1,542 dads, moms,
kids, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles, of all ages, wandered through
the doors of the visitor center, breaking the one-day record for attendance
by more than 100 since the center opened in 2006.
Tourism Bureau Director Lorelei Weimer said from Thursday, July 3 through
Monday, July 7 a grand total of over 5,300 people came knocking and the
phones were ringing off the hook.
“We answered over
360 information calls. We just kept clicking,” said Weimer.
It appears as if
2014 will be one for the books, with 75,000 visitors so far, she said.
That’s quite a leap compared to the previous visitor center at 800 Indian
Boundary Road that would typically see a tally of about 7,500 a year.
Weimer thanked her
staff and the members of the Dunes National Lakeshore, which jointly
occupies the space with the county tourism bureau, for keeping up with the
traffic at the front desk.
Patti Boyer said most questions visitors asked were not about the beach, as
one might expect, but about what else there is to do outside the Dunes in
local communities, such as dining, shopping and attractions.
Weimer said the
weather can be a factor in attendance figures but the outreach effort by the
staff has also made a difference. Two initiatives with plenty of feedback
this year have been the Burger Wars with other counties in the Northern
Indiana Tourism Development Commission and the 3 Dune Challenge.
Octave Grill is
Burger Wars asked
the public to decide where the best signature burgers were served in
Northern Indiana. Nearly 60,000 votes were cast in all, Weimer said. Winning
the contest in Porter County was Octave Grill in Chesterton, followed by
Franklin House in Valparaiso. Both places will advance to a regional round.
The publicity from
the contest has reportedly garnered more business for all eight local
restaurants featured and a “sizable, noticeable uptick” in the number of
burgers sold since Burger Wars began, Weimer said.
Up for the
Meanwhile, the 3
Dune Challenge -- Dunes State Park Trail 8 -- generated a big enough buzz to
win coverage from news groups outside of the area, such as WISH TV in
Indianapolis and the Kokomo Herald.
Since the kickoff
on June 12, IDT has had more than 450 people stop by the visitor center to
collect their free decal for finishing the challenge, which consists of a
hike up the “Tremonts” Ð Mt. Tom, Mt. Holden and Mt. Jackson.
Weimer said hoodies
for the 3 Dune Challenge have been a favorite at the gift shop inside the
Visitors Center and the tourism bureau is already on its third order.
From surveys, less
than a third who conquer the trail are from Porter County or Northwest
Indiana. Another 28 percent are people from elsewhere in Indiana, 15 percent
are from Illinois, 6 percent are from Wisconsin, and 2 percent are
The challenge has
appealed mostly to young people. Forty percent of those who do the challenge
are 18 years or under.
According to the
survey, Weimer said 25 percent of the hikers found out about the 3 Dunes
Challenge from visiting Dunes State Park. Twenty-two percent said they found
out by word of mouth, 19 percent from the visitor center, 19 percent from an
online source, 12 percent from newspapers and 2 percent from hotels.
themselves were featured in CNN’s “50 States Natural Wonders” feature that
shared them with millions of viewers, Weimer said.
In other business,
the Innkeepers Tax Collection is up 12 percent from last year. June’s check
from April collections was $97,908.72.