Visit Bemidji booth returns to Minnesota State Fair
In the words of Visit Bemidji’s Executive Director Josh Peterson, the return of the Visit Bemidji booth to the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 25, is an "everything Bemidji one-stop shop."
ST. PAUL — In the words of Visit Bemidji’s Executive Director Josh Peterson, the return of the Visit Bemidji booth to the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 25, is an "everything Bemidji one-stop shop."
Fairgoers couldn’t get enough of Visit Bemidji’s booth during last year's fair. Lucky for them, Peterson and the visitor bureau’s assistant director, Brady Laudon, have been leading the charge in bringing a chance for this year’s attendees to get the up north Bemidji experience — even from 230 miles away.
The booth will be set up along the back wall of the Education building at the state fair, which runs through Labor Day, Sept. 6.
“Before the fair was even over last year, we got invited back (by the fair organizers). It’s really tough to get into the state fair so once you’re there you have to prove that you belong,” Peterson said. “We worked hard to make sure we proved ourselves and it ended up being very successful for us, so we upped our game this year.”
Returning to the booth is an interactive green screen experience where fairgoers will have the opportunity to select a whole slew of Bemidji-themed backgrounds from a kiosk.
Whether it’s posing with a walleye, playing hockey with the Bemidji State Beavers or taking a picture with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, participants can then send their images to their phones, email or post them to any social media they choose.
“(The green screen) was a huge draw last year and one of the things that put us over the top to get us into the fair,” Peterson said. “We’ve added a few more bells and whistles this year on the kiosk and will continue using that in years to come.”
Obtaining the contact information of users from the kiosk will allow Visit Bemidji to have a wider reach in sending out promotional materials about upcoming events and activities throughout the year.
“Our job is to put ‘heads in beds’ and market and promote Bemidji, our tourism has been strong the past three years and it's only getting stronger,” Peterson added.
Peterson and Laudon packed up their blue ox horns and Paul Bunyan mustaches and departed to the Twin Cities over the weekend, which was followed by several days of unloading boxes and setting up the booth in preparation for the fair.
Visit Bemidji also has even more promotional items to give out at its booth this year. With 12,000 buffalo plaid reusable tote bags, 8,000 Babe the Blue Ox hats, 10,000 temporary tattoos and the Bemidji Lakes Area Guide magazines to give away, Peterson hopes to bring more exposure to the town and inspire folks to plan future excursions to the Bemidji area.
A new addition to the booth this year is a 10-by-16-foot video wall, displaying footage of the well-known locations and events in the Bemidji area like the Red, White and Boom fireworks, the Dragon Boat Festival and the First City of Lights, to name a few.
Although they’ve had plenty of practice running the kiosk and the interactive green screen technology last year as fairgoers swarmed their booth, this year Peterson and Laudon hope to keep up with the new technological changes with the kiosk and video wall as they suspect even more people will attend.
“We’ve never done anything like this, some of the technology is a little above our heads,” Peterson laughed. “But we have great partnerships with a number of Bemidji businesses to help us succeed. They want us to set Bemidji apart from everyone else just as much as we do because it’s good for all the businesses here if more people visit.”
Peterson added that they couldn’t have made this possible without the help of the team at NLFX Professional , who has been helping Visit Bemidji stand out above all others at the fair.
“The state fair is all about partnerships, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without everyone from Greater Bemidji, the Chamber of Commerce, Parks and Recreation, Paul Bunyan Communications, myBemidji, Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College,” Peterson left off. “We’re the only northern Minnesota presence down there, we just try and bundle everything Bemidji into a one-stop shop, so if we can incorporate everyone it’s a win-win.”