Tourism Based on Local Strengths for Southeast Colorado

Community Representatives at Tourism Workshop: Brad Semmens, Jillane Hixson, John Marrin, Gene Millbrand

Instead of attracting visitors to Disneyland, a new tourism destination for this region might be called Farmland or Rangeland.

Heritage tourism and Agri-tourism has shown an increase in interested visitors to Colorado over the past five years according to Judy Walden of the Walden Mills Group, speaking at a CTO workshop in Lamar this past Tuesday, November 6. The state Colorado Tourism Office has noted a climb in the number of persons interested in viewing life on the farm or ranch. “The Colorado Tourism Office is better informed now than five years ago to handle the increase in people interested in this type of venture,” she told the crowd gathered at the Home-Ec building at the Prowers County Fairgrounds. “We’re starting to see a definite economic gain associated with these kinds of activities,” she explained.

Judy Walden of The Walden Group

Walden was one of several speakers who outlined the basics of partnering with established organizations to heighten awareness of heritage and agri-tourism in southeast Colorado and to capitalize and develop existing opportunities for increased tourist interest.

Kelli Hepler Discusses Tourism Potential for Small Producers

Kelli Hepler, representing Delta County tourism, said there are ample opportunities to attract a new set of tourists who appreciate new scenarios. Echoing comments from Walden, Kepler said the newer type of tourist attracted to this venue wants an experience. “They are smarter, more traveled and looking for genuine authenticity,” she said. Kepler said there are some common breakdowns of interest, ranging from nostalgia, to trendy type visitors, nature lovers, lifestyle get-aways and culinary interests associated agri-tourism. “These groups of people want to view heirlooms or even farm equipment from 50 to 100 years ago and see how it functioned.” She added that ‘trendies’ will go for wine tasting or cheese making displays and samples, while nature lovers may want to fish or go birding. Some tourists will want to purchase food from a farmer’s market or roadside stands and dine on it that night at a restaurant or bed and breakfast designed to accommodate that feature. Referencing the movie, “City Slickers”, Kepler said there are cowgirl get-aways where a gathering will spend a weekend at a ranch and purchase boutique-type clothing for just those two days.

She added that community support and partnerships with existing local organizations such as a college, tourist groups, economic development directors and marketing projects are crucial to a successful venture. Kepler added that a good communication system is also needed to spread the word about a function or location. “You can’t overlook social media or the internet as a means of person to person communication about an event,” she explained.

Other speakers covered areas such as funding sources and liability issues about opening a ranch or farm to visitors on a for-profit basis. Local representation at the meeting included the county commissioners, PCDI, the Prowers Lodging Panel, Lamar Community College, the Lamar Main Street program, Division of Parks/Wildlife, Granada Pride and the Lamar Tourist Office.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessChamber/Local BusinessCollegeCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentEntertainmentFeaturedGranadaLamarRecreationTourism


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