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Outdoors writers spent the week kayaking the Missouri River and hunting doves on the prairie around Bismarck-Mandan as part of the annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference.

“We've heard so many great comments throughout this week that we are very hopeful Bismarck-Mandan will be mentioned in a variety of stories that will entice visitors to come experience our community,” said Sheri Grossman, executive director of the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Business Bureau. “Many of the attendees were first-time visitors to North Dakota and now have a fresh perspective and are ready to share their experience with readers.”

Outdoor recreation is the top marketable reason people make trips to North Dakota, said Kim Schmidt, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Tourism Division. According to 2012 North Dakota Game and Fish data, the most recent available, direct expenditures from hunters and anglers brought in $642.9 million to the state, Schmidt said.

“For these reasons, getting the AGLOW conference is very competitive. Who doesn't want … attendees representing newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs coming from throughout the United States?” Grossman said.

Some of what’s produced is instant, said Mark Smith, executive director of  AGLOW. For example, one member is a Wisconsin fisherwoman with 40,000 social media followers who may choose to post as she catches fish on Nelson Lake. Others will follow up with radio, television and online and print articles over the coming months, all adding up to exposure for the community.

Smith said he already has one producer planning to come back to the state for a prairie dog hunt and walleye fishing special. He did not, however, have a figure for how much the conference might boost outdoor tourism spending in the area over the next year.

This week’s event marked the association’s 62nd annual, and the second time it has been held in Bismarck-Mandan, according to Smith. About 150 people were in attendance. Total membership in the organization is 588, made up of not only media but tourism officials and corporations that make outdoor products.

“This is one of the cornerstone events of our organization. It’s a dynamic, hands-on conference that brings national communicators together with North Dakota tourism and business professionals,” Dan Stefanich, 2018 AGLOW president and national sales and marketing director of Clam Outdoors, said in a statement.

Attendees also spent the week touring the home of George and Libby Custer at the 7th Cavalry and On-A-Slant Indian Village in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, had a Pitchfork Steak Fondue supper and dinner at the North Dakota Heritage Center, visited Ducks Unlimited and hunted geese and prairie dogs.

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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