By MARK EVANS
Emma and Joe Bauman were at last Thursday’s Ste. Genevieve County Commission meeting to ask about getting Leroy Lane paved. Ste. Genevieve City Administrator Happy Welch and Tourism Director Jeff Wix were there to inquire about possible help in purchasing billboard space to market the county.
What transpired was a brainstorming session on area tourism and its promotion.
Actually, the presence of the four at the same time was not an accident. Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said he had wanted the Baumans to meet Wix and Welch – particularly Wix.
The Baumans have opened Bauman’s Hillside Hideaway and Bauman’s Deep Woods Escape south of Ste. Genevieve on Leroy Lane, which runs adjacent to Interstate 55.
There had been talk for some time about paving the road and whether the county could take it over for that purpose.
Recently, though, the commissioners came to the realization that the road is already county property and would fall under the maintenance of Special Road District A.
The road was put in in 1969, when I-55 was constructed.
The Baumans would love to see it paved, to augment their rapidly growing business. Emma Bauman said they had some 1,500 guests in 2021 and that business is up by 20 percent this year. Wix asked how far in advance they tend to be booked. Bauman said in 2021 the average was 120 days in advance. This year, though, the figure has shot up to 230 days in advance.
“What you’re bringing to the county, from out of county and out of state, is really tremendous,” Nelson said. “It’s a great draw for our community.”
The rustic cabins are usually rented for weekend getaways and normally by large groups.
Wix, who has been tourism director since September 2021, said he is trying to connect attractions and events throughout the county. He later added that one of his goals is to create “a conversion of tourist to customer,” getting visitors to stick around long enough to spend some money in the county.
Second District Commissioner Randy Ruzicka, who had questioned the city spending some $250,000 a year on tourism with no clear means of evaluating its effectiveness during his days as a Ward 4 city alderman, said he was “glad to see the streamlining of the position” of director of tourism.
Wix also mentioned the April 9 Ste. Genevieve Gravel Classic. The bicycle race is already looking like it will be even bigger than Wix had hoped. He said he had hoped to have 100 participants initially. More than 150 had already sighed up, though, leading his to anticipate a figure closer to 300. He noted that an additional 1.5 people for each rider will be coming along for support.
He wants the event to become a classic, something Ste. Genevieve can hang its hat on.
“I wanted an event we would own,” he told the commissioners.
The reiterated that gravel biking (or “gravel-grinding,” as many call it) is the fastest growing segment of biking. Ste. Genevieve County has “an idealistic” combination of gravel roads and hills – perfect challenges for serious bikers.
That brought him to the main point of his visit. He noted that many area businesses cannot afford “significant marketing” and that coming together to help promote the city and county is crucial. He said he had had meetings concerning an outdoor advertising opportunity.
“It’s an opportunity we may never get again,” he said.