Jamestown Tourism is focusing in on a group that often gets lost in the shuffle this upcoming tourism season.
"We often follow the lead of North Dakota Tourism," said Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism. "What the state is doing is they have really stopped doing any of their national media campaigns. What they've done is taken 2020 and really turned it into a local campaign. It's a good time, it's a really good strategy. If and when this all becomes possible, those day trips and local visitation pieces are going to be the best not only for our state but for our travelers."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic which infiltrated state lines first on March 11, the tourism office has seen the majority of events and other social gatherings canceled. As of April 21, there have been 627 positive cases and 13 deaths in the state of North Dakota. Stutsman County saw its first positive case of the virus last week and has since climbed to three cases. Swedlund said the global pandemic is not the only thing that has thrown a wrench in the works.
"It has just been a frustrating year," Swedlund said. "It's just a lot of frustration for really well-laid plans that we don't know at all if they will execute. It could be one of the most brilliant times to execute something ... or they could be sitting up there to open. We've had a lot of canceled events due to weather and just a lot of things that haven't lined up well."
The Jamestown Civic Center was one of the venues to follow North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum's closure of all entertainment venues directives. The order closed the doors until further notice. Civic Center Director Pam Fosse said there have been 34 event days canceled since March 19. Civic Center staff had no events scheduled for the last part of April or the beginning of May.
"Once the restrictions are lifted hopefully we can begin to rebook a lot of these events that have been postponed and get back into some level of normalcy," Fosse said.
It may be a level of normalcy but it is never dull in the tourism office, according to Swedlund.
"I told our board of directors - that's the nature of our business," Swedlund said. "Everything we do is a risk. It's not easy. If it were easy it would just happen, so the things we work to implement and the things we work to grow are hard. That's our job to take on the difficult and uncertain tasks of a lot of projects that are not easy."
Swedlund said that the agency's big project, still slated to start in May, is an inventory of Frontier Village. Another project in the works is a Civil War camping experience where tents built to resemble tents of the era and area would be used. This summer a new trail on the Jamestown Reservoir island is scheduled to open. Swedlund said the trail, with steep grades, is ideal for biking and taking in the views.
"We don't know a lot yet but there are a lot of really fun things developing," Swedlund said. "I think that we have to keep working because when the time comes and there is a safe start and we understand what the rules are for that beginning we'll have to make those adjustments. People are going to be ready. They are going to be ready to get out and enjoy and we need to be ready for them."
Swedlund stressed that tourism in the Jamestown area is not limited to the Frontier Village and National Buffalo Museum. While home to the largest bison statue in the world, Swedlund said outdoor recreational facilities like bike trails, the Talking Trail and Jamestown Reservoir, along with events held in town, are all considered part of the agency. Right now in the season of "downtime'' the executive director is working with almost every facet of tourism.
"Right now I could probably rattle off 20 projects that we are working on," Swedlund said. "We're working with the downtown road diet to put some granite inline markers in there that tell the history of the people or places of our downtown area. We are helping Parks and Rec build a water trail along the James River from Nickeus Park to Klaus Park.
"We have some Frontier Village projects up here in terms of buildings that need to be painted and cleaned up. We are also revamping our website and that sort of stuff. Some (projects) sound really fun, some of them aren't very fun but they just need to be done."
Swedlund said the tourism campaign, geared toward North Dakotans, will possibly help strengthen Jamestown Tourism in the future.
"I don't think it is realistic in the near future (to) inspire trips from across the world or even across the nation so I think they have been really smart in that reinvestment," Swedlund said of the state tourism department's approach. "I think what we will do is follow suit and try to insert messages into those campaigns that fit what we have to offer here in Jamestown."