GL seeks ways to boost winter tourism

Discussing ways to attract more visitors to Green Lake during the winter months are, from left, Crystal Krueger of Good Life Massage, Desiree Brush of Special Properties, Kristen Hermanson of Fortifi Bank, Lisa Beck of the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Laura Swayze of Creative Soul, Alli Henke of Young Stars Childcare, Maggie Shell of Gysbers Jewelry and Richard Gerstein of Bucket Wings. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

While summer is winding down, the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce (GLACC) and downtown businesses are working to brainstorm ways to keep the community engaged and boost tourism during the fall and winter months. 

At a meeting of downtown business leaders Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the chamber, preliminary plans were discussed for events coinciding with Halloween, Small Business Saturday and Christmas. 

“There’s so many ideas that can get tourism here in the winter that I think we could tap more, and not necessarily just downtown,” GLACC Executive Director Lisa Beck said.

Richard Gerstein, who is staying in Green Lake to help run Bucket Wings while his son, Will, is away for college, attended the meeting and predicted the pandemic could cause more people to stay in Green Lake this winter. 

“A lot of people from Chicago plan on spending their winter up here,” he said. “I think it will change the dynamic of winter this year, just like this summer was kind of a different summer. So there may be opportunities to try one or two things that we might not normally [do] because it tended to clear out in the winter.”

Much of the meeting was used to discuss ways to capitalize on the potential influx of Illinois residents as the seasons begin to change. 

One event possibility was an idea for a “Trunk or Treat” event that would take place during the lead up to Halloween. Trunk-or-Treating features children wandering from car to car, collecting candy from festively decorated trunks.

For the Green Lake version of the event, local business owners would have a decorated trunk near their establishment, where children could collect candy. Ideas  also were floated for possibly using the GLACC parking lot and the bingo hall in Town Square for the event as well. 

“Typically in the past, we haven’t had a ton of kids come through for the downtown trick-or-treating,” Gysbers Jewelry manager Maggie Shell said. “Now that there hasn’t been anything going on, I feel like people are looking for something to do.”

The idea for hosting a Trunk or Treat event in Green Lake came from a similar event in Berlin, hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area. 

Beck noted the event is likely going to be scheduled to not overlap with the city’s trick-or-treating hours, which are typically held on a Sunday around Halloween from 3 to 5 p.m. 

However, the city is waiting on recommendations from the Green Lake County Health Department regarding whether or not to host trick-or-treating.

“I am 90% sure we are doing it, however, I need to make sure that I don’t step on the toes of the city,” Beck said, adding that more information would be available in the coming weeks. 

Another possibility floated was an idea for a fall wine walk in downtown Green Lake. 

Chamber members discussed potentially hosting the event to coincide with either Small Business Saturday in November or the beginning of deer hunting. 

“Maybe we do a middle-of-the-day wine walk just for the women, while the guys are out hunting; that way you can get some food in your tummy before you walk around shopping and drinking,” said Laura Swayze, owner of Creative Soul of Green Lake. 

Aside from hosting a possible wine walk, business leaders discussed bringing Santa Claus, and possibly even his reindeer, downtown in December leading up to Christmas. 

“Last year, we were down in Ripon, and one of the businesses had it set up where kids could come see Santa, and it was packed,” Gerstein said. “The line was out the door, you couldn’t get into the place.” 

Beck noted bringing Santa Claus to town could be part of a larger event that may even resurrect the “Winterfest” moniker of yesteryear. 

Even so, she added nothing is set in stone and much of the discussion was meant to get the ball rolling in terms of planning for ways to attract tourists in the winter months.

“I don’t want to get too event heavy, but I want to provide a bit more for us through the winter months downtown,” Beck said. “I think it needs some activities.”