Chamber helps put Culver at the fore in county, beyond

As many in the area may have noticed, Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee came to the fore in this year’s Marshall County Visitor’s Guide, the annual publication of the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau. And that’s no coincidence, as was evidenced by the monthly meeting of Culver’s Chamber of Commerce, held September 7 at the City Diner in Culver. Present was Mike Woolfington, Director of Tourism with the CVB, as well as Terri Grabill of Alliance Marketing, the Wakarusa-based firm contracted by the CVB to enhance the Visitor’s Guide, to speak about this year’s — and the upcoming, 2011 — guide.
Dawn Brockey, standing in for Chamber President Greg Fassett, noted the Guide’s colorful, two-page spread on Culver — which was only a portion of the Guide highlighting the community — was paid for by the Chamber as part of an effort to increase awareness of local amenities to the broader region.
Woolfington explained the guide publication is distributed to some 40,000 people, including to 25 Convention and Visitor’s Centers around and beyond Indiana, as well as at key locations on Toll Roads and at rest stops around the state as well. He added the CVB is down to only about 3,000 guides left from the total print run of earlier this year. He also said the guide’s emphasis on Marshall County’s Barn Quilt Trail has been successful, and is drawing visitors from California, Texas, Colorado, and other areas of the US.
Woolfington described the new, “state of the art” website the CVB is working on, something facilitated by Marshall County’s organization joining with six other CVBs for cost savings.
“It will be a completely new, data-base driven website,” he said. “No convention and visitor’s bureaus in this area have one similar. There are a lot of new things (such as) Flash pictures and video. We worked with WNIT-TV (the PBS affiliate in Elkhart), who came down to the county and ran a lot of footage in Culver, with some of the (Culver) Academy. We will be able to put the video they made on the website, so people can get an overview of the county. A lot of it is downtown Culver, so we’re really pleased with that.”
Woolfington added the new website platform will allow Visitor’s Guide participants to be featured in “blurbs” in email newsletters sent out to some 16,000 readers.
Grabill, who will again work “hands-on” in the creation of the Guide this year, told the audience she’s responsible for selling all the advertisements for the Guide and works with an in-house graphic designer to do layouts of ads for those entities not able to create their own. She noted she also works with a professional travel writer in Iowa who conducts telephone interviews for the Guide, has visited the Culver area many times, and is a retired writer for Midwest Living and other major publications.
“We do a lot of research from year to year,” said Grabill, “and have looked at larger CVBs and their visitor’s guides (to glean ideas for the Marshall County publication).”
Discussing next year’s guide and its Culver contents, Grabill said a professional photographer was given a “wish list” of local photo subjects and the previous weekend shot over 600 photos for use in the 2011 publication, though she said he “only did half of my wish list, so he’ll be back.”
Some of the photos will also be featured on the CVB’s upcoming website, she said, which is being handled by VERB Interactive in Nova Scotia, a company also responsible for sites such as Hilton Head and other well-known locales. The site is expected to be up by the end of the year.
Grabill said the new guide will include three major changes: dining will be broken out into its own section, as will lodging, services (such as car and boat repair, dog sitting, and the like), and “faith.”
“Research has shown that a lot of travelers want to know what type of churches and religious activities are in the community they’re visiting,” she explained. “Forty percent of travelers will visit a church while on vacation. When someone feels comfortable in the area, they return to the area. This is a huge plus for churches in this area.”
In other discussion at the meeting, Barb Linhart, in charge of Culver’s Farmer’s Market at the corner of Ohio and Jefferson Streets, thanked the Chamber for making possible a new tent for the market, which she said has taken in $1,040 in vendor’s fees this year for the Chamber. This summer has seen 11 reserved vendors, she added, though as many as 20 vendors have taken part in a given week there.
She described the offerings at the market this year, which ranged from fresh produce to home-made rugs, lawn games, bird houses, crafts, and more. In July and August, she said, the market has available excess produce from the community garden in Culver, whose proceeds go to the Culver food pantry.
The market will close after the second Saturday in October, Linhart noted, and opens each year on the second Saturday in May. Brockey thanked Woolfington for the CVB’s contribution to the Farmer’s Market tent.
Also in attendance was Marlene Mahler, who thanked the Chamber for its support during her 12 years as Union Township Trustee. Culver’s Mahler -- who noted Indiana’s Governor has expressed a desire to dissolve township trustees and government -- will begin her four-year term as Marshall County’s Recorder in January.
It was also noted the Chamber will receive over $700 from its contribution to ticket sales for a recently-completed golf cart raffle headed up by Culver’s Kiwanis Club.