The Billings Outpost

It’s always time for a new tourism slogan

COMMENTARY

By T.J. GILLES - For the Outpost

“It´s time.”

Well, it´s about time the Montana Department of Tourism came up with a new slogan to lure out-of-staters to visit the former Treasure State and fill the bed-tax coffers so they can come up with new slogans.

In announcing the new slogan, the tourism folks praised its genius – if it´s winter, it´s time to ski. Hunting or fishing season, yeah. It´s time.

Watching NFL games from Miami TV stations in Costa (“No Artificial Ingredients”) Rica, I see a lot of “This is the Year” ads promoting Alaska as a tourist trap. Why these ads for the frozen tundra are on Miami TV in November is beyond me.

Alaska in November. it is hardly time. 

The roll-out of a new slogan makes it “Naturally Inviting” to recall past bed-tax slogans which have been put to rest, such as “Last of the Big-Time Splendors.”

A while back, state image-makers reached into the hat and pulled out “Unspoiled, Unforgettable” as the state-sanctioned wink and nod.

In addition to ignoring the spoil banks and Superfund clean-up sites of Butte-Anaconda, Colstrip, Great Falls, Libby and the entire Kevin-Sunburst oilfield on the Canadian border, the slogan ignores the Rule of Three.

Originally, the slogan had been, “Unspoiled, Unexpected, Unforgettable.” Unexpectedly, the “Unexpected” ended up on the cutting-room floor.

Perhaps all the good slogans have been taken. Here in Central America, tourism folks have to come up with ingles-language slogans extolling their virtues.

Guatemala is “Soul of the Earth.” Belize is “Mother Nature’s Best-Kept Secret.” In a twist of “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas,” tourists are advised that they can leave Panama, “But It Will Never Leave You.” Kind of like the Hotel California.

Ah, slogans.

Billings (“The Trailhead”) used to be “The Brightest Star in the Big Sky Country.” Great Falls still hails to the Electric City although realistically Colstrip has held that title since the 1970s.

Great Falls tried “Front and Center” briefly. Theoretically, the fact that Great Falls is in the (north) central part of the state and in proximity to the Rocky Mountain Front made the slogan make sense.

But in the complex military and formerly industrial town, perhaps the “Front and Center” brought back to many bad memories of being dressed down in front of the platoon.

While Billings may be “The Trailhead,” Laurel can boast of being “Gateway to Yellowstone.” In summertime, a person can sit in the Owl Cafe, unfold the maps and ponder whether to go the Beartooth Pass route, over to Cody, on to Livingston and over  to Gardiner, or clear on to Bozeman and later West Yellowstone.

Since “It´s Always Friday in Montana,” you can take your pick.

Of course, almost since Choteau native A.B. Guthrie Jr. published the book in 1947, “The Big Sky” has become synonymous with Montana, the former Treasure/Stubtoe State.

It´s on the license plates along with an iconic C.M. Russell buffalo skull.  It´s also the name of countless motels, restaurants, car washes and pawn shops. To say nothing of one mega-resort, one Missoula high school and a collegiate athletic conference with teams all the way from the Dakotas to California.

And we didn´t pay Mr. Guthrie a cent.

Following this literary trail, I like J.K. Howard´s “High, Wide and Handsome” or Lewistown writer Lorny Faber’s “Next Year Country” as a state slogan.

“Next Year” would be at least ironic as a tourism slogan. Since it has its roots in agriculturalists” (usually vain) hopes for future rain, decent wheat or cattle prices – or all three. But it does have the same tourist come-on value as Alaska´s “This Year.”

And, in the tradition of Mr. Guthrie – we don´t have to pay Ms. Faber a cent.

Lifelong Montanan T.J. Gilles has retired to Costa Rica, where his efforts to change the tourism slogan to “El Mas Violento Paraiso” (the most violent paradise) have yet to bear fruit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Someone once proposed that Wyoming’s state motto should be “Not Exactly Square.” One of these days, that change will just have to happen.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 December 2014 11:53

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