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Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00

Bloggers put a face on tourism in Beloit

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Lanier Gordon of Beloit is one of the regular contributors to the Be In It blog, which begins its second year this summer. The blog was launched by Visit Beloit to provide a local voice about life in the city and surrounding area. Lanier Gordon of Beloit is one of the regular contributors to the Be In It blog, which begins its second year this summer. The blog was launched by Visit Beloit to provide a local voice about life in the city and surrounding area. Ian Gronau/staff

STATELINE NEWS -- Lanier Gordon remembers when his mother once told him, "you know you can’t cook." But that doesn’t mean he can’t grill, which became the inspiration for a blog post last summer on Visit Beloit’s Be In It blog, which begins its second year this summer.

Gordon was writing about his visit to the Beloit Farmers Market, where he eventually purchased a few grass-fed beef steaks and prepared them for his own Father’s Day dinner.

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The blog is run in part by employees of the organization, as well as by community members who add their perspectives on Beloit.

"We are in our second year with the blog, and it has truly exceeded our expectations," said Monica Krysztopa, executive director of Visit Beloit. "We have some hospitality students who go to Beloit Memorial High School, as well as teachers and retired residents in our community writing about the things that they enjoy."

Bloggers include writers with a wide range of perspectives, including former Beloit Snappers general manager Matt Bosen who now is director of sales and servicing with Visit Beloit, as well as business owners, several college students and a second-grade teacher.

Visit Beloit often gives its bloggers assignments like buying food at the downtown farmers market and preparing a meal to upload, or attend certain events and writing about them. Krysztopa says that right now the bloggers are writing about their favorite things to do in Beloit, which they will upload over the next few weeks.

Gordon, a lifelong resident of Beloit, is one of the regular community bloggers, and he can’t say enough about what the city and its people have meant to him.

"Throughout my life I’ve been surrounded by great people here in Beloit," Gordon said. "I’ve learned a lot from all the various nationalities around here as well. What I like most about Beloit are the people, if you are open to them and respond to them, they do the same."

Community bloggers like Gordon can add an extra dimension to the information that her organization helps distribute, Krysztopa said. There are 10 regular community bloggers and each upload two to four blogs a year. Krysztopa says that some of their more popular posts have reached more than 3,000 people.

"When they asked me to blog, I said I’d try it even though I am not a very talented writer," Gordon said. "Luckily my wife helps me so that makes it a bit easier, she’s a school teacher, I sometimes get a few tidbits from my daughters as well. It’s been fun, it gives me a reason to go back out and participate in a number of different events. I enjoy writing about Beloit and the great people in it."

Gordon sees writing for the blog as a great opportunity to sound off about all the developments in the city that he is excited about.

"I’m excited about everything, I just love the redevelopment of the city," Gordon said. "The big one for me is Riverside Park. It adds so much beauty to Beloit, and you can see all the segments of the population that are coming down to enjoy it. I always see people running, walking their dogs, riding their bicycles, skating and just doing what they do together."

Future of tourism

The blog is just one piece of the effort to promote Beloit to the rest of the region as well as find ways to continue to promote the area in the future.

In late January Visit Beloit held a Future of Tourism conference that outlined a host of the city’s opportunities.

"The dinner provided a conversation for people to discuss what assets and events we have in our community that we can market regionally, nationally and in some cases internationally," Krysztopa said.

While it was a presentation first and foremost, Visit Beloit went out of its way to make it interactive by allowing participants to weigh in with some of their own ideas about regional tourism.

"During the dinner we had cards on every table that said: ‘My big, bold creative idea’ and a blank space that could be filled in," said Krysztopa. "We received about 52 great ideas on future events, future marketing campaigns and all kinds of stuff. We’ve been going through those ideas since the dinner."

Krysztopa said some of the ideas were humorous, or off-the-wall but she feels that many will be very useful. One card suggested a taxi boat for the Rock River, another recommended bringing a co-op grocery store to the downtown area and one even asked if it’d be possible to reach out and establish a sister city relationship with a foreign city.

Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, who was the keynote speaker at the event, feels that this is just the beginning. All the recent development can help grow not only Beloit, but the surrounding area into a regional tourism destination.

"The city is already doing a great job, but I want to continue to see them keep working at helping visitors to not see county or state lines," Klett said. "Beloit should continue to work with Janesville, Milton, Edgerton, Roscoe and Rockton to really make this a regional destination. I want folks to fall in love with Beloit and the surrounding areas because they are all extremely complementary of each other."

Klett, who has not only held the title of Little Miss Beloit and Little Miss Wisconsin, but also Miss Beloit and Miss Wisconsin, is an enthusiastic promoter of the city.

As lifelong residents of the city, four of her nine brothers and her parents are proud of their deep Beloit roots. From the vantage point of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism she can watch changes as they occur all across the state, and she feels that Beloit is uniquely poised for growth and success in the future of tourism.

They all have their individual hopes for the future, but the one thing that Gordon, Krysztopa and Klett all share that they’re happy to call the city home.

"Beloit has always been my hometown, but I travel 200 to 300 days a year," said Klett. "Even still, after 47 years of living in Beloit, I still come home and say, I love it here. This is a special place to live."

Read the Be In It blog here: http://blog.visitbeloit.com/

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