West End News July 2

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Once again the Tofte Fourth of July celebration is about to happen. The celebration reminds me of a self-running aquarium; it maintains, year after year. I took a course in management once. The instructor hammered away on the idea that if an organization is well done it will pretty much run itself. The Tofte Fourth of July must be well done, because many parts of it seem to be self-running.

This is not true of the annual Tofte Trek, the 10K wilderness run/walk. This is the 31st running this year. The Tofte Trek is very well-planned and managed following the model set by Jan Horak over his many years of leading the Trek. This is not a wimpy 10K on city streets. The word "wilderness" is accurate. The course is through the woods. In a good year there are swamps and running streams to deal with.

This may be the only 10K around which provides a hose to flush the mud off the runners as they finish the race.

The race is still open for entrants. E-mail April Wahlstrom at wahlstromam@gmail.com for the complete scoop on participating in the race.

The most fun at the Trek is the kids’ races. These races start at 9AM. The kids run their hearts out for the short dashes of the race.

I remember when our granddaughter Ruthie was small. I thought she was a pretty fast runner, so I encouraged her to enter the race. Ruthie wanted to know how far she would have to run. I told her that it would be about the same as running from our store to lunch when she heard the lunch bell on the intercom. She agreed that she could handle that distance.

She won her event at the Trek. Her ribbon and the ribbons that the other grandchildren won at the Trek may still be on display in the log house at Sawbill.

It would be nice to say that this was the start of a long and successful running career; but in truth that was pretty much the high point.

We attended the wedding of two former Sawbill employees on Saturday, June 26. The wedding was at the Tofte Park on a beautiful afternoon. What a great place the Tofte family dedicated to the community almost a century ago. The park is one of the lesser known gems along the North Shore. The West End community agrees that this is exactly the way the park should be, lesser known.

Jessa Wallendal and Eric Frost, now Mr. and Mrs. Frost, local folks, were the bride and groom. Their wedding was celebrated by family, friends, and especially fun for us, former fellow crew members from Sawbill Outfitters. The Sawbill crew members develop a firm relationship with each other. Showing up at each other's weddings is something that is just done. Like the Tofte Fourth of July, it happens.

The discussion of promotion of the Superior National golf course revives some memories of tourist promotion in the county during the era of Bud and Charlet Kratoska. They carried the tourist promotion at the county level on their backs for many years.

Bud and Charlet attended sports shows where they distributed literature and collected names of people at the shows who wanted more information. Then, as now, increased business was the goal. Then, as now, examples were cited of other vacation areas which spent multiples of the dollars spent here. The idea was: Spend more, get more business.

Bud and I were wondering how effective the advertising done really was. We decided to draw a random sample of the folks who had been sent literature at their request. We designed a questionnaire to send to the sample asking questions about what they did after they got the literature. Our basic question for us was "did what we were doing generate reservations.” That was the bottom line, and the answer was that not many reservations resulted from the bulk mailings or the thousands of brochures distributed at sports shows.

What did generate reservations was personal contact, and follow-up to see if the customer was pleased with their vacation experience in Cook County. Follow-up was almost never done. Hard to believe, but true.

In the day of Bud and Charlet individual contacts were expensive and difficult. There had to be a high margin of profit to justify the cost and effort. Today with all of our electronic tools, the cost is down and so is the effort.

Superior National is looking for golfers, not tourists in general, so the promotion should be very specific. It is well worth the time to take a breath and figure out how to identify potential golfing customers. Superior National has been open for a long time. If names and addresses of players are kept that would be a pool to work with. E-mail is a wonderful tool not available to Bud and Charlet.

I agree that we have a magnificent facility at Superior National. It is well worthwhile to invest in promotion for the course; but the promotion needs to move into the 21st century. It can be done, and we have many smart people in our community who can do it. As our 2-year-old great-granddaughter says, "I do it myself".

This is Frank Hansen at WTIP with the West End News.

Airdate: July 2, 2010
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