In recognition of their ongoing efforts to bring travelers to Wapello County, the American Gothic House & Center has received the Arts, Culture & Heritage Award from Iowa Travel Industry Partners.
“The work that the staff of the American Gothic House has done over the past few years to reinvent themselves to attract new visitors, as well as return visitors, has been amazing,” said Chelsea Lerud, iTIP executive director.
iTIP’s Arts, Culture & Heritage Award recognizes a business, organization, event, or destination that showcases the arts, culture, or history for the enhancement of the tourism experience and economic well-being of the community. American Gothic House & Center Administrator Cari Nicely and her volunteers have bounced back from two years of reduced-travel seasons to draw in tourists of all ages. They have added interactive exhibits in the museum that give younger visitors something to see, hear, touch, and interact with at every level. Updated videos in the museum and online, a revitalized gift shop, and of course, having a parody picture taken in front of the iconic house, all create a one-of-a-kind destination in Southeast Iowa.
The American Gothic House and Center welcome travelers from around the world every year, due to the popularity of Grant Wood’s 1930 painting and its subsequent parodies. The AGHC hosted 10,965 in-person visitors during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. While many of them were from Iowa, many more were from outside the state. Since the Center opened in 2007, sightseers have come from all 50 states and from more than 100 foreign countries, proving American Gothic and the Center have a national as well as an international presence. In the past six months, the Center has greeted travelers from Mexico, U. S. Virgin Islands, China, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, England, Sweden, South Africa, Taiwan, India, Viet Nam, and Canada.
“Our success is possible because of the support of the American Gothic House Center Board, the Wapello County Conservation Board and Department, Wapello County Board of Supervisors, City and Community of Eldon, the State Historical Society of Iowa, Meet Ottumwa, the Historic Hills Scenic Byway and iTIP,” Nicely said.
The iTIP Awards are open to all individuals, private businesses, for-profit and non-profit organizations offering a tourism and/or hospitality service in Iowa. Nominations occurred throughout the spring with the iTIP Foundation Board of Trustees scoring the applications. All recipients were nominated by their peers. Recipients will receive their awards at a special ceremony on June 12 at the iTIP annual meeting in Cedar Falls.
In addition, the first Abby Kisling Leadership Award will be presented by the Council Bluffs CVB, in honor of the late Abby Kisling, a longtime member of Iowa’s tourism industry. Kisling worked for Tipton Economic Development, Eastern Iowa Tourism Association, Greater Ottumwa Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Villages of Van Buren.