Todd Elmer is owner of Casey's Amusement Park in Alexandria. Casey's Amusement Park offers 4 different go kart tracks, 36 holes of mini golf and a bumper boat pond. The park is open 7 days a week May through September.
By Katie DeGier, Visitor & Member Relations Specialist, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce has a Visitor Center located right inside its office. In 2019 the staff made 10,692 contacts, which included walk-in guests, phone calls and phone referrals.
Each Chamber member receives a spot in the Visitor Center to display marketing materials. Those materials help promote businesses in our area when visitors or locals come into the Visitor Center. They may be looking for activities to keep the family busy, places to enjoy a great breakfast, a unique lunch spot or a date night dinner location, or just recommendations on various services members offer. The Chamber then provides a list of all members that offer the service someone may be looking for. We feel there is greater impact in a referral when there is something tangible to hand someone.
Local lodging facilities also utilize the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center to gather materials to have available for visitors staying at their establishments. The Visitor Center also acts as a hub for lodging openings in the area. Facilities communicate throughout the year to provide us with a list of their openings. Visitors then contact us when they are looking for lodging openings and we refer the local lodging facilities that fit the dates and needs they are looking for.
The Visitor Center also offers a variety of maps including, local Alexandria and Douglas County maps, state highway and biking maps provided by Explore Minnesota Tourism, snowmobile maps from the Douglas Area Trails Association, local walking maps provided by Horizon Public Health and more. Area Visitor Guides are provided by other Chambers of Commerce and Visitor Centers and are available in the Alexandria Visitor Center. This includes many Minnesota communities from Alexandria to just over state lines.
As a Visitor Center, the Chamber of Commerce also acts as an information hub. Inquiries received include a variety of things, from simple phone calls asking for a phone number to a local business to where someone can drop off donations. We pride ourselves on great customer service so if we do not know the answer, we will do our best to find it.
We encourage all locals, visitors, and potential new residents of Alexandria to stop in or call with any questions they have about the area or resources they are looking for. We are here to help!
By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
Sometimes I feel as if Alexandria, MN has a protective bubble around it, keeping it safe from some of the ugly things happening in other communities around the state. Most recently those things include COVID hospitalizations and deaths, business closings, rioting and destruction, and significant increases in crime and mental health issues.
I find myself almost apologetic when speaking with people in other communities when I report that things are “OK” in Alexandria. Things definitely aren’t awesome, but they aren’t terrible. We are doing “OK” and in times like this, that is nothing to hang our heads about.
At the time of writing this we have not had any COVID deaths in our community. Our local health care professionals have done a remarkable job of planning, preparing and keeping order during a time of many unknowns. That makes me feel safe.
A restaurant closed, which was a loss for our community, but many other local businesses that were fearful a couple months ago that they wouldn’t survive this are now reporting good numbers – not great, but survivable. It was incredible to watch local residents and other businesses rally around those that were struggling. That makes me proud.
We had a couple peaceful protests/rallies in response to racial injustice, which were conducted in an orderly, respectful manner, without violence or destruction. Conversations were started, and our community will only become better if those conversations continue. That gives me hope.
The past few months have been challenging in many ways. Local businesses and organizations have had to reinvent their business model to stay profitable yet safe. Because one of the Chamber’s top priorities is to help our members be successful, last week we sent an email alerting them to the fact that the Chamber has been receiving calls from individuals regarding the lack of mask wearing in our community. We’ve been told people don’t feel comfortable shopping locally because of the lack of masks being worn or lack of safety protocols.
While the email was informational only, a few read it as a statement that the Chamber is promoting mask mandates and felt their rights were being violated. The Chamber is not taking a stance on the mask mandate issue. We are simply doing our best to support the success of our local business community by sharing what consumers are telling us. If we get a call from someone with complaints about a business’ customer service, cleanliness, product, facility, etc., we connect with that business and have a conversation. Again, we want our members to be successful, so we do everything we can to help solve those issues.
We viewed these complaints in the same way, and shared the feedback simply so local businesses could consider that information as they move forward with newly established protocols.
The Chamber is in the business of supporting business and commerce. We are not medical professionals or scientists, we are not government.
I defer back to the guest editorial that appeared in the January 15 Echo Press that stated “Our community is full of passionate people, and that is why we are so successful! Passion builds momentum, gains followers and is a catalyst for making things happen. But there is a fine line between passion and aggression. Much too often that line is crossed, and that is a detriment to our entire community.”
That editorial addressed the “mean-spirited words that get carelessly thrown around when there is debate of any kind within the community,” including, “aggressive, hurtful or hateful social media posts, the spreading of incorrect information to others, and worst of all, personal attacks.”
These are scary, challenging times for everyone in the world. While there is strength in numbers and comfort in knowing everyone is in this together, it’s also easy during times like this to choose sides and to let your passion flame so strongly that you fail to listen to the other side or worse, to start judging those who don’t agree with you.
Don’t let your passion turn to aggression. Have conversations, share open dialogue, listen, take a stand if you wish and support it with “me/I” instead of “you” statements, don’t judge others and condemn them for believing differently.
It’s OK to disagree, but it’s never OK to be disrespectful or unkind.