Inside the Tourism Industry – Pt 1

Located in the heart of Nebraska, Kearney’s central location and proximity to I-80 has made it a destination for travelers, family reunions and many events and conventions. Kearney is a great place full of attractions and history, but one of the best features is the people!

Tourism in Buffalo County helps our community in many ways, bringing people into our attractions and businesses as well as providing approximately 1,600 jobs in Buffalo County. Take a look inside the tourism industry as we introduce you to some of the people that are helping make tourism thrive in our community.

First up is Mark Foradori, the Marketing Coordinator at Kearney’s most visited attraction, the Archway. Let’s learn a little more about Mark and how tourism affects his work.

How many years have you been working in the tourism industry?
I have volunteered and been employed by non-profit organizations that help attract tourism to Kearney for about 20 years.

What role does tourism play in your job?
Tourism is absolutely vital to my current job as Marketing Coordinator at the Archway.  Between 50,000 and 60,000 people stop at the Archway every year and we welcome visitors from all over the world.  About 70% of the people who visit the Archway come from out of town and stop at the Archway to learn about our local history.  While they are here, we talk with them to find out where they are from, help them with their travel plans, and tell them about dining options, cultural events, and activities they might like in the Kearney area.

What makes Kearney such a great destination to visit?
Kearney is truly rich in history, culture, and creative activities for visitors of all ages.  From the Archway, to MONA, to the Classic Car Collection to the Trails and Rails Museum, and the Kearney Area Children’s Museum, to name only a few, Kearney has a tremendous range of activities to choose from.  Kearney residents generously support all these organizations and they attract visitors from all over the state and the country.  These organizations make Kearney a culturally vibrant community and, as an industry, make a significant contribution to our local economy.

Beyond the cultural organizations, Kearney has a wealth of great dining and nightlife opportunities.  We have smart coffee shops like Kitt’s and Barista’s; unique, locally owned lunch stops like Tru Café and the Food Truck Café, and a variety of dining options, from Thai cuisine at Suwanee, to the traditional Midwest menu at Alley Rose and the locally sourced, innovative selections at Sozo’s.  Visitors can enjoy live entertainment at Cunningham’s or Platte Valley Brewery.  See the films that the rest of the country is talking about at the World Theater or catch nationally renowned musical performers with the Kearney Concert Association at the Merryman Center.

Of course, Kearney’s hospitality community is second to none.  We have so many choices for hotel and motel accommodations.  The conference and convention accommodations are excellent.  The standards for customer service are exceptional.  And, Kearney’s location in the center of the state makes it the ideal meeting place for conferences and conventions from all over Nebraska.

Kearney already attracts a wide variety of sporting events. With the addition of Patriot Park, Kearney is poised to expand its role in playing host to these kinds of activities.

What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I enjoy being a “tourist” in our community.  My family likes to sample the newest brews at Thunderhead and McCue’s, catch the great local musicians at Cunninghams, see movies at The World, and enjoy a variety of restaurants.  We like to catch the performances at Crane River Theater and Kearney Community Theater.  For a city our size, Kearney sometimes has too many things to do.  It makes it difficult to choose.

What is your favorite summer activity?
I enjoy Kearney’s parks during the summer.  I like flying kites with my son at Yanney Park and, of course, everybody loves the Kearney Area Arts Council’s free summer concerts in Harmon Park.  The bike trails are pretty fabulous and my electric powered bike helps with the hilly sections.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
That’s like naming a favorite child.  We always think we eat out more often than we should, but the variety of great places is too tempting to pass up.  We like some for the atmosphere, some for the food, sometimes we want something simple and quick and at other times we want to make dinner a special occasion.  The cool thing about Kearney is that we have so much variety and you can find exactly the right place for the type of meal you’re craving.

What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
My wife and I have a whole list of things I have to pack including my keys and some money.  They are kind of long stories, but I have set off on major vacations and forgotten each of those things at one time or another.  Somehow, we muddled through and still managed to have a great time.