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Swedlund receives state tourism award

Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism

Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism, received a Governor’s Travel and Tourism Award Wednesday at the 2019 Travel Industry Conference in Minot. The awards given annually recognize the passion and dedication of North Dakotans who have contributed to the growth of travel and tourism in North Dakota.

Swedlund received the Trailblazer Award for Tourism Innovation.

“The award is really more of a recognition of the Talking Trail project,” Swedlund said. “The nature of the award recognizes community collaboration.”

Mary Faith Young was the town historian. Each spring, she would bus in fourth graders from Jamestown schools and tell the stories that made their town special. When anyone wanted to know anything, they would call Young.

By the time Young passed away in 2016, she had schooled hundreds of amateur historians who continue to tell these stories. However, travelers had a hard time accessing the tales until Jamestown’s Talking Trails was created by Swedlund and Jamestown Tourism.

The project created a cost-effective opportunity to showcase the “whole” story of Jamestown.

The key to the project was the technology. Jamestown Tourism implemented a flexible and easy-to-use tool for visitors.

Since the project launched in September 2016 with over 70 recordings and creative signage, more than 7,000 people have listened to a story.

The project goal was to connect visitors with the history of Jamestown, but the result was something more. The community got involved and engaged in the project in new ways. The best part of this project was connecting the community to its own stories, making story-tellers ambassadors for tourism, tourism officials said.

The Talking Trail is more than protecting the stories of Jamestown, Swedlund said. It is about the people who now have a technology to share their love of storytelling with others, he said.

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