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It was early 2022 and I had just signed the contract with Reedy Press to write 100 Things to Do in Wisconsin Before You Die. I had a great time researching and traveling Wisconsin for my last book Midwest Road Trip Adventures (a joint project I initiated with fellow Midwest travel writers) and knew I needed to explore more of the Badger State.
I started with a list of what I hoped to include in my book – a rough list of 150 items that would be narrowed down to that magic 100. Then I had to see where they were actually located – and figure out what local Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), or Destination Management Organization (DMO) I would have to connect with.
I connected with a few Directors of CVBs and heard the same thing: “I have to head to a travel conference next week, but would love to help you when I get back to the office.”
Finally, I asked “What travel conference?”
Color me stunned when I found out it was the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism (WIGCOT) and it was to be held in Madison – just 20 minutes from my house!
I perused the website, didn’t see where a travel writer couldn’t sign up, and at 4:45 PM that Friday afternoon, I registered. Little did I know that I would be the only travel writer there – oops!
I basically crashed the conference
I had grand plans – to walk around and read name tags to connect with the CVBs and DMOs in the middle of the state – the ones on my list to connect with.
–>WHY do all name lanyards hit around the boobs on a person wearing it? Talk about awkwardness – especially when you are over 50 and wear bifocals.
I was positive that on Day Two I should have just worn a T-Shirt that called me a perv…
I had some great conversations with the people from places I had already worked with – and then some new faces. I knew some weren’t a match for this book project, but I always plan ahead – because I am the kind of person who has “all the ideas.”
I also sat in on all the sessions.
- I learned that Wisconsin got fewer Covid Tourism Relief dollars than any other Midwest state.
- I learned how a lot of organizations pivoted to help their local communities thrive during a time when most of the state was shut down.
- I learned of innovation, determination, and darn it – simply more reasons I love my home state.
That is when I had this great idea for my book project. I knew I didn’t want it to be “that list you could Google” – I wanted to highlight a lot of Wisconsin gems – and things you couldn’t find anywhere else in the world.
Yes, I had a few “gimmes” in there like #10 Eat a Butterburger at Culver’s, or #43 Cheer on the Wisconsin Badgers – but I found a botanical garden based off of children’s books, a drive-through animal safari, a submarine you can sleep on, and even a place where African American history is documented from pre-African slave trade days through President Obama. All in all, I managed to get 191 things in my book of 100 things.
(shh…. don’t let me editor know!)
Why Tourism Matters
So, here is the thing. People coming into your community and spending money is a GOOD thing – even if some people hate “strangers” in their area. It means more money in your city and county. More sales tax dollars in your state. It means more people in your area working – everything from the hospitality industry (restaurants and hotels) to gas stations.
It is people visiting who say “this might be a cool place to live…” and then they talk to a realtor. That brings more jobs, more families, kids for schools, and more money into the community.
It means growth.
I have seen communities on the other end of the spectrum – they lost the concept of tourism, people didn’t come, extra people weren’t needed for jobs, families left, schools, closed, and the real kicker? When a community loses its grocery store.
Tourism is a GREAT thing – it keeps our state healthy. It keeps our cities moving forward. It eases our tax burden and creates jobs.
It is so much more than people driving through and taking a few pictures.
Why I wanted to give back
In the tourism game, most nonprofits make money via ticket sales and grants. For grants, they prove their attendance from people who sign the guest registry. With Covid – no one was buying tickets or coming in to sign that guest registry. Add in the fact that the state got less federal money to help build back.
Here is the thing: as I visited a lot of these non-profit gems, I talked to them about a book signing in 2023 when the book came out. Profits that day, would be donated to their organization. At the time of this little story being written, I have 87 book signings throughout 2023. From a public library to the Milton House of Milton, Wisconsin, which is one of the rare documented underground railroad stops.
I have crunched the numbers with my average book sales per event. This book will be helping me give roughly half a million dollars back to Wisconsin non-profit tourism! As I cement actual dates for book signings, I will create a tab at the top of my site to keep you updated.
I am proud of this book. I have been blessed to highlight a lot of great places that make this project a perfect bucket list – a fine balance of great eats, culture, and history, even sports and unique Wisconsin gems to shop at and support.
I am even more proud of the potential this book has to offer back to Wisconsin – the money it will bring to places that need to be here for our future generations. They have stories to tell, of where we come from, how so many different cultures blended together, and how we are moving forward.
If you want to be on the list for notifications when it is on Amazon in preorder – or where and when my book events are next year, just “click here” and add your first name and email address. If you want to be added to my weekly travel newsletter email, there is a simple box you can check, otherwise, it will ONLY be news about the events for this book.
Currently, it is set for release on March 15th.
I promise, I won’t sell your info to any list – and you can opt-out at any time. I am simply sharing how we can connect and help out the Badger State.
**I will have a comment section on there – you can let me know if you are part of an organization that needs a fundraiser, want books for your store or shop, or even want books for your client gifts.
–>Yes, I am talking to realtors and bankers here. You won’t be giving a gift – you will be giving them an adventure – a literal bucket list of fun things to do in Wisconsin.
I am SO GLAD I basically crashed the 2022 Governor’s Conference on Travel – it gave me a new direction for this project as I have met some amazing people.
Help me give back to Wisconsin – sign up here.
Thanks for letting me ramble.