By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A long-awaited book promoting craft trails in north-central Montana will be available for sale at a workshop to teach business owners featured in the book how to sell their products and themselves.
The organizers of Hands of Harvest said they will have 2,500 copies of the guidebook they have printed for sale Sunday at the Hands of Harvest Roundup in Great Falls.
"We are very excited about that coming out and being able to release it to everyone who has had faith in what we are doing," said Wendy Wedum, a member of the Hands of Harvest steering committee.
The 80-page guidebook, designed and printed in Great Falls, lists more than 100 businesses on five trails in north-central Montana. It is modeled after the successful Handmade in America program started in North Carolina in 1993.
Cultural tourism focuses on attractions unique to an area. It features businesses that display an area's culture, like artists' studios, shops and galleries featuring local crafts; events like craft fairs and cultural activities like powwows, rodeos and cowboy poetry readings; and lodging with a local feel like bed and breakfasts, farms and ranches that offer rooms to tourists, hunting and fishing camps and historic hotels. The intent of cultural tourism is to market local businesses that would be interesting to tourists, rather than major tourist attractions like national parks.
Wedum, a Cascade County Extension agent and native of Choteau, said the people whose businesses are listed in the book will receive a free copy, and members can buy them at the wholesale price at the roundup to sell at their businesses.
She added that people already have asked for the book. It was featured in the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City on March 7, and a couple from Utah was looking to buy a copy when they were in Great Falls for the C.M. Russell Art Auction later that month.
The Salt Lake City newspaper wrote about the craft trails in its Sunday travel section after the Montana Department of Commerce featured Hands of Harvest in a news advisory it sends around the country and to some foreign outlets.
Interest is also growing elsewhere. A business in Browning has requested six copies, Wedum said, and a friend of hers from Germany has also asked for a copy.
She said the book also is offered on the Hands of Harvest Web site, and the group may offer it for sale in bookstores.
"We're working on that as we go along," Wedum said.
Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber office will have copies of the handbook for sale.
Vicki Warp, chair of the Hands of Harvest steering committee, said the organization hopes to continue raising interest in the program and adding new sites to the guidebook.
She and steering committee member Cindy Kittredge spoke about Hands of Harvest at the Governor's Conference on Tourism and Recreation April 5-6 in Billings. Warp said the presentation focused on the effort to create a tourist industry based on local craft and heritage businesses and was very well-received.
"People are responding to the whole thing. Hopefully we can get more and more people. That really is the goal," said Warp, a Havre native who works at the University of Montana in Missoula.
Wedum said Hands of Harvest has several goals for the book, including making the craft trails a destination point for tourists from out of state.
Initially, she said, the goal is to try to show people who are going to major destinations like Glacier National Park that there are other places to visit. People might find the guidebook for sale, or see the brochure that has already been distributed around the state and track down the book, which is advertised in the brochure, she said.
"Hopefully they will spend an extra day or two in the state and spend some money here," she said.
Another goal is to attract people from other parts of the state to north-central Montana.
"I think there's a lot of people on the west side who think there's nothing east of Rogers (Pass), and we beg to differ," Wedum said.
The book also is being advertised by Russell Country, an organization that promotes tourism in north-central Montana, on its Web site and in its magazine.
The brochures and books have been paid for with a $25-a-year fee from businesses listed in the book, and grants from Russell Country, Glacier Country, the Travel Montana promotion division of the state Department of Commerce, and a Montana Communities Foundation grant through the Department of Commerce.
The Hands of Harvest group has set up six presentations at the workshop Sunday: A description of a proposal from the Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology to offer a two-year degree in Western crafts telling how to combine art and entrepreneurship; how to welcome customers to businesses on the Hands of Harvest trails; how to effectively display craft work; using effective graphics and photographs to publicize businesses and products; how to tell the story of the artist to sell art; how to arrive at a fair price for craft pieces.
Registration for the roundup, at the High Plains Heritage Center at 422 Second St. S., starts at 11 a.m. and costs $15. The workshops start at 1 p.m.
Wedum said if people want lunch, which starts at noon, they need to call High Plains Heritage Center director Cindy Kittredge at (406) 452-3462 and make a reservation.
On the Net: Hands of Harvest: www.handsofharvest.org
Handmade in America: www.handmadeinamerica.org/