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||Photo: Bradley Carroll
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin gives remarks during FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate’s visit to meet with local officials and survey damages from Hurricane Irene.
By David Hoekman
Yikes, it’s Aug. 31 already. I can’t believe it. The summer is very nearly over.
Soon the leaf-peeper tours will be out and about.
For today’s blog, I thought about returning to U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks about travel agents. I commented on this Aug. 24.
But then I saw Arnie Weissmann at Travel Weekly provided his usual common-sense commentary on this topic.
Yes, time to move on to something else.
I thought momentarily about continuing with the presidential theme by writing about the new $1.1 million Prevost coach the U.S. Secret Service purchased for presidential bus tours and campaign trips.
The bus generated a lot of media attention when Obama used it on that swing through three Midwestern states. You remember, when he talked about jobs and travel agents.
Actually, the Secret Service bought two of the coaches, one for the president and the other for the eventual Republican presidential nominee.
And while it’s an interesting motor vehicle, it’s one very few of us will actually ride in.
I’m moving on.
Hurricane Irene prowled up the Eastern Seaboard and disrupted life — and travel — for millions of people over the weekend.
Thankfully, Hurricane Irene was not a category 3 or category 4 storm. By the way, why do meteorological types talk about cat 3 or cat 4 storms as if they were felines?
Still, Irene caused a lot of damage and led to loss of life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones.
New Jersey and North Carolina got hit pretty hard.
Vermont and upstate New York seem to be suffering the most because of flooding from the storm. But Vermonters and New Yorkers are tough folks, and they’ll make it.
I especially liked what Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate wrote in his blog today:
“People often think of FEMA when it comes to disasters, but as I saw firsthand in Vermont, the team was working together to respond at all levels — the federal family, state, tribal and local government, the faith-based and non-profit community, and especially the public, as neighbors across Vermont have reached out to help each other,” he wrote.
It may be hard to get to a few places in Vermont for this fall’s foliage season, but I predict the season will be spectacular as usual. I hope before people cancel their Vermont foliage trips, they will pick up the phone and call the attractions and accommodations to find out the situation for themselves. Chances are by then the places will be ready for visitors.
If they’re not, you may have to alter your plans a bit. But changing things up can lead to unexpected surprises. And those in the Vermont tourism industry will certainly appreciate the business.
It’s tempting to cancel. But this is one time where you don’t want to move on. Think of it as your way of helping out the Green Mountain State.
||Image courtesy of Google Maps
Welcome to the literal and metaphysical intersection of my personal and work lives.
By Aaron Ogg
When I manage to leave my house for work by 7:40 a.m., I usually beat the Amtrak train that whizzes along the tracks near my office right around 8:15 a.m.
If not, no big deal; it only adds about 30 seconds to my drive. Plus, there is something comforting about hearing its deep clangy rumble and thinking about the people aboard making their way to Chicago — chatting, reading, texting, spacing out, sipping coffee.
On some days, I’m grateful my ride is coming to an end while theirs has just begun. On others, I wish I had another few hours just to drive. To think.
On Sept. 17, I’ll get the ride, sans the quiet contemplation. I’m taking the Pere Marquette from Grand Rapids to Chicago with a handful of buddies for my best friend’s bachelor party. We figured it would be nice to let someone else do the driving as we speak in movie quotes, talk about our significant others and do whatever else guys supposedly do when traveling in a “pack.”
We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do when we get there, and I’d like to keep it that way. My best Chicago trips have been the ones left almost if not entirely unplanned. I feel like I know the city well enough by now to leave much of my experience up to serendipity.
||Photo: Dena Marrison, the most wonderful woman alive
I prevent Cloud Gate, a massive piece of public art in Chicago's Millennium Park, from crushing several people and probably the rest of the world in 2009. You're welcome.
This will be something like a small group tour by feel. Unstructured. Uninhibited. And, unfortunately, undiscounted.
That’s all fine for a jaunt such as this. The more flexible, the better. I don’t want to think about what we’re doing in an hour. I want to concentrate on the sun (hopefully) overhead and the beer (probably) in front of me.
Of course, this laissez-faire approach probably isn’t the most feasible when it comes to guiding a motorcoach full of seniors. It’s a safe bet that some will expect structure, orderliness and punctuality.
Fortunately, those words and the word “fun” needn’t be mutually exclusive. There are ways to keep it loose while still adhering to a schedule or core game plan. It seems almost paradoxical, therefore, that one of the keys of maintaining flexibility is mastering every detail.
Having a Plan B is great, but having a Plan Z (not to be confused with Plan Zzz) is better. In other words, go ahead and let some stuff happen as it may, but limit the surprise factor. Recognize it as one in a long list of possibilities rather than allowing it to catch you off guard.
For the tour operator, that comes from knowing your turf inside and out. There is, after all, a difference between control and command. One has all the wiggle room in the world, the other has none.
I know where our train is taking us, and I’m sure I won’t be envious of the guy waiting for us to pass on his way to work (on a Saturday, blech!). That’s because I know I’m going to have a good time.
Why? Because I know Chicago.
Weimar's onion festival has been a tradition for more than 350 years.
By Amanda Black
Perhaps this is a sign. I just finished proofing an upcoming article on Germany for our upcoming student magazine and the first thing I read on my e-mail had this intriguing title: “Beer and onions in [Germany’s] LutherCountry.”
Martin Luther, the reformer, figured prominently in Managing Editor Dave Hoekman’s story about conflict and resolution in Germany, so this really caught my attention. Since it’s Monday and blog time, I think this is the perfect topic.
I was going to write about naturist travel (aka nudists), an overlooked niche in the travel industry, but that will be another topic for another Monday. (By the way, I am not a nude traveler, but I keep hearing people who embrace the naturist lifestyle travel in groups).
On to LutherCountry. Where’s LutherCountry?
I’m wondering that too. LutherCountry is in Germany, about halfway between Berlin and Frankfurt. It includes the places where he lived, preached and generally shook up the status quo, including Erfurt, Schmalkalden and Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
This fall, LutherCountry is hosting several festivals; this topic makes this blog completely appropriate for the World Culinary Tour I like to write about every Monday.
We know that Luther was a fan of beer, especially his wife’s homemade brew, but I’m sure he ate a lot of onions along the way. And we would have eaten off pottery plates and used ceramic mugs, so all three of these festivals would have been perfect for Luther.
September 24 and 25, Lutherstadt Wittenberg is hosting the 19th annual Pottery and Markets, part of the Summer of Culture celebration. Artisan potters from Germany and Hungary will enter a juried art contest, and visitors can watch them work and make their own mini masterpieces. Events include a ceremonial opening hosted by the mayor and a Sunday morning church service for the potters.
In Erfurt, October 1 to 16 will bring the Oktoberfest to the capital of the state of Thuringia and the town’s vast medieval Cathedral Square. To kick off the festivities, the city’s Lord Mayor arrives in the traditional manner — in a horse-drawn carriage. Then he “taps” the first barrel. As well as beer tents, there will be musicians, street entertainers, nightly live music and fairground-style rides.
Thuringia’s largest festival is slated for Oct. 7 to 9 in Weimar. The annual Onion Market (Weimarer Zwiebelmarkt) has been a Weimar event since 1653, so this year’s is the 358th celebration! Held over three days, there is just one theme: onions. Some 500 stalls sell everything from braids of onions to arts and crafts themed on onions. Delicious onion-based dishes include soups, breads and the famous onion tart (check out the recipe below). Beer gardens, fairground attractions, live music, a Ferris wheel and more than 100 stage performances add to the fun.
Lutherstadt Wittenberg will host the 19th annual Pottery and Markets this September.
And if you feel guilty about attending these events, just think of Luther, who wrote:
“It’s better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church.”
Visit-Luther.com shares this traditional recipe for a Weimar Onion Tart. Enjoy!
1 pound flour
½ pint milk
1 ½ ounces yeast
Pinch of salt, sugar
5 tablespoons of oil
2 pounds of onions
4 tablespoons of oil
1 pint sour cream
½ pint milk
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Salt, pepper to taste
To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the flour, sugar, salt, eggs and oil. Knead well. Cover and leave to stand for about an hour.
Slice the onions into fine rings. Fry the onions in hot oil, but don't let them turn brown. Allow to cool down.
Roll out the pastry base on a greased baking tray, push up the edges, pierce a few times with a fork and leave to stand for about five minutes. Spread the onions on the pastry.
Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour them over the onions.
Bake the tart in the oven at 375°F for 45 minutes. Serve warm.
For more information about the festivals and LutherCountry as a whole, check out www.visit-luther.com.
||Photo: Aaron Ogg
A beanie alligator from Seminole County CVB, a travel mug from Virginia Tourism Corp. and a Yoda figurine from the Planet Hoth CVB. Oops, never mind, that's actually a Happy Meal toy. How did that get in there?
By Aaron Ogg
Here at Group Tour Media, we receive a lot of promotional materials in the mail from CVBs, DMOs, attractions and event organizers across North America.
As such, it can be difficult to capture our interest. Our throw-away-every-white-or-manila-envelope rule seems to be an effective way to save time sorting mail.
I’m kidding. However, we do tend to appreciate it when folks put in a little extra effort to make their media kits shine.
We’d love to hear about the burgeoning film scene in your city or town. And of course we’ll read whatever you send regardless of the package you mail it in. But you gotta admit, a film can pops a lot more than yet another plain white envelope.
Of course, some of this stuff might be cost-prohibitive, and we get that. In an era of shrinking if not disappearing tourism department budgets, not everyone has the luxury to shower us media types with schwag. That’s OK. There are ways to be creative on the cheap.
There’s no reason to go overboard, either — unless someone wants to send me one of these. That would be fine.
The Seminole County CVB didn’t send me a new car, but they did send me a cute little beanie alligator that has a new home on my desk. I’ve named him Mick Rawrtinez, a tribute to GTM Editor Rick Martinez.
When Rick’s attending trade shows and conferences, most recently the 2011 Student Youth Travel Association (SYTA) Annual Conference in New York City, Mick keeps me on task. Thanks, Mick.
||Photo: Aaron Ogg
This is no ordinary can of SPAM. It contains no meat, and it wants your money.
Amanda Black, senior staff writer, has gotten some clever items, too. She received a roll of duct tape on a stick made to resemble a lollypop, courtesy of the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival in Avon, Ohio.
“I still use the duct tape with a hole drilled in it,” Amanda said.
Dave Hoekman, GTM managing editor, is rather fond of the SPAM bank he got from the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minn. At first glance, it appears to be a traditional can of that wonderfully versatile meat. However, further inspection reveals a slit at the top, perfect for depositing coins, arcade tokens, pickle slices or whatever.
Some other neat stuff in my collection: The 1994 film Wyatt Earp from the Dodge City CVB, car-shaped mints from the Detroit CVB and a travel mug from the Virginia Tourism Corp. with an image of Natural Bridge on it (Remember: nothing wrong with practical. I enjoy coffee.).
Hats off to all who know who they are, what they do and how best to promote it.
By David Hoekman
I’m guessing that from now on, U.S. President Barack Obama will think twice before talking about travel agents.
Or maybe not.
You may not have heard about this. Last week the president was speaking at a town hall meeting in Atkinson, Ill.
After his talk, Obama took some questions from the audience. A college student asked what majors were good for students to study.
Here’s what the president said on Aug. 17 (this comes from the White House website):
“Look, the — you’re already ahead of the curve because what you understand is that the economy is changing, and the days when just because you’re willing to work hard, you could automatically find a job — those days are over. The truth of the matter is, is that everything requires an education. I don’t have to tell the farmers here. You guys are looking at GPS and have all kinds of equipment; you’re studying markets around the world. And it is a complicated piece of business that you’re engaged in. It’s not just a matter of going out with a plow in a field.
“And that’s happened to every industry. When I go into factories these days, what’s amazing is how clean and how quiet they are, because what used to take 1,000 folks to do now only takes 100 folks to do. And one of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that — when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online? A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated. And that means us investing in our kids’ education — nothing’s more important. Nothing is more important. (Applause.)”
As I say, you may have missed that reference to travel agents, given all that is going on the world. But those in the travel industry certainly did not.
And they pushed back. Politely.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) came out with a news release the next day.
“While the President’s intention surely was not to disparage the travel agency industry, his statement makes clear the need for greater education and understanding of the important role travel agents play in today’s travel marketplace,” said ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar. “ASTA has communicated with the President to ensure he understands the contribution travel agent make to the economy.”
In a letter ASTA informed the president that today, the U.S. travel agency industry “is comprised of nearly 10,000 U.S.-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations. We have an annual payroll of $6.3 billion. Most importantly, our businesses produce full-time employment for more than 120,000 U.S. taxpayers.”
ASTA said the U.S. travel agency industry:
•processes more than $146 billion in annual travel sales, accounting for more than 50 percent of all travel sold. This includes the processing of more than 50 percent of all airline tickets, more than 79 percent of tours and more than 78 percent of all cruises.
•helps more than 144 million travelers get where they want to go each year.
Then on Aug. 19, one of the biggest U.S. travel companies came out with a release rebutting the president’s remarks.
Travel Leaders Group challenged Obama’s assertion that the travel agency community has been replaced by online players.
Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben pointed to the $16.62 billion in annual sales volume in 2010 — more than Orbitz, Travelocity or Priceline — through its thousands of wholly-owned, franchised and affiliated agencies as proof that a significant percentage of the American traveling public continues to prefer the expertise and knowledge offered by real-live travel agents versus the Internet.
Liben said many components of travel may have become commoditized. But as he also mentioned, you can’t commoditize the human touch.
“Our more than 30,000 travel agent experts are proud taxpaying professionals who offer what the Internet can never replicate: providing the human touch to the traveling public through exceptional hands-on care, all while saving them time and, yes, money. It’s no wonder our business is growing and thriving,” Liben said in a statement.
So who is right? Well, I think both the president and the travel industry.
The economy is changing, like Obama said, and that includes the travel industry. There are not as many travel agencies as there used to be and certainly not as many travel agency brick-and-mortar offices.
But travel agents are not going away any time soon.
I thought Gonchar made a good point. “The travel industry remains a business very much built on personal relationships,” he said in his statement. “Americans have the desire to travel, and they continue to turn to experienced travel agents to make these dream vacations a reality.”
When it comes to the complexities of a tour or a cruise, most travelers want someone else to handle the details. I know I do.
But then, I like dealing with bank tellers.
||Blue Bunny® Ice Cream
Blue Bunny Ice Cream moved into new space in downtown LeMars, Iowa.
By Amanda Black
Late summer has arrived here in Michigan. A few leaves are starting to turn and it was chilly enough to put on the heater in my car this morning. But it’s still summer — the calendar reads August, the sun is blazing bright and the gardens are in full bloom.
Yesterday, I attended a birthday party for an old friend (in both senses of the word) and two sweet little twins were there. It was the first time either them has eaten an ice cream cone. It’s amazing how much mess two little toddlers can make, but they reminded me of the pure joy of sitting on a front step on a sunny day and eating ice cream.
So in honor of Nolan’s and Delaney’s first ice cream cone, I thought the Global Culinary Tour could focus on ice cream-related attractions. I’ve been working on the list, and there are a lot of them! Share your favorites at www.facebook.com/grouptourmagazine.
Of course the mother (maybe it should be father) of all ice cream attractions is Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury, Vt. As the tour progresses, you’ll learn how the duo turned a $5 correspondence course, a old gas station and some moxie into an ice cream empire. It would be cruel to end this tour without samples — but don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of chances to nosh on this premium ice cream while you’re enjoying the Vermont countryside scenery.
One of the newest ice cream attractions has arrived in Lancaster, Pa. The Turkey Hill Experience opened earlier this summer in a transformed silk mill. A host of interactive exhibits include the chance to create your own ice flavor. A visit to the Creamery in an excellent way to enjoy the best Turkey Hill ice cream, turned into cones, sundaes and shakes.
Velvet Ice Cream, based in Utica, Ohio, has been a Midwest tradition since 1914. Perhaps it’s no accident that it’s located in Licking County. Every year, more than 150,000 people visit the restored grist mill home to a ice cream production viewing gallery, a visitor’s center and 19th century-style ice cream parlor.
Blue Bunny, one of the most popular ice cream brands in the U.S., has opened a new visitor attraction in downtown LeMars, Iowa. After 10 years of successful tours, the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor and Museum moved into new digs. Open since June 15, 2011, Blue Bunny’s home is an ice cream lover’s dream. Exhibits explains how LeMars became the Ice Cream Capital of the World.
||Blue Bunny® Ice Cream
Moving west, Blue Bell Creameries welcomes visitors to its creameries in Brenham, Texas, Broken Arrow, Okla., and Sylacauga, Ala. All three of the production facilities offer guided tours with a full serving of premium Blue Bell Ice Cream at the end.
Because I enjoy pretentious food so much, I had to check for artisan-made ice cream experiences. Sweet Republic in Scottsdale, Ariz., creates sweet treats from scratch, including the ice cream, toppings and waffle cones. Flavors include honey blue cheese, Madagascar Vanilla and Early Gray tea. Each day features 24 flavors of ice cream, yogurt and sherbets designed to delight.
||The Adventure Tourism Development Index ranks destinations.
By David Hoekman
Right at the beginning, I need to state I am not an adventure tourism participant.
Oh, I’ve done a little sea kayaking and gone down some ziplines. I’ve done indoor skydiving. I’ve hiked.
But I couldn’t talk myself into bungee jumping. And forget about rock climbing or rafting down a rapids-filled river.
It’s just not my cup of tea.
Nevertheless, the business of tourism fascinates me, and it appears the business of adventure tourism is alive and well.
Exhibit number one: international adventure tourism is an $89 billion industry.
Exhibit number two: the Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI).
The index was referenced last month in a study published by George Washington University, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and Vital Wave Consulting.
According to the study, Israel, the Slovak Republic and Chile were among the top adventure tourism destinations for 2010.
The ATDI, now in its third year, offers a ranking of countries based on principles of sustainable adventure tourism. The ranking is calculated through a combination of expert survey data and quantitative data gathered from international indices.
“When we first developed the technical method for scoring countries in 2008, we didn’t know how it would be received,” said Kristin Lamoureux, visiting assistant professor of tourism and hospitality management, in a news release. “Three years later, countries are using the index to argue for sustainable tourism over less favorable types of tourism development.”
The top 10 developed and developing countries:
Developed Countries: Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Austria.
Developing Countries: Israel, Slovak Republic, Chile, Estonia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Jordan, Romania and Latvia.
“The ATDI ranks countries based on key touristic value pillars including sustainable development policy and entrepreneurship, putting importance on these issues which we now know are crucial not only for communities and the environment but also for business success,” said Christina Heyniger of Vital Wave Consulting.
Heyniger originated the concept of the index and the principles on which it is based.
“Looking at this year’s rankings we see Eastern European countries again dominating the emerging-market rankings, and also the appearance of Canada in the top 10 for developed countries,” she said.
Countries were ranked by 10 pillars organized into three factors:
Safe and welcoming: sustainable development, safety, natural resources and health
Adventure: entrepreneurship and adventure activity resources
Readiness: humanitarian, infrastructure, cultural resources and image
The news release said the scores are not a reflection of a country’s current popularity or visitation numbers for adventure travel, although in some cases a country’s ranking does correlate with those factors.
After reading the release, I wondered why the U.S. didn’t make the top 10 list.
The report, which can be downloaded at http://www.adventureindex.travel/downloads.htm gives this answer:
“It may come as a surprise that a country so rich in natural resources and adventure activities ranks 21st overall, below Belgium and Denmark. The U.S. score suffers in the ‘health’ and ‘humanitarian’ pillars. The country has fewer physicians and beds per 10,000 people than other developed countries. It is worth noting here that the ATDI does not measure quality of health services, rather the index uses the hard data available from the World Health Organization or from the country itself. The U.S. humanitarian score is also low, indicating a low density and presence of NGOs. So, although in 2010 the U.S. gained 13 points in the ‘Readiness’ category, its other scores were stable year over year and overall, it underperformed compared to other developed nations.”
Reaction to rankings like these ranges from full-throttle damnation to raised eyebrows.
My takeaway is that adventure tourism is gaining strength.
||Please don't judge me by my plate alone.
By Aaron Ogg
I love groups.
Yes, I am being paid to say that.
But I mean it for reasons other than the fact that they allow me to have a job doing what I do.
Here’s a practical one: When 40 to 50 visitors file into a single motorcoach and travel to my city or neighborhood, that means fewer motorists puttering around with no clue where they’re going.
I’m not singling anyone out. If you happen to live in Seattle and someone were to drop my car and me in the middle of the city with a map and list of destinations, you’d hate me. You might look at my license plate and curse me for a dumb tourist as I add five minutes to your afternoon commute, thereby making your daughter late for her dance recital. But, FYI: Your honking isn’t helping.
Maybe you’d be more sympathetic if I put a Student Driver sign on the top of my car. Maybe not.
Driving around an unfamiliar city can be stressful. But how often do I attempt to put myself in a tourist’s shoes when I’m running five minutes late for an appointment? Not very.
Today I’ve been thinking about how my attitudes toward tourism have changed.
When I was 10 years old, tourism made me think of long lines at the ice cream shop.
At 20, it was less space to spread our blankets at the beach.
As I approach 30 over the next couple of months, my concept has, for lack of a better term, matured. I see it as a major revenue stream for my city and region, an economic engine that drives growth and investment. The people who come and see us largely shape our identity.
Yes, confused out-of-state drivers still annoy me from time to time, but I’m working on that. Maybe by 40 …
In the meantime, I can be thankful for groups, which often are shepherded around by someone with a chauffeur’s license and at least a fundamental knowledge of the area.
So, to every out-of-state driver I’ve cursed just because they were disoriented: I’m sorry. Please don’t judge us by, well, me. Come back real soon, ok? Maybe consider joining up with a group and saving yourself some stress. Or if that’s not your thing, you could always buy a Garmin. Just a suggestion.
||Door County Visitor Bureau
It's cherry time in Door County, Wisconsin.
Hello, Amanda here. It’s been a while since my last culinary themed blog, so it’s time to bring back the Global Culinary Tour. This week, I’d like to focus on one of the most wonderful parts of mid- to late-summer: cherries.
These wonderful red fruits are in abundant supply right now in the northern reaches of the United States, including my home base of Michigan. The crop is also plentiful in northern Wisconsin and Washington state, among other places.
A growing body of science reveals tart cherries have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, when compared to other fruits. Emerging evidence seems to indicate that cherry consumption may ease the pain of arthritis and gout, as well as reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to help regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, aid with jet lag, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process. To find out more, visit Wisconsin Red Cherry Growers at http://www.wisconsincherries.org.
The cherry harvest is a little late this year in Wisconsin’s Door County, so that gives you more time to enjoy the season. Find out more, naturally, at www.doorcounty.com.
Cherries are the main crop at this northern Wisconsin county, with some 8.5 million pounds expected this season. The cherries are ripe for the picking at more than a dozen orchards, but u-pick farms are just one small part of the cherry celebrations.
The White Gull Inn serves cherry stuffed French toast. This favorite dish, fresh egg bread layered with Wisconsin cream cheese and Door County tart cherries, topped with genuine maple syrup was named “America’s Best Breakfast” by Good Morning America.
With a visit to the Door County wine trail, visitors can sip locally made cherry wines. Cherry wheat beer is on tap at the Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor.
||Door County Visitor Bureau
Summer brings cherries!
Through Aug. 26, the American Folklore Theatre is bringing “Bing! The Cherry Musical” to the stage. “Bing!” celebrates Door County’s summer season as it follows a family’s journey on their cherry orchard. Make sure to arrive early and participate in the cherry pit spit contest, hosted by Lautenbach's Orchard Country Winery & Market.
I’d love to hear your ideas about your favorite cherry destinations. Let’s get the conversation going at www.facebook.com/grouptourmagazine.
And what to do with those extra cherries? The Food Channel’s FoodWire had this great recipe for a classic Manhattan, with a cherry garnish.
1 ounce vermouth
2 1/5 ounces bourbon
2 dashes angostura bitters
2 fresh cherries
Fill a short glass 2/3 full with ice.
In a cocktail shaker combine vermouth, bourbon and bitters.
Shake well until mixed and chilled.
Pour mixture into the glass.
Squeeze juice from on cherry into cocktail.
Garnish with the other cherry.
You’ll still have plenty left over…so find out more great cherry recipes (plenty without alcohol) at http://www.foodchannel.com.
||Mark Twain was anti-fluff.
By Aaron Ogg
What do the following words have in common: charming, elegant, fine, historic, picturesque, relaxing, rustic and scenic?
Answer: They’ve been rendered nearly meaningless by travel media and marketing.
Here is the definition of historic, according to Merriam-Webster: famous or important in history; having great and lasting importance; known or established in the past; dating from or preserved from a past time or culture.
Here is what historic usually means when you read it in a travel magazine: Old.
As writers, it’s our fault. Ruts are common when you’re in the word business. Certain adjectives appear as low-hanging fruit as we ponder how best to describe a particular attraction or destination, often times without ever having been there.
I’d like to say we always craft the most original way to convey the beauty of a mountain, or the thrill of a rollercoaster, or the plenitude of items at a gift shop.
Well, if you believe that, I have a historic Victorian home on a peaceful river in an elegant desert I’d like to sell you. You can also buy an exquisite, scaled–down model at our lovely gift barn.
Welcome to the ugly side of travel writing.
I’m guilty, too. Sometimes “picturesque waterfall” sounds better than simply “waterfall.” I make an attempt to cut out as many of these nothing words as possible, but they do slip through the cracks.
And don’t get me wrong; I’m not staging a boycott or petitioning to eliminate the overused from the English language. “Rustic” is a fine word. When someone uses it to describe lodgings, I think of minimal frills and luxury, maybe some woods, maybe no bathroom.
But when we’re talking about a backpacking adventure in the Yukon, I’d like to think rustic accommodations are implied.
Back to historic. George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens? Sure. An original 1920s outhouse? Nah.
So what do I propose as a solution to all this unforgivable dilution? Well, nothing simple.
Perhaps a good start is simply to make a conscious effort to use repeat offenders sparingly. A valuable instruction that most beginning writers hear is “show, don’t tell.” So what does that mean exactly? Deal in concrete details and concepts. Don’t simply say that a botanical garden smells and looks beautiful. What flowers make it that way? How well do they mingle?
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite historic authors, Mark Twain.
“As to the adjective: When in doubt, strike it out.”
What words or phrases put you to sleep?
||Daniel P. B. Smith
A modern-day Newfoundland dog
By Amanda Black
I’m a cat person, but I harbor a secret desire to own a Newfoundland dog. They’re big, yes, but big teddy bears. Sweet, trusting, and always up for a swim, these dogs are quite wonderful.
I’m not sure where this obsession started. I’ve only met one in person—one Christmas when I was in line to Santa Claus (at Petsmart). Okay, I did have my cat with me. Charlie just loved this big dog behind him in line…they seemed to bond, and this is a cat that will show any size creature he’s boss. And then I saw a documentary about these sturdy, slobbery water-loving dogs, and I’ve been in love ever since.
In the pantheon of famous dogs, perhaps none has more statues dedicated to him that Seaman, the Newfy who traveled with Lewis, Clark and the Corps of Discovery.
This past week, I wrote about the Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Iowa. One of its treasures is a giant bronze statue of the two explorers and their trusty dog Seaman that overlooks the Missouri River.
So it got me thinking about other tributes to this brave dog, purchased for $20.00 a year before the expedition began.
I found this cool biography at http://lewisandclarktrail.com/seaman.htm, and these words from the journal of Meriwether Lewis (complete with the original spelling):
April 22, 1805 : walking on shore this evening I met with a buffaloe calf which attached itself to me and continued to follow close at my heels untill I embarked and left it. It appeared allarmed at my dog which was probably the cause of it’s so readily attaching itself to me…
||Poor Charlie, he's not sure what to think of Santa Claus.
At look at his legacy
Lewis and Clark College, located in Portland, Ore., has adopted the Newfoundland as the mascot for their team, the Pioneers.
A monument of this famous Newfy stands guard over the Custom House in Cairo, Ill. His final resting place is not known, but this monument is a fitting memorial to the trusting companion who followed the Corps of Discovery from St. Louis westward. There is some evidence that suggests he survived the entire trip and returned happily to St. Louis.
Speaking of St. Louis, there’s a statue of Seaman and the two explorers along the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Charles, a St. Louis suburb. You’ll also have the chance to learn about the entire trip at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, best known as the home of the Gateway Arch.
In Jefferson City, Mo., a bronze statue of Seaman gazes up at the explorers — right in front of the Missouri Capitol.
Moving west, there are tributes to Seaman at high on a bluff in Kansas City, as well as at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Nebraska, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in North Dakota, Overlook Park in Great Falls, Montana, and the Fort Clatsop National Memorial on the beach in Oregon.
That dog sure got around!
Thanks for reading this blog post; I hope I didn’t lose you when I admitted that I take my cat to sit on Santa’s lap.
What dog-friendly attractions have you and Fido visited? Share your stories with us over at facebook.com/grouptourmagazine.
||Canton-Stark County CVB
The NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio prepares for its "Future 50" expansion project.
Now that the NFL owners and players have reached an agreement and the 2011 season appears to be a go, fans can breathe a sigh of relief. After all, what is a Sunday afternoon in the fall without football? For many, the threat of an NFL strike loomed larger than the latest financial fiasco our heroes on Wall Street have cooked up. It seems many people would rather live without their 401(k) than endure a season without football.
Luckily, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio has been diligently laboring to improve the face of football, rather than holding its fans hostage while it squabbles over money (I’m looking at you, NFL owners and Players’ Association). After all, what’s a few billion dollars between friends?
On Friday, Aug. 5, the groundbreaking ceremony will commence for the $27 million “Future 50” Expansion and Renovation Project. The expansion will be completed during the summer of 2013, coinciding with the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary celebration.
State and local representatives will join NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a host of NFL and Hall of Fame officials and alumni as they officially kick off the project. Hall of Famers such as Warren Moon, Willie Lanier and Dan Dierdorf will be on-hand today at 10 a.m. as the ceremony commences.
The expansion project will increase the size of the Hall of Fame from its current 85,000 sq. ft. to 118,000 sq. ft., including the new 10,000 sq. ft. Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center, named for the founder of the Buffalo Bills and one of the founding fathers of the NFL. Wilson’s foundation donated $2.5 million to the Hall of Fame for the renovation project.
“Ralph Wilson’s outstanding contributions to pro football over many decades are legendary,” stated Steve Perry, president/executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “His generous gift will greatly enhance our ability to preserve the Hall of Fame’s rapidly growing collection of historic documents and artifacts.”
The expansion project will also include a new main entrance and grand lobby with new displays, a 2,700 sq. ft. temporary exhibit space, a complete renovation of the main Rotunda building with new exhibits and 3,200 sq. ft. of new indoor event space.
The Museum Store will be expanded and a 9,000 sq. ft. administrative office wing will be added. A museum-quality environmental control system will be installed throughout the museum to facilitate better preservation of historical documents and artifacts. 37,000 sq. ft. of existing space will also be renovated.
With the expansion of Football's hallowed Hall, it is refreshing and reassuring to see that, in a time when the league’s creed seems to be “Every man for himself,” The Pro Football Hall of Fame remembers it fans.
||Photos: Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The view of Lake Michigan and the West Michigan coastline from the Empire Bluff Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Empire, Mich., is quite panoramic.
My two sons are camping with a few of their friends at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this week.
They are enjoying one last summer respite before returning to college for their studies (and working to help pay for those).
I wish I could be there with them.
Sleeping Bear and Michigan’s northwest Upper Peninsula along Lake Michigan hold special memories for our family, which has been visiting the locale off and on for years.
Sleeping Bear. Empire. Frankfort. Elberta. Traverse City. Arcadia. Interlochen. Glen Arbor.
They are all etched indelibly into my family’s collective consciousness with memories of group activities with relatives, friends and acquaintances from encampments in what us Michiganders from the southern Lower Peninsula call Up North.
||Photo: Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan offers some spectacular views.
That is why I found with great interest that the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is being built.
The new trail is officially being launched next week, with groundbreaking ceremonies in Glen Arbor at 11 a.m. Aug. 12.
The first phase is to be a five-mile stretch from Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb, which rises 130 feet above a nearby picnic area.
The trail's initial phase is expected to be completed by next year, according to a news release on the project posted by Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau's blog. When completely finished, the trail is to run 27 miles from Glen Arbor through the national lakeshore to Good Harbor Bay.
To me, Sleeping Bear is one of those places not to be missed.
The natural splendor it lends can be difficult to describe to folks who haven't been there. It's landscape and images are visceral, and should be enjoyed in person.
The reality is I’m jealous that I can’t be up there this week with my boys (ages 20 and 19). They’re making memories that I can only share with them when they get back.
||Scottsdale CVB produced this handy pamphlet.
By David Hoekman
Sometimes when I explain my occupation to people outside of the travel industry, I find myself slipping travel industry jargon into the conversation.
I know I shouldn’t. But it just slips out.
For example, I’ll say, “We work a lot with CVBs.”
“You work with who?”
Oh, right. The person doesn’t know that CVB stands for convention and visitors bureau.
I have a handy pamphlet put out by the Scottsdale CVB
that is titled “Tourism Terms Made Simple.” It defines a convention and visitors bureau as a nonprofit organization supported by bed taxes, government budget allocations, private memberships or a combination of these. A CVB promotes tourism, encourages groups to hold tours, meetings and trade shows in its city and assists groups before and during those tours, meetings and trade shows.
It seems to me the group tour portion of the tourism industry is especially full of acronyms. Tour operators can belong to associations such as NTA, ABA, UMA, OMCA and SYTA.
NTA is, well, NTA
, a trade association of tour operators. But it used to be known as the National Tour Association.
Most of the time, travel terminology is pretty straightforward. But I’ll never forget the first time I heard shoulder season. Huh?
It turns out that the shoulder season is the time between peak season and off-season when demand is average and the travel product will not produce the highest price but does not need a deep discount to generate traffic.
What’s a double-double?
A double-double is a hotel room for two with two double beds or two queen beds.
Tour operators may use the word pax as shorthand for passengers.
When booking airline flights, try to avoid double connections, which involves three flights.
What tourism terms are you scratching your head over?
||Joanne Bergenwall Aw
Hydrangea blooms come in pink, white, blue and purple.
By Amanda Black
This week, the Global Culinary Tour columns are going on a rest. Perhaps it’s the heat or the fact that prices are rising at the grocery store every time you turn around, but I’m not ready to talk about food.
But I do want to talk about another gift from Mother Nature—the hydrangea. These pink, blue, purple or white gems are in full bloom on bushes all around my home base of Holland, Mich. These wonderful blooms are my favorite, which makes early August my favorite time of the year (even if the weather is dreadful).
Every flower has a meaning, and the traditional meaning for the lovely hydrangea is friendship, understanding and devotion. How delightful! Its name comes from the Greek, which means “water vessel.” The color of the plants can be controlled by the PH level in the soil, which makes them rather unique among garden plants.
When these North American blooms were bright to England in the 1800s, gardeners went nuts. In fact, many of the hybrids loved today came from Europe.
||Grey Wulf, Sheffield, UK
These lovely blooms are part of a hydrangea bush.
Beauties in bloom
Since this is a blog about travel, I looked up a few botanical gardens known for their hydrangea blooms.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is home to a collection of these blooms, with the assistance of the Atlanta chapter of the American Hydrangea Society. More than 160 cultivars are on display, including one from Japan. Some of the flowers peak in late May and June, while the climbing hydrangeas look their best in July and August.
At 1.5 acres, the Kaufman Hydrangea Garden brings the beauty to the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia. More than 300 hydrangeas are assembled here. This garden is the only hydrangea garden certified an Official North American Collection by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta’s North American Plant Collection Consortium (NAPCC).
Hydrangeas also are planted all around the Missouri Botanical Garden, with a high concentration in the Children’s Garden and the Woodland Garden. Peak blooms at this St. Louis natural space happen June through September.
You’ll also find these flowery shrubs at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Memphis Botanic Garden.
In Hoover, Ala., the Aldridge Botanical Gardens also specialize in my favorite flower. This 30-acre woodland garden features hydrangeas along with a lovely lake and native Alabama plants.
What are your favorite flowers and place to see them? Share with us at http://www.facebook.com/grouptourmagazine.