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VisitBemidji director announces retirement

The VisitBemidji Board of Directors has announced the retirement of Executive Director Gayle Quistgard.

Quistgard will step down Dec. 31. She has been the director of the organization - formerly known as the Bemidji Visitors and Convention Bureau - since 1989. At that time the office was located in the basement of the old log Tourist Information Center when Niimi, the sculpture of the dancer, now stands.

"It's a difficult decision because I was here from the beginning," Quistgard said. "(The decision) was bitter-sweet in a way."

Quistgard said she is leaving on a high point for Bemidji visitors and conventions, but VisitBemidji will move into the Bemidji Regional Event Center in October. She said she would continue to help out VisitBemidji so the new executive director, Denelle Cauble, will be ready for the transition. Cauble has served as the Director of the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau for the past four years.

VisitBemidji developed the First City on the Mississippi brand and a marketing campaign that added winter and fall activities to the traditional summer options. A Web site at was developed with a calendar of events and detailed information about the number of vacation amenities and choices a potential visitor has in the Bemidji area.

During Quistgard's tenure, VisitBemidji received four marketing awards of excellence and three marketing awards of merit from Explore Minnesota Tourism. In 1993, an International Graphic Arts Award was presented to VisitBemidji for its Bemidji Fall Color Tour Guide.

Quistgard served on the Minnesota Tourism Advisory Committee from 1995 to 2002 and has served on the Minnesota Heartland Tourism Association board for 25 years. She was marketing committee chairman of that organization and then served as President of the Association from 1994 to 1998.

Also a member of the Minnesota Convention and Visitors Bureau Association, Quistgard served as secretary/treasurer, vice president and then was the president of the association in 2001.

Quistgard will continue to serve on the BREC Advisory Committee and the Beltrami County Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

Cauble is also incoming President of the Minnesota Heartland Tourism Association.

Before taking on the VisitBemidji directorship, Quistgard was and art teacher in Laporte and Bemidji and a physical education teacher in California.

In retirement, she said she plans to tune up her art skills and travel, probably in the spring and fall. Her first excursion will be an Alaska Inner Passage cruise in May. Quistgard said she will stay in Bemidji to enjoy snowmobiling in the winters and fishing in the summers.

"I can even do it during the week," she said.