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Good Evening friend!
The Good Life: We are the Valley’s emissaries
August 01, 2013 Lisa Betz   

Read more by Lisa Betz
One of my favorite phrases last weekend was the following: “Welcome to Gering!” Having helped with the Five Rocks Amphitheatre barbecue put on by Caddies last Friday to welcome the baseball tournament visitors, I got to use this phrase a lot. It continued throughout the weekend whenever I saw people out and about who looked like they were part of the tournament held in Gering.

Fresh Foods was a great place to see visitors and talk with them. I had a few conversations with baseball visitors and asked them what they thought of Gering. They smiled enthusiastically and said they thought it was a really neat place. They weren’t being polite either; they had a sparkle in their eyes that said they meant it.

It was my pleasure to welcome them to Gering, and wish them luck in the tournament. I ran into members of the McCook team just after they had lost a game, so I asked them if they needed any suggestions for how to spend their downtime. They eagerly said, “Yes!”

I asked if they liked to hike and told them about the monument, explaining that they could have a physically challenging experience or an easy one, describing the trail and the handy shuttle service offered at the park, along with the magnificent view they could get of the whole area.

Their eyes lit up.

I told them about Prairie Pines Quilt Shop and Julie’s Antiques. Mom was interested in the shopping but they all got really excited when I mentioned our Mexican food. I believe we have the best Mexican food in the state right here in the Valley and I told them so. I told them they could probably eat every meal at a different Mexican food establishment and not be disappointed once during their stay. I could almost see them salivating.

I also told them about the Platte Valley Creamery, one of the Valley’s authentic gems. This information really made a dent.

Of course, I also told them about FARM and Legacy of the Plains, about the zoo and Chimney Rock. They were very appreciative of these suggestions and thanked me warmly.

I know it’s not easy for everyone to speak to complete strangers, but this is the type of behavior we all need to embrace when we see visitors here.

I remember when I first moved away from home. My mom and I were at the Walmart in Lexington, Ky. buying something for my first apartment. Mom went right up to a lady and asked her a question. The lady was so friendly to us, taking her time to help us navigate this foreign new place. Mom and I walked away feeling great about my new home. Mom said, “You will be just fine here, honey.” And I was.

You see, it’s those very casual experiences that visitors to our area have with random strangers in the grocery stores, restaurants, even in public bathrooms and on the street, which make our community shine.

Yes we need to have nice amenities, things to do and places to eat, but when it comes right down to it, the Valley’s people are the make or break asset to tourism.

There is great pride here about our community. I feel it in my heart, and I know that you do too. So the next time you see someone out and about who is clearly from somewhere else, say to them, “Welcome to Gering!” or “Welcome to the Valley!” And mean it. Then ask them if they need any suggestions for things to do or places to go or any help at all. Even if they don’t, it’s a guarantee that they will be impressed that we care enough to make them feel welcome.

I can tell you from experience that you will meet very nice people from all over who will affirm our love for this place because they will enthusiastically tell you how much they enjoy the beauty here. Between the Valley’s natural beauty, historic significance and the outstanding hospitality we extend, who wouldn’t go home and talk up our little gem on the prairie? The goal is to inspire them to tell their friends and families about the Valley and encourage their repeat visitation. This is a powerful way that we can build tourism here.

Thank you to the Legion Baseball Organization, the Legion Seniors team, tournament organizers, and the volunteers who worked so hard to give our visitors a great experience. Thank you also to the folks who work in our restaurants, shops and hotels. You are all on the front line of tourism, leaving important impressions about our community with visitors.

Remember, every interaction our visitors have with us makes a lasting, overall impression. From what I could tell, everyone did a great job of making our visitors feel welcome this week.
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