Bon Homme tourism group gaining steamWhen Tim Peterson spends some time Tuesday fishing with Dave Carlson of the TV show “Northland Adventures,” it’s likely he won’t miss the chance to plug southeast South Dakota and Bon Homme County in particular.
By: Korrie Wenzel, The Daily Republic
SPRINGFIELD — Tim Peterson is a professional fishing guide and jack of many trades, but he’s also quick to push, prod and promote all sorts of tourism opportunities in Bon Homme County.
So when he spends some time Tuesday fishing with Dave Carlson of the TV show “Northland Adventures,” it’s likely Peterson won’t miss the chance to plug southeast South Dakota and Bon Homme County in particular.
“I’m really going to push hard with that. I’m going to try to get him to come back and do a segment on our national park down here,” Peterson said Friday, referring to the Missouri National Recreational River. “We’re honored to have it, and nobody really knows about it. It’s South Dakota’s bestkept secret.”
That’s the problem with small-town tourism, said Jacquie Fuks, executive director of Southeast South Dakota Tourism, a nonprofit group based in Yankton that promotes the region and also lends a hand to help communities do the same.
There are secrets waiting to be uncovered in the region, she said. It just takes a few tourism-minded go-getters — like Peterson, she said — to make it happen.
“If they do nothing, nothing will happen,” she said.
When it comes to cooperative marketing, Fuks considers Bon Homme County a success story.
Last year, a handful of residents from Tabor, Tyndall, Springfield, Scotland and Avon came to her for ideas on developing a better marketing plan.
Each town came up with $250 in seed money, a total later bolstered by an additional $250 from Springfield.
With that cash in hand, the group — now calling itself Discover Bon Homme — wrote a request to the state Department of Tourism, hoping to receive matching money from the state’s Matching-Dollar Challenge.
The request was granted, and the resulting pool of money was used to print brochures, create a website and do some small-scale advertising for the region.
This year, the organization is back at it, and with approximately $7,000 in hand. Again, members are hoping to get matching dollars from the state program, again to be used for marketing Bon Homme County’s towns and tourism.
Whether or not the grant is successful, Discover Bon Homme isn’t standing pat. The group this year has developed a geo-caching program, which prompts adventurers to use GPS systems to discover hidden items throughout the county.
Geo-caching is a national phenomenon, with numerous groups and websites dedicated to the practice. The items that successful geo-cachers find aren’t usually worth much, but it’s the thrill of the hunt that draws participants.
In Bon Homme County, successful geo-cachers probably will find coupons for free and discounted items at local businesses.
“It just shows that you don’t have to have big budgets to bring in tourists and that there is value there, even if it’s small-scale,” Fuks said.
Bon Homme County has its obvious draws, most notably Czech Days, a heritage-based event that draws thousands each summer to the town of Tabor. Golf courses in Scotland and Springfield, and another between Avon and Tyndall, are among the region’s finest. Fishing and boating are popular on the Missouri River, which skirts the county on the south.
And lately, Peterson, the chairman of Discover Bon Homme, said he wants to see a push to introduce the world to the Missouri National Recreational River. The 100-mile stretch of river is untamed and said to be similar to the river that Lewis and Clark saw two centuries ago.
“We’re trying to get people to come down and enjoy the area,” said Peterson, who owns Broken Willow Lodge and also is an independent electrical contractor and insulation sprayer in Springfield. “It’s a great canoeing and kayaking area. We have fishing, but also a lot of historic things, with Lewis and Clark, a little with (Civil War Gen.) Custer. We have a bunch of things to do down here.”
At least that’s what he plans to tell Carlson, the “Northland Adventures” host, when the two spend some time together fishing the Missouri near Springfield.
The county has been pushing hard, both Peterson and Fuks said, but it’s too early to judge the results.
“As of right now, I don’t know if we are seeing much,” Peterson said. “It’s about the same as it was, but we’re getting the word out. Hopefully, by the end of the summer we’ll see some results. Everything I’ve read and the people that I talk to … say that if you advertise the first year, it will be a couple of years before you see a good impact. Next summer, we’re hoping for a big increase.”
Fuks said no matter what happens, the Bon Homme project shows that people need to work together to avoid becoming stagnant.
“Consolidation works very well,” she said. “People working in clusters seems to be a good idea. We’re actually looking for another project.”