Small towns are full of characters. Sometimes, we feel a bit embarrassed by that, but what if we started to value our town characters? It might be a savvy tourism opportunity.
Here’s how one town did it, catching the attention of a travel writer.
A few town characters from Waynoka, Oklahoma: the Dog Creek Gunfighters.
Eric [Perkins] recently contacted dozens of Chamber of Commerce offices around Minnesota to see what was unique about their community. Not only did Hendricks email back to let him know but they sent a list of about forty different “characters” for Eric to interview.
Hendricks [is] on the border of South Dakota. It may only have a population of 725 people, but it’s a community full of characters.
Eric also met the town’s strongest man, a guy named Bobby Kanz who is the town welder. He demonstrated his strength to Eric by lifting a 15 pound sledgehammer by the very end of the handle.
Eric also met the town’s mayor, a local dairy farmer who collects bib overalls (more than 100 pair and counting), a 71-year-old grandma who rides a mean snowmobile, and a guy who collects more aluminum cans for recycling than you could possibly count!
Source: Trippin’ with Perk: Eric travels to Hendricks
I am thinking there isn’t a travel writer on Earth who could resist the lure of a list of characters like that. Imagine if you kept such a list, if you shared it with writers, if you gave regular visitors the chance to meet them.
Thanks to Mike Knutson for sharing the link.
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Wayne McEvilly says
This got things up there in my brainbox stirrin’ – Not just small towns (but that is your focus) but NYC – when America’s great Hoosier novelist/poet Marguerite Young died (she’d been living in The Village for decades & Scribners had published her ‘MissMacIntosh, My Darling” back in 1965) – doing research for her novel had her ‘haunting’ the entire small town of NYC from the upper east side to Wall Street and beyond. When her obituary appeared in the N.Y. Times she was described as an ‘icon’ – Well, that’d be another word for ‘town character’ –
One of the values I pick up from visiting Small Biz Survival is a strenghthening of my perception that we all inhabit small towns, even those of us who live right smack dab in the center of a big city.
But back to Hooker, Slapout, Beaver, and Buffalo – I’ve visited and made myself a ‘resident for a day’ in so many small towns that I can attest to the fact that the local characters do stand out.
I always bring it back to Mozart – my business is Mozart – so I’ve got a few ideas brewing about Mozart Around Town.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Becky McCray says
Wayne, I love the idea of icons as town characters! And, yes, big citiy neighborhoods are really just small towns.
Shannon Ehlers says
This has been a winding road for me, with your reference to Wayne’s blog post leading me to first comment there, but then of course I had to say something here. I am reminded of a great story of two people which is set in my tiny hometown of Soldier. The two were pen pals during their younger years (one in Soldier, and one in England). Time happened, life happened, World War II happened and eventually they both grew older, and several years ago Colleen (the lady from Soldier) lost her husband, while Geoff (the bloke from England) also lost his wife. Fate played her part, the two were reunited in a neat story that made the rounds on Good Morning America, as well as other places, bringing lots of attention (and yes, a few tourists!) to the little tidy house in Soldier that flew both the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack in the front yard. Geoff and Colleen have since moved to a slightly larger town, to be closer to medical facilities and a grocery store, but they still are an active part of the community in Soldier and their story still inspires us all. Like you mention about Hendricks, Soldier is a small dot on the map, but there are loads of these interesting stories, and all are centered on wonderful people.
Becky McCray says
Shannon, stories and people are two of our biggest assets. When we share them with the outside world, we all benefit. Thanks for sharing this one with us.