The 2018 Growing Rural Tourism Conference Presents: "Experience the Change"

"The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." — Albert Einstein

More speakers. More ideas. More tourism.

Growing Rural Tourism 2018 will feature a great selection of speakers and experts from across the country. Each of our speakers have been specifically chosen because they are exciting, dynamic and invested in using their sessions to educate our attendees.



Keynotes Speakers

"Alberta Shows Off Special Guest"

John Catucci

You Gotta Eat Here - The Food Network

John Catucci may not be a chef, but he knows a great burger when he eats one! In fact, just talking about the food featured on You Gotta Eat Here! gets John all worked up. Toss pulled pork smothered in blueberry BBQ sauce onto his plate and he'll embrace the chef. Show this proud Italian the right way to make a pizza, and he's ready to move in with the restaurant owner's family. If making the "liquid gold" hollandaise sauce requires a marathon whisking, then John is the comedian for the job. Working in his uncle's restaurant as a youth must have prepared him for this gig, although his kitchen etiquette might have you wondering!

This talented actor-singer-comedian discovered a love for performance as a member of York University's Vanier College Productions. It was there that he met and teamed up with David Mesiano to form the award winning musical comedy duo, The Doo Wops. What else would a couple of singing Italian-Canadians call themselves? John has also been a member of The Second City Touring Company, where he honed the improv skills he now displays in restaurant kitchens across our country. But John is undaunted as he persists in the pursuit of perfectly-made comfort food. To quote a recent National Post article; "John Catucci may be a comedian, but he's also the kind of guy who will "talk about food while eating other food." Messy, but true!

Chris Fields

Community Builder, 13 Ways Inc.

Session: "Do The One Small Thing"

How powerless we can feel in a world of change, 24/7 go-go, and negative news. How easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking there’s no way to make a difference despite our hearts that ache to do exactly that. Now is the time to take control. Train your mind to see the beautiful all around us – and tap a powerful ability to effect big change from small things we can do – including the design of exceptional tourism experiences.


A Little Bit About Chris Fields:

What if we could achieve the exceptional? In his 25 years of award-winning marketing, communications, and economic development experience, Chris has challenged his government, not-for-profit and enterprise workplaces and clients to step beyond norms and average….for the sake of residents who want to love the communities they live in, or customers who want extraordinary experiences. As a professional speaker, Chris is known for his dry sense of humor and no-nonsense approach to topics that include municipal marketing & branding, community development, governance, and attitudes.

Sunny Lenarduzzi

Broadcaster, Speaker, Radio Host & Social Media Rockstar

Session: "Small Town, Big Presence: A Digital Roadmap for Attracting Customers for Life"

How should tourist destinations navigate the digital space and turn a small town into a big attraction? What are the latest and greatest trends? And how do you turn online buzz into offline sales? Sunny will show you how to attract your ideal customers by creating content that converts and how to 5x your viewership and brand awareness by leveraging your social channels. In particular, you will learn how to get traffic, leads and sales in your sleep using the power of social video marketing. You'll walk away from this session with a clear understanding and actionable tips for how you can start using social video for your business today.


A Little Bit About Sunny Lenarduzzi:

A born broadcaster, Sunny’s work all centres around connecting to an audience through authentic communication. After reporting at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, she shifted her focus and began working with entrepreneurs, personal brands and corporations to to help them bring their business online through social media and video marketing. Sunny has nearly a decade of experience as an award winning video, social media and online business strategist.




Alberta Rural Success Stories

Loretta Thiering

Edmonton International Raceway

Session: "Why Don’t We Run the Raceway in Wetaskiwin"

When Loretta Thiering’s Healthcare position was abolished in 1995, her husband Ron presented (what he thought) was a great idea, “Why don’t we take over the Raceway in Wetaskiwin”? Certainly a far stretch from what she knew, she gave in and has been operating Edmonton Int’l Raceway in Wetaskiwin since that time. Moving forward to 2018 – Loretta and Ron Thiering have transformed this speedway to International acclaim, the first & only NASCAR Sanctioned Raceway in Western Canada, the only Raceway in Western Canada to offer a 10 Lap Stock Car Test Drive Experience and in 2017 was named Business of the Year in Wetaskiwin. In 2018 Edmonton Int’l Raceway in Wetaskiwin (Sunset Speedway) will celebrate 50 years of success!

Hazel Anaka

Babas & Borshch

Session: "The 9 Not-So-Easy Steps to Small Town Festival Success: The Babas & Borshch Story"

Hear Festival Coordinator, Hazel Anaka recap the Babas & Borshch story from concept pitch to planning for year six. How does a festival hosted in a community of fewer than 400 people win an award for marketing excellence? How does a rural Alberta tourism event attract talent, sponsors, volunteers and visitors? How does a small town festival ensure it stays fresh and fun, relevant and respected year after year? This session promises frank talk, some counter-intuitive advice, and a dose of ‘Can Do’ encouragement!

A Little Bit About Hazel Anaka:

Hazel Anaka brings a depth and breadth of experience and talent to the exciting position of Festival Coordinator. And being a passionate, committed Baby Boomer workaholic who loves a challenge doesn’t hurt, either. As the person who pitched Lamont County on the idea of a 2-day Ukrainian Festival, she’s very invested in its continuing success and loves sharing the lessons learned.




Speakers

Rachel Kraay

Owner/Operator Kraay Family Farm

Session: "Living the Dream: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Awesome of a Family Agritainment Business"

Settled in the heart of Alberta, with over 40 attractions and amenities, is the Kraay Family Farm: your destination for world famous adventures and Farmtastic fun all season long. Farmyard, Corn Maze, Jumping Pillow, Mini Golf & more, the fun never stops at Kraay Family Farm.


A Little Bit About Rachel Kraay:

Rachel & Reuben Kraay are two of the four Owners of the Kraay Family Farm, Home of the Lacombe Corn Maze Inc. The Kraay Family Farm is a family tradition in Central Alberta offering hours of agri-tainment fun for all ages, including their world famous corn maze, pumpkins galore, and all the cute farm animals you can handle, including the rapidly expanding Bunny-ville. Rachel and Reuben and their 3 kids along with Reuben’s parents, open their farm to the public every year from the end of July until the middle of October. Rachel grew up in the big city, has a degree in Marketing and Communications and takes care of all the advertising, marketing and communications for the farm but never dreamed she would be using her degree there. Reuben grew up on the farm and now does anything and everything on the farm - building, buying, ice cream scooping, corn planting, pig racing and pumpkin picking as well as cooking up special treats like cotton candy, hot roasted nuts and doughnuts, and their famous kettle corn for the thousands of guests the Kraay family welcomes to the farm each year. Come and hear their story and all the ups and downs of working with family and living and working on a farm open to the public.

Rheannon Green

Program Coordinator Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance

Session: "Lets Eat - Adding Culinary to your Festival"

Do you have an established or grassroots festival looking to expand? Adding a culinary component is an excellent way to both retain attendance and attract new festival goers. This presentation will help you determine your needs and create a memorable food experience for your guests. In this workshop, you will learn about the award-winning Taber Pheasant Festival, a small-town event that has used culinary activations to grow the festival year after year. Examples from this festival will be provided to illustrate culinary tourism and get you thinking about the role it might play in your festival. It will also provide guidance on the steps necessary to finding the style of culinary activation right for you.


A Little Bit About the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance:

Food is highly complex and highly relevant aspect of tourism and sustainability. Feeding tourists is very standardized – but we need a wide variety of innovative enterprises and wider touristic experiences in harmony with nature (sustainable). Join ACTA as they present an introduction to Food Tourism and two workshops related to growing food tourism for your region.

In 2012, the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance (ACTA) was created to bring together its agricultural, culinary, tourism and hospitality professionals in a forum for positive, sustainable growth. By working together – across sectors and geographic boundaries to build alliances and communication channels – Alberta’s culinary appeal for travellers can be enlightened, enlivened and enriched.

Tannis Baker

Executive Director Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance

Session: "Mapping Culinary Tourism Assets"

Curious how to put your region on the map? This session will explore destinations development and the use of maps to more efficiently encourage food tourism. Maps are fantastic tools, and with the advancements of technology, accesses to elaborate maps are now at our fingertips. ACTA will share one approach to mapping using examples from Sippin Alberta Craft beverage trail and to the Alberta Heritage Trails project to showcase how you could approach a rural initiative.


A Little Bit About the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance:

Food is highly complex and highly relevant aspect of tourism and sustainability. Feeding tourists is very standardized – but we need a wide variety of innovative enterprises and wider touristic experiences in harmony with nature (sustainable). Join ACTA as they present an introduction to Food Tourism and two workshops related to growing food tourism for your region.

In 2012, the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance (ACTA) was created to bring together its agricultural, culinary, tourism and hospitality professionals in a forum for positive, sustainable growth. By working together – across sectors and geographic boundaries to build alliances and communication channels – Alberta’s culinary appeal for travellers can be enlightened, enlivened and enriched.

Lars Hallstrom

Director of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities

Session: "Grant-Writing Workshop"

Grant-writing is an increasingly important skill in the municipal, not-for-profit, and even corporate world.

For small organizations and communities, however, grant writing can present a real challenge in terms of time, completion, budgeting and submission.

Join Dr. Lars Hallström in a structured exercise tied to key and common elements of grants and the grant-writing process, including:

  • An overview of funding sources
  • Designing grant-based projects
  • Budgets: costs and revenues
  • Practical considerations and checklists for grant-writing


A Little Bit About Lars Hallstrom:

Dr. Lars K. Hallstrom is the Director of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities, and an award-winning professor in 2 departments at the University of Alberta. Dr. Hallstrom’s work focuses on comparative public policy, and particularly on the intersection of politics, science and public policy. He has a long history of applied policy research in fields such as environmental policy, natural resource management (forestry and fisheries), aging, continuing care, palliative care, ecohealth, community and rural development, and the social determinants of health. He was recently the lead editor of two books: “Ecosystems, Society and Health: Pathways through Diversity, Convergence and Integration” with McGill-Queens University Press (2015) and “Sustainability Planning and Collaboration in Rural Canada” with the University of Alberta Press (2016), is a co-author on a 2016 book on Boom and Bust communities, and is a lead applicant with a recently awarded “Environment, Community and Health Observatories” grant from CIHR. He also plays bass in a local band.

More Speakers Will be Announced Soon!




Panels

Tara de Munnik

Small Business and Tourism Specialist, Economic Development and Tourism, Strathcona County

Panel: "Economic Development Officer... Resources, Cheerleaders... Maybe Even Super Heroes!"

While economic development officers have many different titles—community development, team leaders, tourism and small business coordinators, etc.—they are all united in assisting YOU grow your tourism business. Strongly connected with many networks and resources, economic development officers are always available to assist with development and enjoy facilitating growth in their communities and regions.

This panel features economic development officers from Alberta who will share how they work with tourism operators to enhance tourism product development in their communities, as well as highlight industry insights and how effective communication with tourism operators leads to success. Our panelists—Tara, Wanda and Jon—each have extensive knowledge and first-hand experience in growing their local tourism industrie


A Little Bit About Tara de Munnik:

Tara de Munnik is the Small Business and Tourism Specialist for Economic, Development and Tourism at Strathcona County. She has held various positions in the financial world including Manager of Operations for HSBC Bank Canada.

For the past 9 years, Tara has had a well-rounded career with Strathcona County always working for the betterment of the community.

She currently enjoys working with those who have an interest in business and would like to start one along with established small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Tara finds that helping them to start, grow, gain access markets or labour, improve marketing, plan for succession, remove barriers to growth or otherwise solve business issues are all fulfilling aspects of the role. Tara also works with the tourism industry to help grow activities and the industry in Strathcona County. Connecting people to the right resources and programs to help their businesses stay and grow in Strathcona County is a major focus.

Tara has recently completed her Master of Business Administration in Executive Management at Royal Roads University. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Victoria.

During her spare time you will find Tara socializing with friends or spending quality time with her husband.

Jonathan Allan

Economic Development Officer @ Town of Sundre

Panel: "Economic Development Officer... Resources, Cheerleaders... Maybe Even Super Heroes!"

While economic development officers have many different titles—community development, team leaders, tourism and small business coordinators, etc.—they are all united in assisting YOU grow your tourism business. Strongly connected with many networks and resources, economic development officers are always available to assist with development and enjoy facilitating growth in their communities and regions.

This panel features economic development officers from Alberta who will share how they work with tourism operators to enhance tourism product development in their communities, as well as highlight industry insights and how effective communication with tourism operators leads to success. Our panelists—Tara, Wanda and Jon—each have extensive knowledge and first-hand experience in growing their local tourism industrie


A Little Bit About Jonathan Allan:

Originally hailing from Ontario, Jon Allan is the economic development officer for the town of Sundre, a small municipality located in west central Alberta. Through this role, Jon manages the municipality’s department of economic development, which is responsible for economic development, tourism development and communications.

One of Jon’s biggest projects currently involves the ongoing #ExploreSundre tourism marketing campaign launched in 2015. Partnered with at least 6 local businesses, the campaign has twice been a finalist at Travel Alberta’s Alto Awards in the category of Marketing Excellence over $50,000.

As a forward-thinking social entrepreneur, Jon likes to make things happen. All told, he has helped lead the founding of about 4 separate organizations. In addition to his role in Sundre, he is currently the president and founder of a rural tourism business called Highlight Adventure Tours, which brings people to experience authentic cultural adventures in the West Country of Alberta.

Jon has a Specialized Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from York University, an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Niagara College, and a Certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo.

Being an avid traveller, he enjoys exploring different cultures, experiencing authentic cuisines, listening to up-tempo music, reading about current affairs, being immersed in cerebral sci-fi, and playing challenging games. He looks forward to enjoying these activities with his first child, expected to be born June 20th.

Wanda Diakow

Economic Development Officer Special Areas 4

Panel: "Economic Development Officer... Resources, Cheerleaders... Maybe Even Super Heroes!"

While economic development officers have many different titles—community development, team leaders, tourism and small business coordinators, etc.—they are all united in assisting YOU grow your tourism business. Strongly connected with many networks and resources, economic development officers are always available to assist with development and enjoy facilitating growth in their communities and regions.

This panel features economic development officers from Alberta who will share how they work with tourism operators to enhance tourism product development in their communities, as well as highlight industry insights and how effective communication with tourism operators leads to success. Our panelists—Tara, Wanda and Jon—each have extensive knowledge and first-hand experience in growing their local tourism industrie


A Little Bit About Wanda Diakow:

Wanda's passion for rural tourism is evident as soon as you meet her. Involved in tourism for over twenty years as a volunteer, event coordinator and in her role as Economic Development Officer for Special Area No. 4 she recently added managing Travel Special Areas* to her portfolio. Her love of helping people combined with her experience is an asset when assisting tourism operators fulfill their dreams.

Enthusiastic and full of energy, she loves to welcome visitors to the Special Areas and thrives on meeting new people. In her own words, "I’m meeting the world one person at a time. Hello! Nice to meet you!"

More Panel Speakers Will be Announced Soon!

The 4th Annual Entrepreneurship Challenge features a 1st place prize of $10,000, free conference registration for 2018, and on year of mentoring from a Business Coach including one promo video. In order to be eligible to win you must fill out the application form by clicking the link below. Rule and eligibility are also contained in the form below.

APPLICATION FORM/RULES
Please click here to download

Conference Scholarship

A PROGRAM TO SUPPORT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND MENTORSHIP TRAINING

The Growing Rural Tourism Conference supports continuous learning and innovative educational opportunities for rural Alberta business. This year we will partially sponsor individual business owners or managers to attend the Growing Rural Tourism Conference.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

Individual business owners, managers and full-time students who:

  • Presently own and operate a full-time tourism business in rural Alberta or businesses looking to incorporate tourism products or experiences into their existing business
  • Students enrolled in a full-time tourism program
    Students must include which post-secondary institution and tourism program (s) they are enrolled in
  • Are committed to lifelong learning
  • Willing to write a summary report and share their ideas and experiences with their community partners, consortia, chamber, colleges, etc.
  • Must be a first time applicant

WHAT IS INCLUDED?

The scholarship will pay 50% of a regular conference registration. All travel and accommodation expenses are the responsibility of the participant.

HOW DO YOU APPLY?

Applications are available here. All requests for funding support must be received by January 31st, 2018. Funds will be paid on your behalf directly to the Camrose Regional Exhibition.

WHAT IS THE SELECTION PROCESS?

Space is limited to 25 participants, and will be offered on a first come, first served basis to eligible applicants. The conference committee will review the applications and notify the successful candidates.

Accommodations

There are a lot of great places to stay near the conference. Below you can see the 2017 Growing Rural Tourism Conference Hotel Block:

Best Western Plus Camrose

(780) 679-2379

$139 per night plus taxes
Rooms to be released January 20, 2018
Code – Growing Rural Tourism Delegate**


** Please mention that you are a Growing Rural Tourism Delegate when booking at the hotel of your choice to recieve one of the blocked off rooms.

Our Partners

The Growing Rural Tourism Conference would not be possible if it was not for the generous support of our partners. We are extremely grateful for their help in making the Conference possible!

If you are interested in becoming a Partner/Sponsor of the Growing Rural Tourism Conference, please see the Partnership form by clicking here.

Please join us in thanking the following organizations:

Take a look back at last year's conference.

Last year's conference was a huge success with the theme "Ignite the Change". We are extremely excited about this year's conference where we will "Experience the Change".

11th Annual Awards Gala


The following awards will be given out on Wednesday February 21st during the 11th Annual Growing Rural Tourism Awards Gala:

  • Rural Champion Award
  • People's Choice Award
  • Rural Tourism Operator of the Year Award
  • Rural Tourism Community of the Year
  • Online Marketing Campaign Award


HOW DO YOU APPLY?

You can download the application for the 2018 Rural Champion Award by clicking here. Please note that the application deadline is February 1st, 2018.