Posts Tagged ‘Missouri Valley’

Iowa Welcome Center Responds to Concerns

December 7, 2007

On Tuesday, Chicago Public Radio’s Gianofer Fields reported from her LH trip that her reception at the Harrison County Historical Village and Iowa Welcome Center along the Lincoln Highway in western Iowa was not very welcoming. She has even subtitled that day’s entry, “What happens when the welcoming center isn’t so welcoming?”:

FIELDS: Tell me about this place that we are standing in.
HEIM [center employee]: Well, this is the welcome center that we are standing in.

I suppose that I should have taken that massive silence as a sign that the welcome center lady wasn’t in the mood for company. When I saw the old cabin perched on a small hill by the highway; I thought it had, “Stop here roadside attraction,” written all over it. So I did in hopes of learning more about it.

HEIM: Well, it has a wealth of information and antiques in it and it takes about an hour to go through, self guided usually.

Did I just get the bums rush? Clearly, I am on my own.

Above: Half the operational expenses for the village/welcome center are covered by sales in the Iowa Products Store and village admission fees.

I asked center coordinator Kathy Dirks about the two things that seemed to bother Ms. Fields—the lack of enthusiasm and the self-guided tour. Here is her response:

I wish I would have been here and that I could be here everyday to guarantee every person’s experience that steps through our front door would be stellar and involve the highest level of customer service. Unfortunately, it’s not humanly possible because we are open 361 days a year. So on many weekends and other days when I’m unable to be here due to meetings, vacations, etc., we pay some of our volunteers to man the facility. Almost all are elderly because the hours are limited and the pay low due to our limited budget. (My opinion would be almost all of them would be totally intimidated by a surprise microphone interview as well.)…

Not to make any excuses for what happened because there are none, but it can also be somewhat of a challenge to work at this particular facility because of the volume of knowledge the volunteers/workers are expected to know about Iowa – from everything tourism-related, to agriculture, to state laws, to about anything else that could cross your mind. I’ve worked here 13 years and still get questions I’ve never been asked before. I would have hoped though that everyone working here could have answered questions about this facility. I see much more intensive training needs to happen.

Our goal at the Harrison County Historical Village and Welcome Center has always been to supply the best service possible. I believe that on many occasions we do succeed in achieving that goal based on comments from customers and the amount of repeat business we receive. I absolutely hate when it doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, I can’t repeat Gianofer Fields experience here and make everything perfect. I can only learn from it and do whatever possible so it isn’t repeated….

We only offer self-guided tours on a regular basis and state that in our brochure. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough business, nor large enough income, to offer guided tours on a regular basis. The facility sits on 17 acres and the museum is in five different buildings covering about 4 1/2 acres. On many days, we only have one person that works the entire facility – beginning people on museum tours, answering welcome center questions, waiting on people in the gift shop, sweeping the floor, etc. If I had been here by myself, I would not have been able to give Gianofer Fields a guided tour of the museum either without locking the door to the welcome center/gift shop.

It’s obvious Ms. Dirks cares an awful lot about customer satisfaction while struggling with limited staff and resources. And Ms. Fields (who has not responded to my emails, though the station’s Director of Communications did one time) would probably understand these points too if she had known or been told in a more positive manner. Maybe Ms. Fields can return some day and give us all an update.

Radio reports from the Lincoln in western Iowa

December 4, 2007

AmGoth_AIC.Chicago Public Radio’s Gianofer Fields is traveling the Lincoln Highway through Iowa. On her way to the western end of the state, she stopped in Eldon (65 miles due south of Belle Plaine, a favorite stop for LH travelers) to visit the house made famous by artist Grant Wood. His 1930 American Gothic painting, on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, is one of the most parodied, portraying a farmer and his daughter (usually thought to be his wife—though each were models and never met) in front of a white farm house with a distinctive upper window. Visit the CPR web page for a transcript or listen to the audio version.
IA_WelcCtrWhen Gianofer arrives at the western edge of Iowa, she makes her next entry at the Iowa Visitors Center (above, from its website) and its 1853 log cabin, located between Logan and Missouri Valley. She gets a less-than-enthusiastic welcome (not good news for LH boosters). She then heads northeast to the nearby non-profit Museum of Religious Arts along US 30 just south of Logan and has a friendlier experience, though as she finds, it is only Christian exhibits despite the more inclusive name.Below (from the MRA website) is one of its King of Kings displays: life-size wax figurines that portray nine Biblical scenes such as the annunciation, the nativity, Palm Sunday, the last supper, the crucifixion, and resurrection. They were sculpted by Leone Chaney in the 1960s for Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida, then in the late 1990s, they were moved to the Museum of Religious Arts.