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Many businesses report high tourism traffic

By Staff | Sep 11, 2009

The peak of the summer tourism season is behind us, and judging by the comments from some local businesses linked to the industry, visitor counts in Rugby appear to be up.

Don Sobolik, secretary of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), said the number of people passing through the area seemed to be higher than past years, and that’s good news since the reality of a sluggish national economy may have kept more vacationers closer to home.

Perhaps the lower gas prices helped encourage more vacationers to go on the road.

Sobolik said the Rugby visitors center was busy, as many motorists took a few moments to stop in. Many he noted, were from Canada.

“A lot of them (from Ontario) choose to come south and drive in the U.S. en route to British Columbia,’ he said.

Motorists who do stop often have questions about the area, and that’s where visitor center staff get the chance to promote the community and area, giving travelers information about businesses and local points of interest, Sobolik said.

Candace Hornstein, owner of the Coffee Cottage, was pleased with the amount of tourist traffic in her restaurant along U.S. Highway 2. She said her customer counts were up in July and August compared to a year ago. And she added a good number were from outside the tri-state area.

Bonnie Berginski, owner of Rockin’ Relics, said that downtown eatery also received a good number of customers from outside the area.

The motel and campgrounds also remained relatively full throughout the summer, and a big part of that was attributed to construction projects going on in the area, namely the wind farm and road improvements in the city.

Theresa Rocheleau, owner of Oakwood Inn and Campground, was happy with the business, commenting that in addition to the influx of motel or campground guests working on construction crews, they received a number of vacationers passing through.

Rocheleau said big events in neighboring Minot or Devils Lake seem to create some spillover traffic in Rugby. Whether it’s the state fair or a large fishing event, Rugby benefits from those attractions, she said.

The construction workers staying in town generated additional business for motels, gas stations and grocery stores, as well as the bars. And a number of apartments and rental houses were filled with the workers.

Unfortunately, the steady traffic didn’t account for higher attendance figures at Rugby’s Prairie Village Museum this year. In fact, the museum will likely see a drop in overall attendance compared to last year, according to Pam Schmitt, curator. And that’s been a trend of late.

Of course, tourism remains a big part of the fall season in the Rugby area, as out-of-state waterfowl hunter will converge in the coming weeks.

Also, the annual Hostfest in Minot brings guests to the community. Although the entertainment and events are there, many do stay in motels in Rugby and eat a few meals in between trips back and forth to Minot.

Rocheleau said there are already a number of bookings at her motel which are attributed to those coming events.

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