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Column: Ambassadors have their work cut out

An opinion piece on Southeast Explorer, new program rolled out by CF Sunrise to promote the southeast.
Souris River
The Souris River in southeast Saskatchewan

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Saskatchewanderer program. 

I think it’s been a great initiative to help promote all that this province has to offer, not just from a tourism perspective, but from a people focus as well. 

Of course, it helps that the 2020 ‘Wanderer, Leah Mertz, chose to make Estevan her first stop in the province, and the Mercury was the first place she visited upon arrival in the Energy City. But even before then, I viewed the Saskatchewanderer as money well spent.

One of the biggest shortcomings, though, is there’s only one person to promote all of the events and attractions in Saskatchewan each year. You can’t fault the provincial tourism ambassador for asking “Where do I start?” They know they can only get to so many places in a year, which means they have to decline a lot of invitations.

So when Community Futures Sunrise announced plans earlier this year to introduce the Southeast Explorers program as part of their increased tourism promotional efforts, it sounded like a great idea.  

After all, we might get one or two visits from the ‘Wanderer each year to our communities. That’s one or two chances for this person to see our sites, our attractions, our events, our people and our hospitality.  

As former ‘Wanderers like Mertz and Ashlyn George will tell you, they didn’t have enough time in the Estevan area. And that was after spending a few days down here. The next time they come back to Estevan, they’ll want to have even more time here.

CF Sunrise wound up picking eight tourism ambassadors. Two of them, Monique Willms and Brady Johnson, are from Estevan. They look to be great choices. Both of them are long-time residents of the city who know so much about what Estevan has to offer.  

You also have one from Torquay in Justin Marcotte. Another, Nicole Currie, lives in Carlyle but was born in the Alida area. And then there are two from Weyburn, and one each from McTaggart and Yellow Grass. 

Kudos to those who have stepped forward to be these explorers. But I believe they have their work cut out for them.

The challenges they face are not a reflection of their talent or their love for the southeast. You can be sure that they have those attributes. They come from different demographics and professions. Some of the explorers are young, others are older. Some have children or even grandchildren, others do not.

But you have to hope they realize how much they have to work with in terms of potential content and inspiration down here. 

CF Sunrise could have multiple people working full-time as explorers down here, and they still wouldn’t get to everything there is to experience.

Eight people will serve as explorers, but this won’t be a full-time gig. 

There are the obvious attractions that they could visit. Moose Mountain Provincial Park and Kenosee Lake. The regional parks in the southeast. The Estevan Motor Speedway. The pierced rock formations just outside of Roche Percee. The lakes, rivers, golf courses and other outdoor attractions. The museums that showcase our history and the cultural amenities that we have that enrich our communities. The hockey arenas and curling rinks that are hubs of activity during the winter months. 

The list above doesn’t focus on all of the events that we have happening once again now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for several months. 

The explorers have picked the right time of year to venture into this program, because there is so much happening in June and into the summer months.  

I look forward to some of the nuggets and hidden gems that they unearth through their connections and during their travels. 

It’s so easy for us to take for granted all that we have in close proximity to our homes. Perhaps we have a “been there, done that” attitude. Or maybe we’ve heard of it but have never had the chance to check it out. Perhaps we need that little extra motivation to visit an attraction.

But there’s a lot to like and do down here. 

I look forward to the ambassadors bringing it to us.