WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     WALNUT GROVE — Wednesday evening about 20 persons interested in preserving the Fragments of a Dream, Wilder Pageant gathered at the elementary school in Walnut Grove.

    Those in attendance all had some connection to the 40 year old production put on by the community and area. The main purpose of the meeting was to set up focus groups in five different areas. The groups are: Board Mission, Theatrical Production, Audience Development/ Promotion, Community Partnerships and Funding Sources and Plans.

    Richards opened the meeting, welcoming those who showed up, and having each one introduce themselves and their connection or interest in the pageant.

    Richards then began a power point program which outlined various information regarding the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant and its link to other things like economic development, and enhancing local tourism.

    The meeting and program was funded by the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council.

    Richards talked about things that could be addressed in regards to the pageant. Some of those things included: entertainment value, historical education, community common purpose, and community economic impact. Richards said, “hopefully there are people here that can offer ideas to make the pageant move forward. He talked about the changes in how people travel for entertainment. He also pointed out the venues across the country that are competing for the event patrons that the Wilder Pageant is trying to attract.

    It was pointed out that the demographics have changed in the area with a high amount of elderly and grandparents now bringing their grandchildren, more than young families.

    One of the power point panels was a quote  from Laura Ingalls Wilder. “ If enough people think of a thing and work hard enough at it, I guess it’s pretty nearly bound to happen, wind and weather permitting.”

    Panels also reflected a 2009 Tourism Consideration 2020 Vision Report of 2009 Tourism Area Life Cycle - U of M Economic Multipliers - Southwest Marketing Advisory  Institute for Outdoor Theater State Demographer.

    Some  of the areas covered by the report included - quality customer service training for tourism employees. “Green” travel destinations, experiences. Packaged  quick  trips. Trails for biking, hiking, snowmobiling, and ATV riding. Experiences that feature local foods,  artists and varied ethnic heritage.

    One panel showed a graph of the tourism area life cycle. It starts with a graph that shows the path of the number of tourists and the time line of change. It starts with Exploration, Involvement, Development, Consolidation, Rejuvenation, Stagnation, followed by decline. Richard says, we are at the point between  Rejuvenation and stagnation. That is you are here to be looking at what to do to improve the overall quality of the Pageant and the experience for our visitors.

    He noted that there are no events in southwest Minnesota that are in the top 100 in the state.

    He then handed out a draft sheet listing ideas that have come before the board in the five focus areas. He asked each of the individuals to mark the ideas that are most important to them in each group. After completing that he asked each of the focus groups to tally the top three items in each group and then mark them down on a master draft of the focus areas.

    He then asked each person to come up with a vision idea for subsequent meetings. Richards also extended an invitation to those who were unable to attend the  first meeting. They can attend any or all of the focus group meetings.

    Below is a schedule of  general and focus group meetings.

Session Two: Setting the Vision - October 2017.

Board Mission Development - OCT. 4th - 6 p.m. -2017

Funding Sources and Plans - OCT. 4th - 8 p.m. - 2017

Audience Development - OCT. 11 - 6 p.m. - 2017

Community Partnerships - OCT. 11 - 8 p.m. - 2017

Theatrical Production - OCT 23 - 6 p.m. -2017

Session Three: Analyze the Challenges - Nov. 8 - 6 p.m. - 2017

Session Four: Short and Long Term Plans - Jan. 10 - 6 p.m. - 2018

Session Five: Final Recommendations - Mar. 7 - 6 p.m. - 2018

FOR INFORMATION or to check on time, date and meeting location contact Bill Richards at richards@wwgschools.org or text or call 507-828-6616. Call or email your questions. Agendas and data available upon request.