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Year in Review: Luverne works toward destination branding

LUVERNE -- Major U.S. cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and New York City have something for everyone and draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

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Luverne conducted its Purple Heart City dedication ceremony Tuesday on U.S. 75 next to the new Rotary Park. Pictured (from Left) are are Esther Frakes, Pat Baustian, Gary Hassebroek, Buck Underwood, Kevin Aaker, John Call; back row, Eugene Marshall and Caroline Thorson. Gary Hassebroek, Buck Underwood are Purple Heart recipients along with Glen Gust and Andrew Hansen (not shown). (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

LUVERNE - Major U.S. cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and New York City have something for everyone and draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

Having a hook to lure in visitors to small southwest Minnesota towns, though, isn’t quite so easy. For the past year, some of Luverne’s greatest movers and shakers have put their support behind destination branding - finding the community’s niche and marketing it to draw people to town.

Luverne already has several destination-type features - the Blue Mounds State Park is just outside of town, not far from Touch the Sky Prairie. Then, inside the former jailhouse in the Rock County Courthouse Square is the Brandenburg Gallery, featuring photographs captured by world-renowned photographer and Luverne’s native son, Jim Brandenburg. In that same building is the Herreid Military Museum, which gives a nod to the the city that hosted the red-carpet premier of Ken Burns’ 2007 documentary series, “The War.”

This summer, the community added to its prominence by being designated as a Purple Heart City; and when The History Center opened this fall, its 2,500-plus nutcracker display, donated by local historian Betty Mann, was billed as the largest display of nutcrackers in the Midwest.

The city also continues to expand construction of the Luverne Loop, a walking and biking trail that traverses the city and connects with the Blue Mound Trail. Pending additional funding, the Loop could be fully completed by 2020.

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Luverne’s destination branding will continue in 2017, with continued work to develop the Rock River Water Trail and plans to bring tourism, branding and marketing expert Roger Brooks to town.

Brooks is scheduled to do a community assessment in Luverne in early June.

“He’s the No. 1 destination branding and marketing and assessment person in the United States,” said Jane Lanphere, director of the Luverne Chamber of Commerce. “He will be here June 5-9 and will walk up and down the streets, find out what the community has and present a community assessment that Thursday night.

“We hope that from there we’ll be able to have a project plan that will help us build on a concept that we can really grow this community as a destination,” she added. “It’s a 10- or 20-year process, but if we don’t start now, it’s never going to happen.”

The city of Luverne will celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2017.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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