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Hormel Historic Home receives tourism honor

While some people may take it for granted, area leaders are looking to make sure the public knows Austin is a great place to visit.

This is the message being promoted during the 27th annual National Tourism Week, which kicked off in Austin with citywide garage sales May 8 and runs through Saturday. The week is a time to highlight and showcase tourism.

“It’s a good chance to remind people of all the opportunities we have in our community and our state,” said Cheryl Corey, executive director of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

On Wednesday, the bureau awarded the Hormel Historic Home with the Tourism Toplist Award. The convention and visitors bureau presents the award each year to recognize a business, person, event or thing that had the greatest impact on tourism the previous year.

The Hormel Historic Home was presented the award to recognize the recent expansion that added a conference center and banquet hall.

With the new addition, the home will host trade shows, conferences and events this summer, said Laura Helle, executive director of the Hormel Historic Home. According to Helle, the number of bus tours visiting the home nearly doubled last year.

With the additional space, the home will also feature some new events, said Randy Kramer, the Hormel Home’s board of trustees chair.

“We’re excited to see what this venue will evolve into,” Kramer said.

One new event will be a quarterly cooking class that will utilize overhead cameras positioned in the new kitchen. The first class will be held this summer, and about 100 people can attend.

New ways to attract tourism will be important in the coming year, as Corey said people are opting for more instate travel because of the economy. While tourism has been slow this year, Corey said she expects travel to pick up once school adjourns for the summer.

According to Corey, the travel industry generates $11.2 billion in leisure and hospitality sales each year. Betty Olson, office support staff at the convention and visitors bureau, said about 39 million people visit Minnesota each year. Each dollar invested in tourism, Olson said, brings back about $78.

“We’re really fortunate because in Minnesota we have a lot to offer,” Olson said. “This is an amazing state with diversity and richness.”

Angela Himebaugh, group tour coordinator, said jobs in leisure and hospitality increased by 127 percent between 1975 to 2005.

“Travel means jobs in Minnesota and around the country,” Himebaugh said.

Himebaugh said that people often take local attractions for granted because many people grew up with them.

People will have a chance to visit destinations in Austin for Family Fun Day on June 12. The event will be a day for families to have free tours of places like the Hormel Historic Home, the Spam Museum, the Paramount Theater, the Hormel Institute, the Mower County Historical Society and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

Last year, the Hormel Institute received the Austin’s Toplist Award following the institute’s expansion. The Austin Public Library received the first award in 2008 to recognize the traveling Smithsonian exhibit “Key Ingredients.”