The Northern Route to the Black Hills Association is promoting an alternate, slower route to the Black Hills, says chairman Robin Vallie.
NRTBHA hopes to reach its goal - increasing tourism funds for northeastern South Dakota and enhancing tourism and economic development statewide - with help from the state and you.
Traveling the triangle: Each year millions of visitors spend about $680 million in South Dakota, Vallie
Most of South Dakota's tourism focuses on the Black Hills, but NRTBHA hopes to change that.It aims to permanently increase tourism by 10 percent for the section of northern South Dakota along its proposed route.That means an approximately $6 million annual increase in tourism for that region, Vallie
The northern route concentrates on areas along U.S. Highway 12, but also includes communities farther out, like Britton and Redfield, Vallie
Attracting crowds: A vacation is meant to get people away from the hustle and bustle of regular life, Vallie
said."The northern route is the place to do that."
The group's slogans include "rush less to Rushmore" and "take the slower, friendlier route to the Black Hills."They were proposed by Danielle Aman of Aberdeen, Vallie
said Aberdeen is a logical stopping point - it's about halfway between the Twin Cities and Medora, N.D.
...Vallie, who is also president of Aberdeen's Coyote Publishing, said there will also be a Native American Education Cultural Museum consisting of miniature Native American villages.
said, will help enhance the visibility of Native American culture - an important aspect of tourism in South Dakota.
Education courses on Indian history and customs will soon be offered to the Native community in and around Aberdeen
, with classes being taught by Native Americans."This will be culture in its finest," Vallie
said.Students will then build entire museum-quality mini-villages depicting what they learned.
A tentative opening date for the museum is mid- to late June, Vallie
said.Villages will be built over the summer, and the hope is to have an entire museum of five to 10 villages by the end of summer, he
said.Eventually, tourists - especially kids - can participate in the village-making as an activity.Tourists will also be able to put up and take down real life-size teepees.
Outside of Aberdeen
, there are several other "hidden treasures" along the northern route that can't be seen from the interstate, Vallie
The idea is to get tourists who previously would have just headed straight to the Hills on I-90 to stop and stay an extra day because of the attractions along the slower route, Vallie
Direct marketing: To promote these places, NRTBHA will use a direct marketing approach, Vallie
said.This method is based on the idea that many travelers often travel to places where they have friends, relatives or business associates.South Dakotans will send names, addresses or e-mail addresses to be compiled into a database by NRTBHA.Information - coupons, tourist packages, event information - will be sent to these people.
NRTBHA also hopes to get Gov.Mike Rounds' office involved with this, Vallie
A letter from the governor will get people's attention, Vallie
said, but it will also be personalized for them with their friends' names.
The group plans to approach the governor's office to see if there is interest, Vallie
said.NRTBHA is optimistic, he
says, because its goals fit in with Gov.Rounds' plan to increase tourism in the state."We do take the governor at his word," Vallie said.
"We expect the governor's support in this."
Gaining support: Right now the group hasn't received any financial support, though it has applied for a $100,000 state Department of Tourism grant
expects to hear about that very soon.Aberdeen's
Blackstone development group has pledged to match the grant.
Things will move forward with or without help from the state, Vallie
said, but the state's help will make things easier and faster.Two to five years is a fair estimate with state help for the Northern Route to the Black Hills to kick into gear; without, it will likely take longer.Besides Blackstone, NRTBHA has gotten support from all areas, Vallie said, including Aberdeen Mayor Tom Hopper and the Aberdeen City Commission, state legislators, Fort Sisseton, Webster Mayor Mike Grosek, the Standing Rock Tribal Tourism Department and area chambers of commerce, including Aberdeen's.
"South Dakota is not an island," Vallie
said."We need surrounding states."Vallie
assured that the intent of this venture is not to draw tourism away from the Black Hills
, but to expand tourism in the entire state.NRTBHA hopes to bring new money into South Dakota and keep it here.
In fact, one of Vallie's personal goals is to get people to understand the economic importance of keeping money in South Dakota - every time a dollar is spent here, it generally circulates seven times, he
That means the $6 million increase in area tourism could actually translate into $42 million.
Though a volunteer group is spearheading the initial effort, Vallie hopes people along the whole route will get involved in some way.Brochures will be coming out very soon.
"There's strength in numbers," Vallie
said."Collectively we can all start building economic development throughout the state."