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25 Year Anniversary for Lamar Welcome Center

Welcome Center Main Entrance

Welcome Center Main Entrance

Area residents enjoyed a tour of the Lamar Welcome Center during its 25th anniversary, come and go open house, Tuesday, June 14th.  Tourists making a stop at the Center also  enjoyed the refreshments that accompanied information from the staff regarding where they were and what they would find at their destination during their visit to Colorado.

Director Leslie Stagner Shares a Moment with Staff and Lamar Police Chief Kyle Miller

Director Leslie Stagner Shares a Moment with Staff and Lamar Police Chief Kyle Miller

The Lamar City Council highlighted the work of the Center for its 25 years of service to southeastern Colorado with the signing of a proclamation during the June 13th meeting.  The proclamation detailed the economic importance of tourism-generated revenue to the state, noting that direct spending from travelers in Colorado in 2014 amounted to $18.6 billion and helped support 155,000 jobs in the state.  International travel to the United States is the nation’s Number 1 services export and ranked in the top five for Colorado.

Volunteer Connie Sutherland with Visitor

Volunteer Connie Sutherland with Visitor

Leslie Stagner, who has served as the Center’s director for just over a year, said a lot of that service and goodwill stems from the dedication of her staff of 38 volunteers. “Many are senior citizens who are happy to devote either several hours a day or a week to helping out here seven days a week,” she explained, adding that they fill in whenever she has to attend meetings that are held out of the area.  “We have had a lot of visitors for the open house, including Lamar residents who had never been to the Center before, but decided to visit to learn more about us,” Stagner commented.  Judy Douglass, who was the former director, was on hand with her husband, Dean, for the open house.  She too, noted the work done on the area’s behalf for all the volunteers she had at the Center for her years of service.

Judy and Dean Douglass at Center

Judy and Dean Douglass at Center

Shannon Ventura, one of the volunteers, noted that a lot of the summer season tourists remain in the southern part of the state. Stagner agreed, “They want to be able to visit the mountain in the summer when it’s cooler, but the main attraction for our area is the Santa Fe Trail.”  Stagner said she and the staff are equipped with maps and brochures for all of Colorado and will make suggestions for visits in the local area as well as all points of the state.  “If we have a tour bus that still has some free time on its route, we’ll suggest an area and alert our counterparts at other welcome centers to expect a visit.”

Information Sign for Community Events

Information Sign for Community Events

And not all the visitors to Colorado are from this country. “We have an international map where visitors can pin their country of origin for us.  It’s fun to see which country our visitors come from, especially when they realize that others from their country have passed through this center.”  Stagner said despite an occasional language barrier, the staff and travelers can make do with pictures on maps or use the pamphlets the state has in foreign languages.  “The foreign visitors are equally interested in the old west and the Santa Fe Trail plays a role in our history.  A lot of them are interested in the comparative youth of America compared to the hundreds of years of history for France, England or Italy,” she stated.

Wecome Center 25 Anniversary (7)

She said she expects some visitors to the Center next month during a scheduled archeological dig and study at Camp Amache in Granada by Colorado State University researchers. “When that happens we usually have some family members from Camp Amache internees pay us a visit to learn more about the area.”  For the Center in general, Stagner noted, “This is such an asset to Lamar and southeast Colorado and the proclamation for our 25 years underscores our goal and mission here.  It’s a good way to showcase the people who live here and display for our visitors just what we’re all about.”

By Russ Baldwin

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