For Katie Magozzi, pitching the Park Rapids area to potential vacationers is easy.
“We have close to 1,000 crystal-clear lakes full of fish and loons, and probably the last vestiges of family-owned resorts left in the state,’’ said Magozzi, executive director of the Park Rapids Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have a live, charming downtown. Itasca State Park is nearby. This is a family vacation spot — it’s not so hard to sell.’’
But it’s a big world with endless travel destinations, each with its own allure. How to choose?
For generations, people have traipsed to the Northwest Sportshow in Minneapolis to browse potential vacation hot spots. This year is no different. Resort and lodge owners from around the nation — and beyond — will be at the show, which runs Thursday through Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
New this year is a series of travel seminars where visitors can learn about specific destinations.
“Last year we did a survey and found 22 percent of our attendees specifically come to the show to plan, research or book a trip,’’ said Jennifer Thompson, show manager. “We also created a trip-finder tool on our website [northwestsportshow.com]. You can search by activity or location and get a list of exhibitors.’’
Magozzi is among those giving travel seminars. Drew Haag will be there, too, enticing travelers with tales from Alaska. Haag operates Above Alaska Aviation in the tiny village of Talkeetna, about 100 miles north of Anchorage.
“We see a lot of Minnesotans,’’ Haag said. He offers remote fly-in fishing, hunting and camping trips for the adventurous. “You’re out in the middle of nowhere,’’ he said. “Most want a special experience.’’
The price for the spectacular scenery: From less than $500 to be dropped off for remote fishing, to upward of $12,000 for a guided hunt.
Nancy Dougherty will be peddling trips closer to home — Lake Vermilion. The sprawling lake is considered one of the most beautiful in the state, with its 365 islands and 1,200 miles of shoreline. But there’s more, said Dougherty, executive director of the Lake Vermilion Resort Association.
“Fishermen come to fish, but it’s a great place to bring families,’’ she said. “And there are all sorts of things to explore: the Fortune Bay Casino, golf courses, the Soudan Underground Mine and the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. Anglers can access the BWCA by using the truck portage to Trout Lake.’’
Megan Christianson will plug Grand Rapids at the Sportshow, and should find plenty of interest. “Forty-two percent of our visitors come from the Twin Cities,’’ she said.
Fishing obviously is a top attraction.
“And we have more than 1 million acres of public-accessible land with 5,000 miles of trails — snowmobile, ATV, hiking and cross-country ski,’’ Christianson said.
There’s plenty of competition for the travel dollar. Others will present seminars on destinations in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota and Ontario.
Thompson said there should be interest in all. She’s seeing signs of the economic recovery.
“Attendance at all of our shows have been up,’’ she said.
She expects about 40,000 people will attend this year’s show.