Marshal Dillon didn't sleep here
By Jennifer M. Latzke
Like spotting the first robin of spring, I spotted the first out-of-state license plate of the summer tourist season in Dodge City last week.
From now until Labor Day, our little town will see thousands of RVs, motorcycles, trucks, cars, and yes, “Family Trucksters” as folks from all over the world come to see where Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty and the “Gunsmoke” crew saved the day each week in 60 minutes or less. When you live in a town like ours that relies on essentially three months of tourism income to sustain the other nine months of the year, you make hay while the sun shines.
Our hotels and their staffs will work tirelessly to accommodate their requests. Our Convention and Visitors Bureau will hand out thousands of brochures and marked-up maps of the area. Our World Famous Boot Hill Gunfighters will face off twice a day in gunfights on Front Street, dying and returning to life for the entertainment of the crowd.
It’s what they get paid to do, after all.
But what about the folks in the community who don’t get paid to be the face of tourism?
What about that gas station attendant who sees all those vehicle owners as they come into her store to get gas? Is she greeting them with a smile and able to answer their questions about the area?
Are your local merchants welcoming to out-of-towners and their requests? Do they go the extra mile to tell them about the local cafÃ© that has the best burgers in town? Do they tell them where they can find the prettiest picture sites for family vacation photos?
I asked myself all these questions this week. See, I was on a road trip from Dodge City to Omaha, Nebraska. I stopped in St. Joseph, Missouri, for fuel and the lady in the car at the fuel pump across from me noticed the Journal logos on my truck. She came over and said she and her husband were thinking about taking a trip out west—they were big “Gunsmoke” fans—and she wanted to know what was out our way.
Now, I very well could have brushed her off, but instead I launched into my tourism spiel. I told her that we have the Boot Hill Museum, with the best chuckwagon dinner and a show in town—sans Marshal Dillon, who was fictional after all. I told her we have the new casino with a hotel and an arena attached. And, in the end, I gave her my card and told her that if she wanted more advice to call me and I’d be happy to point her in the right direction.
She was amazed and a little disappointed that Marshal Dillon didn’t really save Dodge. She asked me if I worked for the CVB, and I told her nope. I just live in a unique part of the world and we like to share our heritage with visitors who make the trip. As she walked away, I don’t know for sure if she and her husband will make it out to Dodge or not—it is quite a haul after all. But I at least did my part to encourage them to visit.
You see, we each have a responsibility to be ambassadors for our communities. We all want our little towns to thrive. We want our history to be recorded in our community museums. We want our stores to stay open. Tourism is a part of that.
It doesn’t cost a thing to smile and wave to a summer tourist. But it is the best investment in your community you’ll make all year.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.