Jenee Munro said hello to North Dakota 10 years ago, and she has no plans to say goodbye.
The Plentywood, Mont., native appreciates the wide-open spaces, abundant outdoor opportunities and natural wonders North Dakota offers. What’s more, she’s found a community she loves in Rolla, and one she says cares about her family, too, including her husband, Josh, and their three children.
“Living in central North Dakota, it’s such a peaceful lifestyle,” she says. “Like all of North Dakota, we can agree that everyone knows everyone. That honestly provides me with a lot of comfort, knowing my whole family has a community looking after us.”
Jenee’s sentiments about the state, and North Dakota people, strike a familiar chord.
The songwriting duo of Lois Steele and Jack Fulton even wrote about “the folks that can’t be beat” in their 1958 state song contest winning entry, “You Oughta Go Ta North Dakota.”
Visitors often remark about North Dakota’s welcoming communities and warm hospitality, says Sara Otte Coleman, the state’s tourism director.
So much that N.D. Tourism has launched a new $3.1 million marketing campaign, HelloND, which plays off the state’s “North Dakota nice” reputation.
“The campaign’s message conveys a warm welcome to potential visitors, and provides a sense of our genuine hospitality and energetic vibe,” Coleman says.
HelloND not only invites visitors to explore – or residents to rediscover – North Dakota’s places and spaces and experiences, but it also features the friendly faces along the way.
“These individuals are regular folks, like you and me, who are thrilled to share their favorite parts of North Dakota with visitors,” Coleman says.
Like the Carrington woman who uses milk from her family’s dairy farm to churn gelato and age Gouda cheese at her flourishing young business, Cows & Co. Creamery.
Like the pro fisherman who invites anglers to Devils Lake and North Dakota’s world-class fisheries.
Like the singer, songwriter, writer and photographer who draws inspiration from the dirt roads, wheat fields and ranch life of home in western North Dakota.
Like the Native American fashion entrepreneur who helps make women feel beautiful in the vibrant colors and clothing that celebrate her culture and reflect her own style.
Like Jenee, the Rolla mom who cherishes summers at Lake Upsilon, North Dakota biking adventures and the natural beauty of the Turtle Mountains. Hers is the friendly face that says “hello” to readers of the 2023 North Dakota Travel Guide. The guide’s cover image features Jenee on the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway.
While Jenee did not consider she’d grace the cover of a travel publication when she agreed to fill in for another local resident who came down with the stomach flu on the day of the photoshoot, she has welcomed the resulting opportunity to share her love of North Dakota with others.
“What most people don’t understand is that North Dakota is an intensely beautiful place, filled with natural wonders. There is so much intrigue and such a rich history here,” she says. “Where this photo was taken, on the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, it has some of the most scenic lakes, forests, wetlands and grasslands I have ever seen. It’s truly a hidden gem, and I hope what this magazine cover does is introduce people to the raw, breathtaking splendor of North Dakota.”
But there is more to North Dakota than the physical beauty, Jenee says.
“Everybody is extremely kind and welcoming here. I think that is such a big draw for people,” she says. “North Dakota provides such a peaceful lifestyle. It’s peaceful here. We live in a society where there’s so much noise and we’re on this linear timeline where we’re rushing, rushing, rushing, and North Dakota provides this kind, welcoming, peaceful lifestyle I think a lot of people are looking for these days.”
That’s the kind of endorsement the state needs – and needs to promote. A 2022 national awareness and perception study by Development Counsellors International revealed North Dakota is not well-known, which isn’t shocking, Coleman says.
“Although our small population, location and humble personalities contribute to this lack of awareness, we have an opportunity to change this through bold marketing and integrated strategies, starting with a simple, ‘Hello,’” she says.
And, tourism marketing dollars have the potential to make an impact in North Dakota beyond the travel and tourism industry.
“Tourism marketing is crucial for raising awareness of everything North Dakota has to offer. It not only attracts visitors, but also elevates our state as a potential new home for workers, businesses and families,” Coleman says. “We are betting our friendly ‘hello’ will resonate with many in a time when a personal invitation might be just what they need.”
As the song goes, “You say hello ta North Dakota, but you just can’t say goodbye.”
Cally Peterson is editor of North Dakota Living. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.