2013-04-18 / Top News

Cultural, heritage tourism boosts economic development

“Aho Mitakuye Oyasin.”

These are the Lakota Sioux words for “We are all related.” They ring true in North Dakota, across the country and around the world.

We share many similarities, yet the differences are what we celebrate. The differences in our heritage connect us to our individual past and make our story unique. This search for connection is what motivates cultural and heritage tourism.

“Cultural and heritage tourism is a tool of economic development that achieves economic growth through attracting visitors from outside a host community who are motivated wholly or in part by interest in the historical, artistic, scientific or lifestyle/ heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution,” says Raymond Rosenfeld of Eastern Michigan University. “Such travel is focused upon experiencing cultural environments, including landscapes, the visual and performing arts, and special lifestyles, values, traditions and events.”

In 2007, research from North Dakota State University showed that tourism is North Dakota’s second largest industry, contributing $3.8 billion to the state’s economy. The industry plays an important role in North Dakota’s efforts to attract, retain and expand wealth, and ultimately in improving the quality of life for our people.

The Norsk Høstfest in Minot is one example of North Dakota’s cultural and heritage tourism. It has endured for 35 years, with Mange takk (many thanks) to festival travelers. It grows larger with each passing festival.

The primary goal of Høstfest is the preservation of Scandinavian culture and heritage for future generations. The attendees and participants in Høstfest’s production are the lifeblood of the festival.

Tens of thousands of people attend the event annually to celebrate and partake in Scandinavian culture and entertainment. More than 200 internationally recognized artisans, craftsmen and chefs participate every year.

The experience is an eclectic array of the contemporary and the traditional. The cuisine, as well as the clothes, art and jewelry, are authentic, of fine quality and exquisitely Nordic.

The United Tribes International Powwow is another example of the state’s cultural and heritage tourism opportunities. The 44th annual powwow will be held at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck in September.

Dancers compete for tens of thousands of dollars in prize money. Also, Miss Indian Nations is crowned, and the annual Parade of Champions is held in downtown Bismarck.

The powwow is considered one of North Dakota’s premier cultural events. It attracts more than 10,000 people every year.

Elsewhere in the state, the Tri-County Tourism Alliance of Emmons, Logan and McIntosh counties is a nonprofit organization that promotes the cultural and historic history of the Germans from Russia who settled in those counties. According to the 2000 census, individuals of German ancestry account for 82.2 percent of the population in McIntosh County, 75 percent in Logan County and 69.2 in Emmons County.

True to the familiar mantra of the Germans from Russia, “Arbeit macht das Leben süß,” which in English means “work makes life sweet,” the organization has collected memories for its book, “Ewiger Saatz—Everlasting Yeast.” The book tells the story of how the Germans from Russia fed their families in the early years of homesteading in the tri-county area.

The story is told through the voices of the immigrants who came to North Dakota in the 1880s and 1890s with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Pre-publication orders coming in from around the country testify to the long reach of culture and heritage in German Russian country.

Cultural and heritage tourism in North Dakota is about travelers wanting to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. Travelers want to experience “real people, real places, real things,” says Tom Isern, a history professor and University Distinguished Professor at NDSU.

For more information about cultural and heritage tourism in North Dakota, contact Carmen Rath-Wald, an Extension agent in Logan County, at carmen.rath. wald@ndsu.edu or (701) 754-2504.

Also, visit the Norsk Hostfest website at http://hostfest.com/ or the Tri-County Tourism Alliance website at http:// germanrussiancountry.org/, and watch for updates on the powwow at www.unitedtribespowwow.com.

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