotel. Hotels are the byproduct of a vibrant community and not the other way around.
I had the good fortune to run into Bob Workman at two meetings I attended this week. Bob is the director of the Discovery Flint Hills Center in Manhattan that will open in 2012. Bob has a unique vision for the center to be primarily a place to tell the story of the Flint Hills and to be a non-collecting museum. He plans to have staff that is more geared to marketing and no curator. The center is being built with Star Bonds money and once built, will receive 1 percent of the 6.25 percent guest tax in Manhattan. The center will be a true draw for visitors and be adjacent to a hotel, convention center and public park that are also part of the project.
The more I talked with Bob, the more I liked his project. It is being backed by the city, works closely with the local university as a place for faculty to share their research, has a public area that benefits the citizens of Manhattan. It is a place to bring in traveling displays, artists, and host events in the community. It brings more traffic to the downtown shopping area and creates new jobs. I like it because it does as much for the residents as it does for visitors.
I also recently visited Dodge City and the Boot Hill center for the first time. Dodge has had a sales tax in place for a number of years called the "Why Not Dodge?" tax. Proceeds from the sales tax have helped complete the Boot Hill Visitor Center, a raceway and now a convention center. These projects are primarily geared to tourist but they do create jobs and help preserve a part of Dodge City's history.
Juxtapose this with the privately owned casino facility with its state-owned gaming equipment on the outskirts of town and I wonder who, if anyone, receives a benefit from it.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Tonight we announced the winners of our 2010 photo contest. We'll use all 12 winners in our 2011 calendar that we publish with the McPherson Sentinel. Choosing just 12 photos out of the 285 submitted was incredibly tough. When I look at the images of McPherson seen through the eyes of so many talented people I feel really proud.
It's this part of my job that I love the most -- finding ways to celebrate others' talents and sharing it with visitors and residents alike.
Most days I love my job but today, I really loved it.
Friday, June 4, 2010
It's Friday afternoon and I'm excited for the weekend to get here. I don't have any grand plans but a few things to do at home this weekend. Tonight I'll walk in Relay For Life on my friend Amy's team at Wall Park. Tomorrow we will show a free movie in the park at Lakeside Park. Sunday I hope to go swimming at the McPherson Water Park with my kids. I guess my weekend is centering around parks.
When I first visited McPherson in 2006 we drove around town and I was struck by the beauty and the quantity of McPherson's parks. I've lived in 13 different communities in my life and the parks here are by far the most beautiful of any town I've lived in. It says much about the city's commitment to the quality of life for its citizens. But beautiful parks don't just happen.
Consider this from the city's Web site www.mcpcity.com:
The City of McPherson Park Department employees 6 full-time workers who maintain 14 city parks and public rights-of-way totaling approximately 300 acres. A wide range of activities are available in our city parks. Activities include fishing, swimming, picnicking, tennis, raquetball, basketball, and ice skating. There are also batting cages, baseball and softball fields, frisbee golf, jogging, fitness trails and a skateboard facility.
I know the parks department also takes care of the planters and the plaza downtown. They do hire additional summer help, but I'm telling you it's all I can do to keep my little yard mowed. I can't imagine 300 acres.
Get out to the park this weekend. Take a pic of your family in one of our parks, send it to me, and I'll give you a free McPherson Frisbee. Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Nothing speaks louder to the benefits of a community than a person who lives there, who loves their hometown and is excited to welcome visitors to it.
We recently worked with Perkins, EconoLodge and Best Western to successfully bid for the 2012 Kansas State Firefighters Association annual convention. KSFFA has held their convention in McPherson before in 2003 but the whole bid would not have happened if a local member of the organization had not stepped forward and asked for our help in bidding on the convention.
The McPherson Fire Department and Capt. Wade Hall in particular worked with us to bid for the 250 plus person convention. To make it work we’ll use convention facilities at Perkins and Best Western that are just across the parking lot from each other.
We have other convention and meeting facilities as well at The Cedars and the McPherson Opera House that can accommodate large groups.
I know McPherson has a wide and varied workforce and population and many of us are members of one or more associations or organizations that hold district, regional or statewide meetings.
In April alone we saw five groups – American Legion, Optimist Club, County Treasurers and Registers of Deed, Kansas Twins Association and the Wordfest Writers Conference – hold meetings in McPherson. The CVB worked with each of those to provide gift bags, door prizes, name tags and printed information to assist with their event. We are here to help and if you would like to bid on a convention for your organization, we are the best place to start. The CVB can be a go-between the organization and convention centers, hotels, entertainment venues and caterers when pulling your bid together. If you are successful, there are many ways we can help as I mentioned before.
Finding local members is the best way for us to make a connection with an organization. Conventions can pump thousands of dollars into a local economy, boosting guest and sales tax. A favorable impression of our town can create return business, possibly even future residents.
Here’s a few talking points when considering why you should hold your meeting in McPherson:
• Centrally located: If you’re tired of driving to the eastern portion of the state, centralize your meeting in McPherson. We are less than 300 miles from every city in Kansas.
• Affordability: Convention room rates are consistently under $80 and when blocking large blocks of rooms you can save even more.
• Top-notch service: I’ve personally worked with the staff at all of our convention facilities and customer satisfaction is their No. 1 priority. If you don’t have a great experience, come talk to me and I’ll pass your concerns on to the right person.
• Modern equipment: Best Western recently upgraded its A/V system and The Cedars is a new facility with modern equipment. The sound and projection at the Opera House, as John Holecek will tell you, are superb.
• Activities: No matter what the interest of your group is, we can find outside activities to suit them – hunting, shopping, sports, art, historical tours – you name it.
Give Pam and I a call at the CVB, 241-3340 or check out our group meeting planner online at www.visitmcpherson.com.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Take for example my recent application to get the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal Globe Refiners Basketball Team honored as an 8 Wonders of Kansas History. I was really excited because I think it’s the best shot we’ve had in any of the categories, but we didn’t make the cut for the top 24. Does that mean the story of this history-making team isn’t worthy of being told? Absolutely not. So instead of using the publicity from 8 Wonders, McPherson has just got to work harder at getting our story out on our own.
Another project I’m working on that has been meeting with some challenges lately is to paint a mural downtown this summer. I’ve been lucky to work with some great people on this project, but the site we selected has presented some real logistical challenges and the subject matter – industrial history – has been a surprisingly hard nut to crack outside of the history of the plastics industry. I still like the idea and the location but it is a much bigger project than I can pull off successfully in the next two months.
The two disappointments have got me thinking – why not do a more manageable mural about the Globe Refiners this year and shelve the other until next year? Let’s create our own publicity, toot our own horn and move forward. There will be more information available in the next month about how you can get involved and help with this project.
Another great McPherson event that’s coming up is our 97th Annual All Schools Day week of activities. I have a child who will participate in the Madathon for the first time this year and I can’t wait. During the week I’m sure we’ll hit the carnival and go to the May Fete activities. We’ll of course go to the parade and finish the week off at the free movie in the park Saturday night. Friendship and Memories seems like the perfect theme for this year’s event. I have buttons and T-shirts for sale at my office if you’d like to get a souvenir. Buttons are required at all ASD activities so be sure you have yours. You can find more information about All Schools Day at www.allschoolsday.com.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Peter, I'm gonna call him that because that's how he introduced himself to me not because we're close friends or anything, spoke about how creativity and innovation are the natural resources of the 21st Century, similar to how oil was THE natural resource of the 20th Century.
Creativity is standardly associated with artists while innovation is more linked to business and science. Creativity is a divergent process that begins a project. Innovation is a convergent process that creates an end product. Peter feels creativity and innovation are really two sides of the same coin and Apple is the best example of blurring the lines between the two.
It's the responsibility of all citizens to share their ideas and participate in the creative process.
Creative Cities will do their best to attract and retain talent and fight "brain drain." But who's job is it to attract talent to a city? The mayor can be a community's best salesman but very few people but company's don't traditionally have a director of talent.
The competition for talent has become a "shooting war," according to Peter. He gave the example of Louisville, KY's mayor who will hold Kentucky meet-ups in other states to try and attract Kentucky natives to return home. Brains don't drain, they circulate and tend to come back to the community they grew up in.
Cities looking for talent should not focus on just one age group. Recent grads, young professionals, marrieds with children, empty nesters and retirees all tend to look for the same things in a community -- namely affordable housing, entertainment opportunities, transportation options beyond a car and green spaces.
Then he talked about growing your own elephants, fostering krill as well as whales. Despite the mixed metaphors I think his point was to encourage young talent to develop and someday create a large successful company as opposed to going after a whale-sized company in another community.
Ways of appealing to young talent are to appeal to their tribal tendencies, seek out and connect with an influential member of their group and let him or her spread the word. Young talent does not believe advertising and are much more likely to believe what their friends have to say via social media.
My favorite part had to be the Love Notes to a City portion of his speech. He said the reasons we tend to hate a city are that it has problems with its infrastructure -- potholes, lack of parking. The reasons we love a city are the little touches like murals, parks, green spaces -- the cherries on top. Great quote: "Art and culture are what make a city fall in love with itself." Pier Giorgio Dicicco. It's important we take an expansive view of arts and culture -- it's not always packaged in the traditional forms of symphony, opera and ballet. Another good quote: "Museums are the mausoleums where art goes to die." I was sitting next to the McPherson Museum Director Carla Barber who got a chuckle out of that.
What did I take away from the lecture? I found it very helpful that Peter reinforced some of the sentiments and initiatives I've been working hard on this last year. I am a city department and while I can't improve the infrastructure I can help improve the quality of life with the small projects I take on like movies in the park, grants to help others market or stage events, hanging banners around town, holding photo contests and more. In the past the CVB adopted the stance that its job was strictly to promote and market events already taking place. I want to get more involved in hosting festivals and other events that would draw visitors to town. To do this, I need a healthy guest tax revenue, a supportive commission and the creativity and innovation necessary to think of new ideas and opportunities. Having those things is why I love my job so much.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I’ve often marveled after a big meal, how much quicker things get cleaned up when everyone pitches in and helps. It reminds me of that saying “Many hands make light work.”
One of the biggest challenges of putting on any event whether it be Sunday dinner or a two-day festival is finding enough volunteers to help with all that needs to be done.
Local organizers of sports tournaments have told me finding volunteers is always a hurdle to putting on a tournament.
When I worked at the Sentinel, I would hear from readers that were looking for volunteer opportunities. At the CVB we look for volunteers for different activities all year and rely on the goodwill of the local newspaper and radio station to help get the word out.
It’s a struggle on both ends and I’ve kept my eye out for a way to bring the two groups together. Finally the solution came to me a few months ago. As a member of the Optimist Club I was introduced to a wonderful online tool for organizing sign-ups – mysignup.com. It’s free and anyone can use it, they just need access to a computer.
The catch is it’s not always easy to search out opportunities in your community so my office has created a Web site that is meant to act as a clearinghouse for organizations needing volunteer help. That site, called volunteermcpherson.com, simply lists and links to different sign-ups.
If your organization is in need of volunteers from the general public, I encourage you to use the Web sites.
Here’s how it works
· Go to mysignup.com and create an account
· Create as many volunteer sign-ups as you like.
· Then e-mail me the links for your sign-ups and I’ll add it to volunteermcpherson.com. My e-mail is email@example.com.
Have questions? Contact me at the CVB, 241-3340, and remember, April is National Volunteer month.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The show was aimed at consumers looking for vacation ideas and, for my first show, I thought it was well attended and I met many other CVBs.
So when the chance to attend it again this year came up, I jumped on board and have been looking forward to it. Unfortunately the show was recently canceled based on poor attendance at a similar show in Louisville. I only found this out by combing the internet trying to see why my confirmation had never arrived, but I was intrigued by the lengthy explanation from the show's organizers as to why they canceled the show that was posted on their Web site. Here's a few snippets:
"tourism, like many industries, is being hurt by the global economic crisis. State revenue from transportation, sales and hotel taxes have plummeted and many companies and government agencies, have been forced to lay off workers."
This statement may hold true in many parts of the country, but I wondered if this was the case in Kansas. I pulled up reports on guest tax collected in 2008 and compared them to similar reports for 2009 in search of the plummeting hotel taxes. For fiscal year 2008 (July through June), $31.2 million was collected in guest tax. For fiscal year 2009, $30.8 million was collected statewide. That's about a one percent decrease. The previous two years saw gains of 19.7 percent and 10.1 percent. So while revenue isn't growing at the same rate as previous years, it is holding fairly steady. McPherson has been fortunate to see an increase each of the last three fiscal years -- partly due to an increase in the number of hotel rooms available after Holiday Inn Express was built.
My foray into statistics has convinced me that 1) I didn't major in math for a reason and 2) people are still traveling, just maybe not as far. While that's bad news for Disney, it's good news for places like McPherson.
Here's another snippet:
"the emotional impact of living through the worst recession many consumers had experienced, continuing high unemployment and the fact that our economic bubbles have all burst -- will create a new consumer who spends money more conscientiously."
Sounds like a gloomy forecast or maybe the forecaster just needs a vacation. McPherson has many family-friendly activities and weekend getaway options. Swimming, golf, music venues, fun festivals like All Schools Day and the Scottish Festival, a beautiful downtown with unique shopping are all part of our affordable charm.
One great source for finding affordable local travel in Kansas is through the Kansas Sampler Foundation's new rural travel initiative Web site www.getruralkansas.org. Each participating town posts information about what there is to explore in their town. Locals always know the best places to go and this gives them a platform to get that information out to the world.
I've recently had the opportunity to work with the Sampler ladies on their most recent 8 Wonders contest. Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near Canton has been nominated as one of the top 24 finalist in the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography. You can vote for Maxwell and learn something about the other 23 finalists at 8wonders.org.
You may have heard about the city's recent acquisition of Turkey Creek Golf Course. If you'd like to find out about the 2010 rates, current specials or see some great pictures of our fine course, visit www.golfturkeycreek.com or www.facebook.com/turkeycreek.
Can you feel the excitement in the air? It’s not from a post-holiday giving buzz but I’m incredibly excited about the upcoming opening of the McPherson Opera House at the end of this month.
First the fact the Opera House will bring in many new visitors to town makes me a happy CVB director. I’m lucky to get to work with my predecessor Judy Casey on marketing the first season of shows at the Opera House. Judy is just one of the many volunteers that has brought the Opera House back to life. I’d love to run through a list of them all but I’m afraid I’d overlook someone. You can volunteer at the Opera House too by calling 241-1952.
Second, I’m anxious to see a show in the remodeled auditorium. Though the grand opening will be for private donors, there will be ample opportunity in the coming months to see a show. Here’s the most recent list I have of scheduled shows for 2010.
Jan. 30 Free movies
Feb. 14 Tap Kids
Mar. 9 David Munnelly Band
Mar. 12-13 Cats Off Broadway
Mar. 20 Comedian James Gregory
Apr. 23 Brasil Guitar Duo
May 15 The Eric Vaughn Magic Review
June 12 The Three Little Pigs, Wichita Children’s Theater
June 19, 20, 25, 26, & 27 The Wizard of Oz, McPherson Community Theatre
Sept. 18 The Glenn Miller Orchestra
Oct. 2 Galactic Cowboy Orchestra
Keep up-to-date on the latest shows at mcphersonoperahouse.org.
January through March is typically a slow time of year for tourism in McPherson. We are firing up the trolley during those months for historical trolley tours for elementary, middle and high school classes. If you’d like to sponsor a tour for your child’s class at an extremely affordable rate, give me a call at (620) 241-3340.
JANUARY CONVENTIONS, REUNIONS, & TOURS
14-17 VFW Mid Winter Conference, Holiday Inn Express, 25 rooms
21-23 Sunflower Chapter NAIFA, Holiday Inn Express, 20 rooms
29 Days Inn, 20 rooms