Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota Association

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Winning Nomination

Organized in 1917, the Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota Association was the first major effort to nationally market Minnesota as a summer vacationland. It came up with the slogan "Land of Ten Thousand Lakes," that has been used ever since. The organization was the primary promoter of Minnesota tourism from 1917 until the early 1930s, when the state created the Bureau of Tourism. This was the period of time when there was phenomenal growth in the state's tourism industry.
~Mark Haidet, New Brighton, MN



A catchy, if inaccurate, slogan is born

Here's a stumper, found on Minnesota North Star, the state's official website:

FAQ: How many lakes are there in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?

Answer: According to the Department of Natural Resources there are over 11,842 lakes (10 acres or larger) in Minnesota.

Notice a slight discrepancy here? Is this just an extreme example of our oft-cited propensity for understatement?

The answer goes back to the first decades of the 1900s, when it dawned on the state's movers and shakers that the northern forests, which had been depleted through logging and were being replanted, could be transformed into huge state parks. At the same time, the rise of automobile tourism led to a growing public interest in marketing the state's recreational advantages.

Thus, in 1917, the Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota Association was formed to promote tourism. With contributions from fifty communities throughout the state, the association placed advertisements nationwide, funded a movie about canoeing on the Mississippi River, and published a range of beautifully illustrated pamphlets and postcards touting Minnesota's obvious and varied vacation opportunities. The association's hard work paid off. In 1926, Ten Thousand Lakes president Arthur Roberts of Winona reported that "the expenditure of $50,000 . . . was one of the best investments ever made by the citizens of the state. It not only brought us more tourists than we have ever had before, but it has started people in other states to talking about Minnesota." After expanding on this idea, Roberts got down to the heart of the matter: "Tourists are good business stimulators. Most of them are good buyers and they have cash. . . . They are splendid customers and I believe that we do not fully appreciate what they are worth to our state."

The Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota Association went strong until the 1930s, when the Bureau of Tourism in the Department of Conservation was formed. Today, the state's tourism promotion branch, Explore Minnesota, reports that the industry brings $10 billion into the state annually.

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