CC - CVB makes great strides in first year on their own as a new local nonprofit

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    The new Crookston Visitors Bureau (CVB) and the hotels they represent started their journey in early 2020 to become its own nonprofit entity separate from the Chamber of Commerce and, after many, many meetings, legal documents, conversations, and volunteer hours, got the chance to celebrate with a new lodging tax agreement signed by the city in late November. Since then, the CVB has been off to the races with a new board of directors, new visitors guides, a brand new website, and took the lead on getting new welcome signs for the city’s north and south end plus plans for additional welcome signs in other areas of town. Not only that, they gave out their first grant in May 2021 to Crookston’s premier summer festival Ox Cart Days.

    Their new website is www.crookstoncvb.com and its features include updated photos of local attractions and events, full features on each of Crookston’s hotels/motels plus contact info and direct links to their websites, information on housing, schools, employment, transportation, worship, and businesses with storefronts; a feature on historic downtown offerings, full list of restaurants and bars with contact info and direct links to their websites, retail shopping options throughout the community, healthcare, specialty services and salons as well; display of Crookston’s featured attractions plus camping and parks, full calendar of annual events including photos and contact info, a spot to find out where to hold your next meeting, wedding, convention or special event, plus a direct link to the CVB’s new visitors guide. Their website also has an accessibility menu with options for lighting, bigger text and it’s dyslexia friendly. Need to find out where you’re going in Crookston? There’s a map available. Hosting an event in Crookston and interested in learning more about the CVB’s grant process? That’s there, too.

    CVB Board Chair Nell DeBoer submitted additional information about the new organization:

    The Crookston Visitors Bureau is a tax exempt nonprofit organization formed on August 3, 2020 for the purpose of promoting tourism and marketing of the greater Crookston area. The CVB is funded by a City lodging tax (3%) that is collected from the hotels for short term (30 days or less) stays. The City of Crookston provides the administrative service for the lodging tax for a 5% fee and the remaining 95% goes to the CVB for the promotion of Crookston as an overnight destination.

    The 2021 CVB voting board is made up of representatives from two (2) Crookston hotels (Crookston Inn and Convention Center and AmericInn by Wyndham), one (1) representative from the retail or service sector (Adams Heating & Cooling), one (1) restaurant (Draft’s Sports Bar & Grill), one (1) representative from a local business (Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream) and two (2) representatives from the Crookston City Council. Ex-Officio nonvoting members include a representative from the University of Minnesota Crookston, Crookston Public Schools, Downtown Crookston Development Partnership, Blue Line Club, Crookston Youth Basketball Association, one local service club and any remaining hotels.

    The CVB held its first board meeting in October with several short and long term goals including:

    · An events calendar for the entire year with a focus on filling in non-peak times of the year with overnight stays. “We will work with groups and organizations looking for fundraising opportunities and those wanting to host events to continue to build this calendar,” said DeBoer.

    · Strengthening and building on existing one day or ½ day events, and add to them so that they become two-day or three-day events.

    · Marketing Grants - providing new and existing events funding to promote their events

    · Welcome bags for events coming into Crookston to include tournaments, festivals, conventions, conferences, pipeline groups and dignitaries. “We are looking to having coupons printed up quarterly and ready to go,” said DeBoer.

    · Marketing Crookston locally - “We want the Crookston community to be aware of the efforts we are making and the collaborations we have,” explained DeBoer. “Selling Crookston to Crookston is high on the list as their referrals, photos and getting them behind our efforts and taking pride in Crookston is an important piece to the puzzle. We are also using the local media and social media groups to target the Crookston audience.”

    · Marketing Crookston to the masses - “A much needed website is in the works and should be done sometime in April. Features include places to dine, shop, sports and convention venues, hot deals, and the many features Crookston has to offer. The marketing grant criteria and applications will also be available on this website.”

    · Visitors Guide - “It has been four years since the last printing of the Visitors Guide typically put out by the Chamber of Commerce. This is a 24 page full color of all things to do while visiting Crookston. These will be placed in each hotel room and the hotels will also have mini “welcome centers” to have these guides along with other pertinent Crookston and event information. These guides will be placed in communities along Highway 2 and at the Minnesota Tourism offices, the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.”

    · Partner memberships - “This entity has once again become an active member of the MACVB and the Riverland organization and is working closely with the Minnesota Tourism office. This brings us together with other CVB’s in Minnesota and our local communities along the Red River as we join their efforts in bringing people to the area. We are currently pursuing a partnership with the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail and the Glacial Ridge Wildlife Refuge as well as we promote the ever growing birding hobby. Participation with these groups gives us extra promotional opportunities to include magazines, signage and a strong presence on their websites.”

    · New entrance signs to Crookston - “The CVB is partnering with the DCDP, CHEDA, CHS trades class and two local landscapers to design, plan, secure funds and execute replacing the 30 year old entrance signs with new, attractive signs that give a great first impression of Crookston.”

    ·“Last and certainly not least is to hire a tourism coordinator to lead the continuing efforts. As stated, we had many goals as we had our first meeting in October, many volunteer hours has been put into these projects as we utilize the “down time” that the pandemic has caused in the tourism industry. Going into early summer and fall, we would like to see many of these goals met and finding the right leader will be key to keep this momentum going.”

CVB board members and local businesses put together coupon pages for Blue Line Club youth hockey tournaments
CVB board members stuff welcome bags for pipeline workers staying at the hotels
CVB board member and City Council member Joe Kresl poses with a new visitors guide created by the CVB to showcase Crookston
Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Manager Lisa Tadd stands next to their new visitors guide display
A look at the CVB's new website www.crookstoncvb.com
The city of Crookston is getting new welcome signs thanks to a partnership started by the new CVB
A look at the front page of the new visitors guide