MARQUETTE — The UP200 is back in action after being canceled last year due to COVID-19 precautions.
Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, is in town this weekend promoting the event. Parent company Michigan Economic Development Corporation is teaming with Pure Michigan to sponsor the race.
“It’s important that we do all we can to support events like this specifically because these major events do more than just bring economic activity to a community,” Lorenz said. “This event pulls people together. After these last couple of years, if there’s one thing we need to get back to business, it is bringing people together. Events like this allow a community to celebrate its culture, to showcase what they’re really proud about, and quite literally to bring us back together.”
Lorenz said the city benefits economically from events such as the UP200 in more ways than one.
There is a direct impact; visitors coming to town for the race stay in hotels, shop at local stores, dine at local restaurants and cafes, and drink at local bars.
Then, there is also the follow up impact; people come to town for the event and see shops and restaurants that intrigue them, but don’t have time to stop at them right then and there. However, then they come to town the next day, or months from now and stop in at those places.
Then, going even further, visitors may come here and realize what an amazing place the Upper Peninsula is, and could see themselves living here.
One local event can spark so many possibilities.
“People come from (many different) places. (Some of them) never would have been here except for this event,” Lorenz said.
While it can be brutally cold outside, it’s worth bundling up to experience the great energy of people cheering on the mushers.
“This event kind of showcases the tenacity and the grittiness of Yoopers. How many events can you think of where people line a downtown street on a Friday night — it’s dark, often it’s bitterly cold and windy — and it’s a big party. People are lined up, row after row of people, along the side to watch the dogs take off. That’s pretty awesome,” Lorenz said.
Part of what makes events like the UP200 so special is the sense of community and the warmth of the residents in welcoming visitors, he added. Marquette, and the U.P. in general, is an authentic and genuine part of Michigan.
Sure, one could visit Disney World or Six Flags. The atmosphere at those places are fun, but there is a generic experience tied to them.
Whereas, one could travel to a place such as Mackinac Island and get a warm, down-to-earth welcoming from residents who care.
“We promote Marquette for all seasons in our international markets. Of course Ontario, but we work with this office (Travel Marquette) to market in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the U.K. and Ireland,” Lorenz said.
He stated travelers always tell him how friendly and welcoming everyone is in Marquette.
“They love the warmth that is expressed here,” he said.
When asked about his thoughts on tourism numbers in the U.P. this summer, Lorenz said the people downstate may want to travel to other areas of the country now that things have opened up more. That being said, the U.P. is still a beautiful place, and we will still see tourists.
“That’s one of the goals for our office is to encourage people to go to places where people look different, sound different, act different, and learn that we’re all the same,” he said.
Travel Michigan is encouraging people to spread their vacations out and look at coming here in the spring or later fall, that way so many people aren’t trying to swarm the U.P. all at the same time in the summer. They’re also trying to make it a point to ensure travelers are more aware of the natural beauty of the environment, and to be mindful of how they’re treating nature.
Travel Michigan just recorded new ads with actor-comedian Tim Allen for the warm weather season coming up.
“We’re a very diverse state and it’s time we celebrate that,” Lorenz said. “Diverse places, diverse people. Diversity is a strength. Being all the same can be a weakness. We are saying that in our advertising. We are also going to be asking people what Pure Michigan (means) to them. That’s the essence of the next campaign.”
What makes Michigan such a great state? Lorenz said it is a mix of the diversity of people and places, and interesting mix of cultures, nature, the fact that we have and embrace all four seasons, and the authentic experiences people get when visiting.
“The more you travel, the greater and broader your perspective is on life,” Lorenz said.