Prairie du Chien in television spotlight as a vacation treasure


As one of two main co-hosts for Discover Wisconsin (along with Collin Geraghty), Mariah Haberman gets to travel the state and learn about hidden vacation treasures like Prairie du Chien. Haberman and cinematographer Jason Weiss are shown filming a segment at the local theme park attraction Prairie Fun Land, where Haberman raced go-karts with a few young patrons Aug. 7. (Photo by Correne Martin)

Discover Wisconsin recently shot footage at Prairie Fun Land and a variety of other destinations in Prairie du Chien for an upcoming television program about Wisconsin’s river communities. Host Mariah Haberman (right) is shown racing on the business’ popular go-kart race track with a young patron. Prairie Fun Land offers families a theme park adventure close to home.

By Correne Martin

In case you missed it this summer, Prairie du Chien has become a vacation treasure for travelers near and far. Of course, there are always more rooms to fill in local hotels, cabins, cottages, and B&Bs and the Prairie du Chien Tourism Council is doing what it can to fill vacancies.

Recently, the council secured a promotional package with Discover Wisconsin, a television show dedicated to Wisconsin tourism, to spotlight Prairie du Chien as one of three Wisconsin river communities—in addition to Boscobel and Sauk Prairie. Crews shot camera footage along both the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers in the city of Prairie du Chien area last week.

Once the show is produced, edited and finalized, it will air the first weekend in April of 2014 on local TV channels in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. It will also air two more times in 2015 and 2016.

“We want to put information out there that depicts Prairie du Chien not just as a pass-through town, but more of a destination,” said Patti Wacker, tourism coordinator. “The idea is to bring people to Prairie du Chien for more than a day trip. We want them to stay overnight or even longer because there’s so much more to our community than meets the eye.”

Producer Danielle Bernard said Discover Wisconsin’s programs are planned to give viewers “a little insight into what makes each community a great destination.”

“It gives each place a nice platform to showcase to travelers in and away from the area what’s available in those communities,” Bernard stated. “It definitely helps communities bring in visitors.”

Bernard spent three days exploring Prairie du Chien last week along with cinematographers Jason Weiss and Shawn Hermsen. Host Mariah Haberman shot her on-camera interviews and activities at various locations on Wednesday.
A few of the stops on their itinerary included Prairie Fun Land, Bear Foot Bay Indoor Water Park, Pete’s Hamburger Stand, Wyalusing State Park, Pike’s Peak overlook (McGregor, Iowa), Fort Crawford Museum, Villa Louis, St. Feriole Island, The Cannery and Valley Fish & Cheese. They also shot video of the exteriors of businesses such as Fort Mulligans, The Local Oven, Juniper’s, Simply and Pickett Fence in downtown Prairie du Chien as well as Eagle’s Landing Winery and Lady Luck Casino in Marquette, Iowa.

For footage of the rivers, the crew rode with Mississippi Explorer Cruises, boated with Captain’s Cove Owner Harry Klotz, paddled along with local enthusiast Sally Marshall and a kayak club at the Millville Boat Landing, and photographed some aerial shots from Mike Hager’s plane.

They interviewed local historians Michael Douglass and Mary Antoine, fisherwoman Sally Marshall, Wyalusing State Park Ranger Chad Breuer, and Captain Annie and Naturalist Chris on-board the Mississippi Explorer Cruises, among others.

The intent of Prairie du Chien’s portion of this Discover Wisconsin episode is not only to explore the beauty of the rivers and bluffs but also to delve into the community’s rich history, cultural resources and recreational activities that can be enjoyed on and off the water.

According to Wacker, the cost to participate in this Discover Wisconsin promotion is $14,500, which will be split among PdC, Boscobel and Sauk Prairie. In addition to three half-hour TV shows in three years, the tourism council will receive two radio features—one emphasizing Prairie du Chien only and the other focusing on all three communities. News releases and promotion at Discover Wisconsin’s trade shows and on discoverwisconsin.com are also included in the package.

In the grand scheme of the tourism council’s $150,000 advertising budget and $35,000 summer advertising budget, spending less than $5,000 on Discover Wisconsin is good marketing, according to Wacker.

“We generally see an immediate response and get quite a few requests for information right after the show airs,” Wacker said, explaining that the response tends to fluctuate depending on how close to the tourism season the episode airs. The air dates are determined by Discover Mediaworks, the show’s production company, which also works with the Prairie du Chien Tourism Council on editing the script.

Wacker speaks from experience. The tourism council’s partnership with Discover Wisconsin began in 2004, when a full episode spotlighting Prairie du Chien was done. In 2008, Prairie du Chien collaborated with three other communities for a birding show. Then in 2010, the city shared an episode with Trempealeau.

“Once you become a partner with them, they keep in touch with you and come up with new themes. The goal is to educate people on places they can go in Wisconsin,” Wacker added. “We’ve put ourselves out there, and I think Prairie du Chien is pretty much considered a major destination now.”

Wacker said last week’s Discover Wisconsin filming went well, and she believes the businesses and individuals who helped secure the footage were a large part of the success.

“It’s really nice to see people helping out. I think they will see the return on their investment of time,” she said.

Discover Wisconsin airs on Fox Sports North (during the Outdoor Block) on Saturdays at 10 a.m. To find which of your local channels carries the program, visit http://discoverwisconsin.com/TVandRadio.aspx and click on “TV Station Guide.”

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