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An inside look at an outsider’s visit to our area

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It’s always interesting to reflect on what out-of-town visitors think of our area.

Are we friendly? Stuck-up? Helpful? Rude? Welcoming? Cold? Are there fun things to do here? Or is it barren and desolate?

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Answering those questions play a key part in our area’s ability to attract not only tourists but families interested in moving here and businesses looking to relocate. It can also be a factor in deciding how long these individuals will be here. Will they make Alexandria their favorite vacation spot year after year? Will they like it here so much they’ll put down roots? Or will they move on to the next community as soon as another opportunity arises?

We received an e-mail from an out-of-town visitor that sheds some light on the issue — a positive light that’s worth sharing.

It came from Dennis L. Sohl of LeMars, Iowa, or as he called it, the “Ice Cream Capital of the World.” Here it is:

My wife and I have just returned from a whirlwind adventure to your city. We left LeMars, Iowa mid-morning on Wednesday, September 11 to travel north as far as a half tank of gas would take us, on a quest to escape our heat and go somewhere we had never been to before. We ended up in Alexandria and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites.

I have worked in the service business for 38 years and I was curious if some of the things I have learned were practiced “Up North” as well. My first question to the front line person at our hotel was, “What is there to do in Alexandria?” followed by recommended places to dine. She immediately informed us of the upcoming Grape Stomp and some other possible things to do. While we were unpacking in our room, she knocked on our door to hand us some more information on the city and dining options. I was impressed. Kudos to her.

We next drove slowly through the business district, admiring all the store fronts, and eventually ended up at the Welcome Center [the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce]. There we asked the same questions and the young man was quite professional in his responses and grasp of information. I even tried to stump him with questions about major employers and business climate in the city, but he knew exactly where to look for the information and explained it to us. He was obviously very knowledgeable and very courteous. Thank you!

Unfortunately, we had only planned to spend two nights and one full day on our little adventure, but we did get to drive the area, stopped at Carlos Creek Winery (unfortunately they were setting up for the Grape Stomp, which we were going to miss), found the Panther Distillery (we really enjoyed the personal tour and time spent with us), we also learned about the Just a Jaunt from them, so we stopped at the Crooked Willow on the way back to Alexandria. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to stop at the other two stops listed in their brochure.

We also visited quite a few of the downtown stores, including morning pastries at the bakery. Everyone in the stores was welcoming and friendly, and made us feel right in our own hometown.

I was impressed that following the likely busy summer season, everyone still had the energy to represent their business and the city professionally. Thank you to everyone for an enjoyable brief stay in your city. We were impressed.

Thank you, Mr. Sohl, for your kind words about our area. May they serve as an inspiration for others in the area and as a reminder that friendliness can go a long way, even to the Ice Cream Capital of the World.

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