Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

High Point Welcome Center receives regional award


Sydney Yalshevec

The High Point Welcome Center of Western Nebraska was recently awarded the Bruce Riley McDaniel Award as an honor from the Upper Midwest Conventions and Visitors Bureau Conference. The award highlights the success of the center, which has been open just a year.

In the year since the opening of the High Point Welcome Center of Western Nebraska, the visitors committee has accomplished quite a bit. One of those accomplishments is that they recently won the 2014 Bruce Riley McDaniel Award for Bureau Innovation (budget of $350,000 or less).

The Bruce Riley McDaniel Awards are given in memory of one of the founders of the Upper Midwest Conventions and Visitors Bureau Conference. These awards are given to tourism industry professionals that achieve and exemplify greatness.

The basis on which this award is given out is how certain projects have impacted the community and what good they have done. The judges take into account whether or not the event or entity in question will be sustained in the future and whether it accomplished its goals.

The Kimball County Visitors Committee was nominated for the High Point Welcome Center of Nebraska. This idea was embarked upon on July 8, 2013, and in less than three months they served 3,500 visitors. On Sept. 4, 2013, two part-time travel counsellors were hired. On Dec. 6, 2013, the Nebraska Tourism Commission notified the High Point Welcome Center about having been added as an official I-80 information Center for 2014. This meant that the Nebraska Tourism Commission would help with summer staffing, and they did so for the entire summer.

Not only did the Welcome Center add to its staff, but the center also made updates and brought in new technology. On March 20, an ExploreBoard was installed. This kiosk allows an interactive look at the surrounding attractions. The Kimball-Banner Farm Bureau donated stock panels to build a corral on the Welcome Center's property, so that visitors who might be traveling with fair animals might allow them to stretch their legs. June 17 is when the corral was installed.

On July 1, Kimball County purchased the building, its contents and the 14 acres the building sits upon. On July 11, The Welcome Center served its 10,000th visitor.

With all that has been accomplished in the mere year that the Welcome Center has been open, its no wonder they were selected at the winners of the McDaniel Award.

"It's with the help and the support of this community and the surrounding communities that we have been able to accomplish something like this," Tourism Board Director Jo Caskey said.

Since lodging tax dollars that go to the visitors committee promotion fund and Improvement fund only average around $48,000 per year, Caskey has had to find other sources of revenue for the Welcome Center. The Welcome Center has received many scholarships in order to aid with funding, as well as received donations from the cities of Kimball and Gering, along with the counties of Dawes, Garden, Kimball, Morrill and Scotts Bluff.

"The support we've received from all over really proves that this is not just a Kimball project, but a regional project. It benefits everyone on the area," Caskey said.

The Welcome Center promotes current tourism attractions in the region to those who stop in, and it also uses its connections and credibility as a draw for future tourism attractions to come to the area. However, in order for the Welcome Center to even be able to promote tourism in the area, it first had to become a reality. Caskey praised upon the city, the county and the visitors committee for all their hard work.

"It's a project that everyone has worked so hard on and them getting recognition for the good they've done is amazing. It really just shows what an impact we can all have," Caskey said.

The award is a wonderful way to show how effective everyone involved has been in some fashion or another. Caskey hopes to inspire other communities as well as add to the credibility of the High Point Welcome Center.

"When you go to these conferences and you see what different communities accomplished, and maybe they're a smaller community than yours, you start thinking 'if they can do it, why can't I do it? Also, it will help with our credibility and make people stop and listen if they know we've won an award," Caskey said.

Caskey wanted to share the award with everyone because without the support of the community, it would not have become a reality.


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