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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to learn about tourism

People have long been drawn to the deep, crystal-clear waters of Geneva Lake.

Ancient tribes of Hopewell Culture Indians were drawn to this area, and built effigy mounds in Library Park.

Other tribes, notably some Potowatomis led by Chief Big Foot, roamed the area as well, but were eventually displaced by Europeans.

Many of these were wealthy business magnates who enjoyed their summers here.

The Chicago fire of 1871 was a tragedy that caused some to remain in their summer homes while the city was reconstructed. A number fell in love with the spirit of the area and elected to stay.

A railroad connection made it possible to commute to their businesses in Chicago. So it was that Lake Geneva grew into one of Wisconsin's most popular and posh vacation meccas.

This year, the Governor's Conference on Tourism made Grand Geneva its headquarters from March 2-4.

Here, members of the travel and hospitality industry converged to share strategies on how to better serve their constituents.

Late Monday afternoon, over 80 booths were set up to showcase a diverse array of Wisconsin businesses and service-oriented organizations.

Their common goal is one of enhancing tourism in our state. One of the big themes this year is an environmental awareness.

Travel Green Wisconsin is "a voluntary program that reviews, certifies and recognizes tourism businesses and organizations that have made a commitment to continuously improve their operations in order to reduce their environmental impact."

They provide opportunities for customers to become educated in ways to conserve resources and increase efficiencies that improve profits. Eye-catching posters and a prominent logo can identify a company as one that is making an effort to preserve our natural heritage.

Rounding one of the aisles, I was pleasantly surprised to finally meet a duo I have corresponded with for years, Dan Small and Judy Nugent.

Dan is the familiar host of television's Outdoor Wisconsin. They shared with me their pictures of upcoming shows which will feature ice fishing for lake trout on Geneva Lake, as well as Delavan Lake.

Judy showed me a nice 16-pound laker she had taken a few weeks earlier jigging through the ice with guide John Reddy. Both of these lakes are magnets for anglers and both contain healthy populations of fish. Some of the more interesting jaunts into these lakes can be taken with guides who go out and fish at night.

The diversity of the many organizations and industries was quite a treat to explore. Silent Sports is a publication allowing for local publicity through articles on cross- country skiing, hiking, biking and kayaking.

A Milwaukee artisan distillery has just come out with its own gin incorporating some of the usual ingredients as well as Wisconsin-grown ginseng.

An organization known as Lighten Up Wisconsin works with teams from workplaces throughout the state, jump-starting healthy eating and exercise habits.

Then, word got out that a micro-brewery was giving away free beer, in big glasses too. That got the attention of more than a few folks, including a certain writer! Yes, it seems Wisconsin will continue to be a desirable destination for tourists in the coming years. I spent much of my youth vacationing there with my family, and am now fortunate enough to live here.

How do I know the trend will continue? I just got back from Chicago to have my taxes done and I could barely stand the congestion, car-eating potholes, black snow, and just about everything else down there. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I cross that state line into Genoa City.

I can tell I am not alone in these feelings. Living near Route 12, I see the solid line of cars pouring into our state every Friday and the same bumper-to-bumper mess heading south every Sunday afternoon.

The author lives in Genoa City. Contact him through his Web site at www.aa-taxidermy.com.

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