Annette Hayden Havre Daily News email@example.com
Close to 40 community members attended the Havre area Tourism Summit, sponsored by the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee, Tuesday at the TownHouse Inn. A dozen speakers provided exciting updates on area attractions and collaboratively work to capture more of today's tourism market. “Tourism is the second largest industry in the state,” said Chamber Director Debbie Vandeberg. “In 2002 the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research did a survey of 4,595 non-resident tourist coming through Hill County on U.S. Hwy. 2,” “The study found that the tourists spent $12,172,000 in our area that year. The top four places they spent that money was on dining, gas, lodging and retail purchases. Other studies in national tourism trends show that people are seeking out and spending more on cultural tourism. They want to come to places like Havre and the Hi- Line to experience our everyday life, our history and attractions. “This year at the Chamber, we continue to look at how we can capture more people’s interest and we can entice them to stay one more night. The way this happens is that every one of us becomes an ambassador. Our service people are our front line. The ones serving the meal, collecting money for gas, and checking people in and out of the hotel and in the retail shops are the ones we count on to get tourists to stay and play. And the best way to be able to promote our offerings is to experience Them for yourselves." In reaching out to tourism markets, the Tourism Committee is currently running advertisements in the Medicine Hat area to invite and encourage Canadians to spend vacation time on the Hi-Line. Tourism Summit Co-chairs Tiffany Olsen and Becky Miller introduced 13 representatives of area attractions, each of which took several minutes to share their expansions and coming events. Presentations included Fort Assinniboine, which in 1880 was hailed as state-of-the-art and one of the nation's largest forts with 104 buildings. Today, 15 structures remain to echo the stories of the soldiers who lived there and America's historic tales. "The fort was once called the majestic city on the prairies and has tremendous potential to draw tourism, and not just people on their way to Glacier Park," said representative Gary Wilson. "Fort Union in North Dakota contributes a couple million dollars annually to its local economy." Jay Pyette of the Montana Actors Theatre (MAT) and Co- Chair of the Northern Montana's Cultural and Visitor Center project introduced the theatre's intention to be a destination of its own. "We want to become a destination," he said. MAT is a company of 100 volunteers and the resident theatre on the MSU-Northern campus. The company will be presenting its 50th main stage presentation this fall. Pyette gave good reason why the community could count on the theatre to draw tourism. A man named Angus Bowmer in southern Oregon wanted to put on a play, Pyette said. He and three friends decided to form a theatre company. They had no money, like most companies starting, and they had no space, like most companies starting. The four men found others who wanted to perform and they staged Shakespeare's Julius Cesar for free to their audience in a town called Ashland, Ore. Today Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival pulls in 385,000 visitors each year who spend more than $38 million annually at the theatre. "Okay, so they have the Pacific Ocean and we have Fresno," Pyette said. "They live in a huge mountain range and we have the Bear Paw. But we are a group not only dedicated to the community but to becoming a destination theatre." He pointed out that Havre sits in between Big Fork and Fort Peck, where many travel each year to see plays. "We want them to come here to experience the theater and stay the night," he added. He encouraged locals who have not yet experienced the MAT to do so in support of the company. Other presentations were given by representatives of The Depot Museum in Rudyard, which continues to grow and will open its new antique car exhibit soon; The H. Earl Clack Museum which hosts dinosaur treasures and much more, the Buffalo Jump, which is a true archeological dig site transporting its visitors back in time; Havre Beneath the Streets and the Railroad Museum, both of which have several new additions, including model trains and businesses of yester-year; the Havre Art Association, which studies show is a major draw to today's tourist; the Northern Showcase concert association, which has partnered with other like associations across the state; the Blaine County Museum, offering voyages for the imagination; Havre-Hill County Historic Walking Tours, of visual beauty and cultural fascination; and the Hi-Line Concert Association, which brings world renowned musicians and performers to the Hi- Line. For more information about these offerings and attractions, contact the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.