The nights are cool now and cold rains have whipped through the Goshen area the past few days. Colorful leaves are falling on lawns. The palette of flowers in this year’s quilt garden have been pulled up and no one is stopping in front of the courthouse to take pictures of the garden. These are all reminders that the height of our tourism season has passed. But it was a good year for the local tourist industry.
In Wednesday’s edition correspondent DL Perrin told about how Shipshewana merchants felt tourism numbers were pretty good this year and that four out of every five dollars of retail activity in LaGrange County comes from tourism. Also, The Goshen News reported that back in 2011, local tourism poured $401 million into our local economy.
Here in the heart of the recreational vehicle industry economy we oftentimes forget that there are other industries that contribute in a big way to our local economy. Tourism is one of those industries.
Our local tourism is unique. We don’t have snow-capped mountains or lovely lakeshores. What we do have is a variety of small attractions, when taken together, create a collection of events and venues that can hold the attention of an eclectic tour bus group.
Of course the Amish-lifestyle is a big draw in western LaGrange County and southern Elkhart County. But there is so much more to do and see in Goshen and surrounding areas. The Ignition Garage music venue has become a draw for music fans who want to experience live music up close and in a personal setting.
First Fridays draws thousands of people from throughout Michiana. The Elkhart County Fair has become a Midwest attraction and the fairgrounds is used often by groups holding large recreational vehicle rallies. The RV industry itself is an attraction, with rally groups and others taking tours of local factories. There is also the splendid RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart where historic RVs are on display.
Besides these popular attractions, hundreds of restaurants, shops, quilting seminars, church symposiums, Goshen College events, bicycle rides and running and walking events draw people to our county’s communities. And the people who come here like what they see and experience. That is why we believe our county’s hospitality and the nice people who live here are the biggest draw for tourists. Tourists know they will get quality items in stores, a smile and a “thank-you” from shop owners and they can ask anyone for directions and get a courteous response.
Combined with the local attractions, our fine quality of life will continue to draw tourists in the future and we expect this industry will become more important to the local economy each year. For all those who work in the local tourist industry and offer service with a smile hundreds of times every day, we say “good job.” And most of all, “thank you.”