SLV Conference Highlights Valley Successes
The San Luis Valley Tourism Association (SLVTA) conference was held in Alamosa last Tuesday, Feb. 21. More than 50 people were in attendance from around the valley representing all the unique and diverse aspects of the region: from hot springs to trains, and alligator farms to rodeos.
Saguache Chamber President Barry Van Sant provides an update on Saguache tourism during the San Luis Valley Tourism Association held at Adams state University on February 21. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell.
“There’s over 200 years of tourism and hospitality experience represented in this room today,” stated Fred Bunch who played Emcee for the day, although most know him as the one-man comedy show and Park Ranger/Chief of Resource Management with The Great Sand Dunes. This year, the conference was held at Adams State University, who one of several 2017 SLV Conference sponsors.
A cross-section of people, representing both the public and private sector were treated to a series of presentations and updates from neighboring counties, as well as an afternoon session from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO). Here are some of the highlights and interesting facts presented at the 2017 SLVTA Conference. Please consider becoming a member!
More than 50 people where in attendance at the 2017 San Luis Valley Tourism Association conference held February 21. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell
The Welcome Center in Alamosa is getting a GoPro Camera which will allow visitors to check out the equipment for their day’s adventure in the San Luis Valley. Once the camera is returned, everyone gets to enjoy and share the images and video. Great idea!
There were a record number of visitors to The Great Sand Dunes in 2016, an increase of almost 30% reported Ranger Fred Bunch, with a grand total of 386,00 visitors – wow! There’s no doubt that this unique park draws in the majority of visitors to the area, so be sure to be ready for a big influx during these Weekends of National Park Week which will mean FREE admission. April 15-16 and 22-23. There’s a lot going on at the park, be sure to stop over and check it out!
Opening Day for the Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad will be Saturday, May 27 with two special double-headed trains. Locomotives 315 and 463 will pull the opening day train from Antonito to Chama; while a pair of K-36 locomotives will pull the first train from Chama to the summit of Cumbres Pass and then on to Antonito. It was also announced that an extra special musical addition will be added to the 3:15 p.m. train, as John Denver tribute performer Chris Collins will join the Opening Day celebration treating passengers with an uplifting show. Psst, there’s also a LOCALS DAY planned. Tickets can be booked through the railroad’s web site or by calling 888-286-2737. All Aboard!
SLV Tourism Association President Lee Bates (center) introduces the “Keep It Cool” Board at the SLVTA conference held at Adams State University. Photo: Saguache Today
In SLV Tourism Association news, board member Jeff Parnell reported that the “Keep It Cool” campaign of 2016 went over very well, highlighting the cooler temperatures the valley can offer for visitors. This successful message with continue in 2017 with a primary focus on bringing Arizona residents up out of the heat, as well as plans to capture some of the nearby Grand Canyon visitors.
Lee Bates, who also serves as the SVL Tourism Association President, reported on the new recreational opportunities available at the Mill Creek Shooting Resort, including “a 10-inch target at 1 mile.” Formerly known as Cowtown to locals, Mill Creek Shooting Resort was acquired in the spring of 2016 and the business plan has been evolving since then. Keep up with their latest news, including this June’s “The Showdown at Mill Creek Presented by Riverman Gun Works” by connecting with them on the Mill Creek Shooting Resort Facebook Page.
Jay Young with the Colorado Gators Reptile Park located in Mosca, just off Hwy 17 reported about the progress of the scuba lagoon. Did you know that Colorado has the most scuba divers per capita than any other state? But there’s no place (warm) for them to dive!
The new Gator Lagoon is currenlty slated to be open this May 2017 at the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park located in Mosca off Highway 17 in the beautiful San Luis Valley.
Now they can swim with some pacu, catfish, and turtles, just some of the friendly reptile residents at the Colorado Gators and Reptile Park. The lagoon should be open in May and a GoFundMe Page has been established to help offset someof the costs. Young also reported that Dr. Jeff from the Animal Plant paid a visit to Mr. Bo Mangles, one of only 5 albino alligator in Colorado. Stay tuned for when that episode will air on TV.
Saguache Chamber of Commerce President Barry Van Sant reported on the town’s successful festivals from the Hollyhock Festival to the Saguache Pow-Wow to the Fall Festival, these events all work towards bringing more people into town. Van Sant also highlighted the chamber’s success with their local speaker program allowing business owners to share their stories with others.
Shane Burris provided the overview from Rio Grande County which highlighted among other things the upcoming Crane Festival the weekend of March 11-12 in Monte Vista. As part of the Burris and Sons Bucking Bulls, he also highlighted the upcoming events and rodeos in the region which kicks off March 24 in Monte Vista. Details and schedule can be found HERE.
Shane Burris with the Burris and Sons Bucking Bulls gives on update from Rio Grand County as well as the rodeo report at the annual San Luis Valley Tourism Association conference on February 21. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell
In Mineral County, Creede is seeing an explosion in attendance to its July 4th celebration. More than 10,000 people come to town to enjoy the parade down Main Street, the mining events championships, the street vendors and festival. While many attribute the fireworks as the main draw for the crowds, Mineral County Chamber of Commerce Director Brad Ayers attributed the success to the hard work of many others during those building years before he arrived last year.
Conejos County boasts the oldest church in Colorado with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Antonito. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell
During the afternoon session with the CTO representatives, the topic of conversation turned to agritourism and heritage tourism programs. These programs celebrates Colorado’s agricultural roots and rich cultural heritage. This innovative concept creates unique and authentic opportunities for visitors to step off the beaten path and engage in a myriad of culinary, heritage and agricultural offerings. Both seem right in line with much of what the San Luis Valley has to offer. So if you’re looking to take advantage of these grant programs, please check out the CTO website for details.
Perhaps the best representation of the diversity of the San Luis Valley can be seen in the pictures from the 2016 Photo Contest sponsored by the SLVTA. The images speak for themselves and can be found HERE.
Grand Prize in the San Luis Valley Tourism Association 2016 Photo Contest went to Jeremy Elliot with this stunning picture of the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, Colo.
The 2017 SLVTA conference wrapped up with a presentation by former Broncos player Karl Mecklenburg who presented the “Six Keys to Success.” His speech was a fitting end to the program, highlighting the universal, unchanging keys to success, and inspiring the best qualities in SLVTA members who left ready to “Keep It Cool” for 2017!
Great job to the 2017 organizers and sponsors. Please consider becoming part of his group’s efforts whose mission is “to preserve our environmental and cultural resources by unifying our marketing efforts to promote the san Luis Valley as a tourism destination And thereby developing responsible economic growth for the six counties of the San Luis Valley: Saguache, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Conejos, Costilla and Mineral.”
Check out membership opportunities for the San Luis Valley Tourism Association and stay connected! They may also be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.